Tag Archives: Vedānte

Form is emptiness and emptiness is form

Around half past one in the afternoon the fog slowly disappears. Carla awakes Narrator and she says that Man and she will start preparing lunch. Man proposes to have a warm lunch, so in darkness of the evening at the next landing point a simple meal will suffice.

When Narrator is up and fully awake, the warm lunch is ready.

“A simple but wholesome meal. I hope you will enjoy this meal”, says Man.

“Enjoy your meal”, say Carla and Narrator.

“I think we will have sufficient visibility to sail away at high tide”, says Man.

“That would be nice, because then I can take a nap at the end of the afternoon in a rocking boat”, says Narrator.

“Now we have mentioned the rocking of the boat; a few minutes ago I saw a few ducks floating by on the puddle of water next to the boat. Upon seeing the waves’ game caused by kicking their legs in the wake of these ducks, I thought of our conversation this morning about our life as a dream superimposed within “being-whole”. The waves’ game – a metaphor for our life as a dream, because the waves’ game in the water surface is a superposition within the surface – in the water is a metaphor for being-whole”, says Carla.

Drijvende eenden[1]

“A nice example of the combination of being-whole with the swirling manifestations of daily life”, says Man.

“Now mentioning it, could you hand me some water?”, asks Narrator to Man.

“Please”, says Man.

“I believe we have now arrived at the core of the second part of our quest to “Who are you”. Being-whole and “you” appearing in daily life go together within the ineffable all-encompassing “being-whole”, whereby we – the other and I in our everyday manifestations – are superimposed like a dream in the “wholeness”.

Here I am reminded of a radio signal – superimposed on a carrier – that as one signal is transmitted through space. Without the carrier no transference of a radio signal, without space no transference of the signal: they are mutually interconnected and interdependent in space.


I come back to the question: “One – what is that?” to the wise woman in the Buddhist question whereupon she was unable to answer. Like a wave as manifestation and the ocean as “being-whole” inseparably superimposed on each other, is the “not knowing” of the wise woman also superimposed on “being whole” or is it fully encompassed in the “being-whole”?, asks Carla to Narrator.


Night kisses the stars
And lets the waves move
Within the cosmos
The dream of dream a complete
Answer to: “One – what is that”


A silent answer
To the question: “One – what is That”;
Being-whole in all

And together in one haiku:

In One breath
Form – empty, and empty – form
United in All

Herewith we have arrived at the heart of the Heart Sūtra according to one commentator [3] and the core of the Sūtra is:

“Here, form is emptiness and emptiness is form.
Emptiness is no other than form; form is no other than emptiness”.

Or in Sanskrit:

iha rūpaṃ śūnyata śūnyataiva rūpam
rūpānna pṛthak śūnyatā śūnyatāyā na pṛthagrūpaṃ

wherein we encounter several time the word “śūnyata”[4] for emptiness. The other keywords are:

  • iha is usually translated “here, in this world, in this place.” This adverb is composed of “i” meaning “compassion”, and “ha” meaning amongst others “meditation, knowledge, the moon, to destroy, to remove, to leave and as last letter of the alphabet also last breath or to kill”. Herewith the word “iha” has simultaneously the meanings of “removal of illusions with compassion” and “meditation and / or enlightenment in this world.”
  • rūpaṃ – the accusative of the word “rūpa” – usually translated with “form” and has also the meanings of “dreamlike appearance, inner nature, image, graceful shape and symptom.” The word “rūpa” comes from the verb core from the verb core √rūp meaning “to form, to figure” and also “to exhibit by gesture” and “to show oneself”. My father said that “to show oneself” is to realise – and to give shape to – the All-encompassing One or to “being-whole”.
  • “na pṛthak” is usually translated with “not without” or “not separate of”. [5]

According to the core of the Heart Sūtra, not only the manifestations of daily life and of our everyday life, but also “the realisation of the All-encompassing One and herewith being-whole” is empty”, says Narrator.

“In the Heart Sūtra several times an explanation is given to Shāriputra, for example: “Thus (evaṃ) Shāriputra, all Dharma’s are empty without characteristics, not arisen, not disappeared, nor immaculate, nor polluted, nor complete and nor unfilled”. What is the meaning of the name Shāriputra?”, asks Carla to Narrator.

“The name Shāriputra is composed of “Shār” meaning in Sanskrit “wind, arrow and injure”, and “putra” meaning “child” [6]. Herewith the name Shāriputra refers to “child of the wind” – volatile and always everywhere present – and thereby “child destined to remove the illusions (like an arrow in one sigh)”. Because this destination Shāriputra is described in several Mahayana texts standing with one foot in “being-whole” and with the other foor in “the phenomena of everyday world”; by this double role, Shāriputra is an ideal person to act in the “All-encompassing One” and within “the delusion of daily life” as part of “being-whole”. Shāriputra [7] is one of the most important disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha. According to Buddhists Shakyamuni Buddha is the historical person Siddhārtha Gautama after his complete enlightenment”, says Narrator.

“Your explanation of the core of the Heart Sutra reminds me of the name YHWH for God in the Tanach [8] – and in the Old Testament of Christianity – meaning “Eternal” or “Always” and this name can also be understood as the Hebrew verb “הוא” or “is” from the verb “to be”. Usually “הוא” is translated as “He who is” but the originally meaning is just “is” without further interpretation. While interpreting their core, many religions fall back on the “unmentionable” for example in Hebrews 7: 3 with “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life” for the Messiah (or the eternal priest). But immediately after the mentioning of the “unmentionable being”, religions begin to explain this “unmentionable being” within daily life and afterwards to secure the place of the followers within “being-whole” and in relation to the “unmentionable being””, says Man.

“Similarly, the Heart Sūtra. After the core: “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form. Emptiness is no other than form; form is not different from emptiness”, the Heart Sutra begins slowly to turn again like a cyclone, because hereafter is restated that – in addition to form – the four other skanda’s are empty: “In the same way feeling, perception, thought and consciousness are empty”. After this – as Carla mentioned before – the Sutra says that all forms of self / Self are empty without content:

“Thus [9] all Dharma’s [10] are empty without characteristics, not arisen, not disappeared, nor immaculate, nor polluted, nor complete and nor unfilled”.

I can only read this as: all Dharma’s are – via “emptiness is form” – fully included in the All-encompassing One” or the unmentionable and indivisible “being-whole” of Martin Heidegger. ”

And the Sūtra continues with a large number of negations:

“Therefore, in emptiness there is no form, no feeling, no perception, no memory, no consciousness, neither eye nor ear or nose or tongue, neither body nor mind, nor form, neither sound nor smell nor taste, neither feeling nor traces of perception from eye to conceptual consciousness, nor causation from ignorance to old age and death, no end of causation from ignorance to old age and death, nor suffering, nor relief, no way, no knowledge, no achievement or non-achievement”

With these negations the Sūtra begins (after “Form – emptiness and emptiness – form”) slowly to get fully form (and emptiness) again – like a photo immerged in a photographic developer – within the All-encompassing One.


Ah, finally the sun, within a short while the fog will disappear. With some luck we can soon look around us again. When are you planning to sail away?”, asks Narrator to Man.

“I propose to raise the anchor about three o’clock at high tide and start our return to Lauwersoog. Due to the fog this morning we have not been able to begin the last part of our trip to Vlieland. When we would sail this last part this afternoon, we will have a chance to end up in bad weather – according to the weather forecast – within two days: to me it seems better to avoid this. Now we can arrive in the marina before the weather change. And I can have the boat ready in time for the transfer to my friend”, says Man.

“”I’ve spoken so much that I’ve forgotten to eat. Could you hand me the bread and cheese?”, asks Narrator to Carla.

“Please. Are bread and cheese also empty according to the Heart Sūtra? I think I know the answer, but what do you think?”, asks Carla.

“They are no permanent – independent – forms: they are arisen by baking the bread and ripening of the cheese and they will change into another form during digestion. Even if they are not eaten, they will spoil within a short time. The generally accepted idea of “bread” and “cheese” are also no permanent independent forms: they receive meaning and value within a human society, they have originated once in the course of history, they change and they will disappear once again. In this way, bread and cheese are at the same time form and emptiness within our lifetime. In addition, they give form and emptiness to our lives within our “being-whole”.
Herakleitos had said according tradition:

“πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει” καὶ “δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης” [12]

of interpretated:

All changes and nothing remain still, and we cannot step twice in the same stream”.

Just like our sailing trip on the Waddensea: everything is constantly changing form, and no form is permanent. The fog that has just fully enveloped us, is gone. This reminds me of a short poem at the end of a Buddhist question. I have made this a haiku from this poem:

Sun shines in the sky
On vanishing of the mist
As bright as allways

Although we will consider “change” at the next part of our quest, I still ask the question now: Is the constant change within “being-whole” empty too?

This question is important because the Mahābhārata states on one hand that everything – even the gods – and perhaps “being-whole” is bound to dharma [13], but according to the Heart Sutra, the dharma’s are empty and simultaneously included in “being-whole”. Is the “being-whole” also empty?”, asks Man to Carla en Narrator.

“Based upon “facts and logic” no answer is possible according to the two incompleteness theorems [14] by Kurt Gödel [15]. Briefly – and focused on the question “Is “being-whole” empty” – the theorems read:

  • In case a system – “being-whole” or finite – is consistent (or empty), this system cannot be complete and
  • The consistency of the axiom’s like “Is “being-whole” empty” cannot be proven from the system – “being-whole” or endless – itself.

I come to this conclusion because “being-whole” is so unknowable endless, that there is always place for something additional. I think “being-whole” is endless because mathematics permits the concept of “infinity” easily, but I cannot prove that “being-whole” is infinite, because it is – due to indivisibility – by definition unknowable and incomparable in size.

From metaphysics, I think that “being-whole” has by definition has no distinction and is therefore indivisible; hereby “being-whole” is empty of all discrimination and understanding, because there is nothing to understand or grasp. I think this definition – as all assumptions – is debatable.

Besides that there are of course the various temporary manifestations superimposed within “being-whole”, like photos immerged in a photographic developer. These manifestations are as real as when I squeeze you in your arm and as volatile, empty and real – as form is emptiness and emptiness is form – within the metaphor of Indra’s Net”, says Carla

“This lunch was excellent; shall we have some coffee?”, says Narrator.

“I will make some coffee”, says Man.

“Your haiku is based on the poem in the Buddhist question “Wash you bowls”. Summarized and adapted to our time this question is:

“A student enters a monastry and asks for instructions. The teacher asks: “Did you have your lunch?” The student answers: “Yes, I have”. “Then”, the teacher says: “Wash your plate and cutlery”.

And the poem is:

Because it is so clear
It takes longer to realise.
If you acknowledge at once that candlelight is fire,
The lunch has long been prepared. [16]

Or said in another way: “A fish discovers water last of all. So it takes a long time to realise “being-whole” because it is omnipresent. When you recognise that all forms are completely included in the All-encompassing One, then this lunch has long been prepared”.

The poem gives immediately – or directly and momentaneously – an answer to the question where we may find “being-whole”: “Here (“iha” in Sanskrit) at this place where we sit” and “Here in the shoes wherein we stand”. Because it is so obvious, it will go unnoticed.

The non-dualistic Vedānte [17] – amongst other based upon the Upanishads and the Bagavad Gītā – often refers to the All-encompassing One, whereafter at once a distinction is introduced, for example the caste in India, student and teacher, higher beings and humans [18].
This same distinction within “being-whole” immediate arose within the Tanakh and the Old Testament where God – YHWH (or “is”) – humans are separated after a few words thereby entering our manifestations within everyday life.

Recently I read on the back cover of “Deze wereld anders – Politieke geschiedenis van het grote verhaal” (This world different – Political history of the grand story) by Ton Veerkamp:

“Christianity focused on heaven – the heaven of the folk religions – and the afterlife. Everyday life and the “here and now” was a side issue and thus Christianity has often excessively adapted itself to a world of power and oppression.”

De wereld anders[19]

I think every religion has done this in to some extent: nothing human is excluded from religions.
The Heart Sutra continues after mentioning the core of “being-whole” – and after a large number of negations of daily realities that are empty of content and form – by entering the path of the bodhisattva.

“Therefore without attainment, the bodhisattva’s [20] – via perfect wisdom (prajñāpāramitā) – are without obstructions on their life course. Without obstructions and thus without fear they surpass their illusions (within daily life and within “being-whole”) and nirvana [21]. Due to the perfect wisdom (prajñāpāramitā) all past, present and future Buddha’s realise the “All-encompassing One”.”

The All-encompassing One” is “Here (“iha” in Sanskrit) at this place where we sit” and “Here in the shoes wherein we stand”.

In this manner the Heart Sūtra – although in words that distinguish and create distance – has tried to describe life course (or Tao) within the non-dualistic All-encompassing One.
Time to wash my plate and cutlery”, says Narrator.

“With your plate and cutlery also the All-encompassing One” is washed within our world. This is perfectly clear within the metaphor of “Indra’s Net”.

In everyday life, I notice a limitation on the scope of washing your plate and cutlery, because the transfer of information – the light within the metaphor of Indra’s Net – has obvious limitations and because way of perception does affect our way of seeing.

Approached from the world of phenomena and viewed from everyday individual objects it is utterly impossible to wash only the plate and cutlery without having an impact on the environment, because there is always an influence on dishwasher, soap and the dishwater had an initial temperature by the sun before it is heated etc. etc.

In my life, I experience both worldviews as completely real and practical, but I cannot let both completely overlap in one comprehensive system: the metaphor of superposition of the world of phenomena within “being-whole” helps, but is not fully satisfactory for me”, says Carla.
“The Heart Sūtra is a scripture originated from Mahāyāna Buddhism. This form of Buddhism is also called the “middle way” because within this religion one tries to unite the world of “being-whole” with everyday life. This “middle way” takes shape in the bodhisattva ideal. A bodhisattva – with both feet together in the worlds of “being-whole” and of “everyday life” – will only enter the All-encompassing One together and at the same time with everyone and everything. Within this ideal a bodhisattva enters – here and now – constantly “being-whole” and “daily life” to save everything and everyone from life suffering”, says Narrator while washing his plate and cutlery.


[1] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superpositie_%28natuurkunde%29
[2] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amplitude_modulation
[3] See: Lopez, Donald S. – The Heart Sutra explained Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990 p. 57
[4] See for an exposure of “śūnyata” the post: “Emptiness: to the end of the night”
[5] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta
[6] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta
[7] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sariputta
[8] Source: Tanach Heerenveen: Uitgeverij NBG, 2007, p. 113
[9] The Heart Sūtra uses the word “evaṃ”. See for an explanation footnote 14 in chapter “Mist”
[10] Dharma means literally “continuously placing of the self/Self”.
[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darkroom
[12] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heraclitus
[13] See for an explanation of Dharma: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 2.1 – Facts and Logic. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2014, p. 34 e.v.
[14] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_G%C3%B6del
[15] See also: Origo, Jan van, a survey into our existence – part 2.1 – Facts and Logic. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2014, p. 62 – 64
[16] See also: Shibayama, Zenkei, The Gateless Barrier, Zen Comments on the Mumonkan. Boston: Shambhala, 2000, p. 67 – 71 and Yamada Kôun Roshi, Gateless Gate (Mumonkan). Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1990, 40 – 43
[17] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedanta
[18] See: Venkataramanan, S. Select Works of Sri Sankaracharya. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications, 2003
[19] See: Veerkamp, Ton. Deze wereld anders – Politieke geschiedenis van het Grote Verhaal. Vught: Uitgeverij Skandalon, 2014
[20] The word bodhisattva consists of two words “bodhi” and “sattva” meaning “perfect knowledge, wisdom” and “being, conscience, living being” in Sanskrit. The school of Maha ya na 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 and everything for enlightenment.
[21] Literally: absence of forest (or barriers) or the open plain