Buddha, the Zero Man
At the present time, about 8500.000.000 humans inhabit this planet. Each one is unique. Each one can be identified. If we were to assign a number to each human we would get 8500 million (different) numbers.
Now, supposing a (or any) Buddha (he called himself Tathagata, the meaning of which is not known, though there are plenty of guesses) had emerged amongst these 8500 million humans. Which number would be his?
Well, the Buddha would have taken the zero, and which can be both a number (depending on its position in relation to another number) and not a number. If unconnected to another number (hence to a fixed (or positive) position the zero can’t be found. Whether or not a zero is there (i.e. it exists) cannot be decided. It can appear anywhere between the numbers or actually surround them (as later Mahayanist speculation proposed).
The Buddha always took the zero, hence ‘non-‘ position. In other words, he never took a fixed (i.e. clearly definable) position on anything (i.e. on any view or opinion) save on the non-position that that no such entity as a fixed position (i.e. one in permanent ownership, see: ‘The no-more-clinging sutta’) existed. He was master of the neti-neti (to wit, ‘not this’ – ‘not this’) deconstruction strategy. By taking the non-position (of the Zero) like Socrates, he could demolish any fixed position (thereby releasing the individual stuck (and hurting) in that position to freedom and eliminating her pain), yet was himself never caught in one. Thus he became invincible, or as he said of himself: “I cannot be bested!”
In short, whenever asked a question (whenever he was confronted by a fixed position, being experienced as a nasty, painful tangle) he would respond with an answer that looked like a fixed position (because it seemed to be connected to a fixed position). However, upon scrutiny his position revealed itself as a negative (i.e. ‘not-this’) statement (or non-position). When pressed further, he would validate (i.e. fence or define) his non-position with further non-positions that looked (initially) like real positions, until scrutinised. After all, that itinerant beggar’s goal was freedom, to wit, not goal.
So, for instance, the Buddha explained Nir’vana (or ‘blown out’, hence a negative) as un-born, un-become, ceased, extinguished and so on (all negatives). Then everyone knew what he meant though he had not in fact said anything (positive).