Twirling (Swirling)

A concept taken from the famous Flower Sermon of the Buddha. According to legend, Brahma presented the Buddha with a garland of flowers and requested him to expound the dharma to his disciples. However, instead of giving a discourse, the Buddha took one flower and simply twirled it between the fingers of his raised hand, while smiling silently. Only one of his disciples, Kashyapa, understood, and responded with a smile. The incident, known as nenge-misho in Japanese (literally, “smiling and twirling a flower”), is regarded as the foundational example of what in Zen is called the Direct Transmission of wisdom (prajñā).

The story generally, and the specific act of the twirling of the flower to communicate a deep truth from the Soul* of the twirler to the Soul of the person being “twirled,” was central to Diamond’s writings and lectures in his last years. Relating it to his belief in the importance of the maternal relationship, he defined twirling as “giving from your Soul just so with a heartfelt smile back to the mother, and all as her.” Among ways he has explored the concept are in terms of creativity: if a person views a creative act (either one he himself does or one he experiences) as twirling, his Life Energy will be greatly raised (Quote 1 below). At a deeper level, seeing our lives more generally as being Twirled is loosely equivalent to embracing Tariki* (Other Power) or accepting the Tao. The capitalized form, Twirling, implies a more spiritual dimension, as so often in Diamond’s work (Quotes 2 and 3, below; see Capitalization, Use of*).

Twirling led to the concept of swirling, which implies a more rounded, three-dimensional movement, with more of the self involved.  For example, in terms of the incident in the Flower Sermon, what was seen from the outside by the disciples was the twirl, but because the movement came from the Buddha’s deepest self, his whole body was involved, however subtly, so it was really a swirl (and by implication that is what Kashapaya perceived). The twirl then is the outward manifestation of the swirl, and the swirl is therefore the more fundamental concept. Relating it the concept to the maternal, swirling is the mother rocking her baby: “a rhythmic swirl from the heart, and the hara.” (See also Quote 4 below) He also compared higher acts of creativity (for example his Stillpoint* paintings) to swirling, especially when they originate in the hara (See haraga*).


  1. “To sing
    as the rose
    being twirled.”
  2. “It’s not the flower
    nor its twirling,
    nor the twirler
    but the Twirler
    of the twirler.”
  3. “We are all
    being Twirled.”
  4. “The Twirl self-limits,
    the Swirl resonates
    from Hara to Hara.”

Timeline: Twirling from 2016; Swirling from 2018.