The Johnsons’ are BAM practitioners who have served in India.

The Languages of Culture: Numbers

LISTEN TO THE JOHNSONS’ STORY AND HEAR HOW THEY DISCOVERED THEIR NEW CULTURE’S USE AND VIEW ON NUMBERS AND HOW IT HELPED THEM UNDERSTAND – AND BE UNDERSTOOD – AMONG THE PEOPLE OF INDIA.

 

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The Johnsons’ Story

Zero is not a positive number for Hindus. In numbers, you never give someone an amount of money that ends in zero. So when you give them a hundred rupees, you give them 101 rupees. For someone’s birthday, if you want to put some money in a card, you can’t just put in an even number that ends in a zero. To put it in American terms, we couldn’t just put a $20 bill in a card and mail it to them. It would have to be $21, or it’s bad luck.

Even though India created the concept of zero, it means nothingness — a void. It’s uncertain, unknown, scary. It’s foreboding. But “one” is kind of the beginning, so for a Hindu when you add that one rupee, it can symbolize a beginning of sorts. It’s like saying, “I’m going to give you 10,001 rupees because I want our transactions to continue into the future and I don’t want to mark it by a zero.”

Hindus are very much into numerology. Every number has a meaning and a significance. When someone has a baby, they talk to the priest, the priest looks at the stars and how they’re aligned, the numbers of the day that the baby was born, what was going on at the time and gives three names for the parents to choose from to name their baby. Not in every case, but in most cases a devout Hindu will select the name that way. That’s why in the newspapers, right next to the astrology section, they have numerology information as well.

On the Hindu lunar and solar calendars, numerically, there are auspicious months and inauspicious months. We always knew when the auspicious part of the year came around because in all of the newspapers, you would start seeing ads for realtors and real estate. “If you want to buy or invest in property, this is the date to do it.” When buying a new car there are specific dates numerically that were better to buy a new car or to do any kind of business. So numbers are culturally huge in India.

Another significant number for Hindus is the number seven. It’s interesting in Hinduism there are seven holy rivers, seven holy temples, and seven sacred places. Seven is a very significant number.

Four is also a significant number to a Hindu. The swast is an ancient Hindu symbol and it has four sides to it. Hitler actually took the swast from a Hindu symbol, flipped it, and turned it on an angle. But for a Hindu, each of the four sides represents one of the goals in life.