Tag Archives: Chao-Chou

The Oude kerk in Amsterdam – a church on the move


The next morning Carla, Man and Narrator drink coffee at the Nieuwmarkt near the Waag in Amsterdam.

“Yesterday evening I thought of Yunmen’s [1]: “The monks hall, the Church, the kitchen, and the monastery gate” to his question: ”What is each and every person’s radiant light?[2], when I read the the statement by the Polish Cardinal Hosius [3] – attending the Council of Trent [4] that had taken place with several intervals between 1545 and 1663 AC to find an answer within the Catholic Churcht on the Reformation – about the Bible: “If the Church did not exist, then the bible was as unbelievable as the tales of Aesopus” [5]. During this Council the decision had been taken that the revelation from the Holy Scriptures can only exists together with the tradition of the Church, whereby the Latin Vulgate Translation [6] of the bible – an adapted rendering in Vulgar Latin from 400 AC – should be the standard text of the Holy Scripture for the Catholics. What answer might Yunmen have given to Cardinal Hosius?”, asks Carla.

“I think an answer similar to the comment on this Buddhist question: “Even if the Church and the Bible are the ancestors of Buddha, they cannot avoid being each and every person””, says Man.

““The Universe – including the Church and the Bible – embody the radiant light [7], people of immeasurable greatness are tossed in the ebb and flow of words [8]”, and as hard-handed Zen master Yunmen will pinch the nose of the questioner – and hereby himself and the entire universe – with the words: “Look the radiant light – work hard to the enlightenment of all and everyone”. Shall we visit the Oude Kerk”, says Narrator.

Oude Kerk Amsterdam 1[9]

Carla, Man and Narrator walk via the Monnikensteeg and the Oudekennissteeg to the bridge near the Oudekerkplein at the Oudezijdsachterburgwal.

“In the first half of the thirteenth century a small wooden chapel with a graveyard had stood on the site of the Oude Kerk. In the second half of the thirteenth century this wooden chapel had been replaced by a stone hall church. This church had probably belonged to the Church parish of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. Starting from 1334 AC, Amsterdam got its own parish with at this place the parish church dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors. In the beginning of the 15th century AC a new parish had been started in the western part of Amsterdam with a new parish Church. From that time both parts of Amsterdam were named Oudekerkszijde and Nieuwekerkszijde, or abbreviated with the Oude- and Nieuwezijde. For the time being the Oude Kerk remained the main church of Amsterdam. Over time, the Oude Kerk had been rebuilt and enlarged many times: this can be seen clearly from here. In 1655 the cemetery around the old church had been cleared. Herewith the nowadays Oudekerksplein around the Oude Kerk was created [10]. Shall we enter the Church?”, says Narrator.

768px-Amsterdam_oude_kerk2[11]

Carla, Man and Narrator enter the church.

“Upon hearing your introduction I was reminded of a reference to a quotation of Herakleitos [12] in a book with work of the architect Aldo van Eyck [13]; freely rendered: “You cannot enter the same Church twice”, says Man.

“During the iconoclasm of 1566 AC in Amsterdam the altars of the Oude Kerk were damaged. After the Alteration of 1578 AC – whereby the Catholic administration in Amsterdam had been deposited – the Church was redecorated for the Protestant worship. From 1584 to 1611 AC – the year wherein the Beurs of Hendrick de Keyser was opened at the Rokin – the Oude Kerk had served as a hall of exchange for traders. From 1632 AC the Church Council meetings had alternately taken place in the Oude Kerk and the Nieuwe Kerk. After the construction of the Town Hall on the Dam, the Nieuwe Kerk became more important and became finally the main church. From 1951, the Oude Kerk had been restored during 24 years, because danger of collapse threatened due to problems with the foundation. In 1994/1998 the Church had been restored again. This is in a nutshell the history of the old church”, says Narrator.

“Before the iconoclastic the Oude Kerk must have been full – or maybe overcrowded – with images of Christ, Mary and Saints for invoking support, courage and comfort in fearful times. The walls and ceilings must have been full with paintings as sermons in paint. Now with these white walls, I am reminded of a sentence by Aldo van Eyck from an article about the work of Gerrit Rietveld: “Since his Style-period, Gerrit Rietveld has usually avoided active colour and has bounded his spaces with ‘white’, perhaps because he was one of the few to create space not so much by material boundaries but by the shaping of light [14]”. Is the Church room the radiant light in the Oude Kerk ?”, says Man.

Oude Kerk Amsterdam 3.jpg[15]

“This is a good comparison with the art movement “de Stijl”: this movement can be seen as a recent iconoclasm and rebellion against an excessive and overly visual imagery of the Amsterdam school as we can see in the Scheepvaarhuis at the Prins Hendrikkade.

Scheepvaarthuis Amsterdam[16]

Scheepvaarthuis Amsterdam 2[17]

“As possibly Gerrit Rietveld – during his Style-period – had avoided boundaries through walls, images and painted colours, so during and after the Reformation the Protestants did not accept imagery – as comics for the uneducated – symbols and ancient practices of the Catholic Church anymore as a bridge with the eternal light of God and his revelations in the Holy Scriptures. They would like to have the possibility of direct access to God’s grace and they wished to explore his revelations by themselves. But like many small innovative communities, the church communities must face the dilemma of the transfer of the renewal to posterity. By perpetuating the transfer of the true original renewal to the offspring, the communities often inclined to a strict internal discipline with an authoritarian oppression.

During the singing of church hymns – sung by the entire congregation lustily – they would initially not be hindered by musical instruments. Later the churches noticed that an organ is sensible to connect the singing of the Church community. In the Old Church the church organ is regularly updated and expanded. This afternoon I would like to come back to the iconoclasm. Shall we go outside now”, says Narrator.

Oude Kerk Amsterdam 4.jpg.png[18]

“This innovation in religion and in political system has a downside of an unrestrained commercialism and a nearly boundless urge for conquest and conversion. I would like to come back to this subject”, says Carla.

Carla, Man and Narrator leave the Oude Kerk.

“The Oude Kerk is probably the only Church in the world where the church square is almost exclusively surrounded by brothels. This fact is honoured with a statue “Belle” with the tekst: “Respect sex workers all over the world” [19] . Everywhere I see “Belle” on my way, I am reminded of Matthew 21:23 where Jezus says: “I assure you that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering God’s kingdom ahead of you”. And when I see or hear disapproval about whores, I thinking of the Buddhist question Chao Chou’s [20] Supreme Way: “The Supreme Way is not difficult, it simply dislikes choosing”. [21]

Oudekerkplein Belle Amsterdam[22]

In 1993, an anonymous artist had place a sculpture in the pavement of the square depicting a hand holding a female breast”, says Narrator.

Oudekerkplein Amsterdam[23]

“When I hear God’s Kingdom, I am reminded of my elementary school time in South Limburg. At that time – during the second world war – it came as it came, it was like it was and it went as it went. In the Catholic Church the pastor sang with a creaky voice “Credo in unum Deum [24]”, whereafter the choir continued with the beautifully sung “Patrem omnipotentem, factorem caeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium [25]”. The men – if they went to church – played their card game in the back of the Church or they heard Mass in the portal; usually their church attendance remained limited to four times a year. Only at Christmas, Easter – the men had confessed a few days earlier so they could go to communion –, before the great procession and with all Saints’ and all Souls’ day the Church was completely full. During the consecration [26] indicated with three times the clinging of bells, everyone was silent; after the consecration the Church began to come back to life with the murmur of people.

During my high school years – after my move with my aunt to Rotterdam – I went to a Reformed Church. The whole Church sang passionately: “Thine be the glory”; the sermons were carefully listened to and at home after the church service the sermon was discussed. The intensity with which one in Holland confessed faith corresponded to the full commitment whereby one fought against the water: pump or drown. With the same intensity and fear of God the true faith – to the letter and to the spirit – was looked for and confessed.

In South Limburg the pastor or chaplain took confession behind a closed door; after the confession followed by several Our Fathers and Holy Marys in the Church – one of my classmate had once got a turn around the ears by the pastor – almost all human sins were forgiven, and through the communion the sinner was again included in the large vessel of the Catholic Church and thus in God’s mercy.

During my first year at high school – after my move to Rotterdam – I had seen with stupefaction how in the Reformed Church a sinner confessed openly to the Church community his sin; I understood that – although in this church community God’s mercy was a mystery – the sinner was included again in the Church community. Another religious believe – though it concerned only another explanation of one faith issue – could be a reason for a schism within the Church community and – therefore – a schism within families, friends and acquaintances: so important was the true faith. In 1944 during the German occupation a church schism (or liberation) had taken place within the reformed church about whether baptism is only valid if the baptised continues the rest of her/his life to profess the true faith and may have a forecast on a presumptive afterlife in God’s grace (the Synodales), or is baptism a sign of God’s promise that you may be his child whereby the baptised is called to live as a child of God (the Liberates). This schism during the worst of the German occupation was terrible and inevitable for the Church communities and for the families in question [27]. As a separate pillars both Reformed Churches continued having several schisms afterwards.

Verzuiling in Nederland[28]

A few years later I read in high school a sentence from the Gospel of John:

In the Word was life and life was the light for all people [29].

On Yunmen’s question: “What is each and every person’s radiant light?” I answer according this sentence from the Gospel of John: “Life”. With Mŗtyū [30] – in the Mahābhārata death in the form of a woman created by Brahman – I wonder: “Why don’t people learn to live?””, says Man.

“Why don’t people allow light in each others’ eyes”, says Carla.

“Wherein do people differ from Krishna (the charioteer) who encouraged Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita – a small and old part of the Mahābhārata – towards entering the battle in which families, teachers and disciplines face each other in the tension between, on the one hand, world order and duty and, on the other hand, human action [31]? She/he who knows the world speak! Shall we continue this afternoon with the iconoclasm?”, says Narrator.

“That is good”, says Carla.

“May I invite you for a simple lunch”, says Man.


[1] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yunmen_Wenyan

[2] See: Tanahashi, Kazuaki ed., Treasury of the true dharma eye – Zen Master Dogen’s Shobo Genzo. Boston: Shambhala, 2012, p. 419 – 420

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

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

[5] See: Fernández – Armesto, Felipe & Wilson, Derek, Reformatie – Christendom en de wereld 1500 – 2000, Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Anthos, 1997, p. 61

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

[7] See also case 14 in:  App, Urs, Master Yunmen. New York: Kodansha International: 1994, p. 91. Freely rendered: Someone asked: “What is the eye of true faith?”. Yunmen answered: “Everywhere”.

[8] Source of this sentence: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_koans_by_Yunmen_Wenyan

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

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

[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oude_Kerk_(Amsterdam)

[12] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heraclitus

[13] Source: Eyck, Aldo van, Writings – The Child, the City and the Artist. Nijmegen: Sun, 2006, p. 73

[14] Source: Eyck, Aldo van, Writings – Collected articles and other writings 1947 – 1998. Nijmegen: Sun, 2006, p.145

[15] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oude_Kerk_(Amsterdam)

[16] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheepvaarthuis

[17] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheepvaarthuis

[18] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oude_Kerk_(Amsterdam)

[19] See: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oudekerksplein

[20] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhaozhou_Congshen

[21] See also: Hekiganroku – Casus 2. Zie ook: Yamada Kôun Roshi, Hekiganroku, Die Niederschrift vom blauen Fels. München: Kösel-Verlag, 2002

[22] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oude_Kerk_%28Amsterdam%29

[23] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oude_Kerk_%28Amsterdam%29

[24] Translation: “I believe in one God”

[25] Translation: “Allmighty father, creator of heaven and earth, of the visible and the invisible”

[26] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consecration

[27] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reformed_Churches_in_the_Netherlands_(Liberated)

[28] An overview of several pillarisations of Churches in the Netherlands. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gereformeerde_Kerken_vrijgemaakt

[29] From: John 1:4

[30] See: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – A survey into our existence, Part 2: Five common realities – Facts and logic. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 124 and: Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006, p. 170 – 173

[31] See: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – A survey into our existence, Part 2: Five common realities – Facts and logic. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 117

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.

[11]

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.

[12]

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.

[13]

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].

[15]

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