Tag Archives: Bhagavad Gita

Five common realities – facts en logic 13


After their visit to the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, Carla, Man and Narrator are sitting on the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella for their simple lunch.

“During your introduction to Kṛṣṇa – as God in human shape – it struck me how much sound agreement the name Kṛṣṇa has with Christ, the son of God within the Catholic Trinity. Both are appearances of God in human shape, who are immaculately received by their mothers. Are there any more similarities?”, asks Carla.

Feiten en logica 13a[1]

“The source of a possible immaculate conception of Kṛṣṇa by his mother is shrouded in mystery. This information may well be attached later, after this movement of Hinduism has come into contact with Christianity. The source for my introduction to Kṛṣṇa as God in human shape is the Bhagavad Gītā, which is composed well before our era. In the names of Christ and Kṛṣṇa, the verb root “kr” can be recognised meaning “to make, to do, and to act”, and “Īś” or “Ish” meaning “God or Supreme Spirit”. The combination of both word cores represents the incarnation of Kṛṣṇa as God in human shape and Christ as Messiah very well”, says Narrator.

“I do not exclude that there have been exchanges of religious ideas between India and Asia Minor around and after the time of Alexander the Great. The New Testament is written about a hundred years after the birth of Christ and the four Gospels show significant differences in content. Maybe the Evangelists in Asia Minor were familiar with several religious elements from the Bhagavad Gītā including Kṛṣṇa as God in human shape. I have no information about this thought; this may require a separate quest”, says Man.

“Christ and Kṛṣṇa have died both and at the same time they are both seen as “the unborn and unchanging source” by believers. Apparently God – in human shape – is on the one hand tied to the law of cause and effect, and on the other hand immortal. I think both facts are applicable on all manifestations in Indra’s Net. Let me explain this using a parable [2] from the Mahābhārata with the title “What is dead?”.

Feiten en logica 13b.jpg[3]

The battlefield – described in the Bhagavad Gītā – between the world order and duty (Dharmakshetra [4]) and human action (Kurukshetra) shows countless horrors. One of these horrors on the battlefield is the death of the beautiful son of Arjuna. The oldest brother of Arjuna – and crown pretender of the five Pāṇḍavaḥ brothers – is inconsolable. After this loss, he oversees the battlefield with the many fallen and he says: “This is worth no victory in this war, no kingdom, no heaven and no immortality“. He asks Vyāsa – the narrator of the Mahabharata –: “Family, teachers and loved ones are lying broken on the Earth with death as their identity. Why are they now known as “death”? Who dies here? What causes death? And why does death claim the living?

Hereafter Vyāsa tells the story about the origin of Death – Mŗtyu [5] in the form of a woman – by Brahman. Mŗtyu askes him: “Why am I created?”. Brahman tells her that she is created to relieve the Earth from the intolerable burden of the ever growing population of living beings. Hereafter Mŗtyu begins to cry uncontrollably. Brahman takes her tears in his hands, but some fall on the Earth. From these tears, the diseases are created whereby the bodies of living beings will die. Mŗtyu demands an explanation from Brahman: “Why did you create me in this form of a woman? Why am I knowingly engaged in the misery and cruelty of devouring of living beings. By taking away the lives of children, parents, loved ones and friends, their relatives will mourn on the loss and I will be the object of their hatred and fear. But I will fear the tears of sorrow the most. No, I will not be able to extinguish life; save me from this fatal existence”. Brahman explains her: “There is dead and there is no death at the same time. All living things cause their own death by sticking to their own delusions in sins [6] and in happiness. In Truth, there is no death. The tears of Death are the tears of our sorrow that cause death and destruction everywhere around us. Just as easily we can create, enrich en preserve a True life for ourselves and for others.” After this explanation Mŗtyu – death – asks bewildered:

“Why don’t you learn to live?” [7]

Why do we so anxiously hold to our manifestations in Indra’s Net? This living manifestations – in sins and in happiness – evaporate sooner or later; Mŗtyu will carry them away as she also had carried away all main characters from the Mahābhārata in all their different manifestations.

Why don’t we learn to live as a “True Man with no ranks going out and in through the portals of Your face“; I think that Mŗtyu – in her bewilderment – has asked this to Brahman”, says Narrator.

Feiten en logica 13c.jpg[8]

“During the question “Why don’t you learn to live” by Mŗtyu, I created the following haiku:

One living being,

Nothing is born and dies,

Wave in ocean

Feiten en logica 13d[9]

This haiku shows in an indirect way why the manifestation of God in human shape is bound by the law of cause and effect. In a human shape God is – just like any living being – created from dust and will return to dust, as a wave is born from the ocean and will return into the ocean. Which form does God have in Indra’s Net?”, says Man.

“May I formulate this question more directly: Is a living being – for example a human life of God in a human form – a manifestation of the True Man or is it the True Man self?”, asks Narrator.

“During my preparation for the Holy Communion, I had learned that a human being consists of a physical body and an immaterial soul. The body is mortal and goes back to the earth after death; the soul lives further after death in the purgatory or goes straight to heaven. At that time, I have never understood where my soul – and where life – originates from, and I still don’t understand it. The metaphors “Indra’s Net” and “golf in the ocean” give me an opaque image how people – as manifestations of the All-encompassing One – are born from dust and return to dust. I can comprehend this opaque image intellectually and I understand the concept of incarnation, but the image does not become transparent”, says Carla.

“Maybe we may have touched upon the limits of our human comprehension and we must conclude that “Mysterium est magnum, quod nos procul dubio transcendit” [10] or “The mystery is great, that transcends us doubtless”, just as the mystery of the wave without doubt originates from the ocean and without doubt returns into the ocean”, says Man.

“I notice a development in your thinking. During “The Word as object in the middle[11] at the first part of our Odyssey, you perceived the life mystery as so great, that it transcends us completely: this mystery transcends our doubt, with or without religion, and with or without sacrifice. Now you perceive the mystery of the human life that is created and merged in the All-encompassing One without doubt. Do I see this development well?”, says Carla.

“It is not a kind of a development or a change in thinking, it is a “Mysterium continuum” or a “constant mystery” in my thinking”, says Man.

“Shall we clean up our lunch? Later during our Odyssey at “And death has no dominion here” we can go further into the question “What is death?”. Shall we visit – as transition to mind of the warrior – the Palace de Medici this afternoon after the rest hour by Carla?”, says Narrator.

Feiten en logica 13e[12]


[1]The life of Jezus in a nutshell” by Matthias Grünewald at the Isenheimer altar. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jezus_(traditioneel-christelijk)

[2] Free and abridged taken from: Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006, p. 170 – 173

[3] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dood

[4] See footnotes 15 and 16 in the last post for an explanation on both words.

[5] The name Mŗtyu means “death, dying” in Sanskrit. The name consists of Mŗt – where the sound of the Dutch word “moord” and the French word “mort” may be recognised – and “yu” meaning “to unite, to bind” in Sanskrit. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[6] See also the Seven Deadly Sins in the Catholic Church in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins . See also the Seven Deadly Sins in the Divina Commedia by Dante Alighieri.

[7] Free and abridged rendering of: Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006, p. 170 – 173

[8] One of the endless many manifestations of the “True Man”. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mann

[9] Painting “The Wave” by Gustave Courbet. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozean

[10] From the Papal encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharista by Pope John Paulus II. In the word “Eucharista” one can recognise “Eu” meaning “good” in Greek, “car” pronounced as “char” meaning “to move in Sanskrit and “Īś” pronounced as “ish” meaning “being able to” and “the supreme being/soul” in Sanskrit. See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 163

[11] See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 163

[12] Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_Medici_Riccardi

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Five common realities – facts and logic 3


“After my afternoon-rest I have enough energy for the evening. The many tropical diseases left their traces in my body; a whole day staying active is often too much for me. What books did you buy?”, says Carla.

“An Italian course for Sanskrit to revive my study and “Six memos for the next Millennium” by Italo Calvino. The titles of these memos are intriguing:

  • 1 – Lightness,
  • 2 – Quickness,
  • 3 – Exactitude,
  • 4 – Visibility,
  • 5 – Multiplicity

and the never written memo “6 – Consistency”. The titles for these memos may also be guidelines for our Odyssey, in which we – just like Italo Calvino –can never put the sixth memo on paper, because then we should describe the entire universe in its complete infinity”, says Man.

feiten en logica 31[1]

“There I see Narrator approaching. Good to sit here in the evening sun overlooking the “Basilica di Santa Maria Novella”. Does the façade of the Basilica also meet the titles of the memos?”, says Carla.

feiten en logica 32[2]

“Good question with many answers. Did you have a good meeting with your friend?”, says Man.

“Nice to see each other again after so many years. We have change a lot and also remained the same; familiar and different. Over the years, the physical attraction had disappeared but the pleasantness of being together has stayed. Let’s first order drinks and ask for the menu”, says Narrator.

“That is good. After we ordered our meals, I will share with you – as promised this afternoon – my view on “facts and logic” of “Who are you”?”

Carla, Man and Narrator order their drinks, make their choice from the menu and order their meals.

“Yesterday I started in “Man is not only – A philosophy of Religion” by Abraham Heschel [3]. The title of this book appeals to me, because my first name is mentioned in it and because I wish to know more about the faith in God that has remained strange to me in my adult life. I have lived in monasteries and I have guided groups on Oriental wisdom, but I’ve never had an experience of God’s presence. The first eight chapters of the book on “the Unspeakable”, “the Supreme Astonishment”, “the ultimate question that exceeds words” come directly from my heart and exceed it, like blossom on a tree – included in the universe – arose from the earth, is fed by it and will return in it [4]. In Chapter 9 of the book is a passage – I quote – “We praise together with the pebbles on the road surface that appear petrified marvels, together with all flowers and trees that look like they are hypnotized in silence. When mind and spirit correspond, faith born” [5]. Until here the book makes perfect sense to me, as also the fact that the “One” – that is omnipresent – exists, wherein we are completely included and from which we, each and everything around us are temporary manifestations. But God – as the Other – remains a stranger to me. Who is he? Whereby is God separated from “the Unspeakable”, “the Supreme Astonishment”, “the ultimate question that goes beyond words”? This separation is unreal for me; I cannot understand it: it is not logical”, says Man. feiten en logica 331[6]

“In the land of my ancestors, the “Individual One” or Ātman [7] and the “One all-encompassing” or Brahman [8] are expressed and taught by the Upanishads [9]. Through a full consciousness that Ātman and Brahman are two manifestations of the “One” and thereby fall together like a drop in the ocean, we transcend humanity on Earth.

feiten en logica 34[10]

Whether one believes – or one does not – in an “All-encompassing Self” as permanent entity, is hardly of any importance in our daily life with common happiness, suffering and madness. Buddhism follows a strict Middle Way between “One All-encompassing Self” and “human daily life” in order to avoid the bottomless pit of metaphysical questions and the discussions over them [11]. A branche of the Middle Way is the metaphor of Indra’s Net [12] that gives a limited rendering of the interconnectedness between all the separate manifestations en the “All-encompassing Self”. The Mahābhārata had marked a radical shift by moving the mind in daily life from Ātman to “Dharma” – or world order and duty [13]; Dharma means literally “placing the continuous self/Self”. In the Bhagavad Gita – a small and old part of the Mahābhārata – the “attention to daily life” accumulates when Arjuna enters the arena in which families, teachers and students face each other in the field of tension between – on the one hand – the world order and duty (Dharmakshetra [14]) and – on the other hand – human actions (Kurukshetra [15]). When Arjuna faces his family, teachers and loved ones among the opponents, he refuses to give the go-ahead in the battle between the two parties. Kṛṣṇa – his spiritual leader and charioteer during this battle – encourages Arjuna to fulfil his duty within the world order and Kṛṣṇa only succeeds herein when he takes his Godlike form during this dialogue; hereupon Arjuna gives the starting signal for the battle with disastrous consequences to all main actors, but in which they fulfil their duty and task within the resulting world order. Within and coinciding with the “All-encompassing Self”, the Godlike form of Kṛṣṇa is the guardian and spiritual leader in this part of the Mahābhārata”, says Narrator.

“Within the mind-set of your ancestors with their view on “facts and logic”, humans and Gods fulfil their role in the world order. Within my conceptual framework, a Godlike role separated from “the All-encompassing One” does not fit: I feel myself at home within the mind-set of the Upanishads and within the Middle Way of Buddhism, but I like to study views with which I disagree in order to figure out what others have seen and I didn’t see until now”, says Man.

“In the last sentence I notice a statement by Professor Dr. W. Luijpen during his lectures series in philosophy at the Delft University of Technology. I too have studied a lot in my life with which I fully disagree. In my studies of crimes against humanity, I came across many sound, incorrect and false mind-sets with which I totally disagree. After studying the Old Testament and the Mahābhārata – with emphasis on ahiṃsā or non-violence as foundation of life [16] – I came to the conclusion that these books aim at peace, although both books are full of cheating, violence and atrocities. I see that our meal is arriving. Later, I hope to tell a little about the warrior mind-set”, says Carla.feiten en logica 35 [17]

“Enjoy your meal; later we will continue with our quest”, says Man.

“Did our discussion meet the titles of the six memos from Italo Calvino?”, asks Narrator.

“I think so”, says Carla.

“Fully”, says Man.


[1] See also: Calvino, Italo, Six Memos for the next Millennium. New York: Vintage Books, 1993

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

[3] See: Heschel, Abraham Joshua, De mens is niet alleen – De ervaring van Gods aanwezigheid. Utrecht: Kok, 2011. The original edition is: Heschel, Abraham Joshua, Man is not alone – A Philosophy of Religion. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1951. See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Joshua_Heschel

[4] See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – A survey into our existence – 1. Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 50 – 51

[5] See: Heschel, Abraham Joshua, De mens is niet alleen – De ervaring van Gods aanwezigheid. Utrecht: Kok, 2011, p. 85.

[6] Source image: http://www.amazon.com/Man-Is-Not-Alone-Philosophy/dp/B0015KDICQ

[7] See amongst others: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%80tman_(Hinduism)

[8] The word Brahman is probably derived from the verbroot √bhṝ meaning “enhance or enlarge”. See for a further introduction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahman

[9] Upanishad literally means in Sanskrit: “sitting down to”. This sitting takes place near a teacher for teaching in the perpetual all-encompassing mystery that is our life is. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.  Zie ook: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upanishads

[10] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahman

[11] See also: Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006, p. 67 – 68

[12] See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – A survey into our existence – 1. Omnia – Amsterdam publisher, 2012, p. 65 – 67;  Cook, Francis, Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra. University Park and London: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977; Cleary, Thomas, Entry Into the Inconceivable: An Introduction to Hua-yen Buddhism. Boston:  Shambhala, 2002; en Cleary, Thomas, The Flower Ornament Scripture, a Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Boston: Shambhala, 1993

[13] 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 to Dharma.

[14] Dharmakshetra consists of Dharma “placing of the continuous self/Self”, and “kshetra” – litterally: field (to be ploughed).

[15] Kurukshetra consists of Kuru – a conjugation of “kr” meaning “to make, do or act” and “kshetra” – litterally: veld (to be ploughed).

[16] See also: chapter 5 of Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006

[17] Source image: http://www.exoticindiaart.com/book/details/mahabharata-inquiry-in-human-condition-idh471/

Narrator – mask of an idol


In the inverted world of Amsterdam I had received the appearance of an idol. Suddenly I was more than welcome everywhere; I was asked at performances and for parties. Everyone wanted to be seen with me or in my neighbourhood. For other people I seemed to carry a divine aureole. In my vicinity strangers felt to be included in a heavenly glow. They all dreamt that I owned the gateway to Heaven [1].

[2]

New lovers imagined themselves in an space travel with me, connected with the universe or included in dream-world more beautiful than life. I was for them the connection to an everlasting paradise.

[3]

In my wealth a Goddess appeared  – again a white [4] Citroën DS – wherein I accomplished the glory humming on the road [7], just like the charioteer Kṛṣṇa [5] in the Bhagavad Gita [6]. As Idol and centre I encouraged, I steered and I shaped the world around me; I was the eye of a cyclone – even empty, temporary and stilled inside.

Idolatry

 Transitory in one sigh

Seen in the Sunlight

Beauty is a terrible and awful thing! It is terrible because it has not been fathomed, for God sets us nothing but riddles. Here the boundaries meet and all contradictions exist side by side. [8]  This citation from The Brothers Karamazov by Dostojewski described my volatile position as idol within the inverted world in Amsterdam. This quote was also the motto of Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima from which I derived to some extent an interpretation of my role as icon in the world where men love of men; for my lovers, I was not only their beloved, but I was also their competitor in their love for other men in the polygamous homosexual world in Amsterdam at that time.

[9]

In addition to an interpretation of my idle position in the inverted world in Holland, I was looking for insight in the development of my life. After reading the tetralogy Sea of Fertility [10] by Yukio Mishima, the fourfold reincarnation of the second main person gave some overview of my situation.

[11]

In line with this way of thinking, the first reincarnation in my life – under the name Kṛṣṇa – covered the period from my early childhood to my departure from Kenya. Now – as a temporary idol – I was at the height of my second incarnation in my life. I foresaw that my life as icon would soon implode; I decided to leave the inverted world of Holland for some time. After my share in a serious war crime during my first reincarnation in Kenya, I wished to guide the continuation of my life in a correct manner. It was also time for penance for this war crime.


[1] See the book Genesis 28:10-19 in the Old Testament for Jacob’s dream wherein Jacob takes a ladder with descending and ascending angels for the gate to Heaven. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob’s_Ladder

[2] Painting: Jacob’s dream of a ladder of angels, c. 1690, by Michael Willmann. Source image:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream

[3] The Dream by Henri Rousseau, 1910. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droom

[4] The name Arjuna means amongst others “wit, clear, silver”; one may recognise also “arh” in the name meaning “worthy, capable of”. Arjuna is one of the main characters in the Mahābhārata. He is one of the five brothers who live together with one wife Draupadi – the most beautiful and influential wife of her time – in polyandry. The five brother fight for their rightful share of the kingdom, for the honour of Draupadi and for maintenance of the world order

[5] In Sanskrit Kṛṣṇa means amongst others “black”, “blue black”, “the dark period of the moon-cycle” Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[6] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagavad_gita

[7] See also: Katz, Ruth Cecily, Arjuna in the Mahābhārata: Where Krishna is, there is victory. Delhi: Molital Banarsidass Publishers, 1990

[8] Source: Dostoevsky, Fyodor, The Karamazov Brothers. Ware: Wordsworth Edition Limited, 2007, p. 114

[9] Source image: Frontside of the cover of Mishima, Yukio. Confessions of a Mask. New York: A New Directions Book, 1958 (Eleventh printing)

[10] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sea_of_Fertility

[11] Source image: Hatsuhana doing penance under the Tonosawa waterfall van Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861). This image is used as cover for the French edition of the Sea of Fertility by Yukio Mishima.

Narrator – back on earth


The fire in the forest [1] burned all night. The next morning it still smouldered; in the late afternoon the fire finally died. The nocturnal massacre on the edge of the forest yielded nothing. The smell of burned forest mingled with the smell of dead bodies and blowflies were everywhere.

At the beginning of the next moonless night I left the militia. I walked the whole night. I followed the destination [2] of my name Kṛṣṇa [3] – in that moonless night I escaped alive from hell and I evaded the death of Engaï [4]. Later I understood that a few months later the militia was massacred by the army of the country. Just before the first sunlight I discarded my uniform and weapon.

[5]

The next day I traded some belongings from the militia against clothes. In just over a week I moved to my mother’s pastures [6]. Through information of acquaintances I found her temporary residence.

[7]

She saw me at a distance and my younger brothers and sisters ran to me. My mother was so happy until she saw my eyes – dark and cold as the night. She saw in my face the fire in the forest, my movements reflected the hungry ghosts and she smelled the hell on my skin. I received food and shelter, but the next morning she sent me away with the words: “You took from the world, now you must give back to the world. Afterwards you will be welcome as guest.”

By foot I went to the capital. On the outskirts of the city I received a non-paid post as indwelling teacher on a school. During the hours I helped pupils with their work and outside school time I went to the library for study. My English and Sanskrit improved tremendously and I learned and practised the important epic stories so I could start as storyteller – like my father.

[8]

In the city I met the most beautiful men on whom I secretly fell in love. After a year I encountered my first love – so normal, so obvious, so salvaged. His name was Arjen; I called him Arjuna [9]. His parents moved from Netherlands to Nairobi for their work. Outwardly we were only friends, secretly we were lovers. His skin was much lighter; he studied at the University. I helped him with Sanskrit; He helped me with English, French and German.

Two years later we visited my mother. She greeted me as her lost son. All my brothers and sisters were so joyful to see me. A few days later my father came along and we were happy.

My mother saw immediately that Arjen and I were more than just friends. To protect me against the overwhelming forces that a love between young men evokes in her country, she sent me away to a city in a distant land where men may love men. In this way she bridged [10] the dilemma between her world order and duty and human action [11]. She called the name of the city: Amsterdam. A few days later I left. Never I visited my parents again, but they accompany me wherever I go.


[1] See for the fire in the Khandava forest: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/maha/index.htm book 1 Section CCXXVII and also: Katz, Ruth Cecily, Arjuna in the Mahābhārata: Where Krishna is, there is victory. Delhi: Molital Banarsidass Publishers, 1990,  p. 71 – 84

[2] In Sanskrit  nāmadheya means next to  “name” or “title” also “designation”. Source: Maurer, Walter Harding, The Sanskrit Language, An Introductory Grammar and Reader. London: Routledge Curson, 2004 Deel II p. 771

[3] Kṛṣṇa means in Sanskrit amongst other “black”, “black blue”, “dark period of the mooncycle” Source: electronic version of the dictionaire Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[4] According to a Maasai myth the God Engaï gives cattle to the people and he brings people to life after their death and each day he lets the Moon die. After a sin wherein an opponent was desired death, Engaï lets people die and each night he brought the Moon to life. Source:  http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masa%C3%AF_(volk)

[5] Source image: http://ki.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sunrise_over_Mount_Kenya.jpg

[6] In het Sanskriet betekent “nama” “weidegrond” (voor een nomadenvolk is dit een vorm van bestemming). Bron: elektronische versie van het woordenboek Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

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

[8] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenya

[9] Arjuna is one of the main characters in the Mahābhārata. He is one of the five brothers who live together with one wife Draupadi – the most beautiful and influential wife of her time – in polyandry. The five brother fight for their rightful share of the kingdom, for the honour of Draupadi and for maintenance of the world order. The name Arjuna means amongst others “wit, clear, silver”; one may recognise also “arh” in the name meaning “worthy, capable of”.

[10] In Sanskrit the word “yuj” means also “link, tie, prepare, order”

[11] In the Bhagavad Gita – a small and old part of the Mahābhārata – Krishna – the charioteer – encourages  Arjuna to start the battle wherein families, teachers and pupils stand opposite each other in the warfare between world order and duty (Dharmakshetra) en human behaviour (Kurukshetra). Dharmakshetra consists of  Dharma meaning “place of continuous self/Self”, and  “kshetra” – literally: field. Kurukshetra consists of Kuru – a conjugation of “kr” meaning “to make, to do or to act” and “kshetra” – literally: field.

Narrator – from heaven to hell


In my youth I lived in heaven. At that time I had five obstacles in my life: my clothes got dirty, my body changed, my armpits sweated , my body smelled and life was sometimes uncomfortable [1]. My mother took care that my clothes, my armpits and my body were washed when we had enough water in the dry land. This was a feast. Changes of our body belong to human life; when the changes are over and the pains are forgotten, the situation is back to normal. And a sober, simple life does not always include comfort.

[2]

During my school time I sometimes adorned as warrior, more for fun and vanity than to prepare for battle. As student I was not interested in fighting.

[3]

At the end of my school time I moved from my motherland. I craved for the adventures as told in the stories of my ancestors and I felt an urge for comfort, money, fame and power. Or in the language of my ancestors: I wished to change from Nara [4] to Rājan [5].

While everyone was asleep, I left my mother; I left a note behind with the message that everything would be all right and that she could be proud of me.

After a few days wandering, I encountered a militia. I jointed them. I received an uniform with a weapon and I was trained to military just as the heroes from the Kṣhatriya [6] or warriors/rulers caste in the Mahābhārata.

[7]

I was not a strong soldier, but I was smart and fast and I immediately saw what was needed. The leaders of the militia saw this too: I was driver of the leader of the militia. Like Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad Gita [8] I was charioteer and advisor.

Similar to a charioteer on the chariot I was cook, I gave advise in battle, I encouraged, I offered protection in emergency, I rescued from difficult situations and afterwards I told the heroics of the fighters.

By the transition to the militia, I left heaven and I entered the world of hungry ghosts and the extremely painful world of hell. My life went from peace to war, from love and care to violence.

At the end of one night we set the forest surrounding a village on fire. The God of fire and the wind spread the flames. Our militia shot with joy at everyone and everything that came out of the forest and we were happy [9].

In daylight the disillusionment followed. We saw that we had killed everything and everyone from new-born to the elderly. Hereafter I left the world of hungry ghosts and hell.


[1] From: Cleary Thomas, The Undying Lamp of Zen – The testament of Zen Master Torei. Boston: Shambhala, 2010. Voetnoot 3 op p. 23

[2] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maasai_people

[3] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maasai_people

[4] In Sanskrit “nara” literally means “someone who does not rejoice”. This word is used for an ordinary man.

[5] “Rājan” means in Sanskrit “rejoice in birth/origin”. This word is used for someone from royal or military caste. Source: elektronische versie van het woordenboek Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.

[6] For the caste system in India see amongst others: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste_system_in_India

[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_use_of_children

[8] For an introduction of the Bhagavad Gita that is a small part of the Mahābhārata: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagavad_Gita. A good introduction for a translation Sanskrit – English: Sargeant, Winthrop, The Bhagavad Gȋtâ. Albany: State New York University Press, 1994. An introduction of a religious – yoga – background: Yogananda, Paramahansa, The Bhagavad Gȋtâ. Los Angelas: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2001

[9] 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

A war like no other – the leading players


In the previous post your Narrator has written a short intermezzo about the self-image of combatants in war and violence. He also has given a glimpse in the participation of the philosopher Socrates to the Peloponnesian War in Greece.

Now your narrator will give a glimpse in the leading players during the Peloponnesian War.

A book about this war begins with the poem:

Wrath, icy wrath that brought countless horrors to the Achaeans,

 and sent brave souls of many heroes to Hades

 and changed their bodies in prey for a dog

and swarms of birds, and the will of Deus/God was accomplished [1].

Who are you who brought these horrors? Who are you who wanted this war like no other? Who are you who brought the horrors of brother murder, robbery, honour robbery and slavery to your neighbours and who left the bodies of your kind as prey for dogs and swarms of birds? Who are you who wished these murders? Who are you who wanted the existence of the continuing cycle of honour/power – pride – wrath – and revenge [2]? Do the dog and the birds also accomplish your will; do they have a godlike nature [3]?

In which do you differ from Krishna [4] – the charioteer – who urged Arjuna [4] in the Bhagavad Gita [5] – a small and old part of the Mahābhārata – to enter the arena in which families, teachers and students confront each other in the tension between on the one hand the world order and duty [6] and on the other hand human action [7] [8].

Your Narrator does not know the answers; he poses the questions. Who knows the world, speak!

The most important players in the Peloponnesian War are Sparta and Athens with their respective allies. But the influence of Persia was still great. Who are they?

Between 490 BC to 479 BC, Persia – a dictatorship with “compliant” local satraps – tried to include Greece in the Persian Empire. In 449 BC, Persia has recognized the Greek city states in Asia Minor. Persia has not directly attacked Greece anymore, but Persia has successfully played off the Greek states against each other. In addition, the memory of the Persian wars still had much influence on the events during the Peloponnesian War.

The second leading player is the militaristic and oligarchic City State Sparta situated in the middle of the Peloponnesos in Greece. In this city the fighting skill of the freemen was of imminent interest. Before the birth of a child preparations were taken to merge the best genes for excellent descendants. A married woman had a certain degree of freedom to choose the best man for the begetting of her children: older spouses accepted that their wife begot their children from younger fit men [9]. At birth, health determined the destiny of the baby. Boys and girls from the age of 6 were rigorously trained: the boys as fighters and the girls for health. Men and women lived mostly separated from each other. Spartans were descendants of the original inhabitants of the city. In addition, sometimes the freemen living around Sparta – Perioikoi – fought as hoplites together with the Spartans. In and around Sparta most people were Helots who served the Spartans in all activities except warfare. The Helots were the original inhabitants of the region. They were defeated by the Spartans in the fight and as consequence served as slaves. But always the Spartans felt the threat of a revolt of the Helots; they did everything to prevent this rebellion. The Spartans were feared in battle: they had the name to never give in. Perhaps the constant threat of a revolt of the Helots caused the steadfastness. The Spartans were very faithful/superstitious; they only went to war when all religious obligations were fulfilled and the omens were favourable. Due to this, allies sometimes had to wait a long time for support of the Spartans. During the battle of Sphacteria – in the South West of the Peloponnesos – a group of 292 fighters including 120 young Spartans surrendered to the Athenians. This surrender shocked the Greek world [10], because Spartans never surrendered. In Sparta the shock was even greater, because besides a huge loss of face, these young Spartans included a large part of the future generation. These prisoners were held hostage in Athens and during this time Sparta stopped burning the harvest on the fields near Athens. After their release, Sparta regarded these prisoners never as its full citizens.

[11]

The third leading player was Athens – in extreme form democratic – and located close to the Aegean Sea in Greece. Athens has become enormous rich at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War with the exploitation of silver mines and with trade. This wealth caused on the one hand uneasiness to Sparta on the hegemony in Greece and on the other hand the wish for Athens to be recognized as an equal. This strain is one of the reasons for the war.

About 50 years earlier Athens was led by Kings and tyrants. During the Peloponnesian War, Athens was a democracy of its free inhabitants. But the majority of the population was not free and thus not actively participating in the democracy. In practice this democracy often meant imperialism for Athens allies. In Athens the important decisions were taken during meetings of the free people. They took the decision and they appointed an executor. This executor had to report back to the free people. In case of a failure, the property of the executor could be confiscated and he and his family wore the consequences including exile and/or the death penalty for the executor. During the war the free people decided on the fate of prisoners and of conquered cities. The decisions were often very cruel and out of place. At the end of the war some captured cities of neutral players or former allies or were completely destroyed and the inhabitants were deported or killed. Sometimes the war effort took too great a contribution of the allies or Athens requested an excessive contribution. These decisions went against the wishes of the generals who had conquered the cities. Outrages of the democracy estranged Athens further from its allies: today you – tomorrow I.

Athens possessed a war fleet which was sovereign. Athens and its port Piraeus were surrounded with – for its time – unconquerable walls. This allowed a continuous connection between Athens and its harbour.

[12]

The wealth of Athens was shown in the buildings on the Acropolis. At the beginning of the war the silver stock of Athens was sufficient for at least ten years warfare including food for its inhabitants. On the basis of this wealth the old statesman Pericles has worked out the tactics for the first period of this war. With the agreement of the citizens, he decided that Athens would avoid battle on land: Athens withdrew behind its walls and they relied on its fleet for warfare and for the safe supply of all necessary resources. Grain came from Egypt and the Black Sea area. The Spartans with its allies may plunder the fields around Athens during the harvest time; this would not harm Athens. But the farmers from the area around Athens had to stand by on the walls to see how their harvest was plundered and destroyed. Later a further humiliation: olive trees – with which they were closely connected and which already provided harvest to their ancestors  – were grubbed.

This systematic humiliations ensured that within its walls the city state of Athens was overcrowded. A plague – that came from Egypt? and looked like measles or typhus? – wiped away a third of the inhabitants of Athens. Relatively this is a larger number of deaths than the Spanish flu. At the end of the first world war this plague caused more casualties than all battle fields together.

[13]

There is another special player: Alcibiades. He successively held a leading role in the societies of all three leading players. Socrates may have saved Alcibiades life during the battle of Potidaea. Alcibiades was promoter and one of the three leaders of Athens during the adventure in Sicily. When that expedition failed, he fled to Sparta where he was an important advisor and in this role he caused Athens a lot of havoc. After a relationship with the wife of a Spartan king, he had to flee again. He went to Persia where he was an adviser to a satrap. Hence he had to flee again and he went back to Athens for assistance during naval battles. After an error by one of his employees he had to leave Athens. In between, he was a Olympic champion chariot racing. After his second flight from Athens, in Asia Minor his murder was ordered by satrap on advocacy of some Athenians [14].

[15]

This war includes all forms of public administration. All horrors are included. All motives are included. It is a war like no other, a war as everyone.

The following post is about the rowing regatta at Athens on its way to Sicily, its fate there and the consequences of this adventure.


[1] Free rendering of: Lendon, J.E., Song of Wrath – the Peloponnesian war begins. New York: Basic Books, 2010 p. V

[2] See: Lendon, J.E., Song of Wrath – the Peloponnesian war begins. New York: Basic Books, 2010 p. 9

[3] According to Buddhism, everything has a Buddha nature. A student asked the Zen master Chao-Chou if a dog – in China a low creature – has a Buddha nature. Chao-chou answered: “Mu”. This means “no, nothing, void”. Chao-Chou has also said “yes” to another students. This  koan demands a direct and full insight in this question. See amongst others Yamada Kôun Roshi, Gateless Gate (Mumonkan) case 1 en Wick, Gerry Shishin, The Book of Equanimity – Illuminating Classic Zen Koans. Somerville MA: Wisdom Publications, 2005 p. 57 for an introduction to this koan.

[4] In Sanskrit Krishna means “black” or “dark”. This name consists of “kr” meaning “make, do or act” and “ish” meaning “rule, master, God” whereby the sound coincides with the German word “Ich”. In this sence Krishna means “God’s action”.

[5] Arjuna is one of five brothers who live together and are married to one wife Draupadi – the most beautiful and influential woman of her time – in polyandry. The five brothers fight for their share of the kingdom, for rehabilitation of the honour of Draupadi and for rehabilitation of the order of the world. The name  Arjuna means amongst others “white, clear”; in the name also “arh” is recognised meaning “worthy, able to”.

[6] Free rendering of Dharmakshetra consisting of Dharma – literal: place of continuous self/Self, and “kshetra” – literal: field.

[7] Free rendering of Kurukshetra consisting of Kuru – a conjugation of “kr” meaning make, do or act, and “kshetra” – literal: field.

[8] From the opening’s verses of the Bhagavad Gita. Zie ook: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagavad_Gita

[9] Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_Ancient_Sparta under “marriage” and Hughes, Bettany, Helen of Troy – Goddess, Princess, Whore. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005

[10] Kagan, Donald, The Peloponnesian War – Athens and Sparta in savage Conflict 431 -404 BC. London: Harper and Collins Publishers, 2003 p. 152

[11] Probaly a buste depicting Leonidas, a king of Sparta in de time of the Persian war. Source image: http://uk.ask.com/wiki/Spartan_Army

[12] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peloponnesian_War

[13] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Acropolis3.JPG

[14] Source: The three books on this war and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcibiades

[15] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bust_Alcibiades_Musei_Capitolini_MC1160.jpg