Tag Archives: Hinduism

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


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

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

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

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

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

Highly recommended!

View all my reviews

Philosophy behind “Who are you – an survey into our existence” – part 1


“Who are you – an survey of our existence – 1” begins with eight introductory posts wherein the background, the framework and the scope of the survey is outlined. The survey is described in the form of a quest, a contemporary myth and an Odyssey that will end in a homecoming.

In part 1 of the quest, the first three chapters (of the 17 chapters) are described. At the end of part 1 follows an interlude before the main characters will continue their quest in daily life in part 2. In part 3 of the Odyssey, the main characters transcend our everyday world. At the end of the Odyssey – in zero – the homecoming will take place.

In Chapter 1 of this Odyssey the main persons completely experience the philosophical Monism [1]. Within the metaphysics, Monism argues that the variety of existing things – or entities – in the universe are reducible to one substance or reality and therefore that the fundamental character of the universe is unity.

In the Oriental philosophy, Monism occurs in different forms in the Upanishads, in Hinduism, in Taoism and in Buddhism. Christianity provides direct and indirect references to Monism in many places. After the Industrial Revolution in Western Society, Schopenhauer [2] has studied Monism in the Upanishads [3] – including the īśāvāsya [4] (or Isha) Upaniṣhad [5] – and in Buddhism.

[6]

Francis Herbert Bradley [7] has studied Monism in his essay ‘ On Truth and Coherence ‘ written in 1909.

[8]

At the end of Chapter 1, Indra’s net [9] from the Avatamsaka Sutra [10] is described as transition to Atomism – and also as synthesis between Monism and Atomism. According to the Avatamsaka Sutra, the dust particles within the net of Indra have feelings and needs. They know anger, joy and knowledge and ignorance. Within their scope they can also make everything happy. The net of Indra can be healthy and ill [11]. The main characters look at the net of Indra in different dimensions on the basis of a 10-minute film “Powers of Ten” of Ray and Charles Eames from 1968 (and re-released in 1977) [12].

In Chapter 2 of the quest for “Who are you” the main characters experience Atomism [13]. After the original separation of Heaven and Earth, they fell apart in countless pieces until the smallest particles remained. In the 20th century, Atomic Physics was extensively studied by many physicists: this study has resulted in a great deal of knowledge and many more questions [14]. In philosophy Bertrand Russell [15] and Ludwig Wittgenstein [16] in his young adult life [17] were adherents of logical Atomism.

[18]

[19]

In Chapter 3 of the quest for “Who are you”, the main characters studied how mutual trust is established and perpetuated. The “person in the middle” and “various objects in the middle” including the Church, meditation rooms, the sacrifice, the Lamb of God, the Dove, the word and the “Spirit in the Middle” are reviewed.

As preparation of everyday life the main characters have made a concise study of the five skanda’s which according to Buddhism give everything what is needed for spiritual development. Looking back after their homecoming, the main characters will examine if this statement – and all other experiences – were useful and meaningful.

In an intermezzo they studied the own image of rowers that fully depends on the results of races; they saw the outcome of the madness of war on basis of the Peloponnesian War in Greece 2500 years ago.

Finally, one of the main characters rediscovered the bond with Monism on basis of the opening sentence from the John Gospel in the New Testament translated into Sanskrit by the eternal wind – which also includes God and the Gods.

 “A breath of the wind

In the rustling of the trees

Your voice is heard” [20]


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

[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schopenhauer

[3] Upanishad literally means: “sit down next to”. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upanishads

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

[5] A word by word translation of the Isha Upanishad into Dutch is available via the following hyperlink: http://www.arsfloreat.nl/documents/Isa.pdf

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

[7] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._H._Bradley

[8] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._H._Bradley

[9] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra’s_net

[10] Zie ook: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatamsaka_Sutra

[11] See also: Cleary, Thomas, The Flower Ornament Scripture, a Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Boston: Shambhala, 1993, p. 363.

[12] The film “Powers of Ten” can be viewed via the hyperlink: http://www.powersof10.com/film

[13] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomism_(logical)

[14] Brian Greene has written excellent books on atom physics, relativity en quantum mechanics. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Greene

[15] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertrand_Russell

[16] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Wittgenstein

[17] See also: Sluga, Hans, Wittgenstein. Oxford: Wiley – Blackwell, 2011

[18] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertrand_Russell

[19] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Wittgenstein (fair use of small image)

[20] Moses saw and heard  – the voice of – God in the burning bush. See Old Testament, Exodus 3:2

Man Leben – Oriental wisdom


Kann man leben in den Stand der Vollkommenheit?

Can you life in a state of perfection?

You continue the story of your life:

“In 1989 I left the monastery. At regular times I returned for guidance of groups and for consultation and advice on the state of affairs of the monastery and the convent. At that time I was 55 years old.

Driven by an inner need I studied Oriental wisdom. Initially I lived everywhere and nowhere. Occasionally I returned to the monastery for obligations and I lived with various friends and acquaintances. For more stability, Amsterdam seemed a good place to live. I found a modest room in the house of friends.

Between the activities I read many books on Buddhism, Taoism [1] and Hinduism.

[2]

Eventually I delved further in Mahāyāna Buddhism  [3] and the Upanishads  [4]. The consistency of contemplation, meditation and daily life kept me busy. How do they go together and how do they affect each other? At that time, my life seemed full concentration and attention. Later I read a metaphor for my way of life [5]. I lived in a crowd with a mug filled with water on my head. All attention was necessary in order to steer smoothly and naturally through a crowd without wasting a drop of water.

[6]

Every action, every thought, every impression was like a drop of water that falls in the water. The waves of the impact of the drop flow to the past, to the future and to everything around us. Nothing remains untouched.

[7]

In this study, I started reading the source texts. For a better understanding of the source texts, I began a study Sanskrit. In the beginning, I had difficulties remembering the characters of the Devanāgarī – literally meaning Divine city – alphabet  [8]. The sounds of the alphabet are very logical. In the overview below the alphabet is shown. The first three lines contain the basic vowels. The following five lines show the consonants – sounding hard, hard aspirated, soft, soft aspirated, nose aspirated. The penultimate line show the half vowels. And the last line shows the hisses and the uvula sound “ha”. The columns show the sounds made by the speaker from the inside out [9].

[10]

My whole life, I liked a sound order, but I loved the mavericks. In the Devanāgarī alphabet the half vowels – ya, ra, la, va – and the uvula sound – ha – are the mavericks. They have a special place in the alphabet and in the meaning of words.

The letter “ya” means in Sanskrit “joining, going, wind, attaining, meditation”. The letter “ra” means “to go, to give/affect, to roll”. The letter “la” means “of Indra”. Indra is the God of the heaven and also the God of war, storm and rain. In Buddhism Indra is often called by his other name Śakra  [11]  that literally means “able to create”. The letter “va” we have previously met; this letter means “wind, ocean, water, stream, going”. The uvula sound “ha” means “water, blood, meditation, heaven, paradise, dying, wisdom, war”.

These mavericks resembled my life around 1990. I did not need much, because my indwelling was cared for by the monastery and by friends. The few things that I needed, came from guiding groups and from organizing and guiding rebuilding of monasteries and later of houses of friends and acquaintances.

In 1993 my aunt and godmother died in short time. In that year I also visited Auschwitz”, you say.

The next post is about on your visit to Auschwitz.


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

[2] White Cloud Monastry bij Beijing. Bron afbeelding: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Baiyun.jpg

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

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

[5] Source: Wick, Gerry Shishin, The Book of Equanimity – Illuminating Classic Zen Koans. Somerville MA: Wisdom Publications, 2005 p. 136.

[6] Amitābha Buddha statue from Borobodur, Indonesia. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Seated_Buddha_Amitabha_statue.jpg

[7] Impact of a drop of water, a common analogy for Brahman and the Ātman. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wassertropfen.jpg

[8] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanskriet

[9] See also: http://www.arsfloreat.nl/sanskriet-alfabet.html

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

[11] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9Aakra_(Buddhism)

Man Leben – Everyday life


Wie soll man leben – How to live

Now you continue with your contribution to society and your everyday life in Amsterdam:

“I have completed my general education at a Catholic primary school in South Limburg and a Christian grammar school in Rotterdam. In my grammar school time my aunt promoted the regular study of the Jewish scriptures. At that time these were complete different worlds. Looking back, I mainly see the similarities.

Open-minded I started my study Architecture in Delft without formal obligations. On my 21st birthday the disillusionment followed. My aunt explained to me how she had handled the legacy of my parents and family. She had done well, but the time was not well-disposed to her. Hereinafter I finished my studies in four years with a reasonable to good study in the field of utility-building.

Everyday life took me on. A short period I worked at an architectural firm on utility projects. Through this firm, I ended up in the trade of building materials. In the early sixties more money came in society and there was also more money available for building materials. I lifted on this tide.

[1]

Through my work on the architectural firm I met my wife and mother of our three children. In grammar school and the first two years of my study, I have been in love several times, but there was always a distance. Now I saw her and she appeared in a white glow; not as bad as when in primary school I fell in love for the first time. Then lightning struck me and everything was completely white, now it was gentler and only she stood in a white glow. Fortunately I could utter a few meaningful words. The second time I had the courage to ask her out. So it went on. We are quickly engaged and we married in 1959. A short time we have lived in an apartment and when the children came, we moved to a house near Amsterdam.

The trade in building materials was very successful. For me my “Jaguar year” started.

[2]

I will keep the description of these “Jaguar years” brief, because Lucy Irvine [3] in her book on the stay on a deserted island in the Pacific could not stand it when her companion “G” began about his “Jaguar days”. Our success increased and we moved to a detached house on the outskirts of Amsterdam; we went with vacations further and further. The children went to primary school and everything seemed quiet and fine.

With the increased wealth at the end of the 1960s, there was a underneath sense of uneasiness in society that also got a place in our family. Structures and ways of living changed, values and ways of behaviour changed and we felt a great increase of freedom [4]  and possibilities. The imagination seemed to come to power. The routine of a fixed family with fixed ways of living together changed in a free family with free manners. Our marriage changed in an open marriage with room for other relationships. The Jaguar was exchanged for a Renault 4 as family car – a delicious moving car, which flowed like everything else in that time –, because we felt we were still young and alternative; we enjoyed life.

[5]

The trade prospered and required another car – a Saab 99. Looking back the joy of this freedom and entering into other relationships was fleeting and shallow; the latent discontent remained.

[6]

The second-wave feminism rolled into our family. After our wedding my wife stopped working, she took care of everything in and around our house, and for the children; I took care of the income, for all official business and for the management of our possessions. We made plans for the future and considered together important decisions. Everything was nicely divided as usual in that area. We started with a normal marriage like everyone else in that time. The hippie time made everything loose and more jolly; clothing was alternative and the relationships as well. In the early 1970s my wife wished to develop and orient herself on her place in society.

My wife started to develop herself; she began a study languages at the University of Amsterdam. Her social life changed – her new friend came in our life and not much later they moved on with the children: she was my ex-wife and a visit arrangement with the children followed. My social life changed: there were several female friends in my life and my circle of friends changed because our separation also resulted in a separation in the family and friends – “partir est mourir un peux”. My inner discomfort and dissatisfaction remained.

With these changes also the view on other religions came in my life: Catholicism, Christian and Jewish faith had already found a place in my life – the last 25 years more or less dormant. With the alternative movement also Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism came into view. Later these religions played an important role in my life.

At the end of the 70 ‘s I was – additional to my work in the trade – a few years part time teacher for modular construction elements at the Delft University of Technology. I had transferred part of my job to younger colleagues. In that time I followed the lectures in philosophy by professor W. Luijpen. His view on society had a major influence on me.

In 1980 my aunt died after a short period of illness. I have organized her funeral and the additional matters. At that time she was again my closest member in the family. I visited her grave annually in the Catholic fashion around 1 November. I still could not fulfil her wish to honour her with traditional remembrance of the dead [7] according to the Jewish tradition. I still was not ready for it.

In the spring of 1982 my godfather in South Limburg suddenly died. My life was ready for a change. I decided to help my godmother on the farm: I moved to South Limburg and I was temporarily farmer. Before I left, I handled my business in Amsterdam, sold our house and for the children I have – like my grandparents had done for my parents in 1923 – a small capital base in deposit. My family has not appreciated this change. When I look back, I shouldn’t have taken these steps so bold, but in that period of my life I felt that this change was on my way”, you say.

“I remember that confusing time. In Limburg these changes happened later, but at the end of my grammar school time everyone had long hair and colourful clothes. During my study in Delft I felt resistance against men because I had the opinion that women had an unjust place in society”, I say.

“When we married, the society was organised differently. The changes came later. On my return in South Limburg, I went back in time. In Limburg the relation between men and women were not so much changed”, you say.

[8]

The following post is about your return to Limburg and how you started to drift.

 

– “Who are you – Part 1″ ready for download –

– Please, see page: “Who are you – Part 1”


[1] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Piping01.JPG

[2] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jaguar.3point4.750pix.jpg

[3] See: Irvine, Lucy, Castaway. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1984

[4] The verb root “Vraj” means in Sanskrit “go, walk”. Source: Egenes, Thomas, Introduction to Sanskrit – Part Two. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2005 p. 395. According to the electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta, “Vraj” also has the meaning “to go to (a woman)” and “have sexual intercourse with”.

[5] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Renault_4_R_1123_1968.jpg

[6]  Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Saab_99_EMS_1974_(UK_Spec).jpg

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

[8] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Ford5000.jpg

Intermezzo: Why Sanskrit?


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

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

[8]

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

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

[11]

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

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

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

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

“Life is like a flower.

It only grows on the vine.

Handful of thorns and you know you missed it.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[9] In Sankrit the name Buddha consists of the noun “bud” meaning “bud or knop” as “bud” in rosebud in the film “Citizen Kane” directed by Orson Wells – and the root “dha” meaning “place, grant, bestow”. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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