By Peter Y. Chou,

Line in Poem Literary Sources
no sight better than this light— the Pearl of pearls,
no speech can reach the grandeur of that flight—
from alone to the Alone. The Cosmic circuit
carries me like a breeze to 100 lives of change
Dante, Paradiso 33.100 (1321); Pearl of Great Price
Pearl Poet, Pearl, lines 99-100 (1400)
Plotinus, Enneads VI.9.11, III.4.6
Plotinus, Enneads III.4.6 (200 A.D.)
a hundred grains, a hundred fruits,
sun and moon dance in heaven
thunder and rain chant to earth
seedburst of grasses and trees
I Ching Hexagrams 30, 40; Koran 2.262 (650 AD)
I Ching Hexagram 30 (1000 B.C.)
I Ching Hexagram 40 (1000 B.C.)
I Ching Hexagram 40 (1000 B.C.)
Abraham & Isaac, Buddha & Nagarjuna—
a hundred prophets tranquil in a cave
on hearing a single meaningful word
their mind empty, pure as the sky.
Genesis 21.5; Nagarjuna, Ocean of Delight 159-161 (200 AD)
I Kings 18.4; Astavakra Gita 18.100 (440 BC)
Buddha, Dhammapada, Verse 100 (240 BC)
Lankavatara Sutra: Sagathakam, Verse 100 (440 AD)
May Wisdom be your guide, for the road
to enlightenment is narrow and full of
curves, everything you see will vanish
except Love— give wine, give bread
Langland, Piers Plowman IV.100 (1377)
Hafiz, Poem 100 (1410)
Hafiz, Poem 100 (1410)
Hafiz, Poem 100; Walcott, "Love After Love" (2000)
give back your heart to itself. Light up
the 100 magic squares that add up to
50-50. Divide the upper and lower
waters. Sit calmly in the midst under
Walcott, "Love After Love" (2000)
10x10 Magic Square with 1-100 has total sum of 5050
God separating the waters in Genesis I.6 (1000 BC)
Genesis I.6 (word 100 = midst) (1000 BC)
Athena's olive tree, admire her hundred
tassels of gold, and let her kiss you
a hundred times and more, each time
afresh. Now be ready for the Quest—
Italian 100 lire coin: Athena with olive tree
Homer, Iliad XIV (850 BC)
Robert Herrick, Hesperides, "To Anthea: Ah My Anthea!" (1648)
Spiritual Quests require inner purification.
O Earth, O Wind, O Fire, O Water,
O Sky— as thunder frees the rain,
Soma's stream runs on like steed
to gives us power and strength—
Bhartrihari, Vairagya-Satakam Verse 100 (650 AD)
Rig Veda, IX.100.3-6 (1500 BC)
Rig Veda, IX.100.3-6 (1500 BC)
Rig Veda, IX.100.3-6 (1500 BC)
Simplicity! not a hundred desires
but one wish to have none, to wait
a hundred ages and have no doubt,
to touch 100 flowers and not pick one
Thoreau, Walden, Ch. 2 (1854)
Thoreau, Walden, Ch. 2 (1854)
Emerson, Essays 2nd Series: Character (1844)
Edna St. Vincent Millay, Afternoon on a Hill (1917)
a hundred horses,
a hundred cranes,
a hundred nymphs riding on dolphins—
each moment a hundred messages from God:
He answers a hundred times— "I am here."
Lang Shih-ming's painting 100 Horses (1728)
Utagawa Kunisada's painting 100 Cranes (1852)
Plato, Critias (1844)
Rumi, Mathnawi, I.1578 (1273)
Rumi, Mathnawi, I.1578 (1273)
A hundred suns mirror each other's beauty,
a hundred fathoms into the cave of delight,
a hundred streams fill a sparkling bay,
a hundred times pure devotion in my sleep.
Dante, Paradiso XXII.22-24 (1321)
Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part II, Ch. 23 (1615)
Chuang Tzu, "Autumn Floods" XVII.2.10 (369 BC)
Shakespeare, King Henry VI, Part 2 II.1 (1594)
Where art thou Muse?— a wrinkle in time
a tesseract Be still, O quick! gravitational
pull— breathe the void of to be
the hundredlettered name, the last word
Shakespeare, Sonnet 100, lines 1 & 10 (1616)
James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 100.35 (1939)
James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 100.27 (1939)
James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 424.23 (1939)
the first to move the artist— imagination!
Now the time has arrived
the Poet shall come, singing his songs—
let us shake bones together!
William of Auvergne, On the Trinity, XVI.100 (1249)
Walt Whitman, Passage to India, line 100 (1871)
Walt Whitman, Passage to India, lines 104-105 (1871)
Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 100 (1851)
a single bone, a secret in stone
Rose and Lily and a Butterfly!
I gaze on the Far, look at the Near,
the moon & star, the forest & deer.
Emily Dickinson, Poem 100 (1886)
Emily Dickinson, Poem 100 (1886)
Goethe, Poem 100: "Lied des Tümers" (1832)
Goethe, Poem 100: "Lied des Tümers" (1832)
From harbor to harbor to home
my harp filled with music
my heart full of dreams
the unanswered questions gone
Tagore, Gitanjali, Verse 100 (1912)
Tagore, Gitanjali, Verse 100 (1912)
Rafael Alberti, 100 Poems, "Snow Alive (1981)
Rafael Alberti, 100 Poems, "Snow Alive (1981)
like snow into boneless light.
I find no centipedes with 100 legs
nor century plants that bloom in
100 years. So tell me Parzival—
Rafael Alberti, 100 Poems, "Snow Alive (1981)
82-legged centipede found (NY Times, 7-24-2002)
Agava americana blooms in 60 years
Wolfgang von Eschenbach, Parzival, I.100 (1195)
What is Truth? He smiles and shows
me the Grail— a single drop of blood
with four strands of pearls, and at the
100th bead— I find Genesis
& light!

Pilate to Christ in John 18.38 (70 AD)
Grail = Chalice of Christ's blood; Water of Life
4 chains in hemoglobin with 574 amino acids ("pearls") 100th amino acid in HbB = Proline = before the line = Genesis
100th amino acid in HbA = Leucine = lucent = light
Celsius had it right— at the point
of perfection— transcendence!
a hundred cranes ascend to heaven
a hundred snowflakes descend to earth.
Boiling point of water = 100oCentigrade ("100 steps") Perfection = 100; At 100oC, liquid vaporizes ("transcends")
image of water vapor rising to the clouds
image of rain or snow falling to the earth
No more dives to the ocean's depth,
no more search for the perfect pearl.
The real treasure not there but here,
my eyes closed, my mind opens to
no sight better than this light— the Pearl of pearls
Tagore, Gitanjali, Verse 100 (1912)
Pearl: Molecular weight of CaCO3 = 100
Luke 17.21: "The Kingdom of God is within you."
Meditation opens the mind to the infinite
last line links back to first line of poem

Notes to Poem:

This poem was written in honor of my Dad's 100th birthday on July 29, 2002, even though he didn't make it to his centennial birthday. Dad died on December 13, 2001 of natural causes (Memorial). For the context of sources for the lines, consult my web page On the Number 100 to see how this poem was constructed. Despite the difference in space and time of the composition of each line, what unites these writers quoted is the number 100. That is, the writer's words appeared in verse 100, sonnet 100, chapter 100, line 100, or page 100. When the "number 100" appears in the writings of my favorite poets, philosophers, and sages, they are also woven into this poem. I circled inspiring lines and phrases from my "On the Number 100" compilation and arranged them like a jigsaw puzzle into this poem. I would compose the poem from memory while walking down Palm Drive after midnight on my way from Stanford's Green Library to the Palo Alto Train Station during August 2002 before completing it on September 2, 2002. This poem was read at the Waverley Writers Poetry Reading on Friday, May 7, 2004 and received a warm response from the audience. These notes were completed on May 15, 2004.

Pearl of pearls: The pearl of great price comes from Matthew, XIII.45-46 when Christ compared it to the kingdom of heaven: “Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Gaskell in Dictionary of All Scriptures and Myths (1960) compared the merchant to the ego or lower self, and the pearl to the Higher Self. When we get a glimpse of the Cosmic Self, we abandon the petty desires of the illusory ego for the experience of our true Eternal Self.

My enlightenment experience on pearls: Before the 6th International Biophysics Congress in Kyoto (Sept. 3-9, 1978), I toured with a group of biochemists for a week to many Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. However, my sudden illumination didn't come there but at Mikimoto Pearl Island in Toba. At the Pearl Museum, I learned about Kokichi Mikimoto (1858-1954), the first man to successfully harvest cultivated pearls in July 1893 after many failures. To cultivate perfectly round pearls, oysters need to be opened and seeded. The oyster's irritant may be a grain of grit or shell which starts the nucleation process. There were many display cases with pearl jewelry, a pearl crown, Pearl Pagoda, and the Pearl Liberty Bell that were breathtaking. But my illumination came on seeing a cardboard display showing the main constituents of pearls to be calcium carbonate: I did a little calculation in my head on the molecular weight of CaCO3 = 40 + 12 + 3(16) = 40 + 12 + 48 = 100. "No wonder the pearl is perfect, its inherent molecular structure adds up to 100!" I said to myself, "and its rounded perfection comes from imperfection, seeded by a grain of sand." I was so carried away by this spiritual revelation that I went over to Mikimoto's statue by his Memorial Hall and bowed before this Pearl Master. When I ran to our Biochemist Tour Bus, they were about to leave without me. (Pearl: June Birthstone)

Pearl symbolism: Lunar; the power of the waters; the essence of the moon and controller of tides; the embroyo; cosmic life; the divine essence; the life-giving power of the Great Mother; the feminine principle of the ocean; the self-luminous initiation; law in cosmic life; justice. The pearl was thought to be the result of lightning penetrating the oyster, hence it was regarded as the union of fire and water, both fecundating forces, and so denotes birth and rebirth; fertility. It also symbolizes innocence, purity, virginity, perfection, humility and a retiring nature. The 'flaming pearl' (the union of fire and water) is the 'pearl of perfection' of the East. It is the Third Eye of Siva and Buddha, and is the crystallization of light; transcendent wisdom; spiritual enlightenment; spiritual consciousness. With the dragon of China, it is suggested as either the 'night-shining pearl', the moon, which the dragon of light swallows, or as a roll of thunder from which the flame of lightning emerges, the pearl being belched forth by the dragon of the sky. It is depicted with dragons as masters of the waters and guardians of treasures. As the 'pearl of perfection' it is, with the dragon, the spiritual essence of the universe, also enlightenment; it signifies, too, the unfolding and development of man in the quest for enlightenment. The 'white pearl' is the 'treasure difficult to obtain'; the spirit; enlightenment; wisdom; the 'pearl of great price'. The seed pearl has the same symbolism as the 'flaming pearl' as the potentiality and unfolding of the flower of light. Buddhist: One of the Eight Treasures; the heart of Buddha, pure intentions; the Buddha's Third Eye, the 'flaming peart" is the crystallization of light; transcendent wisdom; spiritual consciousness; the spiritual essence of the universe. Chinese: the yin, feminine principle; immortality; potentiality; good augury; genius in obscurity. As depicted with the draton, see 'flaming pearl' and 'night-shining pearl' above. Christian: Salvation; Christ the Savior; the Word of God; baptism; the hidden gnosis necessary for salvation, the 'pearl of great price', for which man must dive into the waters of baptism and encounter dangers. It is also virgin birth; purity; spiritual grace. Gnostic: The Fall and subsequent salvation. Greco-Roman: Love and marriage, emblem of Aphrodite/Venus, the 'Lady of the Pearls', who rose from the waters. Hindu: The urna, the shining spot, the 'flaming pearl' on the forehead of Siva, the Third Eye; transcendent wisdom; the crystallization of light; spiritual consciousness; enlightenment. Iranian: The Savior, giver of life, bir The generative power of the waters. Taoist: 'The pearl of effulgence', the 'pearl of poetentiality' and the 'night-shining pearl' are the yin powers of the waters and the lunar control of the waters with all their potentialities. The 'flaming pearl' symbolizes man's search for reality; spiritual unfolding; the experience of Light.
J. C. Cooper, Encyclopedia of Traditionan Symbols (1978), p. 128

Grail symbolism: Variously described as a miraculous provider of food and abundance; a wish-fulfilling dish or vessel whereby 'every knight had such meats and drinks as he best loved'; a stone, the lapis exilis, with magical powers which conferred new life on the Phoenix and gave perpetual youth to those who served the Grail, also suggested as the Philosophers' Stone; something which had the power of appearing and moving about without visible means of support and which was made of gold or precious stone and emitted a great radiance; or it is called a chalice and, as such, is taken, in Christian legend, to be the cup of the Last Supper and the cup in which Joseph of Arimathea caught the blood of Christ on the cross. The Grail is generally taken to symbolize the Waters of Life; the Holy of Holies; the Cosmic Centre; the heart; the source of life and immortality; the cup of the magician; the source of abundance; fertility. It occupies the same place in western tradition as the vase in the East, or the sacrificial cup which contained the Vedic Soma, the Mazdean Haoma or the Greek Ambrosia and carries a eucharistic significance, and is the symbolical source of physical and spiritual life. The Grail, cup or vase can be depicted as the downward-pointing triangle, the receptive, watery, feminine element, and as such is associated with the symbolism of the lance, the active, fiery, masculine element depicted as the upward-pointing triangle. The two together are connected with, and united in, the blood or sacred draught in the cup; the life-blood. The cup-vase and downward triangle is also a symbol of the heart, with which the Grail and Vase are associated as the Centre, both cosmic and in man. In both Egyptian and Celtic symbolism there is an association between the Cup or Vase of Life and the Heart as life-centre. In Christianity the Grail is also the Sacred Heart of Christ. The loss of the Grail represents the loss of the Golden Age, Paradise, man's primordial spirituality, purity and innocence. In Christian legend the Grail was given to Adam but was left in Paradise at the Fall. It is at the centre of Paradise and must be refound, hence the Redeemer (of whom Seth, who achieved re-entry and received the Grail, is the prototype) recovers the chalice and restores Paradise to mankind. The Quest for the Grail is the return to Paradise, the spiritual centre of man and the universe, and follows the symbolic pattern of initiation through trials, tests, and encounters with death in the search for the hidden meaning and mystery of life. The quest is usually undertaken by a solar hero, often the son of a widowed mother and brought up in seclusion and in ignorance of his true nature. Grail symbols are the cup or vase, a radiant chalice, a chalice with a heart, the lance, sword, dish, downward-pointing triangle, magical stone. The Quest is sometimes symbolized by the Book, in which case the search is for the Lost Word.
J. C. Cooper, Encyclopedia of Traditionan Symbols (1978), p. 76

at the 100th bead— I find Genesis& light: Since hemoglobin is the main constituent of blood, I decided to check the amino acid sequences of human hemoglobin. The 100th amino acid in the Beta-chain is Proline, or pro-line, "before the line". What is at the beginning in the line of history is of course— Genesis. The 100th amino acid in Alpha-chain is Leucine which is similar to lucent or light. From Genesis I.1 & I.3: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth... And God said, Let there be light: and there was light." It's interesting that these images are echoed at the 100th amino acids in human hemoglobin that is circulating constantly in our blood.

Don Larsen's
Perfect Game
October 8, 1956

at the point of perfection— transcendence: For liquid water at the boiling point of 100oC, it vaporized and becomes steam. At this phase transition, there is literally a "transcendence" as water vapor molecules ascend to the clouds ("heaven"). All transitions involve a form of "transcendence" such as waking up from sleep or the dream state. Einstein mentions that his mind took a leap upon making a scientific discovery. Prince Siddhartha became the Buddha ("Awakened One") after his meditation in discovering the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment. Likewise when athletes perform to perfection in their field of endeavor, they leap up in the air to celebrate ("transcend" the earth). Note a jubilant Yogi Berra #8 jumping to embrace Don Larsen after catching his perfect game in the 5th game of the 1956 World Series as the NY Yankees defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers 2-0. David Wells also leaped up after his perfect game beating the Minnesota Twins 4-0. When Randy Johnson pitched his perfect game against the Atlanta 2-0 on May 18, 2004, he said that his catcher Robby Hammock "was jumping up and down; you could sense he was pretty excited." ( NY Times, 5-19-2004) Perfect Games

David Wells's
Perfect Game
May 17, 1998

my eyes closed, my mind opens to
no sight better than this light— the Pearl of pearls

The last line of this poem links back to the first line of the poem to form a circle.
This technique was used in the Pearl Poet's The Pearl (1375):
"Those precious pearls my Prince desires" ( last line 1212).
"Pearl, to delight a prince's day" (first line 1)
James Joyce used this circuitry in his Finnegans Wake (1939):
"endsthee. Lps. The keys to. Given! A way a lone a last a loved a / long the" (last line, page 628)
"riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend" (first line, page 3)

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (5-15-2004)