Tag Archives: Red Pine

Review: Taoteching by Lao Tzu (translation by Red Pine)

Lao-tzu's TaotechingLao-tzu’s Taoteching by Lao Tzu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This translation by Red Pine – Bill Porter – of the Tao Te Ching in 2009 is among the best available.
It is a revised version of the edition published in 1996.

Both versions start with:

The way that becomes a way
Is not the immortal Way

A footnote states that Tao originally meant “Moon”. This may well be the Moon as pointer to the All-encompassing One, wherein this Moon and pointer are fully encompassed as waves in the ocean.

Also highly recommended are the translations by:
– Ellen M. Chen – with different interpretations for several verses
– Jonathan Star – also including an interpretation per Chinese character

View all my reviews


At the beginning of the night, Narrator stands guard on a clear night sky while Carla and Man sleeping. Halfway through the night, the sea fog is getting thicker, so that the sight at the start of the morning is less than 20 meters.

Around 7 a.m. Narrator awakes Man and Carla as agreed. After a brief look outside Man says to Narrator that in the coming hours it will be impossible to sail with visibility less than 200 meters; he proposes to take over the watch, but Narrator prefers to sleep during the day while sailing, because then the boat is rocking pleasantly. Man asks to be awaken at 9 am at the latest or earlier in case the fog clears off. Carla and Man start sleeping again.

At 9 am Narrator starts making breakfast with fried eggs and cheese. Carla and Man are still dozing, but the smell of fried eggs makes them awake. They get up, they wash themselves with cold water and put quickly warm clothes on. Visibility is still poor.

“Low tide is nearing. It does not make sense to sail away this morning, because we do not have enough time to arrive at a next good landing place. We may enjoy this view until the next high tide. When the sun will starts shining it may be quite comfortable. Nice that you have already prepared the breakfast”, says Man.

“Delicious: fried eggs and coffee to start the day. After our discussion last night about “being whole” that – according to Martin Heidegger – is by definition “empty” or “the nothingness”, I had dreamed last night about the way women in the Buddhist question last week at the end of “intensities and associations” [1]; she was unable to answer the question: “One – what is that” [2]. Until tonight I thought that this wise woman was beaten dumb because the Buddhist sage had uncovered with this question her ignorance and misunderstanding regarding “One – what is that” had uncovered.

In my dream I knew that the wise man and wise woman were entirely included in the “being whole”; they were one – question and answer was one, speaking and silence was one and understanding and misunderstanding were merged into one – and herewith an answer was unpronounceable: it was not necessary and not possible. Suddenly I had a great respect for the inability of the wise woman to answer. Now, at daylight, in this fog my understanding of this answer begins to fade, as if the centre of the cyclone moves and swirls of the storm of daily life sweep away the oneness of “being whole”, says Carla.

“Man would you be so kind to pour me some coffee? Thank you. Until recently, I have studied a Buddhist question about “being whole” and diversity named “A woman comes out of meditation” [3]. Very briefly this question is as follows:

Once long ago, “being whole” – or All-encompassing One – was present in a place where many Buddha’s [4] had gathered. When Mañjuśrī – teacher of the seven Buddhas and and and excellent bodhisattvas [5]; his name comes from the verb cores √mañj meaning “to cleanse or to be bright” and √śrī meaning “to mix, to unite, to cook” whereby his name refers to perfect enlightenment in our earthly existence – arrived, the Buddha’s disappeared to their original abode. Only a young woman – in deep meditation – stayed behind near Shakyamuni [6] Buddha’s seat. Mañjuśrī asked Buddha: “Why can a young woman be near the seat of Buddha while I cannot?” Buddha replied: “Get her out of meditation and ask her yourself”. With all his knowledge and super-natural powers, Mañjuśrī was not able to get her out of meditation. The All-encompassing One told Mañjuśrī: “Countless Mañjuśrī are not yet able to get her out of meditation. Far beyond more countries than there are grains of sand in the world’s oceans, lives a junior bodhisattva who will be able to awaken her out this meditation”. Immediately this junior bodhisattva appeared and after a snap with his fingers the young woman came out of her meditation.


This Buddhist question includes several sub-questions:

  • How can Mañjuśrī – a bodhisattva – be the teacher of Buddha’s?
  • What is the original abode of the Buddha’s and why do they return to their original abode at the moment Mañjuśrī arrives?
  • Why can a young woman be near Shakyamuni Buddha’s seat while Mañjuśrī cannot?
  • Why can’t Mañjuśrī – an excellent bodhisattva – get this young woman out of meditation while a student bodhisattva can do this with a snap of his finger?

A Zen master [8] gives an explanation to the question how Mañjuśrī as bodhisattva can be the teacher of Buddha’s. This is possible because Mañjuśrī is symbol of prajñā or wisdom of “being whole” – also called the complete emptiness or absolute equality from which everything is born and to which all returns – that surpasses the mundane and metaphysical world. This “being whole” is nothing more than the realisation of the enlightenment of all Buddhas. Hereby Mañjuśrī is called the master of the Buddha’s: in the world of Mañjuśrī there is no subject and object, no getting up and no sitting down, no getting into meditation and no coming out of meditation. The junior bodhisattva symbolises worldly distinction: in his world we can freely stand up and sit down, being absorbed in meditation and come out of meditation.

This Zen master continues his explanation:
Everything in the world has two aspects of “being whole”: an essential aspect of “being whole” and a phenomenal aspect. Based on the essential aspect all and everything is empty: it has no shape, no color, no size and no surface. Herewith all is the same. On the basis of the phenomenal aspect, everything has a shape, a color, a size and a surface. Herewith all is unique and completely different. We human beings have two aspects: an essential manifestation and a phenomenal manifestation. Our entire equality and our absolute differences are two aspects of one “being”. Intrinsically both aspects are one and the same of our “being whole”. Therefore we can say that everything has a form and at the same time has no form, and in the same way we take no step when we walk and in the middle of a hectic city we are in the core of a deep silence. The complete understanding of the Buddhist question stems from a complete understanding of the combination of the essential – or empty – manifestations with all phenomenal manifestations within the “All-encompasing One”.

This Zen master gives the following explanation to why the junior bodhisattva can get the young woman out of her meditation while Mañjuśrī is not capable hereof:
Mañjuśrī and the junior bodhisattva both have freedom to act within their possibilities. Mañjuśrī is free to not get the young woman out of her meditation and the junior bodhisattva is free to let her stand up, just like a horse is free to gallop and a snail is free to crawl on the ground and free to not to gallop. Not being able to gallop of a snake is an elegant way to give substance to this freedom. The horse and the snake have in common that they both have the ability and freedom to fulfill their core of deep silence or rather their “being whole” within their “All-encompassing One”; so Mañjuśrī and the junior bodhisattva in their “whole being” in complete interconnectedness with all manifestations are completely free to reflect their Dharma [9] and their unchangeable “being whole” [10] within Indra’s Net.

This question with the explanation of the Zen master is a good start for a further exploration of emptiness and a closer examination of the Heart Sūtra”, says Narrator.

“This question and the explanation give words to my feelings of oneness in my dream that I had as a result of our discussion last night about “being whole” and the All-encompasing One”, says Carla.

“I am still looking for – after all the years I have immersed myself in meditation – a balance between the silence of meditation and the hectic pace of everyday life. The freedom to “be” in both worlds I have explored within my capabilities and limitations. In the separate worlds of meditation and everyday life I am at home and I am experiencing regular “being whole”, but I do not know the full integration of the two separate worlds within my life; maybe this integration is not given to me within my capabilities and limitations, or perhaps this integration is not possible within a human life. This Buddhist question is about this integration that I am trying to achieve.

The Zen master who gives this explanation, is using the word Samādhi for meditation. Do you know the origin and meaning of the word Samādhi in Sanskrit?”, says Man.

“The fog does not clear of yet; shall we make new coffee?”, says Narrator.

“I will make new coffee, then you can continue your conversation”, says Carla.

“Meditation is a good translation of Samādhi. In Sanskrit the word Samādhi consists of:

  • “sam” meaning “conjunction, union, to join together, to place together, intensity, completeness”,
  • “ā” meaning “backwards, back, giving a direction, completely, and also compassion and/or consent” and
  • “dhi” – as a weak form of “√dhā”: “to place, to bring, to help, to grant, to produce, to cause” – meaning “delight, nourish, satiate, satisfy” [11].

My father said that “dhi” also refers to “the other” in conjunction with the All-encompassing One. Recently, while studying the Buddhist problem, I noticed in a dictionary the meaning “receptacle” [12] for “dhi”, whereby I immediately thought of the explanation by my father in the sense of: all separate fleeting manifestations in conjunction with “being whole “in the All-encompassing One.

Meditatie 2[13]

I smell the coffee. The beans come all the way from Kenya; the land of my mother and of my youth”, says Narrator.

“We had in mind to translate verbatim the Heart Sūtra during this trip; I think this is not going to work, let us postpone the translation to a later time when it’s more convenient. I suggest to limit us these days to a discussion of the Sūtra”, says Man.

“Good idea. Shall I hand you the coffee: the mist will last awhile”, says Carla.

“Please do, that will keep me warm and awake after the vigil of this night. If I am not mistaken, the long version of Heart Sūtra has the following structure:

  • Introduction
  • Question and answer
  • Form is emptiness and emptiness is form
  • The negations and enlightenment
  • The mantra “Sadyathā oṃ, gate, gate, pāragate, pārasaṃgate, bodhi svāhā” and
  • The epilogue.

In the short version the introduction, the question and the epilogue are missing.

I have the impression that the introduction is added to the Heart Sūtra at a later stage to adjust this Sūtra to structure of the many other Sūtra’s and to trace the origin of the Heart Sūtra back to the origin of Buddhism. For me the introduction of this Sutra might be limited to “thus” or “evaṃ” [14] in Sanskrit, because herewith the Sūtra is completely traced back to the origin and to the manifestation of all phenomena.

After the introduction the question is in brief: “How may humans achieve perfect wisdom – or “prajñāpāramitā in het Sanskrit?”

The answer – and this is the beginning of the short version of the Heart Sūtra – is:
“They should realise that the five skanda’s [15] – according to Buddhist doctrine “form, sensation, perception, thoughts and consciousness” and on our quest “facts and logic, intensities and associations, emptiness, change and interconnectedness” – are – essentially empty to be

One commentator [16] gives the following explanation to this “empty of inherent existence”. There are five types of “emptiness”:

  • Emptiness of what dit not exist before, such as the sailing trip we cannot make this morning due to the fog;
  • Emptiness of what does not exist anymore upon being destroyed, for instance spoiled whipped cream that can never be changed in good whipped cream;
  • Emptiness of the utter non-existence, like dividing by zero with a fixed finite outcome [17];
  • Emptiness of one not existing in the other, for instance a dog cannot exist within a cat;
  • Emptiness of any entity and distinction, like “being whole” according Martin Heidegger.

According to this commentator, the Heart Sūtra refers to the last form of emptiness: the five skanda’s are empty of any distinction and so empty of any inherent existence [18]. Another commentator gives as example of “emptiness of any inherent existence”: a cairn in the mountains that is mistaken from a distance to be a human [19].


After my education as architect, I have always given a lot of attention to the experience of space and herewith emptiness and the limitation and boundary of space.


The emptiness of the five skanda’s surpasses the emptiness of the free spaces and the emptiness to use this freedom. The emptiness of the five skanda’s is both unmentionable – because inside “being whole” nothing can be distinguished and mentioned – and mentionable because “being whole” includes the four other ways of emptiness and thereby all possible manifestations appearing illusions upon a closer look, as cairns being mistaken a human beings from distance.

It’s a little lighter, but visibility is still bad. This morning we cannot sail”, says Man.

“Very interesting way to highlight that the five common realities on our quest – “facts and logic, intensities and associations, emptiness, change and interconnectedness” – are essentially empty and herewith as manifestations – or illusions – are indivisible and simultaneously as illusions distinctively included in “being whole”. I have read somewhere that life is but a dream; according to the Heart Sutra it is a dream included – or perhaps partly superimposed [22] – within the emptiness of “being whole””, says Carla.

“Although I still do not sleep much at night – because memories of atrocities in the past continue to haunt me in the dark – a short poem by Ryōkan has accompanied many years on my travels:

Though I always sleep
on my travels, each night
in another place,
the dream I always dream
brings me to my own house.
(Ryōkan) [23]

This short poem gave me comfort, acquiescence and connection with my nomadic life in Europe; and also it connected me again to the nomadic life in my childhood with my mother as Maasai nomad travelling around with her small herd in northern Kenya with my brothers and sisters whereby it was always a treat when we met my father on his trips as storyteller.

In recent years – as bhikṣu [24] – I carry this poem still with me in a slightly altered form:

Though I always sleep
on my travels, each night
in another place,
in the dream I always dream
I am still at home.
(Ryōkan) [23]

The interpretation of “my own house” has expanded to the “All-encompassing One” or “being whole” by Martin Heidegger and “the dream” has shifted from my nocturnal dream to “everyday life” including my nightly vigils and my vision at night of my misdeeds.
After my nightly vigil, I am going to take a nap until lunch”, says Narrator.

“Of Course. Sleep well. At lunch we will wake you. We will guard the boat and hope that the fog will clear off”, says Carla.

“I think the fog will be gone around lunch. Then we can take a walk on the dry Waddenzee, to sail away mid-afternoon”, says Man.

[1] See: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 134 – 135
[2] See: Caplow, Florence & Moon, Susan, edt. The hidden lamp – Stories from twenty-five Centuries of Awakened Women. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2013, p. 33
[3] See: Shibayama, Zenkei, The Gateless Barrier, Zen Comments on the Mumonkan. Boston: Shambhala, 2000, p. 293 – 298 en Yamada Kôun Roshi, Gateless Gate (Mumonkan). Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1990, 199 – 203
[4] In Sanskrit the name Buddha consists of the noun “bud” meaning “bud or knop” as “bud” in rosebud in the film “Citizen Kane” directed by Orson Wells – and the verb √dha meaning “place, grant, bestow”. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta
[5] The word bodhisattva consists of two words “bodhi” and “sattva” meaning “perfect knowledge, wisdom” and “being, conscience, living being” in Sanskrit. The school of Mahāyāna Buddhism knows the bodhisattva ideal. According to this ideal, a human who is on the verge of enlightenment – named bodhisattva, will refrain of entering until the complete universe and every particle is capable to enter enlightenment. In the meantime a bodhisattva will prepare everyone. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhisattva
[6] Shakyamuni consists of “śakya” meaning “possible or being able” and “muni” meaning “seer or sage”.
[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation
[8] See: Yamada Kôun Roshi, Gateless Gate (Mumonkan). Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1990, p. 201 – 202
[9] An explanation of Dharma is given in: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 2.1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2014, p. 34 etc.
[10] See for the second part of this sentence also: Shibayama, Zenkei, The Gateless Barrier, Zen Comments on the Mumonkan. Boston: Shambhala, 2000, p. 298
[11] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta
[12] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta
[13] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samadhi
[14] In Sanskrit the word “Evam” consists of the verb √e meaning “approach, reach, enter” and the noun “va” meaning “wind, ocean, water, stream, going”. Source: electronic version of the dictionairy Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta
See: Lopez – The Heart Sutra explained. 1990, p. 34; The commentary Vajrapāņi 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.
[15] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skandha ; and see also for a brief introduction: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 172 – 174
[16] The name of this commentator is Praśāstrasena. Source: Lopez, Donald S. – The Heart Sutra explained Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990 p. 53
[17] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Division_by_zero
[18] The Heart Sūtra uses the word “svabhāvashūnya” in Sanskrit for “empty of inherent existence”. The word svabhāvashūnya consists of “sva” meaning “self”, “bhāva” mening “, being or to be” and shūnya” meaning “empty” referring to “being-whole” from Martin Heidegger.
[19] See also: Leben, Man, Narrator Nārāyana – One way, One biografie. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 54
[20] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steenmannetje
[21] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_House
[22] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superposition_principle
[23] This Tanka is freely translated from: Tooren, J. van, Tanka – het lied van Japan. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1983, p. 170
[24] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhikkhu

The wind in the sails

Around 9 o’clock in the morning Carla, Man and Narrator sail on the outboard motor through the ferry terminal at Lauwersoog harbour. Passengers are boarding the 9:30 morning ferry to Schiermonnikoog; they wave to the small sailboat. Carla and Man wave back while they are busy getting the sails ready: Narrator has already entered the cabin to sleep. One passenger calls: “Have a nice trip!” Man shouts back: “Have a nice day” and Carla: “Good holidays”. A man on the ferry calls: “No problem, the weather will be fine!”

Upon leaving the harbour Man puts the outboard off and tilts it out of the water. Then Man hoist the sails with help of Carla; first the headsail and the mizzen and afterwards the mainsail of this yawl-rigged [1] sailboat. There blows a gentle breeze from the southwest. Then the miracle happens: from nowhere the sails curve with the wind while slightly flapping and the boat is propelled by the wind. Man trims the sails tight and the boat is well on track.

Half hour later the ferry catches up with them; again passengers and Carla and Man are waiving to each other. Narrator is still sleeping quietly in the cabin.


“Within half an hour we will have a flow of two knots along; with this wind and flow, we will sail at a speed of seven knots for about two hours and after passing Het Rif we can land the boat during low tide around 12 o’clock on the tidal flats of the Waddenzee in the direction of Ameland. Then we may have lunch and wait for the next high tide by the end of the afternoon to land again by nightfall near Terschelling”, says Man.

“A speed of seven knots is not bad, because with a waterline of around 5,80 meter a speed of 5,90 knots is possible with this Drascombe Drifter according the rule of thumb “2.45 x square root of the waterline (in meters) = hull speed””, says Carla.

“Maybe it’s good that I will give you some instructions to operate the boat when something happens to me. In that case you may sail the boat on the outboard motor to a harbour. When it begins to storm is wise to hoist only the mizzen sail, whereby the boat remains with the head in the wind and usually also the waves. When the engine fails, the boat will sail excellently with only the headsail and the mizzen. In case of emergency, you can always ask for help or you can land the boat at a beach”, says Man.

“Except during storm we can also save ourselves with the oars. Let’s hope it is not necessary”, says Carla.

After three hours sailing Man raises the fin keel, lets the boat strand and lowers the sails; Carla helps Man. On the two-burner gas stove Man bakes eggs for lunch. Carla awakes Narrator and she takes the bread, plates and cutlery. In the grand view of the tidal flats – exposed by low tide – they enjoy their lunch.

“Now I understand why you have invited us to come here for this boat trip. With the changing of the tide, water and flat lands merge – constantly complementary –into each and other infinitely changing, like emptiness and form. In the biography of Narrator you have included a part from the Heart Sutra [4] with the stanza “Form is the equal to emptiness as emptiness is equal to form.” Until now I have seen “form” and “emptiness” as complementary similar to “one” and “zero” within computer sciences that has created a completely new way of human communication via displays; without emptiness no form as without form no emptiness: both replace each other like letters on a blanc sheet – in graphics design – replaces emptiness.
Here on the mudflats on Het Wad during the tide changes, the boundaries between form and emptiness fade; still form and emptiness keep each other alive. Now I don’t see both as separate and complementary, but as interconnected and constantly intermingling in each”, says Carla.

Het Wad[5]

“Yeah, I always came back to Het Wad to experience this seemingly timeless intermingling of tides – according to the strict regularity of the tides – and at the same time constantly changing, always different. Within a day of sailing on Het Wad, I become one with the rhythm of the tide and my hectic daily ego fades. Thereby it requires constant discipline and overview to take care for a safe boat journey. Here I have always felt at home under all circumstances, even in bad weather and storm”, says Man.

“On my journey from Kenya – my mother’s land – to Rome, I have had the same experience of merging between form and emptiness in the outer skirts of the desert and desert steppe, on the boat on the Nile and during my boat trip across the Mediterranean; herewith I grew to a new life in a different environment [6]. Now in my life as bhikṣu I am back into the eternal womb of mother earth; and the wind takes me, in its volatility of form and emptiness”, says Narrator.

“Maybe an idea: shall we survey “change” – the next common reality on our quest to “Who are you” – in Africa (e.g. Kenya)? I have never been in Africa and for you it may be an excellent opportunity to revisit that part of the world. I can easily cover travel and subsistence from my means. Maybe something to come back to at the end of this boat trip.
As far as I am aware, form and emptiness are key concepts within the Heart Sūtra. What does the title of this Sūtra mean in het Sanskrit”, asks Man to Narrator.

“Shall we translate the Sūtra from Sanskrit?”, asks Narrator.

“That is one of my hidden wishes. Herewith my study of Sanskrit can be useful for everything and everyone. Without your help it will not be feasible”, says Man.

“Good idea. Then I will give comments from my background and general knowledge”, says Carla.

“Let us begin with the title of the sūtra. The full title “prajñāpāramitā hṛdaya sūtra” is often translated with “Complete transference of the heart – or the core – of wisdom” [7].

My father has explained the meaning of “prajñāpāramitā”, “hṛdaya” and “sūtra” by showing the separate parts of these words in their consistency.
According to my father the word “prajñāpāramitā” is composed of the main parts “prajñā”, “pāra” and “mitā”.

The word prajñā – mostly translated with wisdom – consists of pra and jñā, wherein:
• pra has the meaning of “before, forward, in front, away, excessive” and “filling, fulfilment, resemble, and like” – just as the Latin word “pro” as opposed to “contra” – and
• jñā has the meaning of “knowledge, apprehend, perceive, remember, familiar with” [8].
In its composition “prajñā” has the meaning of “wisdom (of life), intelligence, know about, discrimination and/or wisdom of a wise of sensible woman/mother”. This last meaning points at “tao” or “course of life” in the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching wherein “tao” – in the form of “name” – is the “mother of all things” [9]”, says Narrator.


“I have read somewhere that Buddhism knows three kinds of “prajñā”:
• wisdom within our daily world, wherein temporality within our life is seen as permanent, where illusions are experienced as real and wherein the transitory ego is considered as the Real Self. Most people live within this framework of wisdom.
• Wisdom within the metaphysical world, wherein the permanent manifestations are seen as temporal, where reality is experienced as an illusion, and where the manifestation with a “self” is considered without a self. This wisdom is attainable with meditation and philosophy.
• Wisdom that surpasses our daily and metaphysical world wherein the manifestations are seen as neither temporal nor permanent, and are experienced as neither pure nor impure, neither with a “self” nor “without self”, and where all is unconceivable and inexpressible.
While our daily wisdom and metaphysical wisdom results in attachment to manifestations, illusions and characteristics, the third form of wisdom remains free hereof [11].
What kind of wisdom is meant here in Sanskrit?”, asks Man to Narrator.

“My father says that “prajñā” precedes all wisdom without passing any wisdom: it contains Al and One without passing the variety of things in our daily life, the ideas and thoughts in science and the knowledge and wisdom of the unconceivable and inexpressible”, says Narrator.

“Your father is a wise man”, says Man.

“Within all his limitations and bondages. Shall I continue with pāramitā?”, asks Narrator.
“That is good”, says Carla and Man.

“The word “para” is used in Sanskrit in three ways with the following meanings:
• pāra: crossing, the other side, the other shore, guardian, fulfil, go through, to bring to a close. In Buddhism “the other shore” is used as metaphor for enlightenment.
• parā: away, off, aside
• para: highest, supreme, old, ancient, better or worse, and sometimes also superior or inferior.
Here the first way and meaning of the word is used; my father added that using one way and meaning of the word para, the other ways and meanings are always gently resonating.
The main part “mitā” is the nominative (or subject) plural of the word “mita” – related to the Latin verb “mittere” with the meaning “do go” or “send” and “let go” – that in Sanskrit has the meaning “fixed, established, measured, containing, moderate, of a Godlike being”.

Via this analysis, the word “prajñāpāramitā” has next to the meaning “perfect wisdom” also a reference “tao” from the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching as “name” – not the “Immortal Name” but “the mother of all things” – at one hand in designation and on the other hand in volatility and inevitability.

In Buddhism – with a creative explanation of pāramitā that might be compose of “pāra” and “ita” meaning “gone”, “returned”, “obtained” and “remembered” in Sanskrit, and therefore in the assembly “go/return/recall to/of the other shore” [12] – the wisdom of “the other shore” or wisdom of the state of enlightenment is often meant with the word “prajñāpāramitā” whereby “the other shore” is interconnected with “the shore” of daily life by the river or the source [13], just like in the metaphor of the cyclone the core is connected by a wall of wind with the tolling tropical storm.

The word “hṛdaya” is often translated with “heart” or “interior of the body” and “heart, core, essence, best, dearest or most salvaged part of something” [14]. According to my father the word hṛdaya consists of the parts “hṛ”, “da” and “ya” with the meaning:
• “hṛ” meaning “take away, present, steal and offer” – as in the cattle-cycle [15], whereby this verb root is possible connected with the German word “Herr” – and “destroy/lose (also of one’s own ego), receive, win, charm, fascinate”
• “da” meaning in Sanskrit “give”, “grant”, “offer”, “produce” and “cutting of (as disparting from the “All and One” according to my father)”
• “ya” meaning “mover” and “incentive”. My father was of the opinion that “ya” is closely related to “yaj” in the sense of “sacrifice”, “offering for a higher – Godlike/heavenly – purpose”. My father uses this verb always in the form of “yayate”, whereby the fruit of the action of offering or giving reflects to the giver or the All-encompassing self and it is probably a “God’s gift” in complete reciprocity. He also says that “ya” is closely related to our word “Yeah” as a positive agreement and confirmation. In Holland, “yes” – with mercantilism always in mind – is close related to a deal, but I think that my father points at recognition of the other and at a consenting attitude for the other.

By looking at the meaning of the parts of “hṛdaya”, this word receives next to “heart, core, essence, best, dearest or most salvaged part of something” also the meaning of “empty core” similar to the core of a cyclone or a waterspout with far fetching consequences for all and everyone.


In the word “sūtra” we see the two cores “sū” and “tṛ”, whereby “sū” in the Vedic time – and as prefix in words – had the meaning “good”. Later the meaning has changed in “create, procreate, vivify, produce, grant and bestow”. And “tṛ” has the meaning of “crossing”.

With this addition by my father, the usual translation “Complete transference of the heart – or the core – of wisdom” gets a widening and transparency – and at the same time a volatility – as life itself. Actually, this title is referring to life itself, in all its richness and facets”, says Narrator.

“During your explanation, I thought constantly of the pearls and all the separate reflections in the metaphor of “Indra’s Net”. Thinking of the metaphor of Indra’s Net, I have always thought – until now – of an entry into the unconceivable. With your explanation – completed by your father’s wisdom – of the title in Sanskrit Heart Sutra, it is clear to me that Indra’s Net is also a metaphor for our daily life”, says Carla.

“Upon a closer examination, all serious religious philosophies cover the same constantly. It is time to end this extensive lunch and we have to wash the plates and cutlery. We must prepare ourselves for the next part of our boat trip during the following high tide. Tonight we will have to eat in darkness after we have landed again. Now we must do the dishes, because that will not be easy during darkness before our evening meal. Besides my mother said that only Bohemians wash the dishes before the meal. I have nothing against Bohemians, but sailing a tidy boat is more enjoyable”, says Man.

“Do we have enough water for doing the dishes?”, asks Carla.

“I will put a kettle on: that should do when we rinse our plates and cutlery before in seawater”, says Man.

After they washed the dishes, the high tide slowly arrives. Man and Carla prepare the boat for sailing.

“At this landing I have placed the front of the boat in such a way that we can sail away at once with the flow. We do not need to push the boat against the tide to deeper water. There I see the tide already between Schiermonnikoog and Ameland. When I will give a signal, please raise the anchor”, says Man.

With the arrival of high tide, they sail away to their landing at the next low tide.

[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yawl
[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wagenborg_(rederij)
[3] Example of a yawl-rigged sailboat. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yawl
[4] See: Leben, Man, Narrator Nārāyana – One way – A Biography. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 110 – 112
[5] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wattenmeer_(Nordsee)
[6] See: Leben, Man, Narrator Nārāyana – One way– A Biography. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher 2013, p. 31 – 36
[7] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_Sutra Zie: Lopez, Donald S., The Heart Sutra explained. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990, p. 21 – 31. Zie: Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Heart Sutra. Washington D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004, p. 29 – 40
[8] Source translation of words from Sanskrit: electronic version of dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[9] See: Red Pine (Bill Porter), Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (revised edition). Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 2006, p.2
[10] Symbol commonly used to represent Tao and its pursuit. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao
[11] Source: Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Heart Sutra. Washington D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004, p. 30 – 31
[12] Source: Lopez, Donald S., The Heart Sutra explained. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990, p. 21-22
[13] Sources: Lopez, Donald S., The Heart Sutra explained. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990, p. 21-22 and Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Heart Sutra. Washington D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004, p. 32
[14] Source translation of words from Sanskrit: electronic version of dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[15] See: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 94 – 95
[16] Image of 3D echocardiogram of a human heart. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart

Review: The Heart Sutra Explained: Indian and Tibetan Commentaries

The Heart Sutra Explained: Indian and Tibetan Commentaries
The Heart Sutra Explained: Indian and Tibetan Commentaries by Donald S. Lopez Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The tiny book “The Heart Sutra Explained” (230 pages) includes commentaries by Indian and Tibetan sages.

These commentaries are very useful to study the Heart Sutra from different perspectives.

E.g.: a commentary on the first line in the prologue “Thus I have hear at one time”:
“The commentator Vajrapani has high praise for the word Thus (“evam” in Sanskrit), the word with which sutras begin. Those four letters are the source of the 84.000 doctrines taught by Buddha and are the basis of all marvels. The meaning of the other words are less clear, there is controversy over the “I” who heard them and to the meaning of “at one time””.

The high praise of Thus – “evam” – is quite similar to the commentary of Bernie Glassman who says in “The Dude and the Zen Master” that the Heart Sutra begins with the most important word “Avalokiteshvara” or even better with the letter “A”. If this “A” is wholly encompassed, the Heart Sutra is all encompassed.

The controversy over the “I” who heard them and to the meaning of “at one time” may be seen as Buddhist question (or Koan) in my opinion .

This example given is only one of the many commentaries.

Next to this tiny book, a basic knowledge of Sanskrit is very helpful for a further study of the Heart Sutra.

“The Heart Sutra Explained” is highly recommended for a further study of the Heart Sutra from different perspectives, as is a basic course of Sanskrit.

For a first reading and basic study of the Heart Sutra, Red Pine’s translation and commentary is highly recommended.

For a first reading and more poetic commentary, “The Heart of Understanding” by Thich Nhat Hahn is also highly recommended.

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