Tag Archives: blossom

Narrator – points to the snow


The first snow fell early in autumn; the days were still not very short. In that dark morning the crackling of snow under my shoes sounded muted in the Prästgatan wherein the Golden House of hopes and dreams was situated on the island Gamla Stan in Stockholm.

Prästgatan in Juni[1]

The white snow and cold absorbed all colours; the Moon and the starry sky merged with the snow and the full colours of last summer were gone. In the course of the morning the snow was smeared by everyday life. That evening a vague glow appeared in the light of lanterns.

Prästgatan in December[2]

My beloved came home that night from a visit to his sick mother in America. His return was the beginning of a big change in our lives. He wanted to live closer to his mother, because due to her illness she only had less than a years to live. During his stay in America my beloved visited various Buddhist communities; he had decided to enter a convent near the house of his parents. The contact with his father was still stiff by their mutual incomprehension about his evasion of military service during the Viet Nam war. Unbeknownst to my beloved, I wrote a letter to his father in which I made a comparison between the general pardon of president Carter in 1977 for evasion of military service during the Viet Nam war and the parable of the lost son [3] in the New Testament: Your son was lost and he is found [4] by the general pardon. After the next visit to his parents my beloved returned joyfully; his father had welcomed him with open arms.

That winter my beloved toiled on a Buddhist question in which a teacher points to the snow and asks: “Is there any that can go beyond this colour?”. Another teacher said: “At this point I had have pushed it over for him”.  A third teacher said: “He only knows how to push down, he does not know how to help up”. [5]

This question is about passing the Empty Gate and the state of enlightenment. Snow, cold and white in which the Moon merges are metaphors for enlightenment. The first teacher asked for any beyond this colour where this colour stands for the road after passing the Empty Gate or after enlightenment. The other teacher immediately removes the illusion of enlightenment and a road after passing the Empty Gate by amongst others to refer to the colourless colour and to the Bodhisattva ideal from Mahâyâna Buddhism in which a human who is on the verge of enlightenment – or even a living Buddha –forgoes out of compassion until everything and everyone is able to enter enlightenment or the state of a Buddha. My beloved could comprehend the statements of the first two teachers, but that winter he toiled on the third statement.

Just as many people I struggled with the short days in northern countries. Our last common Christmas and New Year’s evening we celebrated exuberantly with many friends and acquaintances. Fortunately, in January and February the days got longer.

That winter my beloved sold the country house in the Stockholm archipelago and the Golden House in the old town of Stockholm. For a short time we moved to a rented wooden house on the island of Södermalm where we had a beautiful view on the inner city of Stockholm. Here we lived our last two months together. My beloved studied and I played percussion in several jazz ensembles.

Asogatan_213_Stockholm[6]

At the beginning of the spring my beloved asked me what the meaning of “māyā” is in Sanskrit. I told him that in the distant antiquity “māyā” had the meaning of “art and wisdom” and later the meaning of “illusion”, “compassion, sympathy” and “one of the 24 small Buddhist sins” [7] were added. The name of the mother of Siddhartha Gautama was Māyādevī wherein “devī ” as feminine form of “deva” [8] means among others “feminine goddess”. I also said that my father has taught me that “māyā” takes shape in the form of the general or cosmic consciousness and thus is directly connected with the all-encompassing Īśa, and in addition in the form of the individual or human consciousness and thus often has the meaning of illusion [9]. Both forms stem from and are included in the one reality.

After this explanation my beloved beamed. By the warmth of the sun glow the blossom buttons opened again. With the blossoms of spring my beloved moved to America permanently.

Bloesem Stockholm[10]

That summer, his mother past quietly. Four years later I received a sad message that my beloved had died from the mysterious disease that plagued our friends and acquaintances. In our correspondence he has never mentioned it. And always when the blossom …

In the society where I from, community means everything – you are who you know [11]. In Stockholm I was the friend of my beloved at best. Now I no longer really knew anybody, I was a nobody in Stockholm. At the end of the spring I terminated the rent of our beautiful wooden house and I moved to Copenhagen.


[1] Photo of the Prästgatan on the island Gamla Stan in the beginning of June. Source image: http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pr%C3%A4stgatan

[2] Photo of the Prästgatan on the Island Gamla Stan in the beginning of December. Source image: http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pr%C3%A4stgatan

[3] See the Gospel of Luke 15: 11-32 in the New Testament

[4] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Prodigal_Son

[5] See also: http://zazen.rutgers.edu/talks/yangshanpointstosnow.html

[6] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_during_the_Age_of_Liberty

[7] Source: elektronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[8] The word Deva whereof Deus in Latin, Zeus in Greec and Dieu in French arose, is Sanskrit connected with the verb root “Div” meaning amongst others “to shinestralen, to play, to increase”.

[9] See also: Nikhilananda, Swami, The Upanishads – A new Translation, Volume I. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 2003, p. 57, 58

[10] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kungstr%C3%A4dg%C3%A5rden

[11] See also: Reybrouck, David van, Congo – Een geschiedenis. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2012, p. 58

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Carla Drift – Changes and Conflicts 2


My last year in Amsterdam I had a beautiful spring, a spring like no other. The solidified time started to flow. Never before I saw more beautiful flowers and blossoms. Nature smelled like life.

Spring flowers blossom[1]

Life beamed and I beamed back. Everything around me still was as intense as in the three years as three centuries, but the icy chill thawed and stiffness disappeared in the warmth of the spring sunshine. I floated in a golden glow. “Life is a continual death of the now” – the sentence during the solidified time – changed in:

For our Self is
making and destroying one
and the same act

Sun shining in a cave

[2]

In the following summer and autumn I resumed my normal life. I still miss the intensity and the endlessness of the here and now.

The thesis for my study Humanities was “Preventing excesses during change and conflict”. The first part dealt with the circumstances in which excesses preferably manifest itself; the second part described the factors that have a damping effect on the occurrence of excesses.

Almost all changes pass silently. These silent changes are like breathing, blinking of the eyes or turning the head. The reason for the change can be reading the newspaper, seeing a picture or hearing a story. Afterwards our world is never the same. This kind of change is as natural as life itself.

The subject of my thesis focused on changes that cause tensions. In this post a few aspects of my thesis.

As starting point for the research I chose seven different perspectives for studying changes.

The first angle covered the scope of the change. The scope of the (directly attributable) impacts of the change – and the tensions it can cause – can vary from one individual, one family, one community, one city, one country, one continent, the world or the universe.

The second angle covered the intensity, strength and intensity of change. The severity and intensity can vary from a small ripple in existence to a tremendous event changing a whole life.

The third angle was the period in which the change took place. The duration can vary from a shock of impact of a large meteor or the explosion of the volcano on the island of Krakatoa in 1883 [3]. The effects of these explosions and impacts are still felt many years later, and can erase societies. Other changes have a long lead time: e.g. the onset of World War II or the introduction of literacy in Western society.

The fourth angle include tensions caused by changes of human needs. Here I used the hierarchy of needs by Maslow [4] where I divided the fifth hierarchy into three separate hierarchies: the need for knowledge, the need for religion and the need for self-realization. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a model for human needs ranging from Self-preservation to Self-realization. Our Odyssey to “Who are you” is a quest for the Self in all its immensity and finiteness – we encounter Maslow’s model at a number of stage during our Odyssey. Tensions can manifest themselves in transitions from one hierarchy to another hierarchy – human growth is often accompanied by shocks. Tensions also occur in regression of needs by changing circumstances such as famine, insecurity, hardened conditions, attacks on the honour and/or obstruction of freedom of speech, of expression, creativity, religion and/or self-actualization.

[4]

The fifth angle included the stage of development of society. Generally a hunter-gatherer society has less resources for extreme violence then a highly developed agricultural/industrial society with a huge reservoir of surplus in people, food, resources and knowledge.

The sixth angle related to the degree of social stratification within a society [5]. With an extremely stratified society, the role of absolute ruler – for example, a pharaoh or emperor – is all decisive. In an oligarchy group, a dynamic process within the small ruling class is decisive. A non-stratified society has its own – for people seemingly chaotic – dynamics. Further analysis shows that this kind dynamics can often be displayed in a few parameters, but around bifurcation-points the outcome is very dependent on tiny trivial coincidences. Many people feel insecure in chaotic processes: quickly a demand for leadership arises.

The seventh angle was the manner in which changes and tensions are handled. This seventh angle represents the response of individuals, groups and/or society to changes/tensions. The reaction can range from ignorance, acceptance, compassion, objection, anger and/or resistance. This seventh angle was mainly covered in the second part of my thesis, where I discussed the factors that had a damping effect on the occurrence of excesses.

A full description and study of these seven angles was not possible within the framework of my thesis. These seven points of view were used in a case study covering the changes and tensions caused by men who only defended their habitat, via an initial growth of mankind – caused by better food – resulting in a surplus of men who temporarily moved around as brethren looking for self-affirmation by conquests, via a second growth of mankind – by further specialization in society – with men living in wandering armies who made fighting their profession, via a third growth – by increasing prosperity – with permanent armed forces endemic embedded in society. Here I examined the consequences for the organization of public order: the armed forces are a power factor in public policy which needs direct access to people (soldiers) and resources (horses, arms, food and feed, housing and room) for its existence. More than 10 years after my thesis, John Keegan has made a very readable study on this subject [6].

[7]

A year ago I read a nice observation on the attenuation of the “Word” in “An Iliad – A Story of War” by Alessandro Baricco [8]. As a footnote to his story of the Iliad, Alessandro noted that under the skin there is always the desire to stop fighting. He noticed this desire in the Iliad in dialogues, discussions and meetings – he calls it the feminine side of the Iliad. The debates and meetings – instead of fighting – go on endless ad nauseam. According to Alessandro, these discussions are a way to delay the fight as long as possible – it is like a dialogue by Scheherazade who survives by telling stories. The word is the weapon that solidifies the time during war. Even if the heroes discuss the way of fighting, they do not fight – thus they stretch their lives. The heroes are doomed to death, but they make the “smoking of their last cigarette, smoking it with the words” as long as possible. If they start fighting, they change into blind fanatics with full dedication to their honour and duty. But first: first there is the solidified time, female, a time of conscious delay and backward looks at the past. A solidification of time, that had similarities with my three years as three centuries.

Through this observation by Alessandro Baricco, we arrive at the consistency of public affairs – with the use of the word, dialogue, legislation, treaties and case law – and war – with its blind fanaticism, anger, hatred, revenge and unfathomable grief. According to Von Clausewitz [9], war is a continuation of politics by other means. John Keegan has noted that war is much older than politics and government.

With this thesis I finished my student’s life in Amsterdam. In autumn I entered everyday life.

 

[1] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lente
[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zonlicht
[3] See also:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krakatoa
[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs
[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_stratification
[6] See also: Keegan, John, A History of Warfare. London: Pimlico – Random House, 2004 and an earlier study on Admiralty: Keegan, John, The Price of Admiralty. London: Penguin Books, 1988
[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_organization
[8] Source: Baricco Alessandro, An Iliad. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2007 p. 153 – 154
[9] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_von_Clausewitz

Introduction: One


Blossom

[1]

Dust[2] ascended in the trunk[3]

To the beginning of a bud

Emerging in the spring light

The bud[4] shows a blossom fan[5]

Her beauty in full glory

In one sigh elapsed

Confident the blossom petal falls

From the bud downwards

Whirling in a cloud with the wind[6]

A blanket of fingerprints on the ground

Footed by the world

Gone to dust[7]

[8]

This poem may also be read as retrograde. In the paragraph “No time, no Change” in chapter 7 you and I will meet the mystics including amongst others the role of a flower [5].


[1] Source of image: JvL

[2] See also: Genesis 3:19: “For dust you are, and to dust you shall”. Before the separation of air and earth (see also the second stage during our Odyssey), the transgression of void to dust and dust to dust reflect the different manifestations of the complete oneness. At our homecoming (see the last stage “zero”) you and I hope to return within the complete oneness. Have we ever been away?

[3] “When dust is lifted, the land flourishes. When dust is taken, void arises”. This is a free rendering of koan 61 from the Hekiganroku. See:Yamada Kôun Roshi, Hekiganroku, Die Niederschrift vom blauen Fels. München: Kösel-Verlag, 2002.

[4] In Sankrit the name Buddha consists of the noun “bud” meaning “bud or knop” as “bud” in rosebud in the film “Citizen Kane” directed by Orson Wells – and the root “dha” meaning “place, grant, bestow”. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[5] According to the tradition the second zen master is recognized by Buddha when only he noticed with a smile the flower raised by the hands of Buddha. Is this recognition of the complete oneness? We do not know. The following zen masters are according to the Denkōroku directly linked with each other. Have these masters ever been away from the budding of the flower? We do not know.

[6] Here you and I notice a manifestation of the word “thus” or “evam”, meaning in Sanskrit amongst others “going with the wind”. See also the last but one paragraph of the post dated 1st April 2011.

[7] See also: the Old Testament, book Ecclesia 12:7: “When the dust returns to the earth, it returns to itself”. Is this the complete oneness or a manifestation hereof? We do not know.

[8] Source of image: JvL