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Srimate SrivanSatakopa Sri Vedanta Desika Yatindra Mahadesikaya nama:

The Numbers Game

If you think of it, the entire world appears to revolve around Numbers. There is no field of human activity which numbers do not pervade nor are we able to think of anything without automatically involving Numbers. The Great Cosmic Clock, ticking away the seconds of our sojourn on this earth, is based on Numbers. And anything and everything that we come across has a lot to do with figures, big and small. Thus, right from birth to death, every moment of our time and experience is dominated by these seemingly inoccuous integers, which, however, command great value and worth. It would appear that even our Scripture revels in the The Numbers Game, as would be evident to those who read on.

The most interesting play with Numbers is that indulged in by Sri Tirumangai Mannan, in his Tiruvezhukoottrirukkai. This is an extraordinary type of Prabandam, involving the drawing of a Chariot-like figure with a top half and a bottom one. Each half is in the form of a seven-tiered Pyramid, with the top one an upright pyramid and the bottom one inverted. At its broad end, the Pyramid consists of a base with 13 slots, which gradually decrease, as we go up the tapering structure, with the top-most tier consisting of three slots. This would be in the reverse order in the inverted pyramid at the bottom. Each of these slots would be filled with numbers from one to seven: for instance, the topmost tier of three slots would be filled with numbers 1, 2 and 3-the next one with 1, 2, 3, 2, and 1, the third tier from the top with 1,2,3,4,3,2,1, the fourth tier with 1,2,3,4,5,4,3,2,and 1 and so on, with the base of the pyramid ending with the numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,6,5,4,3,2 and 1.

The idea is that the Prabandam should begin with words incorporating the numbers one, two and one again and go on to the last line of the upright pyramid, with words containing the numbers from 1 to 7 and back to 1. The entire structure would be in the reverse order in the upturned pyramid, with the first tier consisting of words with numbers 1 to 7 and back to 1, gradually decreasing till the last and smallest tier with numbers 1,2 and 1 is reached. The resulting structure is somewhat akin to the "Pascal's Triangle" that mathematicians are fond of speaking of airily.

I know this must be pretty confusing to read about-the structure is therefore depicted as a picture below. Readers would observe that the two pyramids together form a Chariot, from which this type of poetry derives its name, viz, Ratha Bandham. We can imagine how difficult it would be to compose a verse of this sort, with the numbers arranged in meticulous ascending and descending order. We can find this beautiful Prabandam inscribed on the wall of Sri SArngapani Sannidhi at Tirukkudandai, exactly in the undermentioned fashion and in the form of a majestic Ratham, with the individual slots filled with words containing the numbers.

1   2   1

1    2   3   2  1

1  2    3   4   3   2   1

1   2  3   4    5  4    3   2    1

1   2    3     4   5    6    5   4    3   2   1

1   2    3    4    5    6    7   6   5   4   3   2   1

1   2    3    4    5    6    7   6   5   4   3   2    1

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1   2    3    4    5    6    7   6   5   4   3   2   1

1   2   3  4  5     6    7    6   5   4   3   2     1

1   2   3   4   5   6   5   4   3   2   1

1   2   3   4   5   4   3   2    1

1   2   3   4   3   2  1

1   2   3   2   1

1   2   1

This aforesaid may appear to be an inelegant depiction of a Chariot, given my notoriously poor drawing skills, but this is just to give readers an idea of the nature of the Prabandam and the difficulty in its composition. Here is how Sri Kalian has achieved this feat of accomodating ascending and descending numbers, all the while preserving the beauty of the poetry and without sacrificing the thread of deep devotion running through all of his pasurams.

"oru pErundi-iru malar tavisil-oru murai ayanai eendranai
1                    2                           1
oru murai-iru sudar meedinil iyangA-mum madhiL ilankai---irukAl vaLaya-oru silai    1            2                                              3                           2                    1
ondriya--eereyettru azhal vAi--moovadi--nAnilam vENdi--muppuri noolodu--iru pirappu
1              2                                3               4                           3                  2
oru MAN Agi
1
1                2                3                           4                                5                   4

mum madattu-iru sevi-oru tani vEzhatthu arandayai" and so on.
3                   2            1

Readers would observe how cleverly the Divine Poet has chosen the words representing numbers, either in purport or in sound, and woven all these into an enthralling garland of words, that is at once lilting in metre, profound in purport, brimming over with Bhakti and matchlessly magnificent in composition. This Tiruvezhukoottrirukkai belongs to a poetical form known as "Chitra Kavi", refreshingly different from run-of-the-mill verses and appealing to the intellect as well as the heart. Not surprisingly, this Prabandam is recited during the RathOtsavam at several divyadesams. And the beauty of this pAsuram is to be heard to be believed, especially when intoned in unison in the atonce melodious and stentorian  voices of the venerable GhOshtti.

Another Azhwar with a fascination for numbers is Sri Tirumazhisai Piran, who too has pasurams to his credit, which appear mathematical in character. In the following sample from Tirucchanda Viruttam, the numbers 5 to 1 have been arranged in descending order, yeilding an extremely profound purport-

"poo nilAya ayndumAi punal kaN nindra nAngumAi
tee nilAya moondrumAi chiranda kAl irandumAi
neenilAya vaNNa! Ninnai yAr ninaikka vallarE!"

All the five elements, says Azhwar, are under the Lord's overlordship. These elements in turn have their own characteristics-the Earth has five attributes (sound, touch, form, essence and smell), while Water has the first four of the aforesaid  qualities, Fire three, the Wind two and Atmosphere one, namely Sound. In other words, Azhwar tells us that it is the Lord, who is the Inner-Dweller of all elements, who forms the material cause for this universe.

The second pasuram of this Prabandam too has an arithmetical leaning-
"Arum Arum ArumAi Or iyndum iyndum iyndumAi
Eru seer iraNdu moondrum Ezhum arum ettumAi
Veru vEru gnAnam Agi meyyinOdu poyyumAi
OorOdu Osai Aya iyndum Aya Aya MayanE!"

Azhwar speaks about of a trio of six items.
First is the six Karmas ordained on Brahmins-Yajanam (performing sacrifices), YAjanam (conducting YAgAs for others), adhyayanam (imbibing the VEdAs), adhyApanam (imparting VEdic wisdom to eligible others),dAnam (giving to others) and Pratigraham (accepting offerings from others).
The second six consists of the Seasons-Spring, Summer, Monsoon, Autumn, Winter etc. (Vasanta, Greeshma, VarshA, Sarat, Hemanta and Sisira Ritus).
The third six refers to six YAgAs, performed on PourNami and amAvAsya days-AgnEyam, agnIshOmIyam, upAmsu, iyndram, iyndrAgnam (numbering two).

The trio of Fives indicated in the latter half of the first line of the pasuram refers to the Five YagyAs (Deva, Pitru, Rishi, Manushya and Bhoota YagyAs), the Five AhutIs (respectively to the PrANa, apAna, VyAna, udAna and SamAna), the Five agnIs (Garhapatya agni, AhavanIya agni, DAkshinAgni, Sabhya agni and the Avasatya agni).
GnAnam or Wisdom and VairAgyam or lack of attachment, are the duo ("Eru seer iraNdu"), while "Moondru" consists of Prapatti, ParagnAnam and Parama Bhakti.
"Ezhu" indicates VivEkam, VimOkam, abhyAsam, KriyA, kalyANam, anavasAdam and anuddharsham, while "Arum" refers to the six glorious guNas of the Lord, viz., GnAnam, Balam, Ishvaryam, Veeryam, Shakti and Tejas, the "ettum"  consisting of the eight inimitable attributes of Emperuman, referred to in the CchAndOgya-"apahata pApmatvam, Vijaratvam, Vimrityutvam, VishOkatvam,Vijigatsatvam, apipAsatvam, SatyakAmatvam and Satyasankalpatvam.

The third and fourth pasurams of Tirucchandaviruttam too are a mass of numbers-

"iyndum iyndum iyndumAgi allavattrul uLayumAi
iyndu moondrum ondrumAgi nindra Adi dEvanE!
Iyndum iyndum iyndumAgi andaratthu aNaindu nindru
Iyndum iyndum Aya ninnai yAvar kANa vallarE!"

"Moondru muppadArinOdu Or iyndum iyndum iyndumAi
Moondru moortthiyAgi moondru moondru moondrumAi
TOndru sOdi moondrumAi at tuLakkamil viLakkamAi
Endru en AviyuL pugundadu en kolO em IsanE?"

The Vedas, which are indeed the seed from which all the divya prabandas sprout, have their own tale of numbers to tell. As if teaching us to count, the second prasna of the Seventh Kanda enumerates the integers in various combinations-beginning with "Ekasmai svAhA", we have a counting in ones, from one to 19. Thereafter, countings are taken in tens, mentioning 29, 39, 59, 69, 79, 89 and 99, ending with a hundred and twice that number. The next panchAti narrates numbers in countings of odd numbers-1, 3,5,7.9,11, 13, 15,17 and19, switching again to 29, 39, 49 and so on upto a hundred.  The next PanchAti takes a count of even numbers-2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20, going straight thereafter to 98 and 100. The 45th PanchAti incorporates countings of four-4, 8, 12, 16, 20 then straightaway to 96 and 100. Countings of five figure in the next-5, 10, 15, 95 and 100 and in tens, in the next one-10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100. Twenties are counted in the next panchAti-20, 40, 60, 80 and 100, while the next counts in hundreds upto a thousand.

What do all these numbers represent ultiamtely? They refer, as all other words do, to the Paramapurusha. Be it any number, it is representative of the Lord, right from one to the largest integer the intellect can count upto. For instance, the Sahasranama stotra describes Him as "Eka:"-the incomparable One, who has neither a superior nor an equal. It is significant that Azhwars too describe Him as "oruvan", "Eka moortthi" etc.
When the Purusha Sukta says, "Sahasra sIrshA Purusha:", it refers to the Lord having not only a thousand heads, but an infinite number-"anantam". It is He who is referred to by all the numbers in arithmetic.

All numbers might denote the Lord, but the very first integer 1 appears to have a much closer association with Him than others. Just as every number is but a multiple of 1, all beings in the world, sentient or life-less, are but aspects of the glorious Lord, having Him for their vital in-dwelling spirit, without which they wouldn't exist at all. And if we put ourselves, as insiginificant JeevAtmAs, in the position of Zero, we find that we acquire siginificance only by association with Emperuman, just as the Zero attains greater respectability when preceded by 1.

Not merely numbers, but advanced arithmetical concepts like the Set Theory also figure in the Scripture. For instance, Sri Nammazhwar speaks of a Huge Set, the Universal Set, which is a Set of all Sets, and also of itself-

"Valatthanan Tiripuram eritthavan idam pera, tundi
talatthu ezhu Disaimukhan padaittha nallulagamum tAnum
pulappada,  pinnum tan ulagatthuL agatthanan tAnE
solappugil ivai yAvum pinnum vayittruLa, ivan avan tuyakkE"

Azhwar describes the glorious Lord's inimitable deeds in this beautiful pasuram.
Emperuman accomodates Rudra on the right side of His tirumEni and BrahmA on the Cosmic Lotus blooming from His navel. This BrahmA creates the various worlds, in which the Lord takes birth as Rama,Krishna, etc.
Thus, He is to be seen in the world created by BrahmA, who is himself the Lord's creation. We have seen that normally, in this world, the architect of a building is distinct and different from the structure he creates. However, the Universal Creator, from whose navel the entire Creation sprouts forth, is seen as one of His own creations (during His avatArAs), in the worlds spawned by Him. As if this is not enough, all these beings and objects comprising the Universe, are also accomodated in His spacious stomach, during the Cosmic Deluge. To those who wonder how such a phenomenon, is possible, Azhwar tells us that this is due to His "MAyA"-"ivai avan tuyakkE". This is how the Lord is a magnificent Universal Set, a Set of all Sets and of its own glorious self too.

The mathematical concept of Infinity too appears to have had its origins in the Shruti, going by the numerous references to the same in the copious Vedic lore. The Narayana anuvAkam, for instance, talks about the Parabrahmam being infinite-"anantam, avyayam, kavim, samudrEntam Visva Sambhuvam". Infinitely huge, boundless and endless worlds are also talked about in the Shruti, which the liberated soul attains-"anantam, apAram, akshayyam lOkam jayati". Though beyond our contemtpation, the concept of a Paramapurusha whose dimensions, auspicious attributes, reach, vision and influence are beyond measurement, is what represents Infinity. This is what Sri Nammazhwar means, when he talks about
"soozhndu agandru Azhndu uyarnda mudivil perum pAzhEyO
soozhndu adanil periya en para nan malar sOdIyO
soozhndu adanil periya en sudar gnAna inbamEyO
soozhndu adanil periya en avA ara soozhndAyE".

The Lord represents a funny number too, one to which no amount of subtraction, division, addition or multiplication appears to make any difference. He is the Infinite Integer, which remains unchanged despite any amount of addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. We are told by a Vedic ShAnti PAta that the Parabrahmam remains the same complete self, with absolutely no reduction in any of  its attributes-"PoorNasya poorNam AdAya PoorNam Eva avasishyatE".

There are people who have a dread of Mathematics-a" numerophobia", to coin a word. For them, arithmetic and numbers in any form are anathema. However, it is only in Maths that it is possible to score centums easily,more than in any other subject.  The significance of all numbers can be understood properly if we ascribe to them their true places, as but depictions of the Lord and His glory. Centums in spiritual life, i.e., Liberation and Emancipation and attendant Bliss, are what await the mathematician who specialises in the upAsana of these divine numbers.

Srimate Sri LakshmINrsimha divya paduka sevaka SrivanSatakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya nama: