The notion of zero is philosophical as well as mathematical in Hinduism. Here is an explanation:

The Sanskrit word for zero is sunya which translates as “nothingness.” Brahman, God in his formless, immutable, timeless, memory-less state prior to Creation, is called Nirguna Brahman or Brahman with no attributes. Nirguna Brahma exists in nothingness. With the happening of Creation, Nirguna Brahma becomes Saguna Brahma, the God with attributes who is Ishvar. Zero symbolizes God in nothingness. Zero added to or subtracted from any number does not change the number. The sum of zero and zero is zero. Zero added to or subtracted from itself remains zero. Multiplied by itself, zero is still zero. However, the addition of zero to the right of any number (without a decimal point) increases it up to infinity and its addition to the left of any number (with a decimal point) decreases it down to the infinitesimal.

Zero’s complement must be “everythingness.” Everythingness differs from everything just like “nothingness” differs from nothing. The idea of zero embraces the idea of its opposite, totality. We say God is everythingness and nothingness because we have no better words to describe the unfathomable existence or nonexistence that transcends itself. Thus, zero to Hinduism is more than a mathematical tool. It represents God’s truth that lies beyond human experience and the material world, truth that is just beyond the reach of the human mind.

See Chapter Three, Monotheism in On Hinduism, by Irina N. Gajjar



The idea of zero as a number with a value rather than just a place holding symbol is of major significance in science and philosophy. The study of nothingness has expanded our knowledge of the universe and has enabled us to better imagine the unfathomable.

The rules governing the use of zero were first written in 628 AD in an Indian work entitled Brahmasputha Siddhanta, which translates as The Opening of the Universe. This book was about astronomy, but its author, Brahmagupta, devoted several chapters to mathematics.

The first three rules set out by Brahmagupta state:

The sum of zero and a negative number is zero.

The sum of zero and a positive number is positive.

The sum of zero and zero is zero.

Modern mathematics has a different spin on calculating the sum of zero and zero since zero is a value that has no value.

We use the expression “a zero to the left” to describe a total loser. But this characterization is probably wrong or at least unfair in view of the vast importance of nothing.