Category Archives: Mahābhārata

Narrator – Amsterdam: the inverted world 3


My first autumn in Amsterdam was cold and wet. Still, I marvelled about the abundance of water and at the uneasiness that people felt during rainy weather. Rain was a feast in my home country, because regularly there was a lack of water for the cattle [1]. My mother moved around with her herd looking for water and new pasture. In Holland, this is all in abundance; a hole of half a meter deep is enough for water and pastures are everywhere.

During my first year in Holland, I came to love the skies. The clouds are of an enchanting beauty. The paintings of the Dutch masters show a glimpse of this wealth; the real sky together with the sun are a world miracle without precedent. In this reverse world nobody is interested in looking at the sky; except artists, but they are seen as idlers. “Time is money and we cannot make a living from looking at the sky; we have something better to do”, is the opinion of the people in Holland.

[2]

Dutch consider themselves God’s steward, but they omit to pay attention to half of God’s creation [3]: the heavenly sky [4]. In the Dutch literature is one main character who gave attention to the sky and the play of the sun, but this painter became insane, because he could not capture the sunset on a painting [5].

[6]

The second winter in Holland I began to love the shelter and the confinement of fog and mist. In this reverse world clouds on the ground are still present, as if God had chosen not to complete the separation of sky and earth around Amsterdam. The people in Holland do not notice this. The Kingdom of Heaven is for the poor in spirit [7], normal mortals should take care of the earth and afterwards God will allow the elect to his Kingdom. For me Holland was a Godlike paradise with a heavenly splendour on earth.

[8]

The next spring, a Goddess appeared in my life. One of my lovers stayed for half a year abroad and I was allowed to use his house and his Citroën DS in the meantime. He gave me ample living allowance [9]. That summer I was gliding with my white Goddess over the roads of Europe; I also visited my friends in Rome.

[10]

At the end of my second year in Amsterdam I changed from an attractive exotic appearance into an idol. In the world of fashion and vanity, I became a favourite icon. I was desired by influential attractive men who love men and equally authoritative as the King’s daughter Draupadi [11] in the Mahābhārata [12], I lived with them in polyandry.


[1] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masa%C3%AF_(volk)

[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolk

[3] According to Genesis 1:1 – the first book of Old Testament – God created/separated the sky and earth at the beginning of time. The Hebrew verb core “bara” in the Hebrew version of Genesis 1:1 has four meanings: “creation”, “cleave”, “selection” and “feed”.  Source: http://www.qbible.com/hebrew-old-testament/genesis/1.html

[4] In the Western translations of the Hebrew version of the Old Testament, the word “shamayim” is translated as “Heaven”. Probably “sky” or “firmament” is a better translation for the Hebrew word “shamayim”. See also: http://www.qbible.com/hebrew-old-testament/genesis/1.html and http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/35_home.html and Benner, Jeff A.A Mechanical Translation of the Book of Genesis – The Hebrew text literally translated word for word. 2007

[5] See: The painter Bavink in amongst others De uitvreter en Titaantjes in: Nescio, Verzameld werk I. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Nijgh en van Ditmar en Uitgeverij van Oorschot, 1996.

[6] Source photo: Marieke Grijpink

[7] See: the Gospel of Matthew 5:3 in the New Testament.

[8] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mist

[9] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allowance_(money). In Holland a living allowance is just sufficient for daily life.

[10] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citro%C3%ABn_DS

[11] See also: McGrath, Kevin, STR women in Epic Mahâbhârata. Cambridge: Ilex Foundation, 2009 en http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draupadi

[12] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabharata

Intermezzo – a war like no other


In the previous post your narrator has written an intermezzo about the self-image of world class amateur oarsmen, who with (almost) every effort want to be selected for the race teams which will compete for the victory of an annual rowing race on the Thames. This post is about the self-image of people involved in violence and participation in warfare.

Violence and warfare between people exist as long a mankind [1]. The hunter-gatherers appear to live in a relative peaceful co-existence. Once your narrator read that a researcher has interviewed a peaceful living elderly woman that still lived in a hunting and gathering society about violence in her life. She said to live a peaceful life. The investigator asked her about the men in her life. She told that she was married to three men: the first husband was killed during a conflict with another tribe, her second husband was killed by her third husband when he wanted to occupy the place of her second husband. Now she lived happily and peacefully with her third husband.

The cattle-raid that is part of the rituals within the cattle cycle, is probably accompagnied with violence and bloodshed between people [2]. The first myths and sagas – such as the Gilgamesh Epic, the Iliad, the Mahābhārata and the Old Testament of the Bible are full of violence and warfare. These myths describe not only the meaning of life, the motives of our ancestors and trust and mistrust, but they also imprints a self-image for the listeners. They give meaning and interpretations to warfare and violence, and they provide to the listeners archetypes of meaning to their own life – including meaning to life and death by violence and acts of warfare. In the Mahābhārata a warrior acquires immortal fame at the moment women mourn him in shrill cries when fallen on the battlefield and weep over his life boasting his former beautiful appearance [3]. A contemporary reflection of this, the first protagonist heard in a video which is shown in the Memorial building at the military cemetery next to Omaha Beach at Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy in France: one of the survivors called the fallen the real heroes of the war.

Another example of the great importance that heroic deeds in warfare is granted upon, is the philosopher Socrates.

[4]

Socrates lived from about 470 BC to 399 BC in Athens. He is famous as a philosopher. Socrates himself valued his deeds on the battlefield during the Peloponnesian War higher than his contribution to philosophy. In his middle age, Socrates partook in the battle of Delium [5] as a hoplite – see image below.

[6]

At the time of Socrates most freemen had a weapon equipment in which they – reasonably  protected by a bronze helmet, shield and breast and leg plates – took part in battle very close together. Each fighter had to partly seek protection behind the shield of his neighbour.

Formerly in Greece combats between two villages took place on e.g. disagreements on the right to use a field. The men of both villages met on this field early in the morning. In battle order – with their heavy armour on – they tried to prevail similar to a rugby-scrum.

[7]

At the moment a party broke their line and the losing party fled, the real blood thirst started within the winning party. On the run most victims fell among the losers. By running away abandoning their heavy armour, the losing party could leave the battlefield. The dead number among the losers was often 10% of the fighters. The losses among the victors were much less. Probably reality was much crueller than the stylized descriptions.

During the battle of Delium in 424 BC – in which about 14,000 hoplites took part – the lines of Athens rotated under pressure so that a part of the Athenians attacked their own lines. This confusion caused that the Athenians fled. During this very chaotic flight, Socrates quitely held the honour as hoplite by retreating fighting with group of co-fighters in a quiet fashion and guarding all attacks [8]. Here, too, the myth described in Plato’s Symposion is probably be more stylized than reality. The Athens lost around 1000 men; more bloodshed was prevented due to late start of the battle and the onset of darkness.

The following post continues on the Peloponnesian war.


[1] See also: Keegan, John, A History of Warfare. London: Pimlico, 2004

[2] See also the posts Rituels – Part 2 dd. 27 March 2011 and Three – Dubio transcendit dd. 28 April 2011.

[3] Source: McGrath, Kevin, STR women in Epic Mahâbhârata. Cambridge: Ilex Foundation, 2009 p. 25

[4] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socrates

[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Delium

[6] Source image: http://ant3145f08group01.wikispaces.com/Ancient+Greek+Warfare

[7] Photo made by Maree Reveley. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Scrum-1.JPG

[8] Sources: Hanson, Victor Davies, The wars of the ancient Greeks. London: Cassell & Co, 2000 p. 112-113 and Lendon, J.E., Song of Wrath – the Peloponnesian war begins. New York: Basic Books, 2010 p. 314

Introduction: Rituals – part 2


In the previous post, we had a first glimpse into the role of rituals as “rites of passage”. Now you and will look a little further into the role of a few rituals in our daily life. These rituals often consist of a number of conventional acts.

One of the oldest documented myths is named the cattle-cycle[1]. In the cattle-cycle, God[2] gives livestock to farmers who in turn take care of the cattle and let the herd increase. Foreign men steal the cattle. In return the warriors steal cattle again and they give a portion of the stolen cattle to the priests for smoke offerings to God who in turn thanks for the sacrifices and again gives livestock to farmers.

The myth of the cattle-cycle tells of rituals that form the basis for mutual trust between gods, priests, and people. Cattle are a metaphor for mutual trust; a role that money has taken over in our society.

Looting of cattle has a central place in this culture. It is a necessary act for warriors to acquire property. With the stolen cattle the warriors have a means of exchange to obtain one or more women[3]. In Proto-Indo-European world, women represent the only real property that is of value[4]. Only by holding the highly regarded medium of exchange – cattle – a warrior can acquire women for obtaining offspring.

The myth of the cattle-cycle sanctions looting of cattle if accompanied with the prescribed rituals to come to terms with the gods and society.

According to an old saying each property is acquires by an initial crime. Today the obtaining and transfer of possession is still surrounded with many rituals. Are today’s rituals still necessary in order to sanction the initial crimes? We give the following reflection from the New Testament: “How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich[5] to enter the kingdom of God[6]. Chapter 5 reports our experience with the handling of property and ethics herewith.

[7]

[8]

In today’s society and on the workplace rituals are repeated again and again for retaining mutual cohesion.

During lectures at the late seventies of last century, Prof. Dr. W. Luijpen – professor of philosophy at the Technical University in Delft – made three remarkable statements.
The first statement is: “We have decided to work for our existence. We will work at least eight hours in order to sit for fifteen minutes in the sun. We will not work fifteen minutes to sit for eight hours in the sun as in some other cultures “.

To this statement you and I add the following anecdote of the South Seas fisherman as illustration:
An American saw a man sitting on the beach of a sunny island with a fishing rod.
The American gave the following advice: “You must use five rods. ”
“Why?”, said the fisherman.
“Then you may catch more fish and earn more money”.
“Why?”, said the fisherman.
“Then you may buy a boat.”
“And then?”: said the fisherman again.
“Then you catch more fish and you may buy a bigger boat and earn even more money”.
“And then?”: said the fisherman again.
“Then you will earn so much money that you can sit the whole day in the sun.”
The fisherman smiled and made an arm gestures to the blue sky and the Sun

[9]

The second statement was: “We have decided that our official relationship between each other will happen through a legal order and our conflict will be settled by legal procedures. In case of a disagreement or a conflict we will not settle the case unilateral by brute force, but we will settle these disputes through our existing legal system.”

Examples have already been found in ancient Irish law. For example: an exile, is sent in a boat on the sea [​​10].

The third statement was as follows: “We decided that we believe in a God father. We do not believe in a Mother Goddess and our religion is not poly-or pantheistic. Other societies have a different way of believing. “

[11]

We will describe in each chapter of the book the various ways of religion that we encounter on our Odyssey.

After this trip to myths and rituals we continue with the introduction of the separate chapters.


[1] See: Mallory, J.P., In Search of the Indo-Europeans, p. 138

[2] “go” Means “cattle” and “da” means “give”

[3] Zie Anthony, David W., The horse, the wheel and Language (2007), p. 239

[4] Zie McGrath, Kevin, STR women in Epic Mahâbhârata. Cambridge: Ilex Foundation, 2009 p. 9 – 15

[5] Probably this concerns all richness and property in any manner.If we all dispose of all our wealth and property here and now, that will probably cause major problems. Perhaps a middle position is better: let us for the time being be good care takers of our wealth and property.

[6] See Bible, New Testament, Marcus 10:24-25

[7] Source image: http://henk50.web-log.nl/onderweg/2009/07/de-kameel-door.html

[8] Source image: http://theoleenders.blogspot.com/2010/10/het-oog-van-de-naald.html. After closing time of the main gate in Oriental cities a narrow port remained open to give people and animals stripped of luggage the opportunity to enter the city: this narrow gate seems to be called “the eye of the needle”.

[9] Source image: http://nl.dreamstime.com/stock-foto-s-tropisch-eiland-in-de-stille-zuidzee-image15390673#

[10] See: Kelly, Fergus, A guide to early Irish Law. Dublin: Dundalgan Press, 2005 p.219

[11] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_of_Willendorf

Introduction – beginning of our quest


After the previous post[1] nearly everything is in view. Now the question arises how to start.
The narrator of the Mahābhārata by Peter Brook[2] says in the opening scene: “The beginning is always shrouded in clouds; I do not know how to begin”

Chaos in Orion[3]

“Start with yourself”, the narrator receives as advise.

You and I will start at the beginning – when you were born.

First I will disappoint you. This book does not begin on the date of birth when you have left the womb according to your civil status. We will also not take your conception – nine months earlier – as the starting point. In China and Vietnam you are already one year old when you leave the womb[4]. During these nine months in the womb you nearly accomplished the whole evolution. After you left the womb, you developed from infant, baby, toddler, infant, child, youth to adult. But this journey from conception until now does not constitute who you are.

Your birth is at the beginning of everything. There we will start our quest for “Who are you”. After your birth, you began a journey with many stages to “here and now”. We look for the path of this journey that constitutes who you are. This quest – in 19 stages – will be a homecoming. Odysseus took ten years on his journey home from Troy[5]. We will take a lot more time for our Odyssey: our journey will lead from the beginning until now. At the end, we will look back on our quest. We will see that everything is done in one sigh.

The following message is about the 19 stages.


[1] See the last post of “For whom I write “Who are you”” under http://wp.me/p1oJ1K-26

[2] DVD Peter Brook, Mahābhārata – The ultimate Story

[4] See: Thich Nhat Hahn, The heart of understanding. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1988

For whom I write “Who are you”.


The book “Who are you” is about you, me and everything around us. It covers the beginning of time and how your ancestors were born, lived and died. It also refers to who you were before you were born. Nothing is excluded in advance. We are looking for you and me and for the “complete all and one” in which you and I are involved and from which we emerge. The book “Who are you” is therefore written for you and me and everything around us.

The idea for this audience of the book arose while watching the opening scene of the film Mahābhārata directed by Peter Brook[1] . The Mahābhārata is a philosophical epic of India consisting of over 100,000 verses, making it much longer than the Bible and the Iliad and Odyssey together. According to Wikipedia the title Mahābhārata means something like “the big being” or “the complete world”[2].

In the opening scene of the film, the narrator explains to the listening boy: “The story is about you, your people, how your ancestors were born and raised. It is the history of mankind in verse. If you listen carefully, you’re someone else at the moment the story ends”. The Mahābhārata is the story of India in verse.

In a similarly manner the book “Who are you” covers our past, our present and our future; nothing is excluded on beforehand. It’s about what we have in common, how we differ, how we relate to each other and how we are involved in the world.

Are the target audience and the subject too ambitious and far too wide? Certainly, but remember that we are in constant relationship with everything around us, e.g. as we breathe. The basic common things around us are so obvious, that we will only notice these when they are suddenly gone. Water is probably the last thing a fish will discover.

In the next posts I will tell you more about how the book will take shape and in which manner it will be structured.


[1] DVD Peter Brook, Mahābhārata – The ultimate story

(DVD – cover)

[2] See: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabharata and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabharata. Probably the interpretation of “Mahābhārata” in Wikipedia (NL) as “the big being” of “the complete world” is not correct. The author of this lemma in Wikipedia has maybe misunderstood “bhā” as “bha” that means “to be”. According to an electronic version of Monier-Williams “bhārata” means “decendents of the bharata’s” in Sanskrit.