Tag Archives: buddha


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highly recommended!

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Review: The Heart Sutra Explained: Indian and Tibetan Commentaries

The Heart Sutra Explained: Indian and Tibetan Commentaries
The Heart Sutra Explained: Indian and Tibetan Commentaries by Donald S. Lopez Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The tiny book “The Heart Sutra Explained” (230 pages) includes commentaries by Indian and Tibetan sages.

These commentaries are very useful to study the Heart Sutra from different perspectives.

E.g.: a commentary on the first line in the prologue “Thus I have hear at one time”:
“The commentator Vajrapani has high praise for the word Thus (“evam” in Sanskrit), the word with which sutras begin. Those four letters are the source of the 84.000 doctrines taught by Buddha and are the basis of all marvels. The meaning of the other words are less clear, there is controversy over the “I” who heard them and to the meaning of “at one time””.

The high praise of Thus – “evam” – is quite similar to the commentary of Bernie Glassman who says in “The Dude and the Zen Master” that the Heart Sutra begins with the most important word “Avalokiteshvara” or even better with the letter “A”. If this “A” is wholly encompassed, the Heart Sutra is all encompassed.

The controversy over the “I” who heard them and to the meaning of “at one time” may be seen as Buddhist question (or Koan) in my opinion .

This example given is only one of the many commentaries.

Next to this tiny book, a basic knowledge of Sanskrit is very helpful for a further study of the Heart Sutra.

“The Heart Sutra Explained” is highly recommended for a further study of the Heart Sutra from different perspectives, as is a basic course of Sanskrit.

For a first reading and basic study of the Heart Sutra, Red Pine’s translation and commentary is highly recommended.

For a first reading and more poetic commentary, “The Heart of Understanding” by Thich Nhat Hahn is also highly recommended.

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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.


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

Narrator – back to the civilised world

From the empty gate to the North Cape we travelled in the eternal light. No night, no darkness, no visions of murdered villagers who wanted to escape from the nightly fire in the forest, no vigils for the breath of the deceased, only the constant day where the sun did not set. This peaceful world without nightly phantoms was new to me. Finally I could sleep quietly.

My beloved was in euphoria about passing the Empty Gate – his here and now was boundlessly connected with the universe. At the North Cape he did not need any sleep; he rested peacefully sitting on the ground while I slept.


The outward journey to the empty gate in the north was straightforward. The return to the civilised world included many detours along the winding coast of the fjords in Norway. From the North Cape my lover studied the endlessly intertwined worlds described in the Avatamsaka Sūtra [2].

My beloved was deeply moved by the abundance of descriptions of these intertwined worlds. Dumbfounded he read that there had existed many Buddhas in the past and in the future unmentionable Buddhas would follow according to this sūtra. Until that moment my lover with his American Protestant Christian background knew but one god. After he had studied Buddhism, that one god was replaced by Buddha.

The road to the empty gate led to a unity including the comprehensive Buddhist universe, but now this sūtra proclaimed the existence of infinitely intertwined universes in which many, many Buddhas were involved. His dismay was complete, just as complete as my amazement about the eternal days and about the infinitely intertwining separation of mountain landscape and sea along the coasts of the Norwegian fjords.


During our return along the Norwegian coast, the nights with my dark phantoms came back almost unnoticed. I kept the vigil while my beloved slept. In the northern ports and places I was an attraction – not many people arrived with a blue-dark complexion. Fortunately we were in transit; my mask of an idol evaporated on leaving the place.

After a few weeks of study in the Avatamsaka Sūtra, my lover was used to the intertwining of the universes, but he also read that the universes are mirrored in each other and thereby affect each other. He could understand this intellectually when he looked at the water and the air in the fjords, but these thoughts were inconsistent with his cultural background. His euphoria and happiness after passing the empty gate was shocked upon reading this sūtra.


The descriptions of Indra’s Net [4] brought some clarification in the confusion that had arisen after studying the abundance of intertwined worlds, but he experienced this model as artificial. The euphoria and liberation of the Northern Cape changed in care and doubt about an infinite winding road that my lover could never finish during his life. A parable of my father – about an endless life with many rebirths in which living beings in many manifestations (from microbe to enlightened people and gods via individual universes) followed the road to a blissful existence – gave no rest. My beloved uttered gloomy comments upon the description of the 32 abodes “from hells, titans, hungry ghosts, animals, people, gods in 22 categories to five spheres of infinite space, consciousness and emptiness” [5] in the long discourses of Buddha.

From the Sognefjord we decided to travel to Oslo via a direct route along stave churches. First we visited the stave church in Kaupanger and then the oldest stave church in Urnes with a crucifix whereof part of the original paint came from Afghanistan according to the guide. The dark night was inside the Church with glimmer from above – outside there was the excess of the summer light.


My beloved and I made a day trip on the plateau of Hardangervidda [7]. To the North the clouds and the landscape appeared to go on endlessly. My lover compared the repeating clouds with the intertwined universes from the Avatamsaka Sūtra. He wondered how we can achieve the enlightenment of all the intertwined universes. I indicated that the clouds and the worlds can take care for themselves; the wind is the same everywhere – ultimately there are no two kinds of wind [8]. After my remark my beloved started to beam again; his concerns and confusion were gone. My nightly phantoms remained.


The joy of my beloved remained in my life until the following spring he returned to his parents ‘ house.

[1] Source image: http://nn.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordkapp

[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatamsaka_Sutra. De full name of this sūtra is: “ Mahāvaipulya Buddhāvataṃsaka Sūtra ( महावैपुल्यबुद्धावतंसकसूत्र)” or “The extensive marvellously decorated garland of flower-buds sūtra”, wherein “Avatamsaka” means amongst others “marvellously shining garland” and “sūtra” stands for “transference of the good”.

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

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

[4] See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence, part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 65 – 67

[5] The Long Discourses of the Buddha. Massachusetts: Wisdom Publications, 1995 p. 38-39

[6] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stabkirche_Urnes

[7] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardangervidda

[8] See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 110.

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

Narrator – gate in the north

It was time to discard my mask of an idol, because my heaven on earth in the inverted world of Amsterdam was slowly changing in a Buddhist hell. Everything and everyone in my area lived to my whims. The old Jewish curse “I wish you will have much personnel” and the Roman wisdom “power corrumpts” [1] described the influence that my life as icon in Amsterdam had on my personality. My destination as Narrator Nārāyana [2] was somewhere else.

In my heyday in Amsterdam I became Dutch citizen with an associated passport: I could freely travel around the world with the exception of Kenya and several countries in Africa. After saying goodbye to my friends and lovers in Holland I departed halfway spring to Sweden. I had an open invitation from my American lover to live with him in Stockholm.

In my Citroën DS I glided along the highways in Netherlands and Germany via Bremen and Hamburg to Denmark. I thought my Goddess was a fast car, but on the German autobahn I met the real “raser” or “speed devils” who moved with speeds of 200 km/h. Did they wish to flee as quickly as possible from the “here and now”?


I visited Copenhagen [4] in Denmark – the city where I would live for several years after my stay in Sweden and Norway. My amorousness still beamed around me as a halo; within hours I met friends where I could stay. Through these new friends I found accommodation one year later in this city on the water.


After a stopover of two weeks in Copenhagen, I took the ferry to Malmö. In Sweden I drove along the Swedish archipelago [6] to Stockholm [7]. I neared my destination, but before I entered the island Stadsholmen – where my beloved lived in a beautiful old house within the old town Gamla Stan [8] – I saw the City Hall of Stockholm in the distance.


For a year I moved in the golden house of hopes and dreams of my beloved in the Prästgatan [10]. A year full of music and joy, a year with a trip to the North Cape and returning along the Norwegian Fjords, a year without sorrow and a year of farewell.


In countries around the Baltic Sea many street names end on “Gatan”, “Gade” or “Gate”. Upon hearing or reading these words I was reminded of the Sanskrit lessons by my father. He taught me that in Sanskrit the word “gate” is not only a conjugation of the verb meaning “going”, but it is also the “locativus or place-conjugation” of a noun derived from the verb “to go”.

When I read many years later the following parable [12] about Buddha, I was reminded of my first arrival in Prästgatan in Stockholm: “More than 2500 years ago an outsider concealed a life sparrow in his hands and he asked Buddha “Is this sparrow in my hands alive or dead? “. Buddha straddled the “gate” [13] with his feet and asked: “Tell me, am I about to leave or enter?“” [14]

Entering the Prästgatan and the house of my beloved, it felt like an arrival and departure in my life; the sun shone her golden glow.

[1] The Roman verb “corrumpere” means “to spoil, destroy, or pollute”.

[2] The word “nama” means “designation, pointer, destiny” and “Narrator” means “taleteller” in Sanskrit. Narrator is composed of “nara” literally meaning “someone who does not rejoice” and “nara” describes an ordinary man; the verb root “tr – tarati” means “cross over”. Nārāyana means  “son of the original man”. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[3] This photo is dated around 2005 AC. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autobahn

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

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

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

[7] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm

[8] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamla_stan

[9] Source image: http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm

[10] “Präst” means “priest” in Swedish according to “Google Translate”

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

[12] The word “parable” comes from the Greek παραβολή (parabolē), meaning “comparison, illustration, analogy”. It was the name given by Greek rhetoricians to any fictive illustration in the form of a brief narrative. Later it came to mean a fictitious narrative, generally referring to something that might naturally occur, by which spiritual and moral matters might be conveyed . Source (more information is given): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable

[13] The Gateless Gate. See also: Yamada Kôun Roshi, Gateless Gate (Mumonkan). Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1990

[14] See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 95 – 96.

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

Intermezzo: Why Sanskrit?

Your Narrator has asked the second main character why he is studying Sanskrit. His answer is that it has happened naturally. In examining Buddhist texts he has noticed that a number of concepts are easy to follow in Sanskrit. For example the sound “âtman” is similar to our word “breath”. It also turns out that some writers on Buddhism [1], philosophy [2] and the origins of words [3] have studied Sanskrit.

The second main character is interested in the origins of our language as a form of archaeology to the origin of our consciousness or “man[4]-child”. At the start of the study it appeared that for lay people the origin of the Indo-European is not easy accessible: there are only a few standard studies available [5]. On the other hand, Sanskrit – one of our older sister languages – is already in a very early stage extensively documented and fixed. This fact has caused that Sanskrit first became an artificial language and later a dead language. On the other hand, by the artificiality Sanskrit received a high status. The comprehensive, logical and sophisticated grammar is documented by Pāṇini [6] and his contemporaries in the fourth century BC. Our alphabet has an incoherent order; the alphabet in Sanskrit is logically built up according to the way people express vowels and consonants from the inside out. There are also very comprehensive dictionaries Sanskrit – English available. An introduction to Sanskrit [7] can be studied with some perseverance. Sanskrit has provided a good opportunity for the second main character to study the origin of language and thus the interpretation/expression of our consciousness.


During the study of Sanskrit, the second main character has noticed that many names and places in Indian and Buddhist texts have a meaning. For example, Buddha [9] means “placing a bud of a flower” and Ānanda means “bliss and joy”. The Buddhist words and concepts get a larger depth with knowledge of Sanskrit.

During his recovery period, the second main character has read the book “Empires of the Word – A Language History of the World [10]“.


In Chapter 5 of this book, Sanskrit is addressed under the heading “Charming like a Creeper – the cultured Career of Sanskrit”. With surprise and recognition, the second main character has read how Sanskrit established itself in India and how it is spread with Buddhism across Southeast Asia, Tibet, China and Japan by trading caravans and via freight boats. In addition to the Chinese characters, the Japanese alphabet is modelled according to the alphabet in Sanskrit. A professor has said to the second main character that a language is the speech impediment of the ruler. Sanskrit is distributed in a large area in a relative nonviolent manner. By the religions that are linked to the Sanskrit – Hinduism and Buddhism – this language has had a great influence in this area. The easiness  and naturalness of this spread has surprised Nicholas Ostler [12]: he has discussed this fact with several friends from India. These friends have pointed out to Nicholas Ostler how little believers must give up for Buddhism and Hinduism: old religions do not have to be rejected. Other beliefs require far more from its believers. The second main character does not agree with these friends. By their nature, Hinduism and Mahāyāna Buddhism [13] require everything from its believers including their original religions.

Over time, Sanskrit is first expelled by Islam from parts of India and Indonesia and afterwards it is banished from China with Buddhism. But, the remains of Sanskrit – like Hebrew – can be seen everywhere for a specialist.

Also many words in German, English and Dutch have a richer meaning with knowledge of Sanskrit. During his recovery period, once the second main character strolled around. He overheard a small group of women talk to each other twittering like birds. When he walked along, one of the women said: “What that concerns [14], I say so, I say nothing”. Then the women continued their conversation. The second main character thought: “Tathāgata [15], evam [16], śūnya [17]” or “what the world of forms concerns, thus, void”. These three words summarize in one sentence the following stage during our Odyssey with the addition: “What comes from the power of the wind in the end becomes brooken and crumbled [18].

This additions reminds of a free rendering of a pop-song by Neil Young [18]:

“Life is like a flower.

It only grows on the vine.

Handful of thorns and you know you missed it.

And you lose it when you call it Mine, Mine, Mine”.

[1] For example: Sheng Yen, Footprints in the Snow – the Autobiography of a Chinese Buddhist Monk. New York: Doubleday, 2008

[2] For example: Pirsig, Robert M., Lila, an Inquiry in Morals. London: Bantam Press, 1991

[3] For example: Ayto, John, Word Origins – The hidden Histories of English Words from A to Z. London: A & C Black Publishers, 2008

[4] “man” means in Sanskrit “think/consider/observe”.

[5] For example: Fortson, Benjamin W., Indo-European Language and Culture – an Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004; Mallory, J.P. & Adams, D.Q., The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007; Mallory, J.P., In Search of the Indo-Europeans. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2005

[6] See as introduction: http://en.wikipedia.org/ under “Pāṇini”

[7] For example: Egenes, Thomas, Introduction to Sanskrit part 1 & 2. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2003 – 2005

[8] Source image: http://www.amazon.com

[9] 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

[10] See: Ostler, Nicholas, Empires of the Word – A Language History of the World. New York: Harper Collins, 2005

[11] Source image: http://www.amazon.co.uk

[12] See:  Ostler, Nicholas, Empires of the Word – A Language History of the World. New York: Harper Collins, 2005 p. 217

[13] Mahāyāna literally means “big vessel”. All and everyone is present in this big vessel, no particle is excluded.

[14]The original in Dutch sounds “What Tathāgata” meaning “What that concerns”

[15] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tath%C4%81gata. The word “tathāgata” consist of “tathā” meaning “thus” and “gata” or “āgata” meaning going or coming. In Mahāyāna Buddhism the word “tathāgata” has two meanings: on the one hand “the complete arising and vanishing Self” or “Buddha or Self” and on the other hand “the myriad forms as they are”.

[16] In Sanskrit the word “Evam” consists of the verb root “e” meaning “approach, arrive” and the noun “va” meaning “wind, ocean, water, stream, going”. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[17] In Sanskrit “śūnya” means zero of void. The word “śūnya” consists of “śūna” meaning “swollen state of empty” and “ya” meaning “mover, traveller or wind”.

[18] Source: Wick, Gerry Shishin, The Book of Equanimity – Illuminating Classic Zen Koans. Somerville MA: Wisdom Publications, 2005 p. 51 casus 16.

[19] See: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/neilyoung/loveisarose.html

A war like no other – the leading players

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

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

A book about this war begins with the poem:

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

 and sent brave souls of many heroes to Hades

 and changed their bodies in prey for a dog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – the Word

This post is a transition to the next stage “Five” on our Odyssey. In the next stage, we will look at five contemporary realities:

o Facts and logic
o Intensities and associations
o Void
o Change
o Inter-connectedness

In this post we start with the “Word ” as “object in the middle” in the transition from “Three – Dubio transcendit” to “Five – five contemporary realities”.

During the stage “Three” we have seen the role of rituals and sacrifices that are continually made ​​to establish and maintain the basic mutual trust – Credo (I believe) – between gods, priests, people and categories of individuals. The contemporary world is full of similar rituals and sacrifices within society, in private life and in religious beliefs: again and again the rituals and sacrifices will give trust and comfort. In a nutshell, you and I have met the “person in the middle, ” the “object in the middle” and the “spirit in the middle”.

When looking at the end of the movie “Offret” – or “The Sacrifice” – by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1986, we have seen the son – who looks at the crown of the tree coming to life – saying his first words in the film: “In the beginning was the Word [1]. Why Father?”. This question is absolutely right, because this son needs no words for his sacrifice, his life and his knowledge, and his actions precede all words.

Words indicate and include, and words exclude. In Psalm 119 from the Old Testament these two aspects of the word are shown: ” Your word is a lamp for my feet, I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.” [2] By following God’s word and light, the believer is in God’s grace. A little further: “You reject all those who stray from your statutes, for their deceit is vain. All the wicked of the earth, do ye away like foam.” By not following God’s word and light, exclusion will be the consequence. His actions are not optional for the believer alone, but it also has major consequences for others and the environment. The Word of God forms a hard separation between confidence and hospitality on one hand, and infidelity, rejection and exclusion on the other hand. The other metaphor for the mystery of life does basically not exclude; within Indra’s Net, everything is totally enclosed, and everything takes shape within mutual reflection. Later in our journey we will see more of Indra’s net.

In the film “Offret”, the father sticks to his word to God. After the salvation of the world – as promised – he sacrifices and gives up all his possessions and all that binds him to this life. Without any direct say, his family and relatives lose the father/friend, their house and possessions. Can a sacrifice be a real sacrifice when innocent people involved.[3]

The wife and son of Siddhartha Gautama – the future Buddha – are without husband and father after Siddhartha Gautama left his family to respond to the inner necessity to illuminate the world. A contemporary description of Buddha’s life has a whole chapter devoted to describing the loss and the grief of the wife of Siddhartha Gautama.

“You and I have left our family at the beginning of our Odyssey. They certainly bring a great sacrifice by our absence”, you say.

“Always I feel guilty about the decision to make this quest. Because I follow this inner vow, other people and perhaps the universe are affected accordingly”, I say.

“It amazes me that the lost son [4] in the New Testament receives much more joy than the son who continues his normal life. Maintaining day to day life is the foundation of everything. It deserves great joy and reward”, you say.

“In the New Testament, the lost son stands for the unbeliever who – after many years wandering – returns into the womb of faith. Of course, the lost son receives joy and happiness! The other son and all believers experience a constant joy of their faith in maintaining everyday life [5]“, I say.

“The name “Dubio transcendit” for this stage on our Odyssey begins to dawn on me. Believers overcome their doubts by maintaining the life of all days with a constant joy and certainty of their faith. It does not convince me completely, but the beginning of an understanding is there. Where did you get the name of this stage?”, you say.

“From the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharista of Pope John Paul II, which is a circular letter of the pope as supreme bridge builder [6] between heaven and earth. In this letter the role of the Eucharist in the church is exposed. This circular includes the passage: “Mysterium est magnum, quod nos procul dubio transcendit [7]” which means: “The mystery is great, that transcends us doubtless”. In the circular, this passage refers to the mystery of faith. I like this short passage, because the mystery of life – with all doubts and all divisions – transcends us by far. Even our faith and certainties, our disbelief and our doubts fit easily into the mystery of life, with and without faith. For this reason, I named this stage on our Odyssey “Dubio transcendit”. With and without faith, with and without a sacrifice, the mystery of life transcends our doubts and divisions”, I say.

“Have you received a final answer on the mystery of life during this stage?” you say.

“Therefor the mystery of life is too great.

Fremd bin ich eingezogen,

fremd zieh‘ ich wieder aus.

Der Mai war mir gewogen

mit manchen Blumenstrauß.

Ich kann zu meiner Reisen

Nicht wählen mit der Zeit:

Muß selbst den Weg mir weisen

In dieser Dunkelheit.

Es zieht ein Mondenschatten[8]

Als mein Gefährte mit[9].[10]“, I say and sing.

“Beautiful sung. I know four performances of Winterreise. Peter Schreier with Sviatoslav Richter on piano, Hans Hotter with Gerald Moore, Christa Ludwig with James Levine and Brigitte Fassbaender with Aribert Reimann”, you say.

“All these versions are beautiful in their own way. Time to go to the next stage”, I say

[1] See also: Opening of John’s Gospel from the New Testament.

[2] Source: Psalm 119:105-106 en 118-119

[3] Interpretation of the role of an offer is based upon: Fanu, Mark Le, The Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky. London: BFI Publishing, 1987, pagina 125

[4] See: Gospel of Luke 15: 11-32 from the New Testament.

[5] See also “in dubio” in the post “Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Lamb of God” of 3rd June 2011.

[6] See also: post “Introduction: Three – Person in the middle” of 1st of May 2011

[7] Source: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/special_features/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_20030417_ecclesia_eucharistia_lt.html:  IOANNIS PAULI PP. II SUMMI PONTIFICIS, LITTERAE ENCYCLICAE ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA, Rome, 2003

[8] Literally: a moon shadow. For the moon symbol also footnote 11 to the post “Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Lamb of Gods” of 3rd June 2011.

[9] Poem by Wilhelm Müller. First song from the song cycle “Winterreise” by Franz Schubert.

[10] Translation: “As a stranger I came, I leave again as stranger. The month of May was favourable to me with many bunches of flowers. I am not free to choose my time for the journey: I have to choose my own way in the darkness. A shadow in the moonlight travels as my companion.