Tag Archives: buddhism

The wind in the sails


Around 9 o’clock in the morning Carla, Man and Narrator sail on the outboard motor through the ferry terminal at Lauwersoog harbour. Passengers are boarding the 9:30 morning ferry to Schiermonnikoog; they wave to the small sailboat. Carla and Man wave back while they are busy getting the sails ready: Narrator has already entered the cabin to sleep. One passenger calls: “Have a nice trip!” Man shouts back: “Have a nice day” and Carla: “Good holidays”. A man on the ferry calls: “No problem, the weather will be fine!”

Upon leaving the harbour Man puts the outboard off and tilts it out of the water. Then Man hoist the sails with help of Carla; first the headsail and the mizzen and afterwards the mainsail of this yawl-rigged [1] sailboat. There blows a gentle breeze from the southwest. Then the miracle happens: from nowhere the sails curve with the wind while slightly flapping and the boat is propelled by the wind. Man trims the sails tight and the boat is well on track.

Half hour later the ferry catches up with them; again passengers and Carla and Man are waiving to each other. Narrator is still sleeping quietly in the cabin.

Veerboot[2]

“Within half an hour we will have a flow of two knots along; with this wind and flow, we will sail at a speed of seven knots for about two hours and after passing Het Rif we can land the boat during low tide around 12 o’clock on the tidal flats of the Waddenzee in the direction of Ameland. Then we may have lunch and wait for the next high tide by the end of the afternoon to land again by nightfall near Terschelling”, says Man.

“A speed of seven knots is not bad, because with a waterline of around 5,80 meter a speed of 5,90 knots is possible with this Drascombe Drifter according the rule of thumb “2.45 x square root of the waterline (in meters) = hull speed””, says Carla.

“Maybe it’s good that I will give you some instructions to operate the boat when something happens to me. In that case you may sail the boat on the outboard motor to a harbour. When it begins to storm is wise to hoist only the mizzen sail, whereby the boat remains with the head in the wind and usually also the waves. When the engine fails, the boat will sail excellently with only the headsail and the mizzen. In case of emergency, you can always ask for help or you can land the boat at a beach”, says Man.

Yawl[3]
“Except during storm we can also save ourselves with the oars. Let’s hope it is not necessary”, says Carla.

After three hours sailing Man raises the fin keel, lets the boat strand and lowers the sails; Carla helps Man. On the two-burner gas stove Man bakes eggs for lunch. Carla awakes Narrator and she takes the bread, plates and cutlery. In the grand view of the tidal flats – exposed by low tide – they enjoy their lunch.

“Now I understand why you have invited us to come here for this boat trip. With the changing of the tide, water and flat lands merge – constantly complementary –into each and other infinitely changing, like emptiness and form. In the biography of Narrator you have included a part from the Heart Sutra [4] with the stanza “Form is the equal to emptiness as emptiness is equal to form.” Until now I have seen “form” and “emptiness” as complementary similar to “one” and “zero” within computer sciences that has created a completely new way of human communication via displays; without emptiness no form as without form no emptiness: both replace each other like letters on a blanc sheet – in graphics design – replaces emptiness.
Here on the mudflats on Het Wad during the tide changes, the boundaries between form and emptiness fade; still form and emptiness keep each other alive. Now I don’t see both as separate and complementary, but as interconnected and constantly intermingling in each”, says Carla.

Het Wad[5]

“Yeah, I always came back to Het Wad to experience this seemingly timeless intermingling of tides – according to the strict regularity of the tides – and at the same time constantly changing, always different. Within a day of sailing on Het Wad, I become one with the rhythm of the tide and my hectic daily ego fades. Thereby it requires constant discipline and overview to take care for a safe boat journey. Here I have always felt at home under all circumstances, even in bad weather and storm”, says Man.

“On my journey from Kenya – my mother’s land – to Rome, I have had the same experience of merging between form and emptiness in the outer skirts of the desert and desert steppe, on the boat on the Nile and during my boat trip across the Mediterranean; herewith I grew to a new life in a different environment [6]. Now in my life as bhikṣu I am back into the eternal womb of mother earth; and the wind takes me, in its volatility of form and emptiness”, says Narrator.

“Maybe an idea: shall we survey “change” – the next common reality on our quest to “Who are you” – in Africa (e.g. Kenya)? I have never been in Africa and for you it may be an excellent opportunity to revisit that part of the world. I can easily cover travel and subsistence from my means. Maybe something to come back to at the end of this boat trip.
As far as I am aware, form and emptiness are key concepts within the Heart Sūtra. What does the title of this Sūtra mean in het Sanskrit”, asks Man to Narrator.

“Shall we translate the Sūtra from Sanskrit?”, asks Narrator.

“That is one of my hidden wishes. Herewith my study of Sanskrit can be useful for everything and everyone. Without your help it will not be feasible”, says Man.

“Good idea. Then I will give comments from my background and general knowledge”, says Carla.

“Let us begin with the title of the sūtra. The full title “prajñāpāramitā hṛdaya sūtra” is often translated with “Complete transference of the heart – or the core – of wisdom” [7].

My father has explained the meaning of “prajñāpāramitā”, “hṛdaya” and “sūtra” by showing the separate parts of these words in their consistency.
According to my father the word “prajñāpāramitā” is composed of the main parts “prajñā”, “pāra” and “mitā”.

The word prajñā – mostly translated with wisdom – consists of pra and jñā, wherein:
• pra has the meaning of “before, forward, in front, away, excessive” and “filling, fulfilment, resemble, and like” – just as the Latin word “pro” as opposed to “contra” – and
• jñā has the meaning of “knowledge, apprehend, perceive, remember, familiar with” [8].
In its composition “prajñā” has the meaning of “wisdom (of life), intelligence, know about, discrimination and/or wisdom of a wise of sensible woman/mother”. This last meaning points at “tao” or “course of life” in the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching wherein “tao” – in the form of “name” – is the “mother of all things” [9]”, says Narrator.

Tao[10]

“I have read somewhere that Buddhism knows three kinds of “prajñā”:
• wisdom within our daily world, wherein temporality within our life is seen as permanent, where illusions are experienced as real and wherein the transitory ego is considered as the Real Self. Most people live within this framework of wisdom.
• Wisdom within the metaphysical world, wherein the permanent manifestations are seen as temporal, where reality is experienced as an illusion, and where the manifestation with a “self” is considered without a self. This wisdom is attainable with meditation and philosophy.
• Wisdom that surpasses our daily and metaphysical world wherein the manifestations are seen as neither temporal nor permanent, and are experienced as neither pure nor impure, neither with a “self” nor “without self”, and where all is unconceivable and inexpressible.
While our daily wisdom and metaphysical wisdom results in attachment to manifestations, illusions and characteristics, the third form of wisdom remains free hereof [11].
What kind of wisdom is meant here in Sanskrit?”, asks Man to Narrator.

“My father says that “prajñā” precedes all wisdom without passing any wisdom: it contains Al and One without passing the variety of things in our daily life, the ideas and thoughts in science and the knowledge and wisdom of the unconceivable and inexpressible”, says Narrator.

“Your father is a wise man”, says Man.

“Within all his limitations and bondages. Shall I continue with pāramitā?”, asks Narrator.
“That is good”, says Carla and Man.

“The word “para” is used in Sanskrit in three ways with the following meanings:
• pāra: crossing, the other side, the other shore, guardian, fulfil, go through, to bring to a close. In Buddhism “the other shore” is used as metaphor for enlightenment.
• parā: away, off, aside
• para: highest, supreme, old, ancient, better or worse, and sometimes also superior or inferior.
Here the first way and meaning of the word is used; my father added that using one way and meaning of the word para, the other ways and meanings are always gently resonating.
The main part “mitā” is the nominative (or subject) plural of the word “mita” – related to the Latin verb “mittere” with the meaning “do go” or “send” and “let go” – that in Sanskrit has the meaning “fixed, established, measured, containing, moderate, of a Godlike being”.

Via this analysis, the word “prajñāpāramitā” has next to the meaning “perfect wisdom” also a reference “tao” from the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching as “name” – not the “Immortal Name” but “the mother of all things” – at one hand in designation and on the other hand in volatility and inevitability.

In Buddhism – with a creative explanation of pāramitā that might be compose of “pāra” and “ita” meaning “gone”, “returned”, “obtained” and “remembered” in Sanskrit, and therefore in the assembly “go/return/recall to/of the other shore” [12] – the wisdom of “the other shore” or wisdom of the state of enlightenment is often meant with the word “prajñāpāramitā” whereby “the other shore” is interconnected with “the shore” of daily life by the river or the source [13], just like in the metaphor of the cyclone the core is connected by a wall of wind with the tolling tropical storm.

The word “hṛdaya” is often translated with “heart” or “interior of the body” and “heart, core, essence, best, dearest or most salvaged part of something” [14]. According to my father the word hṛdaya consists of the parts “hṛ”, “da” and “ya” with the meaning:
• “hṛ” meaning “take away, present, steal and offer” – as in the cattle-cycle [15], whereby this verb root is possible connected with the German word “Herr” – and “destroy/lose (also of one’s own ego), receive, win, charm, fascinate”
• “da” meaning in Sanskrit “give”, “grant”, “offer”, “produce” and “cutting of (as disparting from the “All and One” according to my father)”
• “ya” meaning “mover” and “incentive”. My father was of the opinion that “ya” is closely related to “yaj” in the sense of “sacrifice”, “offering for a higher – Godlike/heavenly – purpose”. My father uses this verb always in the form of “yayate”, whereby the fruit of the action of offering or giving reflects to the giver or the All-encompassing self and it is probably a “God’s gift” in complete reciprocity. He also says that “ya” is closely related to our word “Yeah” as a positive agreement and confirmation. In Holland, “yes” – with mercantilism always in mind – is close related to a deal, but I think that my father points at recognition of the other and at a consenting attitude for the other.

By looking at the meaning of the parts of “hṛdaya”, this word receives next to “heart, core, essence, best, dearest or most salvaged part of something” also the meaning of “empty core” similar to the core of a cyclone or a waterspout with far fetching consequences for all and everyone.

Hart[16]

In the word “sūtra” we see the two cores “sū” and “tṛ”, whereby “sū” in the Vedic time – and as prefix in words – had the meaning “good”. Later the meaning has changed in “create, procreate, vivify, produce, grant and bestow”. And “tṛ” has the meaning of “crossing”.

With this addition by my father, the usual translation “Complete transference of the heart – or the core – of wisdom” gets a widening and transparency – and at the same time a volatility – as life itself. Actually, this title is referring to life itself, in all its richness and facets”, says Narrator.

“During your explanation, I thought constantly of the pearls and all the separate reflections in the metaphor of “Indra’s Net”. Thinking of the metaphor of Indra’s Net, I have always thought – until now – of an entry into the unconceivable. With your explanation – completed by your father’s wisdom – of the title in Sanskrit Heart Sutra, it is clear to me that Indra’s Net is also a metaphor for our daily life”, says Carla.

“Upon a closer examination, all serious religious philosophies cover the same constantly. It is time to end this extensive lunch and we have to wash the plates and cutlery. We must prepare ourselves for the next part of our boat trip during the following high tide. Tonight we will have to eat in darkness after we have landed again. Now we must do the dishes, because that will not be easy during darkness before our evening meal. Besides my mother said that only Bohemians wash the dishes before the meal. I have nothing against Bohemians, but sailing a tidy boat is more enjoyable”, says Man.

“Do we have enough water for doing the dishes?”, asks Carla.

“I will put a kettle on: that should do when we rinse our plates and cutlery before in seawater”, says Man.

After they washed the dishes, the high tide slowly arrives. Man and Carla prepare the boat for sailing.

“At this landing I have placed the front of the boat in such a way that we can sail away at once with the flow. We do not need to push the boat against the tide to deeper water. There I see the tide already between Schiermonnikoog and Ameland. When I will give a signal, please raise the anchor”, says Man.

With the arrival of high tide, they sail away to their landing at the next low tide.

[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yawl
[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wagenborg_(rederij)
[3] Example of a yawl-rigged sailboat. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yawl
[4] See: Leben, Man, Narrator Nārāyana – One way – A Biography. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 110 – 112
[5] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wattenmeer_(Nordsee)
[6] See: Leben, Man, Narrator Nārāyana – One way– A Biography. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher 2013, p. 31 – 36
[7] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_Sutra Zie: Lopez, Donald S., The Heart Sutra explained. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990, p. 21 – 31. Zie: Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Heart Sutra. Washington D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004, p. 29 – 40
[8] Source translation of words from Sanskrit: electronic version of dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[9] See: Red Pine (Bill Porter), Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (revised edition). Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 2006, p.2
[10] Symbol commonly used to represent Tao and its pursuit. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao
[11] Source: Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Heart Sutra. Washington D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004, p. 30 – 31
[12] Source: Lopez, Donald S., The Heart Sutra explained. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990, p. 21-22
[13] Sources: Lopez, Donald S., The Heart Sutra explained. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990, p. 21-22 and Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Heart Sutra. Washington D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004, p. 32
[14] Source translation of words from Sanskrit: electronic version of dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[15] See: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 94 – 95
[16] Image of 3D echocardiogram of a human heart. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart

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Emptiness: to the end of the night


Night. A clear sky at new moon. Narrator drives the borrowed Skoda Superb [1] Combi from Amsterdam via the Noordoostpolder [2] to the marina at Lauwersoog near the departure of the ferry to Schiermonnikoog. Both headlights shine on the empty highway through the dark void land that over 50 years ago still was bottom of the Zuiderzee (Southernsea). Carla dozes in the back seat. Man sits as a passenger next Narrator; in the dim light of the dashboard they look to the exit at Emmeloord that in the far distance is lit by lantern light.

Skoda Superb Combi[3]

“Within the emptiness the headlights – with the lantern light in the distance – conjure a dark magic landscape wherein everything we now see emerges and immediately disappears like phantoms who are called to live in a flare in order to slip at once into the dark emptiness again.

As boy in South Limburg I have loved the dark nights with the infinite universe wherein I – included – was one with all the stars and galaxies in the firmament. Now I feel myself floating within a faint white glow on an infinite journey through the universe and thereby perfectly at home in this vessel. Tonight – before we were getting ready to depart – I have looked up a definition of Buddhist enlightenment [4] in a book: “Enlightenment is realising the oneness of life”[5].

I looked for this definition yesterday afternoon we have ended our survey of intensities and associations with the question: “One – what is that?”, that had been asked by a Buddhist sage to a wise woman. She was unable to answer this question. I wonder whether the inability – or the emptiness – of the wise woman to answer fits better with the question: “One – what is that?” than this definition of Buddhist enlightenment.

We now begin the survey of emptiness during our quest to “Who are you”. In Sanskrit the word for emptiness in the Heart Sutra is ” śūnyatā”. Do you know the meaning of this word in Sanskrit?”, asks Man.

The car is nearing the exit at Emmeloord. Narrator slows down and takes the exit to Lemmer; hereby Carla has awakened and she asks: “Where are we?”. “Near Emmeloord in the Noordoostpolder, now we are heading to Friesland. I have asked Narrator for the meaning of the word “śūnyatā””, says Man.

“The word ” śūnyatā” is usually translated with “emptiness” or “empty of self” [6], but this translation only reflects the core of the word just like within the core of the tropical cyclone there is usually a clear sky and no wind; the centre of the cyclone is sunny and “free” of wind.

Kern van een cycloon[7]

The word “śūnyatā” consists of the verb cores:
• “śvi” – with the weak form “śū” – meaning “swell”, “grow” and “increase”;
• “ya” meaning “mover” and “incentive”. My father was of the opinion that “ya” is closely related to “yaj” in the sense of “sacrifice”, “offering for a higher – Godlike/heavenly– purpose” (perhaps “God’s gift” in reciprocity”and,
• “tā” meaning “impassableness”, “inaccessibleness”, and also “unviolability” and “sacred” [8].

A contemporary Japanese Zen master in America had written in his explanation of “śūnyatā” that this word is not a negation of the concept of existence, but the word indicates that our entire existence in all its forms is completely dependent on the principle of cause and effect; we have read earlier that even the Gods are bound by the principle of cause and effect [9]. As the factors of cause and effect are changing constantly, there is no static – fixed – existence possible. The word “śūnyatā” categorically denies the possibility of the existence of static – fixed – manifestations. All appearances are relative and interdependent according to this contemporary Japanese Zen master.

In addition, he writes that “śūnyatā” also means “zero”, a concept that became known rather late in Europe, but has been in use for much longer in India. Zero has no numerical value in itself, but it represents the absence of numerical values and thus symbolises at the same time the possibility of all numerical values. Similarly “śūnyatā” – through the concept of “zero” or “no” – represents the possibility of the existence of all manifestations and it is also included in all forms, that themselves only exist in relation to their non-existence and by their interconnectedness [10]”, says Narrator.

vorm en leegte[11]

“The definition of zero is too limited: but I will not go into it now. If I understand it correctly, “śūnyatā” refers to “emptiness from” and “emptiness to” just as – in my opinion – Erich Fromm is referring to “freedom from” and “freedom to” in mutual dependency with the concept of “freedom” [12 ]. Here I am reminded of the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty who has argued that manifestations are caused by a creative process of giving meaning and taking meaning at once[13]. The Zen master adds to this argument the void – or space – for allowing the creation of manifestations”, says Carla.

“Quite interesting that you refer to a creative process for the creation of manifestations. The Japanese Zen master indicates that an intuitive and immediate understanding of ” śūnyatā” is the basis for all understanding. But before he states this, he first mentiones the ” śūnyatā” of the ego and then the “śūnyatā” of dharma [14] – the world order and duty [15] – and of the subjective and the objective. After this he concludes that everything – every manifestation and every being – only exists through the principle of interdependence bound by the law of impermanence. The intuitive and immediate understanding leads to knowledge and understanding of the four great truths to know: impermanence, interconnectedness, manifestations and essence; maybe it’s good to come back on these four values later. The Zen master goes further in his statement on the importance of impermanence – emptiness or vanity – and interconnectedness than Maurice Merleau-Ponty in the arising or creation of all manifestations and of every being

I have this explanation of “śūnyatā” from the introduction by this Zen master in his book on the Buddhistische Heart Sūtra.

This description of the Zen master has stayed with me because it fits so well my perception of the ghosts in the night. As a child soldier in Africa with our militia we had put the forest around a village on fire at the end of the night. We had shot everything and everyone that had come out of the forest and we had been happy [16]. I still carry the ghosts of these villagers with me; their breath – in emptiness and vanity – has become my breath. At night they are as real to me as people I meet during the day; these spirits are connected with me in interdependence within the law of impermanence: during daytime they have disappeared”, says Narrator.

“Are these spirits really present for you here and now in this car?”, asks Man.

“No, driving the car I have my attention on the road, but if I do not focus my attention any longer, the ghost come to life from the emptiness of darkness just as real as a dream during sleep. Or to cite a quote often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain: “I am an old man and have suffered a great many misfortunes, most of which never happened” [17]”, says Narrator.

“Fortunately, because otherwise I should have asked you to look for a parking place and we might continue our journey tomorrow during daylight. I have several versions of the Heart Sutra to study in my luggage. Would you like to help me with the interpretation of Sanskrit?”, asks Man.

“That is fine. I have a copy with the explanation by the Japanese Zen master with me. Do you have a waterproof compartment for books on your boat?”, asks Narrator.

“Your book easily fits within the waterproof ton. When we will lay dry at low tide, we will have time to read”, says Man.

“The definition of enlightenment that you have just mentioned, gives one aspect of enlightenment – in line with the interconnectedness within the metaphor of Indra’s Net – quite clearly. It is only one side of the coin, the other side is “śūnyatā”. In Buddhism, the term “nirvana” – literally absence of forest (or barriers) or the open plain [18] – is often used for enlightenment. In Hinduism one often addresses enlightenment with “moksha” [19] that comes from the verb core “muc” meaning amongst others “to loosen, or to liberate”. With both interpretations, I am not happy because in my opinion “śūnyatā” together with the metaphor of Indra’s Net gives a better interpretation of the term enlightenment. I think it is a good idea that we do not only survey emptiness in the sense of “empty from” at this part of our quest, but also in relation to the four great truths of Buddhism and in relation to Indra’s Net”, says Narrator.

“Good idea. When I had lain awake during my travels under the dark starry sky, I had felt myself fully included in space or in the infinite void. The boundaries between the space and myself had dissolved and I had become one with everything around me. In a book on Zen Buddhism I had read two poems mentioning an empty mirror as metaphor for life; in the second poem also the illusion of the empty mirror was removed just like during this journey by car through the dark polder the sight on the landscape is non-existing. Do you know the text of these poems?”, asks Carla.

“The two poems had been written during the appointment – or better the Dharma transmission – of Huineng [20] as the sixth Zen patriarch. In my own words: the fifth patriarch sensed that the obvious candidate was fit for the position. He asked each monk who would like to be candidate, to write a short poem on the core of Zen and to affix it on the monastery wall. Only obvious candidate anonymously published the following poem:

The body is a Bodhi tree;
The mind like an empty mirror stand.
Time and again brush it clean
And let no dust alight [21]

Bodhi – with a sound (and a meaning via “et incarnatus est” [22]) akin to the English word body – meaning in Sanskrit “a tree of wisdom, or a tree where under a human becomes a Buddha” [23].

The next morning a second poem was affixed alongside the first poem with the following text:

Originally bodhi has no tree;
The empty mirror has no stand.
Originally there is not a thing.
Where can dust alight?

In Sanskrit Bodhi has a second meaning: “perfect enlightenment” [24]. The Fifth Patriarch knew a humble firewood-gatherer – without any formal training as a monk – had written this second poem and he foresaw an uprising of the monastery to the appointment of this uneducated layman as Dharma heir. The following night, the Dharma transmission took place and at dawn the sixth Zen patriarch had to flee from the monastery. The monks have haunted him for a long time. Eventually after a long flight he had been fully accepted is as Dharma heir; every Zen master is in direct line associated with this sixth patriarch. And reciting the poem I also reflect him in the emptiness of this night”, says Man.

“Splendid explanation. Shall we continue tomorrow? I would like to continue dozing”, says Carla.
“Then I will also take a nap. Tomorrow we have to get up early”, says Man.

Narrator drives the car with Carla and Man sleeping via Friesland and Groningen to the parking place at Lauwersoog near the ferry departure to Schiermonnikoog. He parks the car facing east to see the dawn over a few hours. Upon seeing the first twilight he awakes Carla and Man.

“On this bright morning we have to see the sunrise before so we will start rigging the sailboat at the marina”, says Narrator.

“Upon seeing the emergence of the first sunrays trough this windshield, I think of the poem “The Windows” by Guido Gezelle, wherein he as a Catholic priest at the end of the nineteenth century has marginally repeated the iconoclasm:

THE WINDOWS

The windows are full of saints, mitred and staved,
martyrised, virgin crowned, duked and knighted;
that the burning from the oven fire glassed has in the shard,
that, glittering, speaks all the tongues from the heaven bows paints. [25]

Thou scare is again enkindled in the east the violence
Of sun flame, and does she touches the saints, so melted
The mitre from the mantle collar, the gold ware from the crone,
and all, even white now, shines and lightens even clean.

Disappeared art thou, dukes and counts then, so soft;
disappeared, virgins, martyrs and bishops: forever
no palms, staves, stolen anymore, ‘t is all gone, to
one clarity molten, in one sunlight – in God. [26]

– Guido Gezelle [27]

Kerkramen Noordzijde Keulen[28]

In my opinion Guido Gezelle advocates with this poem – despite the beauty of church windows as windows on the world – an empty mirror without stand in God’s face”, says Man.

 

[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%A0koda_Superb
[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noordoostpolder
[3] Source image: http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%A0koda_Superb
[4] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhi
[5] Source: Bridges, Jeff & Glassman, Bernie, The Dude and the Zen Master. New York: Plume, 2014, p. 95
[6] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunyata, see also the English Wikipedia-page on this subject
[7] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropische_cycloon
[8] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[9] See: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 2.1 – Facts and Logic. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2014, p. 85 and 122
[10] Source: Deshimaru, Taisen, Mushotoku Mind – The Heart of the Heart Sutra. Chino Valley: Hohm Press, p. 28, 29
[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9A%C5%ABnyat%C4%81
[12] Source: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 2.1 – Facts and Logic. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2014, p. 97
[13] See also for the “creative act of giving meaning to and taking meaning from”: Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, Phenomenology of Perception 1945
[14] Dharma means literally “placing of the self/Self continuously”.
[15] Source: Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006, p. 68. See also chapter 4 for an introduction on Dharma.
[16] See the last part of book 1 of the Mahābhārata where at the fire in the Khandava forest, Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa shoot arrows with joy to all that leaves the forest. Sources: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/maha/index.htm boek 1 Section CCXXVII and further; Katz, Ruth Cecily, Arjuna in the Mahābhārata: Where Krishna is, there is victory. Delhi: Molital Banarsidass Publishers, 1990, p. 71 – 84
[17] See: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/10/04/never-happened/
[18] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[19] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moksha
[20] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huineng
[21] Source: The Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra. Burlingame: Buddhist text translation society, 2002, p. 67
[22] Literal translation from Latin: he/she/is becomes flesh
[23] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[24] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[25] “mitred and staved”: with signals of authority; “all the tongues from the heaven bows paints”: showing all the paintings on the ceilings of the churches.
[26] Free translation of this poem. Original: http://cf.hum.uva.nl/dsp/ljc/gezelle/rijmsnoer/ramen.htm This poem is date by Guido Gezelle on 14th of April 1895.
[27] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guido_Gezelle
[28] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stained_glass

Review: The Heart Sutra


The Heart Sutra
The Heart Sutra by Red Pine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Heart Sutra – a very brief Sutra – is Buddhism in a nutshell.

Bernie Glassman 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.

So true, bearing in mind the metaphor of the jewel net of Indra – in the Avatamsaka Sutra (translated by Thomas Cleary as “The Flower Ornament Scripture”) – stating that every single glass pearl in Indra’s Net reflects the whole endless Net, and at the same time every single glass pearl shapes the whole Net.

In the same way, although the Heart Sutra is Buddhism in a nutshell, it is not so much a summary of Buddhism, this Sutra is the very core of Buddhism (as all is the very core of Buddhism).

This translation – in English – and the commentary by Red Pine is excellent, and extensive in a tiny book.

Highly recommended.

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Review: Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra


Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra
Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra by Francis Harold Cook
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is about the world view of a Chinese form of Buddhism – named Hua-yen (Flower Ornament) – with a fascinating philosophy describing our existence as infinite realms upon realms, mutually containing one another (the jewel net of Indra).

Francis Cook’s book is in my opinion an excellent introduction in the English language to the Hua-yen school of Buddhism – one of the seven branches of Zen Buddhism.

Highly recommended.

Also highly recommended as an introduction to, and explanation and background of “The Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra”, by Thomas Cleary.

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Five common realities – facts and logic 3


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

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

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

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

feiten en logica 31[1]

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

feiten en logica 32[2]

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

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

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

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

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

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

feiten en logica 34[10]

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

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

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

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

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

“I think so”, says Carla.

“Fully”, says Man.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[13] Source: Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006, p. 68. See also chapter 4 for an introduction to Dharma.

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

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

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

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

Narrator – a new year


Around Easter the winter of that year was gone. The sun emerged and nature flourished again. Next to my city bike I had bought a touring bike by which I made several bike tours on the islands Amager and Sjælland whereupon the city of Copenhagen is located. In a few months I learned not only to cycle well, but I started to love this form of gliding over the roads in weather and wind.

Reiserad-beladen[1]

Near the end of spring I received again disturbing letters from former lovers in Amsterdam; they were also seriously ill with AIDS. I decided to travel to Amsterdam with my touring within a week. After a preparation of a small week, I departed to Amsterdam for a few months with a packed bike. My attic room I had temporary sublet to a friend.

Eventually I did two weeks about the trip, because I had almost always headwind. On the long straights, the turning of the pedals changed in turning of the prayer wheels in my experience, sometimes difficult, sometimes without effort.

Gebedsmolens[2]

On my way to Amsterdam I had the Buddhist question of the “iron ox” [3] in my mind. Some of my ancestors travelled on horseback. In Africa I had noticed people travelling on an ox. Now I was a rider on an iron steed instead of on horseback.

Man op os[4]

I missed the conversations on this question with my beloved who already lived in America at that time. My clue was the verse on the question:

“The works of an iron ox –

When the seal (of enlightenment [5] and of an idol) remains, the impression is ruined”. [6]

Cycling through northern Germany and the Netherlands my bike slowly took the shape of the “iron ox” in the Buddhist question. Sometimes nicely gliding, sometimes toiling during headwind, my iron ox did its work; we glided steadily with the road and the environment through the universe.

On the road I could usually stay with people during the night in exchange for stories or for some help on the farm. At resting place I tried to earn some money with magic, because during my bicycle trip I had no income from playing percussion with jazz ensembles. After some practice I could earn a national currency at each stop with two magic rope shows – which I had learned from a friend in Copenhagen; in Germany a D-mark and in a Netherlands guilder. During the first presentation a rope slid through my neck. A demonstration of this performance can be seen on the following video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=aSMZJ0w3DyM

During the second presentation, the rope glided unexpectedly through a ring. An example of this representation is shown on the following video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xx7UjeZYn4

When I performed both performances every day at five resting places, I earned enough money for daily meals for myself and another traveller with whom I shared the meal.

That summer and autumn in Amsterdam, I lived with and cared for old friends and former lovers with AIDS. In addition, I enjoyed the Dutch beaches and the beautiful clouds in Netherlands.

At the end of the autumn I cycled to Copenhagen with the wind in my back. The winter I spent in my attic room with the long nights in which the moon, the stars and the ghosts kept me company. I stuck to this rhythm of “heading to the south during summers” and “winters staying in Copenhagen” for several years; in later life I spent the winter in the south and passed the summer in the north.

Was this wintering on my attic room a penance for crimes committed as child soldier in a militia? Maybe, a year later I met a man who did penance for his deeds constantly.


[1] Source image: http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cykeltyper . This photo is made in 2005 showing a cycle of a later date.

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

[3] See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 125 – 130.

[4] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Os_(rund). The oxen in Africa were not so well fed.

[5] According to Mahāyāna Buddhism, human enlightenment spreads a smell of vanity. Enlightenment only exists when all en everyone is enlightened.

[6] The first two lines of vers in the koan Fengxue’s “Iron Ox”. See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 125 – 130.

Narrator – points to the snow


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

Prästgatan in Juni[1]

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

Prästgatan in December[2]

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

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

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

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

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

Asogatan_213_Stockholm[6]

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

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

Bloesem Stockholm[10]

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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