Gaspar Pedro Gonzalez: What Zero Represents to the Maya

“In the only book on 2012 written by a Mayan author 13 B’aktun, Gaspar Pedro Gonzalez shares his personal visions of the universe in 2012 and the deeply rooted traditions of Maya culture. Known for their major contributions to mathematics, ancient Mayan philosophers and astronomers used their findings not only to explain scientific aspects of life, but our spiritual realms, as well. Here, Gaspar Pedro Gonzalez discusses the significance of one very important discovery by his Mayan ancestors: the number zero.

Thousands of years ago, the Maya discovered the zero, a mathematical element that symbolizes this cyclical and complementary concept. This numeral does not signify absence or emptiness, but rather a complement and life, beginning and end. It has the shape of a seed that germinates into the tree of life we will mention later on. Perhaps it is the symbolic representation of the Supreme Energy. All things in this cyclical system generate another life, another stage. Nothing disappears, nothing dies forever. People’s sadness in the face of the unknown in all times is well-illustrated by the great pre-Columbian poet Nezahualcoyotl in these short fragments:

Is it true that we are happy,
That we live on the earth?
It is not true that we live.

And we have come to be happy on earth.
All of us here are needy.
Bitterness foretells destiny
Here alongside the peoples.

In good weather we came to live;
We have come in springtime!
A brief instant, oh friends!
Even so short, it should be lived!

Another poet from Tepotzlan cited by León-Portilla says:

We live our sufferings
Here on the earth:
Everything ends, everything passes,
Like the moon in the sky.
The rich and the poor
Both will perish,
Just like the grasses are burned
We all close our eyes.”


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