Tag Archives: Gamla Stan

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

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Narrator – back to the civilised world 2


After the day trip on the plateau of Hardangervidda – a National Park in Norway – my beloved and I travelled in one day to Oslo. In Gol [1] we visited our last medieval stave church in Norway. Actually, it is a copy of the original that once stood on this site and now is placed in an open air museum near Oslo. It struck us that this church was much lusher than the stave churches that we had seen before – we were approaching the civilised world.

768px-Gol_Stave_Church[2]

From Gol to Oslo the road became fuller and busier, we approached a medium-sized city. The quiet floating on the roads in our Goddess [3] was finished, now traffic required attention again.

Upon our arrival in Oslo we first put the tent in the city camp-ground. Then we visited the Norwegian Folk Museum where we saw the original stave church from Gol again. We noticed that the interior of the traditional Norwegian houses was always the same and always different. The design of the furniture and the household was different, but inside the house the objects were always positioned in the same place. This created an immediate recognition for every resident and visitor, while the individuality of the residents was shown. A unity in multitude and multitude in the same design.

800px-Norskfolkemuseum_1[4]

The next day my beloved and I visited the Frogner Park [5] in which a sculpture collection made by the Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland [6] is exhibited. In the Centre of the park stands a monolithic column composed of intertwined human figures. My lover was deeply touched by the similarity with the stave churches and by the intertwined worlds of people portrayed. He thought the column looked like a forefinger reminding us that we will once pass Heaven’s Gate together.

Vigelandpark[7]

I told my beloved a parable which my father has heard of his ancestors:

“When I was a child, my parents taught me and said:” Let Your heart carry our lives! For peace will increase in days and nights of Your life. Our benefit and fidelity will not leave You, You carry them, breathes them and the world shares in Your peace [8]. Hereinafter my father began to recite the first verses of the īśāvāsya upaniṣad: “That is overall. This is overall. Overall comes from overall. Take away overall from overall and thus remains overall. Peace, peace, peace”.

In a pitch dark period of my life I have violated the trust of my parents. My heart was cold and empty, my fidelity to the peace in the world changed in hatred and I enjoyed myself in wrongdoing that I committed to fill my heart with vanity. In one night I set the forest around a village on fire, the wind and the fire gods spread the flames. I shot on everything and everyone who wanted to escape the flames. I was happy! [9]

The next morning I saw that everything of value for filling my empty heart with vanity was turned into ashes and corpses by the fire. The stench of rotting and the flies remained. Hungry and empty I moved on. On the road I filled my stomach with food and my heart with compassion. Kindliness, detachment and joy came into view again.

Years later I shared my food with several hungry beggars. They thanked me with the words: “All in All, may you realize that Our fidelity and benefit cannot leave You”. Via the words of this passer-by, my heart felt again the continuing benefit and fidelity that I always carry and breath wherever I go”. 

After this parable my father taught me the meaning of the key word “realize” that is composed of “re”, “all”, “ïśe” [10], whereby “realize” origins from honouring “again and again”, “all and everything”, “in Your omnipotence”.

Wherever You go and whatever You do, the benefit and fidelity will not leave You”.

At the end of this parable my beloved said that everyone and everything is enlightened; we must realize it constantly. I still had a long way to go. Fortunately, there was benevolence and joy in my life again; detachment would follow soon.

After the visit to the Frogner Park we walked a few streets in the Embassy district where a friend of ours lived with a group in a beautiful traditional wooden house. During our visit we heard worrying news from Amsterdam. Many of our friends and former lovers suffered from a mysterious illness whereby they quickly lost weight; the disease fully exhausted them. The doctors had no cure and no answer; at the West Coast of America several distant friends were already deceased by this mystery.

When retrieving the post-restante at the post office in Oslo, my beloved read in a letter from his sister that his mother was very ill. During a phone call with his sister, he heard that his mother had less than a year to live.

Although we felt at home in Oslo, our concern about the fate of our friends in Amsterdam and the illness of the mother of my lover overshadowed our stay in this city. After a week we travelled to Stockholm via a water rich area. At the beginning of autumn we arrived in Gamla Stan. The leaves on the trees at the water front showed their red, brown, yellow glow. That autumn and winter was the last time my lover and I were carefree together.

Stockholm-autumn[11]


[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gol,_Norway

[2] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gol,_Norway

[3] Our white Citroën DS

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

[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frogner_Park

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

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

[8] The first sentences of this parable are a free rendering of chapter 3 of the Proverbs of Salomo in the Old Testament.

[9] 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; in her study Ruth Katz can hardly explain these crimes done by Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa.

[10] This is the locative of Īśa. In Sanskrit Īśa means amongst others “God in Heaven”, “someone with omnipotence”. The sound of īśā resembles “ich” – the German pronoun first person singular.

[11] Source image: http://www.communityofsweden.com/photos/photo/?photo=41411. This image is not included in the Creative Common Licence; see the conditions for use via the following hyperlink: http://www.communityofsweden.com/footer/editorial/community-of-sweden/terms-of-service/

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”?

[3]

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.

[5]

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.

[9]

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.

[11]

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.