Emptiness: to the end of the night


Night. A clear sky at new moon. Narrator drives the borrowed Skoda Superb [1] Combi from Amsterdam via the Noordoostpolder [2] to the marina at Lauwersoog near the departure of the ferry to Schiermonnikoog. Both headlights shine on the empty highway through the dark void land that over 50 years ago still was bottom of the Zuiderzee (Southernsea). Carla dozes in the back seat. Man sits as a passenger next Narrator; in the dim light of the dashboard they look to the exit at Emmeloord that in the far distance is lit by lantern light.

Skoda Superb Combi[3]

“Within the emptiness the headlights – with the lantern light in the distance – conjure a dark magic landscape wherein everything we now see emerges and immediately disappears like phantoms who are called to live in a flare in order to slip at once into the dark emptiness again.

As boy in South Limburg I have loved the dark nights with the infinite universe wherein I – included – was one with all the stars and galaxies in the firmament. Now I feel myself floating within a faint white glow on an infinite journey through the universe and thereby perfectly at home in this vessel. Tonight – before we were getting ready to depart – I have looked up a definition of Buddhist enlightenment [4] in a book: “Enlightenment is realising the oneness of life”[5].

I looked for this definition yesterday afternoon we have ended our survey of intensities and associations with the question: “One – what is that?”, that had been asked by a Buddhist sage to a wise woman. She was unable to answer this question. I wonder whether the inability – or the emptiness – of the wise woman to answer fits better with the question: “One – what is that?” than this definition of Buddhist enlightenment.

We now begin the survey of emptiness during our quest to “Who are you”. In Sanskrit the word for emptiness in the Heart Sutra is ” śūnyatā”. Do you know the meaning of this word in Sanskrit?”, asks Man.

The car is nearing the exit at Emmeloord. Narrator slows down and takes the exit to Lemmer; hereby Carla has awakened and she asks: “Where are we?”. “Near Emmeloord in the Noordoostpolder, now we are heading to Friesland. I have asked Narrator for the meaning of the word “śūnyatā””, says Man.

“The word ” śūnyatā” is usually translated with “emptiness” or “empty of self” [6], but this translation only reflects the core of the word just like within the core of the tropical cyclone there is usually a clear sky and no wind; the centre of the cyclone is sunny and “free” of wind.

Kern van een cycloon[7]

The word “śūnyatā” consists of the verb cores:
• “śvi” – with the weak form “śū” – meaning “swell”, “grow” and “increase”;
• “ya” meaning “mover” and “incentive”. My father was of the opinion that “ya” is closely related to “yaj” in the sense of “sacrifice”, “offering for a higher – Godlike/heavenly– purpose” (perhaps “God’s gift” in reciprocity”and,
• “tā” meaning “impassableness”, “inaccessibleness”, and also “unviolability” and “sacred” [8].

A contemporary Japanese Zen master in America had written in his explanation of “śūnyatā” that this word is not a negation of the concept of existence, but the word indicates that our entire existence in all its forms is completely dependent on the principle of cause and effect; we have read earlier that even the Gods are bound by the principle of cause and effect [9]. As the factors of cause and effect are changing constantly, there is no static – fixed – existence possible. The word “śūnyatā” categorically denies the possibility of the existence of static – fixed – manifestations. All appearances are relative and interdependent according to this contemporary Japanese Zen master.

In addition, he writes that “śūnyatā” also means “zero”, a concept that became known rather late in Europe, but has been in use for much longer in India. Zero has no numerical value in itself, but it represents the absence of numerical values and thus symbolises at the same time the possibility of all numerical values. Similarly “śūnyatā” – through the concept of “zero” or “no” – represents the possibility of the existence of all manifestations and it is also included in all forms, that themselves only exist in relation to their non-existence and by their interconnectedness [10]”, says Narrator.

vorm en leegte[11]

“The definition of zero is too limited: but I will not go into it now. If I understand it correctly, “śūnyatā” refers to “emptiness from” and “emptiness to” just as – in my opinion – Erich Fromm is referring to “freedom from” and “freedom to” in mutual dependency with the concept of “freedom” [12 ]. Here I am reminded of the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty who has argued that manifestations are caused by a creative process of giving meaning and taking meaning at once[13]. The Zen master adds to this argument the void – or space – for allowing the creation of manifestations”, says Carla.

“Quite interesting that you refer to a creative process for the creation of manifestations. The Japanese Zen master indicates that an intuitive and immediate understanding of ” śūnyatā” is the basis for all understanding. But before he states this, he first mentiones the ” śūnyatā” of the ego and then the “śūnyatā” of dharma [14] – the world order and duty [15] – and of the subjective and the objective. After this he concludes that everything – every manifestation and every being – only exists through the principle of interdependence bound by the law of impermanence. The intuitive and immediate understanding leads to knowledge and understanding of the four great truths to know: impermanence, interconnectedness, manifestations and essence; maybe it’s good to come back on these four values later. The Zen master goes further in his statement on the importance of impermanence – emptiness or vanity – and interconnectedness than Maurice Merleau-Ponty in the arising or creation of all manifestations and of every being

I have this explanation of “śūnyatā” from the introduction by this Zen master in his book on the Buddhistische Heart Sūtra.

This description of the Zen master has stayed with me because it fits so well my perception of the ghosts in the night. As a child soldier in Africa with our militia we had put the forest around a village on fire at the end of the night. We had shot everything and everyone that had come out of the forest and we had been happy [16]. I still carry the ghosts of these villagers with me; their breath – in emptiness and vanity – has become my breath. At night they are as real to me as people I meet during the day; these spirits are connected with me in interdependence within the law of impermanence: during daytime they have disappeared”, says Narrator.

“Are these spirits really present for you here and now in this car?”, asks Man.

“No, driving the car I have my attention on the road, but if I do not focus my attention any longer, the ghost come to life from the emptiness of darkness just as real as a dream during sleep. Or to cite a quote often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain: “I am an old man and have suffered a great many misfortunes, most of which never happened” [17]”, says Narrator.

“Fortunately, because otherwise I should have asked you to look for a parking place and we might continue our journey tomorrow during daylight. I have several versions of the Heart Sutra to study in my luggage. Would you like to help me with the interpretation of Sanskrit?”, asks Man.

“That is fine. I have a copy with the explanation by the Japanese Zen master with me. Do you have a waterproof compartment for books on your boat?”, asks Narrator.

“Your book easily fits within the waterproof ton. When we will lay dry at low tide, we will have time to read”, says Man.

“The definition of enlightenment that you have just mentioned, gives one aspect of enlightenment – in line with the interconnectedness within the metaphor of Indra’s Net – quite clearly. It is only one side of the coin, the other side is “śūnyatā”. In Buddhism, the term “nirvana” – literally absence of forest (or barriers) or the open plain [18] – is often used for enlightenment. In Hinduism one often addresses enlightenment with “moksha” [19] that comes from the verb core “muc” meaning amongst others “to loosen, or to liberate”. With both interpretations, I am not happy because in my opinion “śūnyatā” together with the metaphor of Indra’s Net gives a better interpretation of the term enlightenment. I think it is a good idea that we do not only survey emptiness in the sense of “empty from” at this part of our quest, but also in relation to the four great truths of Buddhism and in relation to Indra’s Net”, says Narrator.

“Good idea. When I had lain awake during my travels under the dark starry sky, I had felt myself fully included in space or in the infinite void. The boundaries between the space and myself had dissolved and I had become one with everything around me. In a book on Zen Buddhism I had read two poems mentioning an empty mirror as metaphor for life; in the second poem also the illusion of the empty mirror was removed just like during this journey by car through the dark polder the sight on the landscape is non-existing. Do you know the text of these poems?”, asks Carla.

“The two poems had been written during the appointment – or better the Dharma transmission – of Huineng [20] as the sixth Zen patriarch. In my own words: the fifth patriarch sensed that the obvious candidate was fit for the position. He asked each monk who would like to be candidate, to write a short poem on the core of Zen and to affix it on the monastery wall. Only obvious candidate anonymously published the following poem:

The body is a Bodhi tree;
The mind like an empty mirror stand.
Time and again brush it clean
And let no dust alight [21]

Bodhi – with a sound (and a meaning via “et incarnatus est” [22]) akin to the English word body – meaning in Sanskrit “a tree of wisdom, or a tree where under a human becomes a Buddha” [23].

The next morning a second poem was affixed alongside the first poem with the following text:

Originally bodhi has no tree;
The empty mirror has no stand.
Originally there is not a thing.
Where can dust alight?

In Sanskrit Bodhi has a second meaning: “perfect enlightenment” [24]. The Fifth Patriarch knew a humble firewood-gatherer – without any formal training as a monk – had written this second poem and he foresaw an uprising of the monastery to the appointment of this uneducated layman as Dharma heir. The following night, the Dharma transmission took place and at dawn the sixth Zen patriarch had to flee from the monastery. The monks have haunted him for a long time. Eventually after a long flight he had been fully accepted is as Dharma heir; every Zen master is in direct line associated with this sixth patriarch. And reciting the poem I also reflect him in the emptiness of this night”, says Man.

“Splendid explanation. Shall we continue tomorrow? I would like to continue dozing”, says Carla.
“Then I will also take a nap. Tomorrow we have to get up early”, says Man.

Narrator drives the car with Carla and Man sleeping via Friesland and Groningen to the parking place at Lauwersoog near the ferry departure to Schiermonnikoog. He parks the car facing east to see the dawn over a few hours. Upon seeing the first twilight he awakes Carla and Man.

“On this bright morning we have to see the sunrise before so we will start rigging the sailboat at the marina”, says Narrator.

“Upon seeing the emergence of the first sunrays trough this windshield, I think of the poem “The Windows” by Guido Gezelle, wherein he as a Catholic priest at the end of the nineteenth century has marginally repeated the iconoclasm:

THE WINDOWS

The windows are full of saints, mitred and staved,
martyrised, virgin crowned, duked and knighted;
that the burning from the oven fire glassed has in the shard,
that, glittering, speaks all the tongues from the heaven bows paints. [25]

Thou scare is again enkindled in the east the violence
Of sun flame, and does she touches the saints, so melted
The mitre from the mantle collar, the gold ware from the crone,
and all, even white now, shines and lightens even clean.

Disappeared art thou, dukes and counts then, so soft;
disappeared, virgins, martyrs and bishops: forever
no palms, staves, stolen anymore, ‘t is all gone, to
one clarity molten, in one sunlight – in God. [26]

– Guido Gezelle [27]

Kerkramen Noordzijde Keulen[28]

In my opinion Guido Gezelle advocates with this poem – despite the beauty of church windows as windows on the world – an empty mirror without stand in God’s face”, says Man.

 

[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%A0koda_Superb
[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noordoostpolder
[3] Source image: http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%A0koda_Superb
[4] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhi
[5] Source: Bridges, Jeff & Glassman, Bernie, The Dude and the Zen Master. New York: Plume, 2014, p. 95
[6] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunyata, see also the English Wikipedia-page on this subject
[7] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropische_cycloon
[8] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[9] See: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 2.1 – Facts and Logic. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2014, p. 85 and 122
[10] Source: Deshimaru, Taisen, Mushotoku Mind – The Heart of the Heart Sutra. Chino Valley: Hohm Press, p. 28, 29
[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9A%C5%ABnyat%C4%81
[12] Source: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 2.1 – Facts and Logic. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2014, p. 97
[13] See also for the “creative act of giving meaning to and taking meaning from”: Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, Phenomenology of Perception 1945
[14] Dharma means literally “placing of the self/Self continuously”.
[15] Source: Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006, p. 68. See also chapter 4 for an introduction on Dharma.
[16] See the last part of book 1 of the Mahābhārata where at the fire in the Khandava forest, Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa shoot arrows with joy to all that leaves the forest. Sources: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/maha/index.htm boek 1 Section CCXXVII and further; Katz, Ruth Cecily, Arjuna in the Mahābhārata: Where Krishna is, there is victory. Delhi: Molital Banarsidass Publishers, 1990, p. 71 – 84
[17] See: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/10/04/never-happened/
[18] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[19] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moksha
[20] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huineng
[21] Source: The Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra. Burlingame: Buddhist text translation society, 2002, p. 67
[22] Literal translation from Latin: he/she/is becomes flesh
[23] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[24] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[25] “mitred and staved”: with signals of authority; “all the tongues from the heaven bows paints”: showing all the paintings on the ceilings of the churches.
[26] Free translation of this poem. Original: http://cf.hum.uva.nl/dsp/ljc/gezelle/rijmsnoer/ramen.htm This poem is date by Guido Gezelle on 14th of April 1895.
[27] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guido_Gezelle
[28] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stained_glass

Published: Who are you – Part 2.2: Intensities and associations / E-book


Posts from this blog bundled as blook “Who are you part 2.2: Intensities and associations” are published as E-book on the website of Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher. This E-book is freely downloadable via:

https://www.omnia-amsterdam.com/books/who-are-you-intensities-and-associations

Who are you 2-2This part 2.2 of “Who are you” is an exploration of “intensities and association” in Amsterdam, where Carla Drift, Man Leben and Narrator consider the Reformation and the consequences thereof in Holland. During this part of the survey they look into iconoclasm, a personal relationship with God, Calvinistic predestination, fear for freedom, capitalism, to have or to be, the end of time, “My life closed twice before it’s close” by Emily Dickinson and “One what is that”.

 

Review: Memories of a Marriage


Memories of a Marriage
Memories of a Marriage by Louis Begley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In “Memories of a marriage” by Louis Begley, a writer – named Philip – in his seventies reconnects with an old friend – named Lucy – whom he met right out of college and hasn’t seen for 40 years. Both main characters are from the East Coast privileged class: their capital acquired by their forefathers from one crime (slave-trade) or another. As parvenus their kind spend their life in luxury in places to be in Europe and at the East Coast.

Lucy once a beautiful woman with the world at her feet, has become a bitter divorce who fully puts the blame on her former husband Thomas. She has married Thomas – the son of a garage owner – after she has lost the opportunity for a good marriage with candidates from her own class after a few too many overtly sexual relations with Philip and many of his peers. Thomas became a very successful and well to do banker in Wall street, but he could never meet the parvenu’s class culture in the opinion of Lucy (never wear black shoes before the evening).

Philip is now a widower – having lost his beloved wife to cancer – and one day he runs into Lucy who is now divorced from Thomas who had died several years before. Lucy starts telling her side of what had happened in her marriage: all very negative toward Thomas. Unable to believe Lucy’s side, that is besides his own memory and admiration of Thomas and Lucy, Philip begins an investigation as preparation for a novel by asking questions to Lucy – who gives intimate details of her marriage to Thomas – and by questioning others who have known Thomas and Lucy as a couple.

Very well written although a small part in the middle – used to speed up the storyline – is slightly out of tone. In case this small part would be fully elaborated in the same style and the plotting slightly improved, this book might deserve five stars.

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Review: A History of Religious Ideas 3: From Muhammad to the Age of Reforms


A History of Religious Ideas 3: From Muhammad to the Age of Reforms
A History of Religious Ideas 3: From Muhammad to the Age of Reforms by Mircea Eliade
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The third volume of “A History of Religious Idea – From Muhammed to the Age of Reforms” by Mircea Eliade covers the vast religious area between:
• Religions of Ancient Eurasia including shamanism, paganism, and the “Celestial God”
• Christian Churches in the eighth and ninth century
• Muhammed and the unfolding of Islam
• Western Catholicism from Charlemagne to the start of the Reformation
• Judaism in the Middle Ages
• Zwingli, Calvin and the Catholic Reformation
• Tibetan Religions

Similar to the first two volumes, this vast area of religious ideas is described in a considerable depth in this third volume, although experts will certainly notice significant major omissions at once; e.g. the Reformation in Holland is not covered.

Although I have the impression that Mircea Eliade could not finish this third volume: highly recommended!

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Review: Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation


Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation
Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation by Michael H. Agar
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Michael Agar shows in his book “Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation” the interaction between language, culture and daily behaviour for insiders and outsiders. Insiders know implicit (and explicit) the meaning behind words and sentences that outsiders with only knowledge of a language may not be aware of. He shares his open mind for several environments/cultures wherein he has lived. He makes a strong plea for open mindedness to a foreign cultures otherwise unknown/uncommon behaviour may be regarded as a defect in another culture resulting in rejection or worse.

Michael uses a organic/lingering style with many personal examples. This style has its merits and its shortcomings.

Conclusion: recommended – a readable introduction to foreign combination of language/culture and way of living

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Review: A History of Religious Ideas 2: From Gautama Buddha to the Triumph of Christianity


A History of Religious Ideas 2: From Gautama Buddha to the Triumph of Christianity
A History of Religious Ideas 2: From Gautama Buddha to the Triumph of Christianity by Mircea Eliade
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The second volume of “A History of Religious Idea – From Gautama Buddha to the Triumph of Christianity” by Mircea Eliade covers the vast religious area between:

  • The ancient religions in China (Taoism and Confucianism),
  • Brahmanism and Hinduism,
  • Buddhism,
  • Roman religions,
  • Celts and Germans,
  • Judaism,
  • The Hindu Synthesis: The Mahabharata including the Bhagavad Gita,
  • Iranian Synthesis,
  • Paganism,
  • The Birth of Christianity and
  • Christianity as official Religion of the Roman Empire.

This vast area of religious ideas is described in a considerable depth, although experts will certainly notice significant omissions at once; e.g. the Upanishads and the Mahabharata deserve more attention.

This volume ends with “Deus Sol Invictus”; a religious idea taken by the Roman Emperor Aurelius (270 – 275 AC) from Egypt as uniting monotheistic Sun-God principle in the Roman Empire, before his successor Emperor Constantine embraced Christianity a preferred religion within the Roman Empire. The name Sunday – the day of God – originates from “Deus Sol Invictus” or Sun-God in the Roman Empire.

Highly recommended!

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Review: A History of Religious Ideas 1: From the Stone Age to the Eleusinian Mysteries


A History of Religious Ideas 1: From the Stone Age to the Eleusinian Mysteries
A History of Religious Ideas 1: From the Stone Age to the Eleusinian Mysteries by Mircea Eliade
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In volume I of “A History of Religious Ideas”, Mircea Eliade opens on page 5 with explanation of a ritual of “mystical solidarity” from the Stone Age, that I have not read anywhere else.
In this ritual hunter-gatherers see the blood of the prey as similar in every respect to their blood; and by killing the prey they identify themselves with their prey for two reasons. They seek redemption for the sin of killing their prey, and they identify with their prey to maintain their unique system of survival for both hunter and prey. This ritual – altered, revalorised and camouflaged – is still within our modern society.

This paragraph shed a different light on the many kinds of charity that captains of industry perform in the later part of their life.

This first volume continues with an abundance of religious developments of mankind in the Indo-European society until the Dionysiac festivals.

A must read to get an overview of the religious ideas with one remark: ideas unknown to me are covered in depth, but religious ideas that I have studied before, are described more superficial; but this remark says more about me as a reader than about the content of the book.

Highly recommended.

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Review: The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics


The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics
The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics by Robert Aitken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Mind of Clover – Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics” starts with chapters on the ten precepts for Buddhist.

In the chapter on the second precept “Not Stealing”, Robert Aitken cites Unto Tähtinen:

“There are two ways of avoiding war: one way is to satisfy everyone’s desire, the other way is to content oneself with the good. The former is not possible due to the limitations of the world and therefore there remains this second alternative of contentment”

And then he cites Mahatma Gandhi:

“In India we have many millions of people who have to be satisfied with only one meal a day. This meal consists of a chapati containing no fat and a pinch of salt. You and I have no right to anything until these millions of people are better fed and clothed. You and I ought to know better and adjust our wants, and even undergo voluntarily starvation in order that they may be nursed, fed and clothed.”

So true in our contemporary Western world full of abundance.

This small books continues with essays on the Mind, and Robert Aitken cites from the Diamond Sutra:

“Don’t dwell upon colours to bring forth the Mind, don’t dwell upon phenomena of sound, smell, taste or touch to bring forth the Mind; dwell nowhere and bring forth that Mind”.

So true: always at home, nowhere lost.

Highly recommended.

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Review: An English Translation of Fa-Tsang’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith


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An English Translation of Fa-Tsang’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith by Fazang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The translater Dirck Vorenkamp begins “An English translation of Fa-Tsangs’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith” with an outstanding introduction to the cosmology of “One” within the Hua-Yen branche of Zen Buddhism based on the Avatamsaka Sutra ( see: “The Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra” by Thomas Cleary).

In his commentary on the “Awakening of Faith”, Fa-Tsang describes that “One”-consciousness exists of:
– “Thusness” as the essence without characteristics that is the source of emptiness (or sunyata) wherein all exists in mutual interdependency. The “Thusness”-aspect is all before it is named and it is also the emptiness within Indra’s Net
and
– “Samsara” – or the “Concourse of things” – that shapes all the characteristics and functions wherein all originates in mutual interdependency. The “Concourse of things”-aspect creates the perceived characteristics of Indra’s Net; it is the “Gestalt” or the concourse of dharmas that are created in mutual interdependency within emptiness.

At once this description creates a problem, because emptiness is unspeakable by lack of features and because the capabilities of features and functions, that arise in interdependence and reciprocity, are infinite. We cannot put it into words – it is an entry into the inconceivable – and maybe we should conclude with Wittgenstein at this point: “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen“ (Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must keep silent)”.

The introduction to the commentary on the “Awakening of Faith” continues with the structure of consciousness, explained in a bird’s eye view.

“One”-consciousness has aspects of “Thusness”-consciousness and “Concourse of things”-consciousness. Thoughts arise – via an intermediate step – from the “Concourse of things”-consciousness (or “Gestalt”-consciousness).

There are five forms of thought:
1. Consciousness of cause and effect
2. Consciousness of development and evolution
3. Consciousness of manifestations
4. Consciousness of differences and illusions
5. Consciousness of continuing effects of cause and effect

When the first three forms of thought are also based in the emptiness of “Thusness”-consciousness, then these forms may be a basis for Buddhist enlightenment. The last two forms are the onset for the discrimination of things.

The ability to discrimination leads to awareness of separate phenomena:
• Consciousness of suffering and joy
• Based on desires that come out of suffering and joy, objects get shape
• When objects are shaped, names – including symbols and letters – arise for objects
• Based on names and symbols, actions arise with “cause and effect”
• Connected with actions, suffering (and joy) arises.

Then the introduction continues with an explanation of degenerate forms of consciousness that originate in a combination of a desire to illusions, symbols, acts, etc.

After this introductions follows the translation of “Commentary on the Awakening of Faith”.

The copy I received from the publisher, was accompanied with a bookmarker mentioning the makers of the book!

Highly recommended for a further study of the Hua-Yen branche of Zen Buddhism.

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Review: Six Memos For The Next Millennium


Six Memos For The Next Millennium
Six Memos For The Next Millennium by Italo Calvino
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Six Memos For The Next Millennium” by Italo Calvino is a collection of five Charles Eliot Norton Lectures written in 1985/1986 about what should be cherished in literature with intriguing titles:
1 – Lightness,
2 – Quickness,
3 – Exactitude,
4 – Visibility,
5 – Multiplicity
and the never written memo “6 – Consistency”.

In my opinion these lectures transcend “Goodreads”, these lectures are a must-read for every serious writer and reader!

The third memo by Italo Calvino – Exactitude – begins as follows:

“For the ancient Egyptians exactitude was symbolised by a feather, that served as a weight on scales used for the weighing of the Soul. This light feather was called “Maat” (also the Dutch word for measure) – Goddess of the scales”.

Italo Calvino begins his memo on “Visibility” with the verses:

“Then rained down into the high fantasy…”.

According to Italo Cavino:

”Rains the “Visibility” – or images – down from heaven; that is, God sends them to the people”.

As clarification of imagination, Italo Calvino quotes the following lines from the Purgatory by Dante:

You, imagination, that prevented us
Many times to perceive the world,
Although around may sound a thousand cymbals

What moved you, outside our sense?
A flash of light, created in heaven,
By itself, or by the will of God.

This is Italo Calvino’s testimony on literature in our Western contemporary world rooted in Christianity.

Highly recommended.

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