Things arise out of strange things. Every language and its arithmetic is based on ten digits, and those ten digits have come from the ten fingers – because uneducated people count on their fingers. So the first counting was done on fingers, and there are ten of them; this is just a coincidence. That’s why from one to ten the whole mathematics is complete, then it is repetition. Eleven, twelve, thirteen – that is repetition. Then you can go to millions of numbers, but they are all repetitions. The basic numbers are ten, but there is no necessity that there should be ten basic numbers.
There have been mathematicians like Leibniz who worked only with three numbers – one, two, three – and managed to do every calculation. After three, four does not come because four does not exist in Leibniz’ mathematics. After three comes ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, twenty. There is no problem – you can count that way. In the ordinary mathematics there will be four chairs in the room; Leibniz will count ten, and it makes no difficulties, the calculations will be perfectly right.
Albert Einstein even tried to work with two. Just reading Leibniz he said, “Why three?”
That too was another coincidence; it was because Leibniz was a very Christian-minded person, and the trinity would be disturbed. If you bring down the numbers to less, if you make the numbers two, what will happen to the trinity? If there are only two digits, then one, two, ten, eleven. Ten will be the number, not three. To save the trinity and not to get into trouble with the pope, he kept the number three. Albert Einstein tried with number two. Two is certainly absolutely essential – you cannot work with just one – and he succeeded; with two it is possible.
The same kind of coincidence happened in India. Jainism, being the oldest religion, had the idea that just as a day and night make the whole circle, and then begins another day and night, another circle, it is the same with creation…one creation, then everything goes into dark night, disappears, then another creation starts…. Each creation has twenty-four teachers; those are called tirthankaras, the path-makers. That is the literal meaning of tirthankara.
Before Jainism’s twenty-four tirthankaras became famous, Hindus had only ten incarnations of God; but then they started feeling a little poor. “Jainas have twenty-four and you have only ten?”
In every sphere, people are so competitive and behave so stupidly, that unless you look you will never find out how suddenly after Mahavira, because he was the most prominent Jaina tirthankara…. Although he was the last, he was the most important person in the whole range of twenty-four. Up to Mahavira, all Hindu scriptures have ten incarnations. Perhaps the fact there were ten incarnations is nothing but the result of ten-finger counting. Perhaps the reason is the same as in mathematics; and you will not be surprised that the number ten is also a Hindu concept. It was the Hindus who first brought the digit ten.