January 11, 1994 – The Zero-Wala

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At Shiv Sadan there are no canned entertainments, such as television. Most of the time we are too busy to seek entertainment, but sometimes Maharaj creates a special drama to test and entertain us. The latest such case is that of the Zero-Wala.

He first appeared on New Year’s Day, interrupting Maharaj’s New Year’s talk under Baba Siri Chand’s big pilkan tree near Tejpuri. Maharaj had been addressing the local sangat, so he was speaking very simply, with homely references, on the subject, “What is the difference between humans and animals?” Maharaj’s spontaneous discourses usually last about 40 minutes. Twenty minutes into his discourse, a person whom we began to refer to as the Zero-Wala (“wala” being a convenient suffix roughly meaning one who does, makes, or sells something) appeared and immediately began speaking, changing the subject to his theory of numbers. He claimed his theory would revolutionize thinking around the world—and also bring everyone to the Sikh path.

On the evening of January 6th, as we headed back to the dehra from Tejpuri, Maharaj turned into the parking lot and sat on a moora (chair of the local canes) there, with plastic sheeting used for drying and cleaning grains spread out for the sangat to sit on. One of our senior staff members gave a long introduction to the Zero-wala as a great mathematician. Maharaj invited him to speak to the sangat, and he explained his theories with props, like a magician.

His theory, as I understand it, is that there are eleven digits, the smallest and first of which is the decimal point. Zero is not the smallest but the largest, for each time it is added to a number it multiplies it by a factor of 10. It is therefore larger than 9. He says God is zero, like a cricket ball.

He also says there are 10 directions, not 8 (North, South, East, West, and 4 diagonals, plus above and below). To illustrate all this he has a box and a scratched plastic ball with a little box inside it. It don’t know what is inside the little box; I think he uses the big box to show the facets of the 10 directions and also to carry a sheaf of papers vindicating his theory, such as some communication from George Bush.

Maharaj has thus far given him two chances to explain his theory to an audience: once to our sangat of simple people, once to an audience including educated people. In the first case, everyone listened politely and clapped at the end, following the lead of S. P. Sahib, the retired military officer who is now managing the farm. The Zero-wala was very happy. In the second case, he strayed far from his point and his time limit and raved on about such subjects as how passports are illusions. In that setting, 50% of the people listened carefully, 50 percent hid snickers and apparently considered him a fool.

Maharaj has been remaining mum. He has obviously brought this man here for a reason, and it is not seva in the usual sense. He does not seem to do much at all other than talk, although he is very sweet and brings me water at langar, addressing me as “shishter.” His spoken English is fairly good, but he doesn’t seem to understand or listen to anything I say. Our “conversations” are limited to his setting forth his theory.

I tried to tell him today that I think the theory of 8 or 10 directions is wrong—that space is not linear. But that didn’t get through, and what do I know?

At any rate, the senior staff member who introduced him as a great mathematician is supporting his theory, and there is a lot of talk about it. Maharaj asks me what I think of him, and I reply, “Please forgive me, Maharaj, but I think he is crazy.”


After three audiences given to the Zero-wala for elucidating his theory, plus his interjecting himself into an audience with Sri Surendra Nath, Governor of Punjab, Maharaj firmly tells him to go do gainful work in order to support his children. Maharaj tells him that his ideas are nothing new and that he should not waste his time.

Now the Zero-wala makes it clear that he wants Gobind Sadan to give him money and a letter of commendation. He gets neither.

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