My question is related to the quote below taken from Chapter 29 of The Diamond Sutra. Can you provide any references for other explanations for this quote or can you provide your own explanation?

“Subhuti, if any person were to say that the Buddha is now coming or going, or sitting up or lying down, they would not have understood the principle I have been teaching. Why? Because while the expression ‘Buddha’ means ‘he who has thus come, thus gone,’ the true Buddha is never coming from anywhere or going anywhere. The name ‘Buddha’ is merely an expression, a figure of speech.”

As I understand from my current practise, there have been many instances I've been walking and I am aware that there is nowhere I'm walking to, and nowhere I'm walking from and no reference for somebody walking. I can then only discern beyond forms and see that there is only what I perceive to be a stillness in which there is neither time, distance and dimension. I don't know what is doing the perceiving in this instance or if anything at all is being perceived. If I am able to put this into a language there must be a perceiver beyond all forms or that my conceptual mind is doing this perceiving. In the latter case I would be being fooled by mental perceptions.

Out of curiosity and using consciously directed thought I experimented with this experience by watching a seagull flying through the air. Within several seconds I removed the earth and the rest of the universe. The seagull was bouncing its wings and orienting on the spot. From this I deduced that form provides dimension, distance and time. Without form the seagull cannot move from one position to another and time seems intrinsically bound to distance and dimension. That's as far as I got.

It may seem that I'm bordering on nihilism here, but on the contrary: there is the use of form to make the deeper discovery. Form seems to be the substrate to depth of knowledge but in this case it seems like I haven't learnt anything.

  • Have a look at Hsuan Hua’s commentary on the verse @ page 186: web.archive.org/web/20140520233206/http://www.buddhisttexts.org/…... I find his explanations often enlightening. Hope this helps! Nov 19, 2018 at 15:12
  • @GabeHiemstra Please repost that as an answer instead of as a comment (see here for an explanation).
    – ChrisW
    Nov 19, 2018 at 15:25
  • @GabeHiemstra - Thank you. I've saved it to the laptop for reading later. In the meantime, would you be able extract an excerpt that you are referring to? I'd be very grateful. I don't have a teacher and I'm doing this mostly through internet, books and most importantly my own effort. I don't resonate very well with my sangha members as they haven't a clue how to respond and I don't blame them as it's quite peculiar. I'm also living a domestic life with my child and 2 elderly people.
    – user14148
    Nov 19, 2018 at 15:26
  • 1
    Ok I have added as an answer. Nov 19, 2018 at 15:39
  • You seem have learned what the Upanishads teach, which is that the voidness of one one form is the voidness of them all. Seagulls, dimensions, distance, time, would all be empty of intrinsic existence. Your 'perceiving' this may be a mistaken identification since it cannot be perceived. I would suggest your feelings about this come from a place beyond perception and perceptible form. ,
    – user14119
    Nov 19, 2018 at 16:36

2 Answers 2


Another more precise and concise translation of the Diamond Sutra renders it differently, Chapter 29:

“Subhuti, if someone said the thus-come comes, goes, sits, or reclines, this person doesn’t understand the meaning of what I taught. Why is that? What thus-come is, that is from nowhere comes nor anywhere goes, hence called the thus-come.

I think you have quite good intuition to come to conclude that ...From this I deduced that form provides dimension, distance and time. Without form the seagull cannot move from one position to another and...

This chapter, on the meaning of Tathagata, is touching on the Tathagatagarbha. Tathagata, generally renders as thus-come. What is Tathagatagarbha? It is formless, but from it form arises; it is emptiness, but it contains everything - the seeds. Hence is called the Tathagatagarbha (如來藏), the womb of the treasure of suchness.

When you perceive form, by it defines space/time, that is activity of the mind, which is a "negation" from the suchness. The form doesn't exist independently from your mind. In fact it is your mind limited by the 5 senses, the intellect (6th consciousness), the subjectivity (7th consciousness/ mānas-vijñāna), hence it perceives the world as it created - the forms. But it is hindered by it's own creation - the activities it engaged. When you can remove from all these activities, you are abiding in the suchness. The Buddha is abiding in the suchness therefore called the Tathagata - he doesn't engage in any activity. There are many names referring to the same ultimate reality in different contexts for different significance: Alaya, Dharmakaya, Citta (mind), the 8th consciousness... etc.

It's too board to completely elaborate, especially a lot of Sutras to help understanding it are not available in English. But the above is the condensed favour hopefully you could enjoy :)

Just as a note, your linked English version of the Diamond Sutra is awfully translated, from the perspective of someone who is able to read the Chinese Classical Diamond Sutra. That appears the same as Red Pine's version but the site belonged to one called Alex Johnson. I wonder if the Alex Johnson has infringed someone's copyright. One the other hand, I hate to say this since Red Pine appeared genuinely liking oriental cultures, I read somewhere someone said Red Pine's translation can't be taken serious. He mixed the Tibetan text with the Chinese compiled as one. Not sure which 2nd language he is fluent in, Tibetan or Chinese?

Translation of Sutra is a very very serious matter, if it is translated wrongly, it causes severe defilement to oneself, for it misleads the Dharma seekers - this is the attitude all ancient Dharma masters taken.

  • What translation would you recommend for the Tathagatagarbha Sutra? I wondered if you could link this in your answer. I recall reading awhile back the diamond sutra was first translated into Chinese at around the 800's and is the oldest printed and dated book known. [When you perceive form, by it defines space/time, that is activity of the mind, which is a "negation" from the suchness] This quote paraphrases my whole question and brings to mind the zen koan about the flag blowing in the wind which I believe ends with "the flag is not moving, your mind is moving". Thank you.
    – user14148
    Nov 20, 2018 at 10:07
  • Glad that you find something helpful in it :). Tathagatagarbha Sutra(s) is a whole genre comprised with many Sutras, Lankavatara, Avatamsaka, Saṃdhi-nirmocana-sūtra... etc. It belongs to the Third Dharma Wheel Turning. Diamond Sutra first translated in 400CE by Kumarajiva, the best translation, imho, is linked in the beginning of my answer. The problem is, most translations, from my fastidious examination, are just not ideal or even satisfactory. I don't know what to advise... Nov 20, 2018 at 13:55

Have a look at Hsuan Hua’s commentary on the verse @ page 186. He has a detailled exposition on the verse. I find Hsuan Hua’s explanations often very illuminating. Here follows a short excerpt to his explanation.

First of all, the translation of verse differs a bit in name-choosing:

“Subhuti, if someone were to say the Tathagata either comes or goes, either sits or lies down, that person would not understand the meaning of my teaching. And why? The Tathagata does not come from anywhere, nor does he go anywhere. Therefore he is called the Tathagata.”

Then follows the core of his commentary on verse 29:

After having spoken the previous section of text, Sakyamuni Buddha realized people might have doubts and become attached to the mark of the Tathagata’s comings and goings. Therefore he said to Subhuti, “If someone were to say the Tathagata either comes or goes, either sits or lies down, that person would not understand the meaning of my teaching.” It seems as if the Tathagata, the Thus Come One, comes and goes but the coming and going is only illusory. Anyone who thinks he really comes or goes has failed to understand the principle the Buddha teaches. The Tathagata has no place from which he comes and no place to which he goes; therefore he is called the Thus Come One. That means the Buddha’s dharma body neither dwells nor does not dwell. It pervades all places. If it fills all places, from where could it come? Since it fills all places, to what place could it go? Therefore it is said not to dwell and not to dwell.

Furhter on he explains the name Tathagata in relation with “stillness” as follows:

The Thus Come One does not come or go; Therefore he is called the Tathagata. Thus (Tatha) means non-movement. Come (Agata) means movement. Movement and stillness are one identical suchness. Movement does not obstruct stillness; stillness does not obstruct movement. That means in cultivating the Way you can investigate Dhyana while sitting quietly and can also investigate Dhyana while moving about. From morning to night in all comportments, walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, you can do the work of cultivation. It is not merely while sitting in meditation that you should appl y effort. At all times you should A General Explanation of the Vajra Prajna Paramita Sutra 188 guard the body, collect the mind and cease from all confusion and scatteredness. You should return the light and illumine within.

There is more at the source link. Hope this helps!

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