The Other Shore

Many religions speak of the great turning, the crossing of the Styx, or the Academic Sea, to reach the other shore. The basic idea is similar and points to overcoming the world of opposites and limitations and to overcoming death.

The Other Shore

In Mahayana Buddhism, this is described in the Diamond Sutra:

O Enlightenment, you have gone, gone, gone over to the other shore, gone completely over to the other shore .

The Diamond Sutra is a dialogue between the Buddha and an advanced disciple, Subhuti. It deals in six sections with the practice for attaining wisdom and enlightenment (prajna paramita) and is addressed to bodhisattvas . These sections are:

The Perfection of the Gift (dana paramitra): The mind becomes troubled by the distinctions of sense concepts and falls into wrong conceptions such as that of an own self and its relations to other selves. In exercising the gift of charity, the mind must be kept free from all thoughts that arise in it. Charity towards other beings must be based on the knowledge that all living beings are in fact not living beings. “A bodhisattva who practices dana paramitra with a mind detached from all concepts of form is like a man with his eyes open in the brightness of the morning.”

The Perfection of Selfless Kindness (sila paramitra): A characteristic of a bodhisattva is unrestricted compassion with all living beings, realising that there is no arbitrary distinction between one self and the self of others, and therefore he should practise charity not only by giving material gifts, but also by the selfless gifts of unlimited kindness and sympathy.

The Perfection of Humility and Patience (kshanti paramitra): The disciple who still has thoughts of spiritual progress and thinks he has attained a certain stage of liberation is still caught in the web of phenomena. For this reason, bodhisattvas must develop a pure, bright mind that does not depend on forms, sounds, smells or any quality. They should use their mental faculties spontaneously and naturally, uninfluenced by any preconceptions arising from the senses.

The Perfection of Energy (viriya paramitra) refers to the immeasurable and incomprehensible merits acquired by a disciple who understands, follows and explains this scripture (the Diamond Sutra) to others. Where this scripture is found, all gods, men and spirits will witness reverence and worship it.

The Perfection of Meditation (dhyana paramitra): A good and pious disciple who wishes to attain enlightenment should have only one thought, namely: when I shall have attained supreme, perfect knowledge, I will lead all living beings to the eternal peace of Nirvana. If this vow is sincere, then all living beings are already liberated, i.e. the possibility of salvation has been opened to all living beings. The enlightened one thus renounces to enter into Nirvana for the benefit and support of all living beings, so that they attain enlightenment, knowing that “living beings and the maturing of living beings are only phenomena and words”.

The Perfection of Wisdom (prajna paramitra): It is something that can be considered undifferentiated, neither as a highly exalted nor as a lowly state, it is completely independent of any particular or arbitrary concepts such as an own self, other selves, living beings or a universal self.

The basic message of this sutra is that all things, phenomena and ideas are subjective and non-real in their nature and are only manifestations of one’s own mind, for

… unlike the illusory phenomena, there is the true essence of mind; underlying the phenomena of the mind there is an unchanging primordial ground .

This primordial ground, the enlightenment, the other shore cannot be expressed in words, it is described in paradoxes such as

…. applied to spirit essence, words have no meaning, because with spirit essence there is nothing that can be grasped. But we use words to free ourselves from words until we attain the pure, wordless essence .

This attainment is the crossing over to the other shore that is described in many myths of humanity. It is the goal of human existence. By this is not meant the end of man’s physical existence, the so-called death, but the overcoming of the opposites of this world, the entering into Nirvana, the emptiness in which everything experiences its origin and completion, which the sage renounces for the good of humanity and the universe, because a pious disciple should have only one thought, namely

… When I shall have attained this supreme knowledge, I will lead all living beings to the eternal peace of Nirvana. If this vow is sincere, all living beings are already liberated .

Much has been and is being speculated and written about Nirvana, so I will not venture another doomed attempt, but let the words of the Sutra speak:

As I understand the Exalted One, there is no such thing as perfect knowledge, nor is it possible for the Tathagata to proclaim any teaching. And why? There is no formulation of truth, called perfection of ineffable enlightenment, because the things taught by the Tathagata are in their essential nature incomprehensible and unfathomable; neither are they nor are they not…. What does this mean? This means that Buddhas … are not enlightened by fixed teachings, but by an intuitive process that is spontaneous and natural. This unspoken principle is the reason for the various systems of all sages .

Did Jesus, the Christ, not also indicate this in simple other words:

My kingdom is not of this world!

Is this not the other, the other shore, which cannot be described in words, but can be grasped and received intuitively? This quotation from the sutra shows us clearly how the Universal Teaching addresses one and the same message to us across times and regions. The multitude of opposites, of positive and negative experiences, of life and death, are all of this world, are phenomena of our attachment to the sense organs and our speculative thinking. As long as we live in this world. i.e. in the material world surrounding us, as well as the world of culture and thought, the world of humanism and the attempt to be “good”, the words of the Buddha apply to us:

He who seeks me in form,
He who seeks me in sounds,
He has gone astray on the path,
For he cannot recognise the Tathagata .

and also the lament from the Old Testament:

… my people are lost for lack of knowledge….

How can we come back from confusion; how can we attain knowledge? How do we realise the intuitive spontaneous and natural process mentioned in the Diamond Sutra? All the teachings of the past and the present point to silence, stillness within us, in our thoughts and feelings, our desires and cravings, so that we can hear the voice of silence within us, from which H.P. Blavatsky speaks of:

Before the soul can see, inner harmony must have been attained….
Before the soul can hear, the image (the human being) must have become as deaf to shouting as to whispering, to the roar of trumpeting elephants….
Before the soul can understand and remember, it must first be united with the “Silent Speaker”…. Only then will the soul hear and remember. And then will speak to the inner ear:


Then we have crossed over, crossed over to the other shore.

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Date: September 7, 2023
Author: Horst Matthäus (Nepal)
Photo: morning by Miki on Pixabay CCO

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