I stole Diamond Sutra from my mom, from her office shelf, when I was in Shanghai this summer.
It was an unbearably hot summer, 38 Celsius degrees on the street and despite the weather, I was depressed at that time, because of the delayed visa for the Netherlands. There was a chance that I would be stuck in Shanghai, the city with the steamy heavy air and irritated commuters, the very city supposed to be my home.
The high temperature is not to blame, nor the people who aren’t friendly enough. There are other reasons I could not locate my home in this city.
Shanghai is a vacancy, a void. The city is indifferent towards me, or to anyone else. In contrary to the rapid economic growth and impressing city constructions, is the individuals, who can be forgotten so easily, left no trace in this city of their lives.
And while I was there this summer, I found this thin book of Diamond Sutra on one the bookshelves in my mom’s office.
She always claims herself to be devoted to a lot of spiritual things, Buddhism being one. As a rebellious daughter, however, I dismissed them all. I’ve heard about the Diamond Sutra for who knows how long –the primary text of Zen Buddhism, but it never aroused my interest to sit and just read. But this time, being bored, stressed and depressed, I took away the book from the shelf as an act of revenge on my mother. I wanted to prove that not noticing that the book was gone will bring me some authority. Or, as if by knowing better the content of Diamond Sutra, I can somehow prove to her that I am not the mindless daughter she thinks I am.
The first few pages caught me.
I did not finish the book in her office, I finished it throughout the night when I was in the Netherlands. I was reading some books on the philosophy of language during that time, as research for my study. That is when sentences from different books, sayings from different fields of studies and suggestions from different cultural backgrounds collide into one, converges, proliferates each other in my mind.
Diamond Sutra is less “religious” than one might expect but more “intellectual” and “poetic”.
It was as if the text stirred into the objects (and subjects) in my life, my perceptions, that they stopped being separated and independent on themselves. Things – and by this word I mean conversations, happenings, papers, emails, anything and everything in my life – started to act correspondingly towards one another. Things in my life started to shake off the heaviness and stableness they used to be, and now being assigned with so many possibilities.
I know I'm speaking in a very abstract way. I apologise if it confuses you. I must clarify I am not in favour of some subjective idealism by introducing Diamond Sutra or persuading you to be a Buddhist, for the very fact I am still an atheist. I am simply describing a state of mind after reading this book.
A sense of respect was picked up from the pages I have read, a sense of respect that is not towards the divinity, towards the mundanity. The uneasiness ad haziness towards the metropolis, Shanghai, has been washed out by the words. The revengeful intuition faded. Diamond Sutra does not provide guidelines towards good and bad, as some religious texts do, it initiated conversations between me and myself.
Was the denial of home out of disappointment? Or even, do I have to locate the "home" at a specific geographic place? Of what I have been clinging on so forcefully that the object itself started to project constraints back on me.
At the end of the day, I cannot paraphrase the content or conclude of Diamond Sutra. The book is pushing and stressing the limitations of the language. Its meaning resides within the opaque, blurred, unsettled definition of words and grammars. The elevation will only be possible when individuals use it as a tool to start conversations with selves.
But I would love to share my take from it here, something for other people to start with. It inspired me to lose hold onto the attachments, in a way that is not forceful. The book enabled me to be aware of the constraints that have been projected back onto me when I emphasised too much on the appearances of things. Lastly, if it’s not too cliché to say so, the book encourages let go of things, with meditation, consideration, and respect of the thing being let go.