Tag Archives: bodhisattva


At the beginning of the night, Narrator stands guard on a clear night sky while Carla and Man sleeping. Halfway through the night, the sea fog is getting thicker, so that the sight at the start of the morning is less than 20 meters.

Around 7 a.m. Narrator awakes Man and Carla as agreed. After a brief look outside Man says to Narrator that in the coming hours it will be impossible to sail with visibility less than 200 meters; he proposes to take over the watch, but Narrator prefers to sleep during the day while sailing, because then the boat is rocking pleasantly. Man asks to be awaken at 9 am at the latest or earlier in case the fog clears off. Carla and Man start sleeping again.

At 9 am Narrator starts making breakfast with fried eggs and cheese. Carla and Man are still dozing, but the smell of fried eggs makes them awake. They get up, they wash themselves with cold water and put quickly warm clothes on. Visibility is still poor.

“Low tide is nearing. It does not make sense to sail away this morning, because we do not have enough time to arrive at a next good landing place. We may enjoy this view until the next high tide. When the sun will starts shining it may be quite comfortable. Nice that you have already prepared the breakfast”, says Man.

“Delicious: fried eggs and coffee to start the day. After our discussion last night about “being whole” that – according to Martin Heidegger – is by definition “empty” or “the nothingness”, I had dreamed last night about the way women in the Buddhist question last week at the end of “intensities and associations” [1]; she was unable to answer the question: “One – what is that” [2]. Until tonight I thought that this wise woman was beaten dumb because the Buddhist sage had uncovered with this question her ignorance and misunderstanding regarding “One – what is that” had uncovered.

In my dream I knew that the wise man and wise woman were entirely included in the “being whole”; they were one – question and answer was one, speaking and silence was one and understanding and misunderstanding were merged into one – and herewith an answer was unpronounceable: it was not necessary and not possible. Suddenly I had a great respect for the inability of the wise woman to answer. Now, at daylight, in this fog my understanding of this answer begins to fade, as if the centre of the cyclone moves and swirls of the storm of daily life sweep away the oneness of “being whole”, says Carla.

“Man would you be so kind to pour me some coffee? Thank you. Until recently, I have studied a Buddhist question about “being whole” and diversity named “A woman comes out of meditation” [3]. Very briefly this question is as follows:

Once long ago, “being whole” – or All-encompassing One – was present in a place where many Buddha’s [4] had gathered. When Mañjuśrī – teacher of the seven Buddhas and and and excellent bodhisattvas [5]; his name comes from the verb cores √mañj meaning “to cleanse or to be bright” and √śrī meaning “to mix, to unite, to cook” whereby his name refers to perfect enlightenment in our earthly existence – arrived, the Buddha’s disappeared to their original abode. Only a young woman – in deep meditation – stayed behind near Shakyamuni [6] Buddha’s seat. Mañjuśrī asked Buddha: “Why can a young woman be near the seat of Buddha while I cannot?” Buddha replied: “Get her out of meditation and ask her yourself”. With all his knowledge and super-natural powers, Mañjuśrī was not able to get her out of meditation. The All-encompassing One told Mañjuśrī: “Countless Mañjuśrī are not yet able to get her out of meditation. Far beyond more countries than there are grains of sand in the world’s oceans, lives a junior bodhisattva who will be able to awaken her out this meditation”. Immediately this junior bodhisattva appeared and after a snap with his fingers the young woman came out of her meditation.


This Buddhist question includes several sub-questions:

  • How can Mañjuśrī – a bodhisattva – be the teacher of Buddha’s?
  • What is the original abode of the Buddha’s and why do they return to their original abode at the moment Mañjuśrī arrives?
  • Why can a young woman be near Shakyamuni Buddha’s seat while Mañjuśrī cannot?
  • Why can’t Mañjuśrī – an excellent bodhisattva – get this young woman out of meditation while a student bodhisattva can do this with a snap of his finger?

A Zen master [8] gives an explanation to the question how Mañjuśrī as bodhisattva can be the teacher of Buddha’s. This is possible because Mañjuśrī is symbol of prajñā or wisdom of “being whole” – also called the complete emptiness or absolute equality from which everything is born and to which all returns – that surpasses the mundane and metaphysical world. This “being whole” is nothing more than the realisation of the enlightenment of all Buddhas. Hereby Mañjuśrī is called the master of the Buddha’s: in the world of Mañjuśrī there is no subject and object, no getting up and no sitting down, no getting into meditation and no coming out of meditation. The junior bodhisattva symbolises worldly distinction: in his world we can freely stand up and sit down, being absorbed in meditation and come out of meditation.

This Zen master continues his explanation:
Everything in the world has two aspects of “being whole”: an essential aspect of “being whole” and a phenomenal aspect. Based on the essential aspect all and everything is empty: it has no shape, no color, no size and no surface. Herewith all is the same. On the basis of the phenomenal aspect, everything has a shape, a color, a size and a surface. Herewith all is unique and completely different. We human beings have two aspects: an essential manifestation and a phenomenal manifestation. Our entire equality and our absolute differences are two aspects of one “being”. Intrinsically both aspects are one and the same of our “being whole”. Therefore we can say that everything has a form and at the same time has no form, and in the same way we take no step when we walk and in the middle of a hectic city we are in the core of a deep silence. The complete understanding of the Buddhist question stems from a complete understanding of the combination of the essential – or empty – manifestations with all phenomenal manifestations within the “All-encompasing One”.

This Zen master gives the following explanation to why the junior bodhisattva can get the young woman out of her meditation while Mañjuśrī is not capable hereof:
Mañjuśrī and the junior bodhisattva both have freedom to act within their possibilities. Mañjuśrī is free to not get the young woman out of her meditation and the junior bodhisattva is free to let her stand up, just like a horse is free to gallop and a snail is free to crawl on the ground and free to not to gallop. Not being able to gallop of a snake is an elegant way to give substance to this freedom. The horse and the snake have in common that they both have the ability and freedom to fulfill their core of deep silence or rather their “being whole” within their “All-encompassing One”; so Mañjuśrī and the junior bodhisattva in their “whole being” in complete interconnectedness with all manifestations are completely free to reflect their Dharma [9] and their unchangeable “being whole” [10] within Indra’s Net.

This question with the explanation of the Zen master is a good start for a further exploration of emptiness and a closer examination of the Heart Sūtra”, says Narrator.

“This question and the explanation give words to my feelings of oneness in my dream that I had as a result of our discussion last night about “being whole” and the All-encompasing One”, says Carla.

“I am still looking for – after all the years I have immersed myself in meditation – a balance between the silence of meditation and the hectic pace of everyday life. The freedom to “be” in both worlds I have explored within my capabilities and limitations. In the separate worlds of meditation and everyday life I am at home and I am experiencing regular “being whole”, but I do not know the full integration of the two separate worlds within my life; maybe this integration is not given to me within my capabilities and limitations, or perhaps this integration is not possible within a human life. This Buddhist question is about this integration that I am trying to achieve.

The Zen master who gives this explanation, is using the word Samādhi for meditation. Do you know the origin and meaning of the word Samādhi in Sanskrit?”, says Man.

“The fog does not clear of yet; shall we make new coffee?”, says Narrator.

“I will make new coffee, then you can continue your conversation”, says Carla.

“Meditation is a good translation of Samādhi. In Sanskrit the word Samādhi consists of:

  • “sam” meaning “conjunction, union, to join together, to place together, intensity, completeness”,
  • “ā” meaning “backwards, back, giving a direction, completely, and also compassion and/or consent” and
  • “dhi” – as a weak form of “√dhā”: “to place, to bring, to help, to grant, to produce, to cause” – meaning “delight, nourish, satiate, satisfy” [11].

My father said that “dhi” also refers to “the other” in conjunction with the All-encompassing One. Recently, while studying the Buddhist problem, I noticed in a dictionary the meaning “receptacle” [12] for “dhi”, whereby I immediately thought of the explanation by my father in the sense of: all separate fleeting manifestations in conjunction with “being whole “in the All-encompassing One.

Meditatie 2[13]

I smell the coffee. The beans come all the way from Kenya; the land of my mother and of my youth”, says Narrator.

“We had in mind to translate verbatim the Heart Sūtra during this trip; I think this is not going to work, let us postpone the translation to a later time when it’s more convenient. I suggest to limit us these days to a discussion of the Sūtra”, says Man.

“Good idea. Shall I hand you the coffee: the mist will last awhile”, says Carla.

“Please do, that will keep me warm and awake after the vigil of this night. If I am not mistaken, the long version of Heart Sūtra has the following structure:

  • Introduction
  • Question and answer
  • Form is emptiness and emptiness is form
  • The negations and enlightenment
  • The mantra “Sadyathā oṃ, gate, gate, pāragate, pārasaṃgate, bodhi svāhā” and
  • The epilogue.

In the short version the introduction, the question and the epilogue are missing.

I have the impression that the introduction is added to the Heart Sūtra at a later stage to adjust this Sūtra to structure of the many other Sūtra’s and to trace the origin of the Heart Sūtra back to the origin of Buddhism. For me the introduction of this Sutra might be limited to “thus” or “evaṃ” [14] in Sanskrit, because herewith the Sūtra is completely traced back to the origin and to the manifestation of all phenomena.

After the introduction the question is in brief: “How may humans achieve perfect wisdom – or “prajñāpāramitā in het Sanskrit?”

The answer – and this is the beginning of the short version of the Heart Sūtra – is:
“They should realise that the five skanda’s [15] – according to Buddhist doctrine “form, sensation, perception, thoughts and consciousness” and on our quest “facts and logic, intensities and associations, emptiness, change and interconnectedness” – are – essentially empty to be

One commentator [16] gives the following explanation to this “empty of inherent existence”. There are five types of “emptiness”:

  • Emptiness of what dit not exist before, such as the sailing trip we cannot make this morning due to the fog;
  • Emptiness of what does not exist anymore upon being destroyed, for instance spoiled whipped cream that can never be changed in good whipped cream;
  • Emptiness of the utter non-existence, like dividing by zero with a fixed finite outcome [17];
  • Emptiness of one not existing in the other, for instance a dog cannot exist within a cat;
  • Emptiness of any entity and distinction, like “being whole” according Martin Heidegger.

According to this commentator, the Heart Sūtra refers to the last form of emptiness: the five skanda’s are empty of any distinction and so empty of any inherent existence [18]. Another commentator gives as example of “emptiness of any inherent existence”: a cairn in the mountains that is mistaken from a distance to be a human [19].


After my education as architect, I have always given a lot of attention to the experience of space and herewith emptiness and the limitation and boundary of space.


The emptiness of the five skanda’s surpasses the emptiness of the free spaces and the emptiness to use this freedom. The emptiness of the five skanda’s is both unmentionable – because inside “being whole” nothing can be distinguished and mentioned – and mentionable because “being whole” includes the four other ways of emptiness and thereby all possible manifestations appearing illusions upon a closer look, as cairns being mistaken a human beings from distance.

It’s a little lighter, but visibility is still bad. This morning we cannot sail”, says Man.

“Very interesting way to highlight that the five common realities on our quest – “facts and logic, intensities and associations, emptiness, change and interconnectedness” – are essentially empty and herewith as manifestations – or illusions – are indivisible and simultaneously as illusions distinctively included in “being whole”. I have read somewhere that life is but a dream; according to the Heart Sutra it is a dream included – or perhaps partly superimposed [22] – within the emptiness of “being whole””, says Carla.

“Although I still do not sleep much at night – because memories of atrocities in the past continue to haunt me in the dark – a short poem by Ryōkan has accompanied many years on my travels:

Though I always sleep
on my travels, each night
in another place,
the dream I always dream
brings me to my own house.
(Ryōkan) [23]

This short poem gave me comfort, acquiescence and connection with my nomadic life in Europe; and also it connected me again to the nomadic life in my childhood with my mother as Maasai nomad travelling around with her small herd in northern Kenya with my brothers and sisters whereby it was always a treat when we met my father on his trips as storyteller.

In recent years – as bhikṣu [24] – I carry this poem still with me in a slightly altered form:

Though I always sleep
on my travels, each night
in another place,
in the dream I always dream
I am still at home.
(Ryōkan) [23]

The interpretation of “my own house” has expanded to the “All-encompassing One” or “being whole” by Martin Heidegger and “the dream” has shifted from my nocturnal dream to “everyday life” including my nightly vigils and my vision at night of my misdeeds.
After my nightly vigil, I am going to take a nap until lunch”, says Narrator.

“Of Course. Sleep well. At lunch we will wake you. We will guard the boat and hope that the fog will clear off”, says Carla.

“I think the fog will be gone around lunch. Then we can take a walk on the dry Waddenzee, to sail away mid-afternoon”, says Man.

[1] See: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 134 – 135
[2] See: Caplow, Florence & Moon, Susan, edt. The hidden lamp – Stories from twenty-five Centuries of Awakened Women. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2013, p. 33
[3] See: Shibayama, Zenkei, The Gateless Barrier, Zen Comments on the Mumonkan. Boston: Shambhala, 2000, p. 293 – 298 en Yamada Kôun Roshi, Gateless Gate (Mumonkan). Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1990, 199 – 203
[4] In Sanskrit 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 verb √dha meaning “place, grant, bestow”. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta
[5] The word bodhisattva consists of two words “bodhi” and “sattva” meaning “perfect knowledge, wisdom” and “being, conscience, living being” in Sanskrit. The school of Mahāyāna Buddhism knows the bodhisattva ideal. According to this ideal, a human who is on the verge of enlightenment – named bodhisattva, will refrain of entering until the complete universe and every particle is capable to enter enlightenment. In the meantime a bodhisattva will prepare everyone. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhisattva
[6] Shakyamuni consists of “śakya” meaning “possible or being able” and “muni” meaning “seer or sage”.
[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation
[8] See: Yamada Kôun Roshi, Gateless Gate (Mumonkan). Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1990, p. 201 – 202
[9] An explanation of Dharma is given in: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 2.1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2014, p. 34 etc.
[10] See for the second part of this sentence also: Shibayama, Zenkei, The Gateless Barrier, Zen Comments on the Mumonkan. Boston: Shambhala, 2000, p. 298
[11] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta
[12] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta
[13] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samadhi
[14] In Sanskrit the word “Evam” consists of the verb √e meaning “approach, reach, enter” and the noun “va” meaning “wind, ocean, water, stream, going”. Source: electronic version of the dictionairy Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta
See: Lopez – The Heart Sutra explained. 1990, p. 34; The commentary Vajrapāņi has high praise for the word Evam (thus), the word with which sūtras begin. Those four letters are the source of the 84.000 doctrines taught by the Buddha and are the basis of all marvels.”
See Red Pine (Bill Porter) – The Diamond Sutra. 2001, p. 41-42; Commentaries have written volumes on the profundity of evam (thus). Does it mean ”like so”, or does it mean ”just so”? And what is the difference? Is this sutra the finger that points to the moon, or is it the moon itself?”
See: Holstein, Alexander- Pointing at the Moon. 1993, p. 49; in the enlightened mind of a Zen master, probably, there is no distinction what the ordinary mind calls “to point at” and “the moon”. To the enlightened mind, the relation between the two is similar to the relation of an ocean to its waves.
[15] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skandha ; and see also for a brief introduction: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 172 – 174
[16] The name of this commentator is Praśāstrasena. Source: Lopez, Donald S. – The Heart Sutra explained Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990 p. 53
[17] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Division_by_zero
[18] The Heart Sūtra uses the word “svabhāvashūnya” in Sanskrit for “empty of inherent existence”. The word svabhāvashūnya consists of “sva” meaning “self”, “bhāva” mening “, being or to be” and shūnya” meaning “empty” referring to “being-whole” from Martin Heidegger.
[19] See also: Leben, Man, Narrator Nārāyana – One way, One biografie. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 54
[20] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steenmannetje
[21] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_House
[22] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superposition_principle
[23] This Tanka is freely translated from: Tooren, J. van, Tanka – het lied van Japan. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1983, p. 170
[24] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhikkhu


Five common realities – facts en logic 16

Carla and Man are waiting for Narrator to walk by the covered Vasari Corridor along the river Arno via the Pont Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti.

Feiten en logica 16a[1]

“After we had yesterday briefly looked into the role of a Bodhisattva in the mind of a warrior, I had to consider what active role a Bodhisattva can fulfil as warrior in a conflict or war. Do you have an idea?”, says Carla.

“I think that a Bodhisattva will try to take care within the possibilities and circumstances. During the Second World War, several Japanese Zen masters were – as young men – conscripted as young men in the Japanese army. In their brief biographies they mention among others meditating while standing guard [2] during their obligatory military service. I hope that they as Zen monks have fulfilled their role with compassion during battles and skirmishes; the concise biographies leaves this – perhaps wisely – unmentioned. The metaphor of Indra’s Net has within the brilliance of glass pearls also a deep darkness.

In the brilliant glare

Of the pearls in Indra’s net

Flashes the darkness

There is Narrator”, says Man.

“This covered walkway from the Palazzo degli Uffizi via de Vasari Corridor [3] and the Pont Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti shows the endeavor of the Medici family during the first half of the 16th century to the outside world.

Feiten en logica 16b[4]

By the acquired possession and wealth, the family could walk – sheltered against weather conditions – from their new residential palace outside the city to their Palazzo degli Uffizi (or their working palace) in the city. At the beginning of the 16th century, the de Medici family had come to power again in Florence around 1512 A.C., and Giovanni de Medici had been elected as pope in 1513 A.C.. Hereafter Giovanni – as Pope Leo X – to his brother written: “God has given us the Papacy, let us now enjoy it“. [5]. As a Pope, Leo X had been a disaster, as a renaissance Prince a success; he commissioned Michelangelo – coming from Florence – to redesign and finish the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and he ordered an extremely expensive carpets series for the Sistine Chapel [6]. To finance this luxurious lifestyle, he introduced indulgences within the Catholic Church: by donations to the Catholic Church, the giver could shorten the time in purgatory for the beneficiary – for example deceased family members. As a response, on 31 October 1517 Martin Luther distributed his “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” in Wittemberg in Germany [7] that became the start of the Reformation. After his death in 1521, Pope Leo X was succeeded by Pope Adrian VI – coming from Utrecht in the Netherlands – who inherited an empty Papal Treasury and was also not welcome in Rome: he died in 1523 [8]. In that year, Giulio de Medici was elected as Pope Clement VII; by his clumsy and undiplomatic actions he caused the spread of the Reformation in Northern Europe and  the excommunication of King Henry VIII in England. His attention was focussed to art and culture; he commissioned Michelangelo in to build the Medici Chapel of the San Lorenzo Basilica in Florence – that we had visited a few days ago.

I tell these historical facts during the construction of the Vasari Corridor and the Pont Vecchio, because the building style reflects the hope of a continuous bridge for the de Medici family to the riches of the world. We know that herewith also the voidness for the de Medici family – in the form of vanity – and the decline of the Papal pontificate had started [9]; herewith as well the Catholic Church had fallen in a deep crisis”, says Narrator while they walk to the middle of the bridge.

“The word bankrupt [10] has started around that time on this bridge. When a trader could no longer meet his obligations, the counter (or “bank” in Italian) whereon he traded, was broken”,  says Carla.

By the Via de Guicciardini they walk to Palazzo Pitte.

Feiten en logica 16c[11]

“This palace had been built in the 15th century as the residence of the merchant Luca Pitti. In 1549 the Palace had come in the possession of the de Medici family where after members of the family have lived here to the extinction of the family in 1737. The palace became a treasure house in which the different generations of the family collected many of their paintings, jewellery and luxury possessions [11]. In addition, the family wished to show with this palace the grandeur of a nobel family to the outside world. During our tour we will see that the design and interior especially aims at impression of the visitor. Here shows the warrior his conquests to – a select part of – the outside world. Let us go inside”, says Narrator.

Feiten en logica 16d[13]

After the visit to the Palace, Carla, Man and the Narrator are sitting on a terrace on the Via della Sprone.

“in my eyes, Palace Pitti is a transition from the Renaissance to a different time, and for us a connection between “Facts and Logic” within the emerging reason in the Renaissance to “Intensities and Associations” in the personal development by religion, art and science, that we will visit in Amsterdam as the next stage on our Odyssey to “Who are you””, says Man.

“During our visit to the Palace, I was reminded of a passage from the Icelandic Egils saga centered on the life of the 10th-century farmer, warrior and poet Egill Skallagrímsson [14].

‘Thus counselled my mother,
For me should they purchase
A galley and good oars
To go forth a-roving.
So may I high-standing,
A noble barque steering,
Hold course for the haven,
Hew down many foemen.’

Or adapted to Palazzo Pitti:

“Encouraged by my parents,

Who won for me

Capital and power

To go out robbing.

So may I stand high,

Above the earthly turmoil

To eternal heaven,

And crush all opposition”.

For the inhabitants of Palazzo Pitti, the tool in the form of “weapons and people” as extension of the Viking Warrior – who still stood at the front of the battle order himself – was already replaced by the tool “capital and power” of the modern distant Warrior. The modern Warrior has withdrawn himself from the turmoil of battle; he stands as a solitary ruler high above daily life. This lone fighter beats the opponents at a distance with a “clean kill” [16]; in reality of daily life this manslaughter is always very grubby with the stench of decay. In Amsterdam, I hope being able to show more hereof. Palazzo Pitti is for me deathly and stilled in the hang to – the classic pitfall of the Warrior – lasting exceptional glory”, says Carla.

“So true. At your view of the solitary ruler, I am reminded of the Almighty God in heaven. Does the Christian Divine Trinity also have this classic pitfall of the lone fighter? I read somewhere that even Gods are engaged in a struggle for survival. In Amsterdam we will investigate during “Intensities and Associations” inter alia the personal relationship with God – and its consequences – within Christianity after the Protestant Reformation. How may a Bodhisattva get around this classic pitfall? By humility? I do not know. Shall we – tonight during the last supper on this part of the quest – look back on our short visit to Florence? We can also make some plans for the continuation of our Odyssey”, says Narrator.

“That’s all right. I suggest that this afternoon we go our separate ways”, says Man.

“That is good”, says Carla.

[1] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponte_Vecchio

[2] For example: Wetering, Janwillem van de, De Lege Spiegel. Amsterdam: De Driehoek, p. 40; in English: The empty mirror

[3] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corridoio_Vasariano

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

[5] Source: Norwich, John Julius, The Popes, A History, London: Chatto & Windos, 2011, p. 279.

[6] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paus_Leo_X

[7] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maarten_Luther

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

[9] See also: Norwich, John Julius, The Popes, A History, London: Chatto & Windos, 2011, p. 279 – 298.

[10] Bankrupt is in Italian Bancarotta – derived from “banca” meaning counter, and via latin “rupta” that is a conjugation of the verb “rumpere” meaning “to break, to disrupt”.

[11] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_Pitti

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

[13] Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_Pitti

[14] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egils_saga

[15] From chapter 40 of Egil’s Saga. Source: http://sagadb.org/egils_saga.en. See also:  Marlantes, Karl, What it is like to go to war. London: Corvus, 2012 p. 69 – 70

[16] In the mind of the warrior a “clean kill” – with an effortless blow of two knuckles of the fist – is aesthetically preferred above clubbing with a stone. Even more aesthetically is shooting with a fine shotgun from a distance in a duel, or in our modern times with a laser gun. In our century this led to a president who personally gives orders to kill opponents by computer-controlled  drones in other countries. See also:  Marlantes, Karl, What it is like to go to war. London: Corvus, 2012 p. 71 – 72

Five common realities – facts en logic 15

“I think that we have finished our conversation about the paradox within the mind of the warrior in ourselves too abruptly. Although at an earlier age and in another way, I have known the euphoria of the conqueror. As young girl, I had caught a grasshopper in a matchbox. I felt an unknown joy; I would never be lonely any-more, because I would always have a companion in my life. When I had shaken the box, I could hear my grasshopper. The next morning the grasshopper was death. This was my first real loss in my life; herewith I lost my innocence: this started my decay. When I look at the Palace of the Medici, I am reminded of my matchbox”, says Carla.

Feiten en logica 15a.jpg[1]

“I had read somewhere that the family of de Medici – after a short exile from Florence – had wished to use its influence behind the scenes in the 15e centurary and purposely had wished to have a low profile to the outside world. The outside of this palace – build in commission of Cosimo de Medice – shows this strive [2]”, says Man

Carla, Man and Narrator enter the palace.

“In the 15th century the well-off in Florence were aware of the periodic floods of the Arno River, therefore they had their living areas on the first floor. This palace resembles the Ark of Noah [3] from the book Genesis in the Old Testament. In this palace an image was available of all wealth and of everything of value within the de Medici family. Everything in this Palace is a miniature reflection and a reminder of the conquests of the family in the outside world. When the tide goes well, then the reflection and the memory will be brought back into reality. This Palace shows the inner world of the family in all its wishes and with all its expectations”, says Narrator.

feiten en logica 15b.[4]

“In this hall Luca Giordano [5], the aspiration of the familiy – displayed within this palace – shows God-like traits. The paintings on the ceiling of this hall resemble the ceiling paintings in the churches of this city.

feiten en logica 15c.[6]

The second dynasty of the Medici family is depicted by the painter Luca Giordano as a mirror image of the heaven wherein Cosimo de Medici – as the Central father-god – enthrones above his two sons and his brother. Here shows the inner of the prevailing “warrior” the ambition to at least match the Christian Divine Trinity, if not to take the place of God”, says Man.

feiten en logica 15d.[7]

“That is evident. At the height of his power, a warrior feels invincible and supreme: the warrior evades the world of mortals; the warrior can conquer the whole world. At the same time, the world of the warrior is dehumanised; care for the environment and the empathy for living beings and humans disappears. A state of euphoria – a perception of uniqueness and omnipotence, self-centredly focused on the warrior, his compagnons and the world for which they exist – arises. This state of euphoria can be recognised within Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa when they shot arrows with joy at everything that tried to escape from the fire in the Khandava forest, within you Narrator when you as a young warrior with a militia in Central Africa shot at everyone who tried to escape from a burning village, and within Karl Marlantes [8] when he – as lieutenant at the American Marines during the Vietnam war – let the air forces drop napalm on the jungle with Vietcong fighters [9]. ” says Carla.

feiten en logica 15e.[10]

“”The hel are the others” [11], had Jean-Paul Sartre written in one of his plays, maybe also because the others limit the warrior in his omnipotence – and thereby in his freedom”, says Man.

“You explain my feelings of joy and exhileration during the shooting at all and everyone who tried to escape from the burning village very well. But after this euphoria I felt shame and fathomless emptiness. In the first part of our Odyssee to “Who are you” [12] – at the description of the Peloponnesische war – we noticed on on-going cycle of honour/power – pride – wrath – revenge [13] among the parties concerned. In my experience we must add to this cycle “shame and emptiness” that simultaneously is an antipode to honour and power. In the time of my forefathers, the combatants in the old India took their spoils of conquest – usually stolen cattle within the cattle cycle – to their home village. There the loot was shared with everyone during a big feast. Showing the victory to the world was more important for the warriors than the victory itself [15]. After the feast an emptiness began to arise together with an emerging shame about aimlessness. With honour/power as antipode to this emptiness/shame, an urge arose for new conquests to confirm and maintain the inner and outer ego of the warriors. The conquest – or wealth in our time – creates at the same time an emptiness and a lack of something. Wealth creates a lack of richness that is not yet conquered. This hall reminds the living warriors within the family de Medici to the worldly riches which they must defend and expand, and to the richness of the Godlike Kingdom of Heaven that they still do not possess”, says Narrator.

“In this reasoning lies a truth. The decline begins after a conquest, because there is something to defend; the imperator must always conquer more for safeguard what he already owns. From the possession of wealth arises the need for more lasting wealth; also the imperator is subject to the law of nature called “greedy little pig”. Is there a difference between men and women?”, says Man.

“There is a study on the role of women in Mahābhārata. In the Mahābhārata a warrior only acquires immortal fame when fallen on the battlefield at the time women mourn him in shrill cries and weep over his life boasting his former beautiful appearance [16]. The women of the warrior caste put their men into action; the warriors are monomaniacal executors of the wishes of their women. When all warriors are deceased within the Kshatriya caste, the women go to the Brahmins to procreate new warriors. Women have their own role in the mind of the warrior”, says Narrator.

“Don’t we all have a role within the mind of the warrior? What do you think of the Gods and the Bodhisattvas?”, asks Carla.

“Also they, also we”, says Man.

“That is true. Shall we tomorrow – on our last day in Florence – visit Palazzo Pitti where the family of de Medici showed its splendour and magnificence to the outside world”, says Narrator.

[1] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_Medici_Riccardi

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

[3] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah%27s_Ark

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

[5] See also: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galleria_di_Luca_Giordano

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

[7] The Apotheosis of the Medici: Cosimo III sat central between his two sons and his brother below him, Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galleria_di_Luca_Giordano

[8] Source: Marlantes, Karl, What it is like to go to war. London: Corvus, 2012 p. 40 – 41

[9] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viet_Cong

[10] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napalm

[11] In the play “Huis clos”. See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Paul_Sartre

[12] See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 200 – 209

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

[14] See cattle-cycle in: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012

[15] See also a contemporary observation by Hannah Ahrendt in: Keen, David, Useful Enemies – When waging wars is more important than winning them. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, p. 9

[16] Source: McGrath, Kevin, STR Women in Epic Mahābhārata. Cambridge: Ilex Foundation, 2009, p 25

Five common realities – facts en logic 12

The next morning Carla, Man and Narrator have their breakfast seated on a beanch at the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, in Florence.

“Last night I read the following two comments by a Zen master on a Buddhistic question, that are in line with our discussion during our supper last night:

“Fundamentally there is no delusion or enlightenment

“Peace is originally the accomplishment of the general, but the general is not allowed to see peace.” [1]

The first comment reflects Carla’s introduction on the sometimes razor-thin difference between delusion and reality. I think the Zen master goes several steps further than Carla; in the tradition of the Heart Sūtra [2], the Zen master will probably identify delusion and enlightenment as empty; we will come to this later – at “Void” as the “Third common reality”. The second comment is not clear to me. Do you know an explanation?”, asks Man to Carla and Narrator.

feiten en logica 12a[3]

“This comment looks structurally like the well-known fallacy in logic “Every ox is an animal, so each animal is an ox”; in this comment, a denial in the second clause might cause a tautology. In my opinion, peace is originally only possible if it includes peace in everything and everyone; but due to entropy [4] – or very loosely interpreted: the organised  chaos – it is not possible to create and establish human peace for all an everyone. The effort to maintain this form of entropy, surpasses our environment”, says Carla.

“You are right for the manifestations in our environment, and that is partly meant with this comment on the  Buddhistic question “Zhaozhou’s was your bowl”. The question is:

“Have you had breakfast yet?”

“Yes, I have eaten”

“Then go wash your bowl”

In this question “breakfast” stands for (a personal experience of) Buddhist enlightingment and “Go was your bowl” stands for realising Buddhistic enlightenment – as bodhisattva – for the All-encompassing One [5].

feiten en logica 12b[6]

Within Indra’s Net is not possible to see peace, because on the one hand an eye cannot fully see itself and because no peace and no war exists in Indra’s Net: Indra’s Net is empty of these concepts.

Shall I use this second comment as prelude to my introduction to Kṛṣṇa?”, says Narrator.

“Good explanation of both comments in words; a Zen master asks to show the answer directly and immediately within Indra’s net. I am looking forward to your introduction to Kṛṣṇa”, says Man.

“I will formulate the comment more precisely:

“Shānti [7] (peace, rest, calmness of mind, absence of passion, comfort, son of Indra, son of Kṛṣṇa and  kālindi) is originally the accomplishment of Īśvara [8] (or the general), but Īśvara is not allowed to see peace”.

In the course of my introduction it will become clear why this comment is so aptly for Kṛṣṇa.

The emergence of Kṛṣṇa is shrouded in mystery. According to Vedic tradition Kṛṣṇa is – after an immaculate conception [9] – born about 5000 years ago in Mathura – the former capital of the kingdom Shurasena (now Uttar Pradesh) – in Northern India [10].

feiten en logica 12c[11]

In the third book of the Mahābhārata [12] – composed more than 2500 years ago – Kṛṣṇa shouts:

“I am Nārāyaņa. I am creator and destroyer. I am Vişņu [13]. I am Brahman. I am Indra the master God.” [14]

In our contemporary ears, this exclamation sounds extremely overconfident. Within the metaphor of Indra’s Net, it is an open door, because every manifestation in Indra’s Net reflects and shapes the entire net as a creator and destroyer.

According to the Mahābhārata, Kṛṣṇa refuses to take sides at the beginning of the battle for the Kingdom between the five Pāṇḍavaḥ brothers – including Arjuna – and their many Kaurava cousins; he is only willing to enter the arena on the side of Pāṇḍavaḥ brothers as charioteer and leader of Arjuna.

At the beginning of the Bhagavad Gītā – a small and old part of the Mahābhārata – the army of the five Pāṇḍavaḥ brothers stands in battle order on the battlefield – with the place name Kurukshetra – opposite the army of their Kaurava cousins. In addition to a battle for a Kingdom, they stand on the battlefield in the tension between on one hand world order and duty (Dharmakshetra [15]) and on the other hand human action (Kurukshetra [16]). At the start of the battle, Arjuna – as leader of the five Pāṇḍavaḥ brothers – refuses to give the starting signal for the attack; in the opposite battle order he sees many family members, teachers, and loved ones. Kṛṣṇa – the leader and charioteer of Arjuna during this fight – encourages Arjuna to fulfil his duty within the world order. Kṛṣṇa only succeeds after he adopts his Godlike form during the dialogue with Arjuna.

In the Bhagavad Gītā Kṛṣṇa is called amongst others Parameshvara [17] or the Supreme God [18]. Some of the statements of Kṛṣṇa during the dialogue with Arjuna are:

“Although I am the Unborn and of immutable essence, although I am the Īśvara of the created beings, I enter my Godlike shape and come into finite existence from age to age” [19]

“I am equal to all created beings, there is no object of my particular favour or disfavour.”[20]

“Have your mind and life directed to Me, enlighten one another and talk about Me constantly.” [21]

feiten en logica 12d[22]

This last statement of Kṛṣṇa was applicable to my mask of an idol in the inverted world in Amsterdam [23].

Through this Godlike shape, Kṛṣṇa – in this part of the Mahābhārata – is a guardian and a leader of the world order and duty, and of human action. Within the world order of the Mahābhārata, Kṛṣṇa is not allowed to see peace – also this Godlike shape in the form of Kṛṣṇa is bound by the law of cause and effect.

The outcome of the battle for the Kingdom is disastrous for all concerned. The heroes had been slain in battle; the survivors were consumed with hate, anger and grief; and the women and children mourn miserably for the loss of the fallen. At the end of the Mahabharata, all are deceased.

May I come back on the death this afternoon?”, says Narrator.

“That will be a good transition to my introduction to the mind of the warrior; wars eventually see only losers. I will come back to this later”, says Carla.

“Narrator, what do you think might be the answers by Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa to the Buddhistic question  “Zhaozhou’s Wash your bowl””, asks Man to Narrator.

“Arjuna puts his hands to his mouth as battle horn and roars; Kṛṣṇa spurs the battle horses”, says Narrator.

“Would Zhaozhou approve these answers?”, asks Man to Narrator.

“Zhaozhou accepts the answer of Arjuna, and he gives Arjuna right away “Linji’s True Man” as next Buddhistic question. According to Hinduism, Arjuna has met “The true Man” within his possibilities and limitations [24]. Zhaozhou rejects the answer of Kṛṣṇa, after which Kṛṣṇa – in the incarnation as Bhikṣu – immediately makes the gestures of cleansing of the begging bowl”, says Narrator.

“So far I have mostly listened during your introductions to God in human shape. The “Deus ex homine” has for me characteristics of a “Deus ex machina””, says Carla

“Almost all religious movements have struggled with this problem. As we have seen before, Christ was only recognized as son of God within the Trinity after many altercations and struggle within the Catholic Church. The doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary – the mother of Christ – by the Holy Spirit has caused much discussion. In 1854 A.C. with the Papal Bull “Ineffabilis Deus” (the inexpressible God), Pope Pius IX proclaimed this dogma [25]”, says Man.

“During my life I have often renounced “Deus ex homine”, because in this manifestation I was not allowed to see peace”, says Narrator.

“Later on our Odyssey – during “Incarnatus est” at “Seven other realities “– I hope to learn more about the wonder of life within the void and the manifestations of Indra’s Net”, says Man.

“Shall we clean up our breakfast and visit the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella?”, says Carla.

[1] Both sentences are comments by the Zen master Xuedou on the koan ‘Zhaozhou’s “Wash your bowl’. See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 172

[2] See also: Leben, Man, Narrator – One Way. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 110 – 112

[3] In this human painting of peace, it is doubtful if peace also extends to the ox and the bay leaves. Mural of Peace by Gari Melchers. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C. Bron afbeelding: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace

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

[5] A bodhisattva is a human who – on the verge of personal Buddhistic enlightenment – decides to remain in the world to work on the enlightenment of the whole universe; a bodhisattva has made the vow to enter enlightenment together with all around us at the same. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhisattva

[6] Woodcut of Zhaozhou. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhaozhou_Congshen

[7] Shānti is comparable with Sanctus meaning in Dutch “Part of the Eucharist before the consecration” and “Holy praising”, and in Latin “holy, inviolable, untouchable” en “holy, honourable, exalted, godlike, pure and pious”. Sources: Dictionaries Dutch and Latin published by Wolters – Noordhoff

[8] Īśvara means in Sanskrit amongst others “being able to”, “Supreme being/soul”. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[9] Source: Bhagavata Purana according to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna

[10] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna_(god)

[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna

[12] See: Book 3, 188 (or 189), 5 from the Mahābhārata

[13] A Hindu supreme God, manifestation of Brahman, also named Nārāyaņa. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishnu

[14] Source: Radhakrishnan, S, Indian Philosophy – Centenary Edition. London: Unwin Hyman Limited, 1989, Vol. One, p. 485 – 486

[15] Dharmakshetra consists of “to place the continuous self/Self”, and “kshetra” – litterally: field.

[16] Kurukshetra consists of Kuru – a conjugation of “kr” meaning “to make, to do or act”, and “kshetra” – litterally: field.

[17] Parameshvara consists of para and Īśvara wherein “para” means “highest” in het Sanskrit.

[18] Source: Bhagavad Gītā (11.3-4). A word by word translation is available, see: Sargeant, Winthrop, The Bhagavad Gȋtâ. Albany: State New York University Press, 1994

[19] Source: Bhagavad Gītā IV.6

[20] Source: Bhagavad Gītā IX.29

[21] Source: Bhagavad Gītā X.9

[22] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurukshetra

[23] See:  Leben, Man, Narrator – One Way. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 93 – 98

[24] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arjuna

[25] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immaculate_Conception

Man Leben – interview 4

The previous interview was about love in your life. In this post I continue with some questions about the last surprise in your life.

“In the last part of your life you are involved in Oriental wisdom. In the description of your life you refer indirectly to a form of enlightenment. Aren’t you enlightened? “, I ask.

“Everything is enlightened. Nothing, not even the tiniest particle is excluded. Everything in all its natural forms is perfectly enlightened”, you say.

“Also all greed, all crimes, all murders, all illusions, all nonsense and vanity?”, I ask.

“Enlightenment is as natural as inhaling and exhaling whereby inhaling and exhaling are manifestations of enlightenment. We have experienced a glimpse of the complete enlightenment on our Odyssey when we have arrived on the peninsula at the end of the afternoon at the stage “Two – night at the beginning of the spring” [1] after a long day walking. The following morning at six o’clock we have seen the sunrise in the East at the beginning of spring. That afternoon we have washed ourselves in the water at the peninsula, we dried ourselves and put on clean clothes and then we have gathered wood for a small fire in an old tin. This is free rendering of the summary of the Diamond Sutra that directly reflects enlightenment [2]. The real summary is “evam” [3] – the first word of this sutra in Sanskrit – or in English “thus”. Every action, every word and every breath is completely enlightenment. The photo of the sunflowers in the header of this weblog “Who are you” is quite  appropriate. Every sunflower seed on this picture includes the entire universe perfectly and completely”, you say.

“Where do arise all crimes, all murders, all delusions, all greed, all nonsense and vanity?”, I ask.

“In stage One in the post on pantheism, we have encountered “Indra’s net” [4] as metaphor for the entire universe. Indra’s net [5] is in the Huayan school of Buddhism [6] a metaphor for everything, for enlightenment and also for illusions and delusions. If a glass pearl in the net represents an illusion or a delusion, this illusion or delusion is reflected by all other glass pearls in the net. If a glass pearl is enlightened, the enlightenment is reflected in all other pearls. Or if we translate this metaphor to our daily lives, if greed and crime are in our lives, then this affects everything and everyone; and if a person or thing is enlightened, then this enlightenment reflects on everything and everyone in the universe. Or practical, if we stick to possession, or sin against the ten commandments, then these actions affect the entire universe; and if we carefully share possession and perform appropriate action and non-action, then this is reflected in everything and everyone. Hence the Buddhist encouragement – work hard and show compassion with everything and everyone; exclude nothing and nobody”, you say.


“I can follow the reasoning. I will reconsider this metaphor. On our Odyssey we will encounter sufficient challenges. Many books on Buddhism describe the experience of enlightenment. Have you personally experienced enlightenment?”, I ask.

“You mean the experience to be included in everything and everyone in all its manifestations. I don’t know how, but if I look back then this has always been my basic attitude, also if I was blinded by love, anger or sadness. I can describe it clearer since I have read in a book that for an enlightened mind there is no difference between the finger pointing at the Moon and the Moon. In the same way there is no difference between the waves and the ocean [8]. Before, I have often mentioned as example in meditation meetings that the finger pointing to the moon may not be confused with the moon. After I have read this passage, it is suddenly clear that the manifestations “the finger”, “the Moon” and “the thoughts about these” are mutual perfectly connected. Everything and everyone are natural manifestations of this”, you say.

“For me, your description of “the fate of humans determines that we may sit between changing fires and ashes” and “the blossom growing from dust to dust” is pretty distressing and painful. Maybe the description of my life will clarify this beauty and distress. Do you try to live as a Buddha or as a Bodhisattva as described in the Avatamsaka sutra [9]“, I ask.


“I am not a Saint. I look forward to the description of your life and of Narrator and then the continuation of our Odyssey”, you say.

“May I bundle the posts about your life together with an introduction and a conclusion in a biography?”, I ask.

“If it will be published after my death”, you say.

In the following post I tell about the beginning of my life

[1] See post: “Two – Night at the beginning of spring” of 25 April 2011

[2] See: Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Diamond Sutra. New York: Counterpoint, 2001 p. 39.

[3] See: Lopez – The Heart Sutra explained. 1990 p 34; “The commentary Vajrapâņi has high praise for the word Evam (thus), the word with which sūtras begin. Those four letters are the source of the 84.000 doctrines taught by the Buddha and are the basis of all marvels.”

See Red Pine (Bill Porter) – The Diamond Sutra. 2001 p 41-42; “Commentaries have written volumes on the profundity of evam (thus). Does it mean “like so”, or does it mean “just so”? And what is the difference? Is this sutra the finger that points to the moon, or is it the moon itself?”

See: Holstein, Alexander- Pointing at the Moon. 1993 p 49; in the enlightened mind of a Zen master, probably, there is no distinction what the ordinary mind calls “to point at” and “the moon”. To the enlightened mind, the relation between the two is similar to the relation of an ocean to its waves.

[4] See post: “One – Pantheism – Indra’s net” of 8 April 2011

[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra’s_net

[6] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huayan_school

[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra’s_net

[8] Source: Holstein, Alexander. Pointing at the Moon. Rutland: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1993, p. 49

[9] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatamsaka_Sutra

[10] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhi

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Sacrifice

In the previous post, we have entered two meditation rooms. The first room is the Mark Rothko Chapel in Houston. The other meditation room is everywhere and always present.

Now you and I consider the sacrifice as “object in the middle”. For this we look at the last part of the movie “Offret” or “The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1986.


Before we start watching this part of the movie, we read first several introductions and reflections on this film. We start with “The sealed time” [2]: reflections on the cinema by Andrei Tarkovsky.

“The sealed time” is also a good name for the interior of the Mark Rothko Chapel”, you say.

In these reflections Andrei Tarkovsky writes: “The protagonist of the film” Offret ” is meant as a weak personality. No hero, but a thinker and an honest person who is able to sacrifice for a higher ideal. If the situation requires, he does not back and tries to leave the act of sacrifice to someone else. He faces not being understood by others and to be seen as destructive and desperate. He exceeds the permissible limit of normal behavior by which he is seen as insane, because he feels bound to the fate of all mankind. He only responds to the call of his heart. He is not master of fate, but only servant. His efforts remain unnoticed and misunderstood, but do contribute to the harmony of the world.[3]

“Do you recognize yourself in this description?” I ask.

“With shame. I often follow my own way and I have neglected other people unnecessarily”, you say.

“Who does not?” I say.

“Saints?”, you say

“We both aren’t,” I say.

In the afterword to these considerations Andrei Tarkovsky writes: “Throughout history ideologues and politicians have shown people “the only right way” that can save the world. To partake in this salvation the individual should – according to ideologues, politicians and/or society – give up all own ideas in order to channel all energy to the proposed rescue. For this progress, that has to safeguard the future of humanity, the individual sacrifices his inner life. His personality is lost in following this ideal. Because mankind thinks of the interests of all, it forgets its own personal interest as Christ preaches: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” This means: “Love yourself so much that you respect the divine principle in yourself, the suprapersonal that prohibits selfishness and obliges you to give yourself to others unconditionally, loyalty to yourself from the I as a personal centre of life.” [4] [5]

“This requires a major balancing act between self-interest – in which the world is reflected – and sacrifices for others – whereby each sacrifice for another is a sacrifice to yourself”, you say.

“Somewhere I read that a beggar and a benefactor show compassion for each other by an offering. The beggar gives the benefactor the opportunity to demonstrate compassion and the benefactor shows compassion with another expression of his own life”, I say.

“To give offerings in an unconditional manner, we still have a long way to go. Andrei Tarkovsky describes a first step towards a Buddhist bodhisattva [6]. The ideal of salvation and the unconditional offerings to others is present. Only the efforts and the ways to achieve one’s own perfection before the bodhisattva encourages others to prepare for enlightenment, lacks”, you say.

“Within mahâyâna [7] Buddhism enlightenment is only possible for everyone at the same time. The metaphor of Indra’s Net shows this. First one’s own glass bead has to be prepares for enlightenment. Thereafter, all other glass beads have to be able to enter enlightenment. If one glass bead is illuminated, all other pearls are also lit: no jewel within Indra’s Net is left behind, because otherwise the dust on one non-enlightened jewel reflects on all”, I say.

“Absolutely. Because the protagonist is not clear in his mind, he cannot save the world. If he does so, he remains behind with his faults and is at least one small part of the world that is not saved. Hereby the protagonist is not a bodhisattva, but a tragic hero”, you say.

“He cannot be a classic tragic hero, because he believes in a God who may grant him salvation,” I say.

“Later on our Odyssey, we will encounter enlightenment again. You and I share the same shortcomings as the protagonist in the film. I hope we are able to see a glimpse of the enlightenment. Odysseus has been tied to the mast of his ship in the vicinity of the Sirens. The ears of his crew were filled with wax to prevent noticing the seductive sounds. This reasoning is not sound, anyway”, you say.

“Let us watch the movie”, I say.

The last film of Andrei Tarkovsky – finished shortly before his death – begins with the monologue by the father – Alexander – to his son who will not speak during the entire movie due to a throat disease: “A long ago, an old monk named Pamve was in an Orthodox monastery. He has planted a dead tree. His pupil – named Ivan Kolvo – may give water to the tree every day. Every morning he climbs with a full bucket of water uphill and gives water to the dead trunk. On one day after three years, the tree blooms with full blossom [8]. Every action has its consequence. If you perform undisturbed at the same time every day the same ritual, the world will change irrevocably. [9]

“My mother once put a dead stick on the ground outside to the wall. After several months, the stick has rooted”, you say.


During the film a threat of a war develops that will destroy everything and everyone. Under this pressure, the main character – Alexander – goes to his study. He kneels on the ground and does something he never has done before. He prays: “Lord, save us in this fearful hour. Do not let my children and friends die, my wife, everyone who loves and believes in you. And those who do not believe in you because they are blind and have not given thoughts to you because they have not really been unhappy. Anyone who will lose his hopes now, his future his life and the opportunity to be guided by your word. Those who are filled with fear and feel the end is nearing. Who do not fear for themselves but for their neighbours. For those who nobody else can save but you. Because this war is the last, a terrible war. After this there will be no victors and vanquished any more. No towns and villages, trees and grass. No water in the springs or birds in the sky. I give you everything I own. I leave my family that I love. I destroy my house and take away my son. I will remain silent and talk to nobody. I renounce all that binds me to this life. If you only ensure that everything is as it was. And I am freed from that deadly, unbearable, animal fear. Lord, help me. I will do what I promised.”

The next morning, the threat is disappeared. Alexander sticks to his word and lures all the residents to the seaside before putting the house on fire. All his possessions are on fire. He sacrifices his soul for his neighbours and the world. He is retrieved by an ambulance for admission to a mental institution.


“This sacrifice is not only a sacrifice of the protagonist. It is also a sacrifice made by his family and friends. Without any direct say, they lose Alexander, their house and possessions. Can a sacrifice be a real sacrifice when innocent people involved “[12], you ask.

While the ambulance passes, the son is ready to water the dead tree with full buckets of water. The Aria “Erbarme dich“ from St. Matthew Passion begins.

“Erbarme dich,
Mein Gott,
Um meiner want Zahren
Schaue here
Herz und Auge weint vor dir

The son looks at the crown of the tree and says his only words during the film: “In the beginning is the word [14]. Why Father? “.

At the appearance of the text mentioning that the film is dedicated to the son of Andrei Tarkovsky – with hope and consolation, the crown of the tree seems to bloom.

“The son makes three sacrifices. He loses his father because his father sticks to his word and to God’s word. He makes his second sacrifice by continuously giving water to the tree and bringing this tree back to life. By the third sacrifice he remain silent throughout the film. Fully justified the son asks his father – and God – why his father must keep his word”, you say.

“For me this is a film of hope, because the last film by Andrei Tarkovsky is dedicated to his son with hope and consolation. At the end of this film, the light gives bloom to the tree of life. The life of his father – now a dry tree, because he has stopped acting – becomes a tree of life for the son by means of water. The son does not need any words for his sacrifices; his life, his actions and his knowledge precedes all words”, I say.

“A great enhancement of my impressions. Tarkovsky transcends “the sealed time” with this end of his last film”, you say.


The next post is about the Lamb of God as sacrifice.

[1] Source image: front of DVD-cover of the Swedish version of the film “Offret”.

[2] Tarkovski, Andrei, Sculpting in Time – Reflections on the Cinema. 1989

[3] Tarkovski, Andrei, De verzegelde tijd – Beschouwingen over de filmkunst. Pagina 203.

[4] Tarkovski, Andrei, De verzegelde tijd – Beschouwingen over de filmkunst. Pagina 207 – 208.

[5] For consideration: Indra’s Net as metaphor; see also: “Indra’s net” in post “Introduction: One – Pantheism – Indra’s net” of 8th April 2011

[6] The word bodhisattva consists of two words “bodhi” and “sattva” meaning “perfect knowledge, wisdom” and “being, conscience, living being” in Sanskrit. The school of mahâyâna buddhism knows the bodhisattva ideal. According to this ideal a human who is on the verge of enlightenment – named bodhisattva, will refrain of entering until the complete universe and every particle is capable to enter enlightment. In the meantime a bodhisattva will prepare everyone and everything for enlightenment.

[7] Mahâyâna means “large vehicle”. All and everyone is enclosed in this large vehicle, no particle is excluded.

[8] See also the post of 2nd of April 2011 “Introduction One – Blossom.”

[9] See also the posts of 24th en 27th March 2011 on rituels.

[10] Source image: http://www.jaapnoordzij.nl/credo/2010/09/offret-het-offer.html

[11] Source image: http://www.discordance.fr/top-5-les-meilleurs-epilogues-du-cinema-27740/1_offret

[12] Source: Fanu, Mark Le, The Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky. London: BFI Publishing, 1987, page 125

[13] Aria from the St. Matthew Passion by the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Translation: “Have mercy, my God, regarding my tears, look at me, heart and eyes weep for you bitterly.”

[14] See also: Opening of the Gospel of St. John from the New Testament.

[15] Source image: http://www.elitisti.net/artikkeli/2005/02/004308/offret_1986_uhri.html