Tag Archives: Diamond Sutra

Review: The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics


The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics
The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics by Robert Aitken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Mind of Clover – Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics” starts with chapters on the ten precepts for Buddhist.

In the chapter on the second precept “Not Stealing”, Robert Aitken cites Unto Tähtinen:

“There are two ways of avoiding war: one way is to satisfy everyone’s desire, the other way is to content oneself with the good. The former is not possible due to the limitations of the world and therefore there remains this second alternative of contentment”

And then he cites Mahatma Gandhi:

“In India we have many millions of people who have to be satisfied with only one meal a day. This meal consists of a chapati containing no fat and a pinch of salt. You and I have no right to anything until these millions of people are better fed and clothed. You and I ought to know better and adjust our wants, and even undergo voluntarily starvation in order that they may be nursed, fed and clothed.”

So true in our contemporary Western world full of abundance.

This small books continues with essays on the Mind, and Robert Aitken cites from the Diamond Sutra:

“Don’t dwell upon colours to bring forth the Mind, don’t dwell upon phenomena of sound, smell, taste or touch to bring forth the Mind; dwell nowhere and bring forth that Mind”.

So true: always at home, nowhere lost.

Highly recommended.

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Man Leben – interview 4


The previous interview was about love in your life. In this post I continue with some questions about the last surprise in your life.

“In the last part of your life you are involved in Oriental wisdom. In the description of your life you refer indirectly to a form of enlightenment. Aren’t you enlightened? “, I ask.

“Everything is enlightened. Nothing, not even the tiniest particle is excluded. Everything in all its natural forms is perfectly enlightened”, you say.

“Also all greed, all crimes, all murders, all illusions, all nonsense and vanity?”, I ask.

“Enlightenment is as natural as inhaling and exhaling whereby inhaling and exhaling are manifestations of enlightenment. We have experienced a glimpse of the complete enlightenment on our Odyssey when we have arrived on the peninsula at the end of the afternoon at the stage “Two – night at the beginning of the spring” [1] after a long day walking. The following morning at six o’clock we have seen the sunrise in the East at the beginning of spring. That afternoon we have washed ourselves in the water at the peninsula, we dried ourselves and put on clean clothes and then we have gathered wood for a small fire in an old tin. This is free rendering of the summary of the Diamond Sutra that directly reflects enlightenment [2]. The real summary is “evam” [3] – the first word of this sutra in Sanskrit – or in English “thus”. Every action, every word and every breath is completely enlightenment. The photo of the sunflowers in the header of this weblog “Who are you” is quite  appropriate. Every sunflower seed on this picture includes the entire universe perfectly and completely”, you say.

“Where do arise all crimes, all murders, all delusions, all greed, all nonsense and vanity?”, I ask.

“In stage One in the post on pantheism, we have encountered “Indra’s net” [4] as metaphor for the entire universe. Indra’s net [5] is in the Huayan school of Buddhism [6] a metaphor for everything, for enlightenment and also for illusions and delusions. If a glass pearl in the net represents an illusion or a delusion, this illusion or delusion is reflected by all other glass pearls in the net. If a glass pearl is enlightened, the enlightenment is reflected in all other pearls. Or if we translate this metaphor to our daily lives, if greed and crime are in our lives, then this affects everything and everyone; and if a person or thing is enlightened, then this enlightenment reflects on everything and everyone in the universe. Or practical, if we stick to possession, or sin against the ten commandments, then these actions affect the entire universe; and if we carefully share possession and perform appropriate action and non-action, then this is reflected in everything and everyone. Hence the Buddhist encouragement – work hard and show compassion with everything and everyone; exclude nothing and nobody”, you say.

[7]

“I can follow the reasoning. I will reconsider this metaphor. On our Odyssey we will encounter sufficient challenges. Many books on Buddhism describe the experience of enlightenment. Have you personally experienced enlightenment?”, I ask.

“You mean the experience to be included in everything and everyone in all its manifestations. I don’t know how, but if I look back then this has always been my basic attitude, also if I was blinded by love, anger or sadness. I can describe it clearer since I have read in a book that for an enlightened mind there is no difference between the finger pointing at the Moon and the Moon. In the same way there is no difference between the waves and the ocean [8]. Before, I have often mentioned as example in meditation meetings that the finger pointing to the moon may not be confused with the moon. After I have read this passage, it is suddenly clear that the manifestations “the finger”, “the Moon” and “the thoughts about these” are mutual perfectly connected. Everything and everyone are natural manifestations of this”, you say.

“For me, your description of “the fate of humans determines that we may sit between changing fires and ashes” and “the blossom growing from dust to dust” is pretty distressing and painful. Maybe the description of my life will clarify this beauty and distress. Do you try to live as a Buddha or as a Bodhisattva as described in the Avatamsaka sutra [9]“, I ask.

[10]

“I am not a Saint. I look forward to the description of your life and of Narrator and then the continuation of our Odyssey”, you say.

“May I bundle the posts about your life together with an introduction and a conclusion in a biography?”, I ask.

“If it will be published after my death”, you say.

In the following post I tell about the beginning of my life


[1] See post: “Two – Night at the beginning of spring” of 25 April 2011

[2] See: Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Diamond Sutra. New York: Counterpoint, 2001 p. 39.

[3] See: Lopez – The Heart Sutra explained. 1990 p 34; “The commentary Vajrapâņi has high praise for the word Evam (thus), the word with which sūtras begin. Those four letters are the source of the 84.000 doctrines taught by the Buddha and are the basis of all marvels.”

See Red Pine (Bill Porter) – The Diamond Sutra. 2001 p 41-42; “Commentaries have written volumes on the profundity of evam (thus). Does it mean “like so”, or does it mean “just so”? And what is the difference? Is this sutra the finger that points to the moon, or is it the moon itself?”

See: Holstein, Alexander- Pointing at the Moon. 1993 p 49; in the enlightened mind of a Zen master, probably, there is no distinction what the ordinary mind calls “to point at” and “the moon”. To the enlightened mind, the relation between the two is similar to the relation of an ocean to its waves.

[4] See post: “One – Pantheism – Indra’s net” of 8 April 2011

[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra’s_net

[6] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huayan_school

[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra’s_net

[8] Source: Holstein, Alexander. Pointing at the Moon. Rutland: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1993, p. 49

[9] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatamsaka_Sutra

[10] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhi

Man Leben – Oriental wisdom 2


Alles gelebt was man leben kann?

Lived everything what you can live?

You continue with the story of your life:

“In the previous post I told how I explored Oriental wisdom. I have mentioned my preference for mavericks. The meaning of the mavericks “ya, ra, la, va and ha” in the Devanāgarī alphabet express my experiences at that stage of my life. In examining the meaning of “la” – meaning in Sanskrit “of Indra”– and consulting several sources, I encountered the meanings of Indra. Indra means “God of heaven” or “Svargaloka” [1]. Indra is often depicted seating on a multi-headed elephant.

[2]

Now I explain the underlying meanings of svargaloka, because this gives light on the developments in my life around the death of my aunt and my godmother.

Svargaloka is composed of the words “svarga” meaning in Sanskit amongst others: heaven, the residence of light and of the gods, heavenly bliss, Indra’s heaven (where the souls of virtuous mortals go before they return in earthly bodies) and “loka” which means: free or open space, the universe, of number 7 – which we encounter later on our Odyssey. The world has three loka’s: the sky/heaven, the earth and the underworld.

Svarga is composed of the parts:

  • Sva: meaning “own, one’s self/Self, the human soul”.
  • Ra: meaning “give, love, desire, motion, brightness, splendour”,
  • Ga: meaning “abiding in, staying” [16]

On the basis of these parts, “svarga” is the residence of our/your own being in all its splendour. The svargaloka is heaven, earth and underworld – all, everywhere and one – in all its manifestations. Here and now, it shows its splendor.

Around 1993, I studied Jalâl al-Din who is better known as Rumi. He has been given the name Rumi in the Arab world, because he lived in Konia, south of Ankara in Turkey while writing his great works. This part of the Arab world was identified with Rome from the Roman Empire. That is the reason why Jalâl al-Din is better known after the name under which his whereabouts is named in the Arab/Persian world [3]. In Chapter 7 we meet Rumi on our Odyssey.

[4]

In a book about the life of Rumi I read: “Love for the dead is not lasting. Keep your love (fixed) on the Living One who increases spiritual life [5] . At that time this way of seeing was for me one half of the mirror. I lived completely in our/Your own being in all its splendour. I was in the svarga one with the wind, the light, my parents and foreparents; the entire universe was omnipresent.

The other half of the mirror was formed by a passage from the Diamond Sutra: “The past is ungraspable, the present is ungraspable and the future is ungraspable [6]“. The past is fixed in solidified glass; of course, our view on the past changes continuously, but a carefree life in Amsterdam with my father and mother as a five year old boy is no longer possible. Occasionally in dreams or with a particular taste – think of the madeleine biscuits in À la recherche du temp perdue of Marcel Proust – or with a particular smell, as a miracle the images and experiences of that lost world emerge in me. “Only in the present I can live, nowhere else I found shelter” [7]; sailing on the wind over the waves we experience the present: try to grab the “here and now” and it is gone. The future is ungraspable as the flower in the bud: the flower manifests itself in all its glory once and for all when circumstances permit – not earlier and not later. The flower arises from the void, flourishes in the void and passes away into the void. This elusiveness reminds me of the text that we encountered earlier in our Odyssey [8]: “Mysterium est magnum, quod nos procul dubio transcendit” [9]  or in English: “The mystery is great, without doubt it transcends us.”

In that time I experienced life fully, overwhelming and transparent. Or shown by a metaphor, both these images in the mirrors – which were placed at a 90-degree angle – were a reflection of my experiences. The mirrors were empty [10].

In the past I thought that if people or things had a name, they also got a place or a destination. On our Odyssey we will encounter this way of seeing a number of times.

In that time I also studied the Hua-yan school of Buddhism [11] and read texts about Indra’s net [12], that is a metaphor for the emptiness of all things and living beings. This void has two sides: it is “emptiness from” and “emptiness to” [13]. Both these sides are similar to “freedom from” and “freedom to” as explained “ Escape from Freedom [14]” from Erich Fromm.

[15]

By these insights I was freed from the latent feelings of guilt about my existence, mainly because my immediate family – with the exception of my aunt – had not survived the other government in Germany. Until then, there was always the question: “How did I deserve to be still alive”. At the same time, I evaded the question for the meaning and reason of this dark, dark, dark history. The religion of my parents offered me no interpretation: I could not say with conviction the verses of Kaddish including “Thou art the glory” and “The world is created according to His will”. For saying these texts I had to identify “You/His” with  “the wind” and “the water”.

This insight helped me organizing my aunt’s funeral. Her funeral was attended by many old acquaintances – as far as still alive. Also some distant relatives were present. I was the only immediate family. For her I have said a whole year with conviction the daily prayers according to the Jewish remembrance of the dead. May her memory be a blessing for here and for there.

I also attended the funeral and mourning services for my godmother. May her memory be a blessing for here and for there. It was a beautiful Catholic funeral in the tradition of South Limburg.

After these funerals I went to Auschwitz”, you say.

“I can follow your view of Oriental wisdom, but for the time I let my mind in the middle if I can agree with this view”, I say.

“Buddhism is the Middle Way; consent with my view of Oriental wisdom is not asked for. I look forward to what the continuation of our Odyssey will bring. It will be a homecoming for me”, you say.

The next post is about your visit to Auschwitz.


[1] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra

[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra

[3] Source: Lewis, Franklin D., Rumi, Past and Present, East and West. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003 p. 9

[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumi

[5] Free rendering from: Iqbal, Afzal, The Life and Works of Jalaluddin – Rumi. London: The Octagon Press, 1983 p. 239.

[6] Free rendering from: Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Diamond Sutra. New York: Counterpoint, 2001 pag.308

[7] Free rendering from the first two lines from the poem “Woninglooze – Homeless” from Jan Jacob Slauerhoff. See for the text of the poem: http://4umi.com/slauerhoff/woninglooze

[8] See the posts: “Three – Object in the middle – The Word” from 11 Juni 2011; and “A day without yesterday –a day without tomorrow?” from 3 Juli 2011.

[9] Source: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/special_features/ encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_20030417_ecclesia_ eucharistia_lt .html:  Ionnis Pauli PP. II Summi Pontificis, Litterae Encyclicae Ecclesia de  Eucharistia, Rome, 2003

[10] See: Wetering, Janwillem van de, De Lege Spiegel. Amsterdam: De Driehoek p. 118 – 120

[11] Sources: Cleary, Thomas, The Flower Ornament Scripture, a Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Boston: Shambhala, 1993; Cleary, Thomas, Entry Into the Inconceivable: An Introduction to Hua-yen Buddhism. Boston:  Shambhala, 2002 and : Cook, Francis, Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977

[12] See also the posts “One – Pantheism – Indra’s net” from 8 April 2011 and “One – “Powers of Ten”” from 10 April 2011

[13] See for “empty to”: Thich Nhat Hahn, The Heart of Understanding. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1988 p. 8, 9

[14] See page 91 in the Dutch version of “Fromm, Erich, Escape from Freedom. New York: Rinehart & Co, 1941” published by Bijleveld in Utrecht, 1973.

[15] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra’s_net

[16] Source: elektronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.

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