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Reaching God through numbers

To reach God, one does not need to just chant shlokas or go to temples and pilgrimmages.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2006 14:23 IST

This heavenly sunny Sunday I felt exceedingly silly at a farmhouse party where even my lager lout pals could pronounce ‘integer’ correctly but I couldn’t, not because I was pickled but because I couldn’t for the life of me, remember. Amidst the hoots and hollers of “Bubblebrain!” and “Airhead!” I mourned being a blot on my tribe and the only exception in millennia to the rule that being weaned on rasam automatically bestows mathematical wizardry on a person.

Alas, I’m a dummy who’s terrified of numbers. How many people do you know who were infamous in school for maxing 100 out 100 in Algebra and Geometry, but consistently achieving a ‘Brahmaanda’ (Cosmic Egg) in Arithmetic? I blame it on those trains, always rushing at each other at x-many km per hour, I mean, how boring is that?

Which is why I was tickled to receive an email just yester day from my friend Aparna, much brighter in these matters and a worthier descendant of rasam-ravers. It was particularly interesting because last month, there was, by Indian accounts, a most foolish play in New York on the mathematician, Ramanujan, that misinformed the public on his relationship with Hardy, the Cambridge mathematician, in the name of artistic license.

Writes Aparna, “Like the saint Sri Ramanuja, the mathematician was also extremely devout and his favourite deity was Namakkal Devi, the consort of Narasimha. (Namakkal town, in Namakkal district is about 380 km from Chennai). Ramanujan concentrated on the Infinity Series because he felt that the numbers were a passage through which he would reach Vishnu, symbolising infinity. The symbol for infinity in mathematics is Greek and it looks like a coiled serpent. Was it Aadisesha?

I realise that to reach God, you need not just say shlokas or go to temples. For Ramanujan, it was numbers and numbers alone through which he felt he could attain moksha. It was wonderful to realise this.” We all know that number-magic works brilliantly for many. But for math-unfriendly people, perhaps this is a reason to feel better about the subject?