Much to the chagrin of many Roman/Greko philosophers the idea of zero as a number was born in India. To quote Russel Peters, a Canadian comedian the concept was first used in the well-known technique of bargaining by an individual who wanted something but did not want to pay. There are stories and proof of zero concepts in several cultures, not just in Europe and Asia. Even the ancient South Americans seem to have some idea what zero is. There is, however, a Buddhist link expressed by my favorite philosopher Nagarjuna. Nagarjuna is famous for his groundbreaking treatises on sunyata Sanskrit for emptiness. What could be more empty than zero? Even in the cardinal script, the shape of the zero says “hey man there is nothing here look into the circle it’s empty.” One thing for certain even if the zero was not first conceptualized in India, Indians were with certainty the first people to take the concept out of the mathematical arena and into a philosophical debate. Philosophy and mathematics have always had an interesting coexistence. It is said that above the entrance to Plato’s Academy “let no one ignorant of Geometry enter” was inscribed.
The idea of emptiness is not an easy concept to understand in fact it is more often misunderstood that any other buddhist teaching. This is in part due to many translations of buddhist texts compiled by Christian scholars who had the intention of belittling and demonizing the Buddha Dharma therefore calling it Buddhism.
Nagarjuna’s premise is that things or objects in our world have no independent existence in and of themselves, this is emptiness.
The idea is that we as individuals project our own meaning, concepts, and ideas onto everything that we perceive. We label everything good or bad and so begins the constant samsaric battle of attachment and aversion. This step of labeling is a mistake of our egos as we see ourselves as separate from that object of perception. This separation or act of creating a border between that which we truly are and that which we perceive is the original mistake. Mind or our consciousness is compared to an eye. An eye cannot see itself it only sees outwards. This is why we must turn our mind’s eye inwards in the practice of meditation. Only then do we truly see that Ego = 0