What is Mathematics?

If we ask somebody what ‘Psychology’ is, they will say it’s the study of the Psyche. Similarly, Biology is the study of living organisms. But if we ask someone, even a Mathematics Professor, to define ‘Mathematics’, he m…ay not to be able to define it clearly. One may say, it’s the science of numbers or shapes. However, that is not the exact definition.

The definition of Mathematics is beautifully said in the Shastras. The Shastras say, everything has got 24 qualities. E.g. a mango. It has got a form (Rupa), Taste (Rasa), Smell (Gandha), a different feel when you touch (Sparsha), and so on. The fifth quality is Number (Sankhya). There is ONE mango. So this number, ONE, is considered as a quality of the mango. The other qualities are magnitude, separateness, conjunction, disjunction, remoteness, proximity, weight, fluidity, viscidity, sound, intellect, pleasure, pain, desire, aversion, volition, merit, demerit and tendency. No field of modern sciences can give such an elaborate explanation on qualities like the above which is mentioned in the Nyaya Shastra.

The Sanskrit verses in the form of a question and answer form is very interesting.

Q: गणितम् किम्? (What is Mathematics?)

A: गुणितम् शक्यम् गणितम् (That which enables calculation is Mathematics)

Q: केन? (How)

A: संख्या या. (With numbers)

Q: संख्या का? (What is a number?)

A: Sankhya is a Guna present in the object.

संयक ख्यायते इति संख्या – That which enables ‘Systematic-Thinking’ is Samkhya

Mathematicians define mathematics as “Systematic Thinking”! Mathematics is not mere computation; it is something which enables a person to think systematically. This was the definition of Mathematics given in Vedic literature which gives the clear picture of Mathematics and why one has to learn it.


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