Tag Archives: breath

Five common realities – facts en logic 14


Carla, Man and Narrator are sitting on the little square at the entrance of the Basilica of San Lorenzo before they will visit the Palace of the Medici.

“The mind of the warrior shows a number of contradictions. The parable of Mŗtyu – death in the form of a woman – gives a glimpse into the contradictions, when Arjuna’s oldest brother – as crown pretender of the five Pāṇḍavaḥ brothers – is inconsolable about the loss of the many killed on the battlefield including family members, teachers and students, and loved ones. As a result of the battle – between on the one hand the world order and duty, and on the other hand human action – over their legitimate kingdom, at the same time death and destruction occurs on an extensive scale among the loved ones. Another example is “fight for peace”. We do not only recognise the mind-set of the warrior – with these contradictions – on the battlefield, but also in science, religion, philosophy, government and, of course, within ourselves”, says Carla.

Feiten en logica 14a[1]

“The parable of Śīla [2] – freely interpreted as “All-encompassing Oneness” – from the Mahābhārata shows the mind of the warrior within ourselves. Through a consistent use of all (human) qualities – or Śīla – a wise king in ancient India had achieved peace and coherence within his kingdom and eventually within himself. This gave him also the immense power of goodness. Through the wealth of goodness he obtained the three worlds including the world of the gods. On a good day Indra – in a manifestation of medicine – appeared before the King, and Indra asked the King to learn what goodness really is. The King said that administration of the three worlds took all his attention: he had no time to show goodness to Indra. Indra in the form of medicine remained at the Court and served the King so superbly that the King said: “Ask for whatever you wish and it shall be giving“. In response Indra said: “You have already given me so much, but you would make me blissfully happy with your Śīla“. The King gave Śīla to Indra and the “medicine” left immediately. After the “medicine” was gone the King felt an inner unrest without knowing why. A column of light in human form came from his body. The King asked: “Who are you?”. The column of light answered, “I am Śīla. Until now we were inseparable. But you have given me away, and I am leaving you“. Soon a second column of light emerged from his body and again the King asked: “Who are you?”. The second column of light said: “I am Dharma – the world order – and I am leaving you, because I live where Śīla lives“. Right away three columns of light emerged from his body, and Truth, Goodness and Solidity left, because they live where Śīla lives. At last there appeared a column of light in the form of a woman, and the woman answered to the question “Who are you?”: “I am Śri – interconnectedness –, I am all that is desirable in a human life; I live where Śīla lives“. Paralyzed with fear the king asked to Brahman who that medicine was and what had happened. Brahman answered: “The medicine is Indra’s Net. Through Śīla, you had become who you are, and with Śīla you have given away yourself to Indra’s Net[3], says Narrator.

“This parable beautifully shows some of the contradictions within the mind-set of the warrior. An imperator obtains a kingdom by his actions and then the imperator cannot maintain the empire: several laws of nature prevent this. In addition, there may be recognised contradictions within the mind-set of the warrior during a successful conquest or defence of a desired object: at the moment of success the warrior feels the volatile euphoria of an “All-encompassing Oneness”. This euphoria sets his temporary self-image that immediately starts to erode with the vanish of Śīla. We have seen this volatile euphoria during a victory in the self-image of rowers in the two students’ boat crews who compete for victory during the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race on the Thames [4]”, says Carla.

Feiten en logica 14b[5]

“The same euphoria of temporary uniqueness showed Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa when they shot arrows with joy at everything that tried to escape from the fire in the Khandava forest [6]. With shame I must now confess that I had known this kind of euphoria when I – as a young warrior with a militia in Central Africa – shot at everyone who tried to escape from a burning village [7]. Śīla had already left me at my desire to experience the adventures of my ancestors upon my urge for comfort, money, fame and power. That night – when shooting at the villagers who wanted to escape the burning village – I lost the last remnants of my innocence. I still bear this contradiction between euphoria of a temporary oneness during violent conquests, and directly emerging decay, with me in the form of the breath of the villagers. Although the villagers have the identity “death” in the human world, I keep them alive with my breath”, says Narrator.

feiten en logica 14c.[8]

“Shall we look at the inner unrest in the palace of the Medici?”, says Man.


[1] Image of Pallas Athene – goddess of wisdom, courage, justice and correct warfare. She is also the companion of shrewd heroes. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warrior

[2] Śīla means amongst others “natural way of living or of behaviour” in Sanskrit. In Buddhism Śīla means amongst “moral conduct or precept”. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9A%C4%ABla

[3] The parable of Śīla is a free rendering of the parable of Prahlāda from: Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006, p. 101 – 102

[4] See the post “Amateurs” in: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence –part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012 p. 190 – 194

[5] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boat_Race

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

[7] See:  Leben, Man, Narrator – One Way. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 22

[8] Image of Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa who shoot with joy arrows at all that tried to escape from the fire in the Khandava forest. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khandava_Forest

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Narrator – Amsterdam: the inverted world


In Amsterdam I entered the inverted world of Holland and this inverted world took me on. A world with many centuries of embarrassing wealth and a deep discomfort [1], but that I learned later. For me the feast started. As an exotic outsider, I was not bothered by the discomfort and my lovers let me sharing in their wealth.

From the Harbour, I walked via the Damrak [2] to the Dam.

[3]

Earlier in the 17th century the Dam and its surroundings were the place where shiploads were traded against securities that were redeemable across the North Sea and Baltic Sea area. The traders in Amsterdam did everything to retain confidence in these securities. Still the Dutch relate the value of goods and the value of trust in human relationships to money. Money is for them still a metaphor for confidence.

When I arrived on that beautiful autumn day for the first time on the Dam, the last “Sleepers on the Dam” of that year were still present. A few years ago the police and Marines had skirmishes with the “Sleepers on the Dam”. In the opinion of the former Regents these lazy idlers were not in the position to sleep at the National Monument [4]. The text on the front of the Memorial seemed to leave the Regents in their right:

“Hic ubi cor patriae monumentum cordibus intus
quod gestant cives spectet ad astra dei.”[5]

(‘Let here where the heart of the motherland is, the monument – that citizens bear within their hearts – look at the stars of God.’)

According to the Regents the solitary monument should look at the stars of God commemorating the Second World War. Intuitively the “Sleepers on the Dam” felt that the Monument is a memorial to the inner entity of the citizens to look at the stars of God. In my native region the Maasai God Engaï [6] aroused in a distant past under the night starry sky the deceased back to life. In this inverted country the “Sleepers on the Dam” temporarily won the skirmishes until the winter chased them away. In those cold days the vapour of my breath gave a home to the breath of the villager killed in the overnight fire in the forest; almost all the nights I slept under the stars when the coldness allowed.

[7]

After a few months it was freezing period; the inhabitants of this inverted world were beset by ice-fever. For the first time in my life I saw frozen water – for me a strange environment. All the other people started ice skating; for them, it was a free world with a traditional free trade [8]. Many made long skating tours through the polders, a few of them came back home wounded – in Holland very usual.

[9]

Luckily I found accommodation at the home of my lovers during this cold period.


[1] See for the richness of Holland in the 17th century: Schama, Simon, The Embarrassment of the Riches. Fontana Press, 1987

[2] The Damrak was the former outer harbour to the South Sea for small vessels. See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damrak

[3] Painting by Cornelis Anthonisz. Sourrce image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelis_Anthonisz.

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

[5] The Latin tekst on the front of the Memorial is written by dr. J.D. Meerwaldt

[6] 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)

[7] Source image:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:National_monument_-_amsterdam_nl.jpg

[8] Until the modern era, liquor and prostitution were legally regulated for land and water. Ice was not mentioned in the legislation and therefore a free trade for liquor and prostitution was allowed on ice.

[9] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amsterdam

Narrator – On foot through France 3


Via the GR 5 in France I walked from the Jura to the Vosges. This area was more populated and I found less easily a place to sleep. On a rainy evening at twilight I was only welcome when I paid for my overnight stay. My stories and my kindness were not enough. I had no more money and after a few kilometres walk I found a place to sleep in the open air. Covered in plastic I spent the night vigilant. The next morning I was clammy and benumbed. After an hour walk I was warm again.

In the Vosges there were sufficient opportunities to spent the night in the wild. It was beautiful weather. At night the moon and the starry sky gave me comfort. During the day I enjoyed the beautiful view. At a few places I could almost oversee my whole way from the snowy Alps.

[1]

During my walk on the mountain peaks of the Vosges I met new ghosts. A century ago this chain of peaks formed the border between Alsace in Germany and Lorraine in France. The road – Route des Crêtes – was built by the French army during the First World War [2]. The road is situated on the French side of the chain, so the road was less vulnerable for the German guns. The ghosts of the victims during these many wars between France and Germany accompanied me to the Luxembourg border. On this part they were my companions. I promised that my breath would be their breath as long as I lived just as my breath was already the breath of the villagers. Once I hoped to arrive home together with them all.

[3]

The path on the mountain peaks was congested; I got help and support of many people. In the valleys I felt less at home. By cover in the valleys I could not see the road; I felt trapped. I wanted to keep an eye on the road. Without sight on the heaven and earth, the ghosts of the villagers and of the fallen soldiers came before my eyes [4]. Only much later could I could unite heaven and earth; afterwards I had no more difficulty to fall asleep anywhere – even within walls and in valleys.

[5]

With a companion in the North of France I made a small detour to the Maginot line [6]. We saw the remnants at Michelsberg [7] and Hackenberg [8]. We were surprised how a society could feel safe and sheltered behind this dark burrows in the ground filled with terror for the society on the other side. With my eyes on the road, unity had many faces, and two had no duality. The Maginot line – as part of the many wars between France and Germany – fell beyond my comprehension.

[9]

At Schengen I illegally entered the other world of Luxembourg. Later the treaty for free movement of people in a part of Europe was agreed upon at this place. After such a huge detour with so much suffering and madness of everyday life, unity could finally be restored. It remains curious that a Treaty on paper is needed for a unit that is for my mother as natural as breathing, moving eyes, hands, and moving legs for walking; unity with many faces and two without duality.

[10]

Much later – on the 12th of October 2012 – the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union, because the European Union and its predecessors had contributed to peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe for more than sixty years. So much effort for a contribution that is as natural as breathing.

In Luxembourg, I entered a fairy-tale troll country.


[1] Source image: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Col_du_Grand_Ballon.jpg

[2] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Route_des_Cr%C3%AAtes

[3] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rothenbachkopf_nord.jpg

[4] See also: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 70.

[5] Source image: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Vosges_val_munster.jpg

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

[7] See also: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouvrage_du_Michelsberg

[8] See also: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouvrage_du_Hackenberg

[9] Source image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Ouvrage_du_Michelsberg

[10] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schengen_(Luxemburg)

Narrator – On foot through France 2


On my hike through France, I met many people. I stood out by my dark skin; there were no other Maasai/Indian walkers on our way. In the Jura, people were dismissive at first sight: I was strange, unknown and obscure. But almost all fellow walkers thawed by my smile and with a friendly greeting in the French language. The farmers were more suspicious. This is understandable because they had to defend their homes against a dark unknown stranger.

[1]

Eventually I met much hospitality on the road. With two fellow travellers I walked several days to the North. We saw several cairns as guardians along our path. At one cairn we decided to have our lunch. One of my companions wondered how many people had placed stones here. The other asked where the people were now. I replied: “In any case we are here”. Then we had to laugh. While I drank water, I was wondering where all the sages of the past remained. Suddenly I felt clearly that we were directly connected with the people who had piled stones here and with all sages from the past [2]. We lived our life directly in the footsteps of the others.

[3]

The next night I dreamed the dream that I regularly dreamed after the fire in the forest during the night where my fellow militia members and I had massacred a village. In this dream the flames came toward me together with the ghosts of the villagers. They started to engulf me. My skin was already blackened by the flames and I began to lose myself in the ghosts of the villagers.

[4]

At the moment they were threatening to devour me, I awoke; I was all sweaty and I breathed heavily. When I opened my eyes, I saw the Moon and the starry sky as reassurance. The night sky slowly brought me back to life as in the Maasai myth the god Engaï brought the Moon to life each night [5].

[6]

The night after the cairn, that dream proceeded in the same way, but the moment I woke up terrified, the sky was completely cloudy. The moon and the stars could not offer me any consolation. Everything was pitch dark and I heard only a quick loud painful breathing; my chest moved violently. Terrified I asked myself: “What breath is there? [7]”. First I thought that the breath of the ghosts of the villagers had come back to life inside me. Therefor I dared not stop panting because, I was afraid that my breath would be carried away with the spirits when they disappeared in the dark.

Slowly my breath calmed down and I came to rest. In the darkness I promised the dead villagers that from now on my breath was their breath. I promised that my breath – as long as I lived – would be a temporal home for them. Once I hoped to arrive home together with them. After this, the dream returned less often.

I was on my way to Amsterdam – my new home for the time being.


[1] Source image: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Maison_typique_du_Jura_2.jpg

[2] See also koan “Attendant Huo passes tea” in: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 60 – 62

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

[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildfire

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

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

[7] This is the last question in the koan “Yunmen’s two sicknesses”. See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 46 – 50. See also: Maezumi, Hakuyu Taizan, The hazy moon of enlightenment. Somersville: Wisdom Publications, 2007 p. 21 – 27

Narrator – Away from Rome


In Rome I had recovered the heaven on earth from my childhood. That autumn and winter I was totally absorbed in this city. However, the following spring I left this heaven on earth. Looking back on my life, it would have been better if I had stayed in Rome.

Much later in books I read an explanation for my departure: “When the light doesn’t  penetrate completely, there are two kinds of sickness. One sickness is when not everything is clear and there is still something in front of you to achieve. The second sickness is when you live in heaven and your clinging to heaven is not forgotten. Even completely in heaven, the question remains: “What breath is there?” – this too is sickness [1]”.

Although I was perfectly happy in Rome, I still suffered on both forms of sickness. I imagined myself in heaven, but my existence was still not clear. Also the command of my mother to start a new life in the city of Amsterdam was looming in my heart. And my craving for happiness subsisted in Rome. The healing of the sickness caused by the question “What breath is there?” began during our Odyssey “Who are you”.

[2]

In early spring, I gave substance to the command of my mother to start a new life in the city of Amsterdam where men may love men. I left my heaven on earth.

I started my foot trip from Rome to Amsterdam with a small backpack and some money for food. In Italy, I visited the cities of Siena [3] and Florence [4] where I enjoyed the museums and the beautiful buildings. In both cities, I stayed a short time with lovers; my exotic appearance wafted through these cities. After more than two months walking, I reached Northern Italy. Here I left behind the golden glow of my half year in Italy.

At my arrival in Aosta, the weather was inclement and the mountains were threatening in the distance. I could find no place to sleep. I watched the whole night under a cloudy sky with lots of rain.

[5]

The next day the weather brightened and I dried myself in the sun. I walked through the Aosta Valley via Courmayeur [6] to the entrance of the Mont Blanc tunnel. For the first time I saw a white snowy mountain range. I had never seen such a wonderful bright world. This enchanting world was the antitype of my origin and my existence until now.

[7]

By truck I was smuggled via the Mont Blanc tunnel to France; this caused no problems. I dared not to cross the border with my travel documents, because my visa was only valid for the Netherlands.

In Chamonix just over the French border, the tops of the mountains looked like the teeth of a monster. This was not my world. With the train I left the Valley of Chamonix.

[8]

In France I followed the GR 5 hiking trail to the North.


[1] This is a shortened and very free rendering of the koan: “Yunmen’s two sicknesses”. See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 46 – 50. See also: Maezumi, Hakuyu Taizan, The hazy moon of enlightenment. Somersville: Wisdom Publications, 2007 p. 21 – 27

[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome_(stad)

[3] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siena

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

[5] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aosta

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

[7] Source image: Photo by Matthieu Riegler via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mont_Blanc_depuis_Valmorel.jpg

[8] Source image: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chamonix-Mont-Blanc