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Zen, Mathematics, and Rāmānujan: Uncommon Links

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For centuries, religion has been the main impulse for moral and humanistic advancement, and ever since the rise of the Scientific Revolution (from 1543, the year Copernicus published De revolutioni bus orbium coelestium [On the revolution of the celestial sphere] – to the late 18th century), mathematics has been the cardinal element for scientific and technological progress. Mathematics requires a logical mind, but religion demands a receptive and compassionate mind. Even though there is a fundamental difference between the two subjects, the aim of this essay is to explore the relationships between Zen, mathematics, and Rāmānujan. The first section expounds on Bodhidharma’s and Hui neng’s notions of “no mind” and the “essence of mind,” as they are deemed an important bridge between Zen and mathematics. The second section presents how mathematics and Zen Buddhism relate to each other. Accordingly, the views on intuition, imagination, freedom, and language based on Einstein, Cantor, Brouwer, Poincare, et al. are discussed. The third section discusses the work of the most renowned mathematician in modern India in relation to Zen Buddhism. Rāmānujan’s unparalleled accomplishment in the field of number theory is well known among mathematicians. However, he is not well presented in the philosophy of mathematics, because of his unusual approach to mathematics.

Affiliations: 1: Pacifica, CaliforniaUSA


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