Tag Archives: Indra’s net

Windlessness


It is almost dark; the wind has dropped. Half an hour ago Man had lowered the sails and Carla, Man and narrator sailed on the outboard to their next stranding place near Terschelling in the direction of Vlieland. With the onset of darkness, Man lets the boat strand and lowers the anchor so that they will not float away with the next high tide. Man lights the gaslights in the cabin and on the aft deck, and they make the boat and beds ready for the night. Then Narrator makes preparations for a simple supper. Carla gets a bottle of red wine from her luggage, uncorks it and pours three glasses. They smell the wine.

“Good wine from a good year; the smell blends nicely with this quiet evening in a salty area”, says Narrator.

“Mmm, the wine also goes well with the old cheese. Thank you for this wine”, says Man to Carla.

“I thought that red wine may fit well with this beautiful evening with the lights on the islands in the distance. I’m glad you appreciate my gesture”, says Carla.

“While you took the wine out your overnight bag, I noticed that you have two books of Martin Heidegger [1] with you; I recognised a Dutch version of “Being and Time” [2] – I have understood that this is the most important work of Heidegger – and the title of the other book I could not identify. Professor Luijpen mentioned “being in the world” – one of the core themes in the work of Martin Heidegger – during his lectures in philosophy at the Technical University in Delft that you and I had attended in the late 70s. Are you studying Heidegger’s work?”, asks Man to Carla at the beginning of the meal.

“I have read “Sein und Zeit” (“Being and Time”) during my study in Amsterdam to take not of the views of Heidegger on humans and beings involved in the world. I could remember that Heidegger had also paid attention to being whole – or in our words to the “All-encompassing One” – in this book, but he had given little attention to it due to inability, because “being whole” is by definition unapproachable in his opinion.
Martin Heidegger[3]

The second book with work of Martin Heidegger – published in English translation more than ten years after his death under the title “Contributions to Philosophy (from Enowning)” – I have bought a few months ago in the sale at bookshop Broese in Utrecht. I have bought this second book because Heidegger continues on “being whole” – or All-encompassing One – in this book where he has stopped in “Sein und Seit” (“Being and Time”) due to his inability at that time”, says Carla.

“Could you summarise after our meal what Martin Heidegger has written on “being whole”. Afterwards I may tell – as prelude to the Heart Sutra – the introduction by Thich Nhat Hanh in his commentary to Heart Sutra [4]; the Dutch version has the title “Form is empty, empty is form”?”, asks Narrator.

“When we have coffee after the meal, I will tell you what I had noticed and remembered after quickly reading both books. By the way, the perennial Gouda cheese you took with you, tastes delicious with the brown bread and the wine”, says Carla.

“An old friend with a cheese shop has offered it yesterday afternoon after I had helped him cleaning his shop. He thought that this old cheese – as solidified and preserved life – may fit well with our boat trip on this part “emptiness” of our Odyssey. And he is right”, says Narrator.

“Shall I make coffee now or would you like to continue enjoying the wine?”, asks Man.

“Let us enjoy our cheese and wine for a while in this quietude without a single breath of wind”, says Carla.

After fifteen minutes Carla gets into warmer clothes, Narrator cleans the dishes and Man puts the kettle on for coffee and a few minutes later pours the boiling water through the coffee filter. When the coffee is ready, Man gives each a mug of coffee.

“Good to warm up with this coffee. Shall I now give my summary – or rather my impressions – of these books by Martin Heidegger?”, says Carla.

“That is good. Important works may well give rise to many impressions and based thereon a lot of different interpretations. I understand that the work of Heidegger has also provoked negative reaction”, says Man.

“That is right. Partly due to the position Heidegger has adopted at the rise of – and during – the Nazi regime and also by its abundant, distant – and at the same time, precise to the millimetre language with a distant engagement – about our “being” in its different facets. His critics did not feel any connection with Heidegger’s positive attitude toward the Nazi regime, and thereby they cherished another kind of engagement than Heidegger’s distant contemplative engagement that according to his critics was placed outside daily life. It is interesting to note that Heidegger had written his book “Sein und Seit” (“Being and Time”) in a chalet far away from the urban world”, says Carla.
Chalet[5]

“It is easy to criticise after the event the attitude people have before or during a particular regime. The other regime in Germany has been very extreme, but almost all regimes and religions have pitch-dark pages in their history: “Those of you who is without sin, may cast the first stone” [6]. And, we are now on our quest also far away from daily urban world: sometimes this is necessary for contemplation”, says Man.

“You are mild in your judgment. My memories of “Sein und Seit” (“Being and Time”) by Heidegger are coloured by the rest of my life and by our quest; I have read this work for the last time over 30 years ago. In my memory Heidegger distinguished various forms of “being”. These forms are: “being in the world” (“Insein” in German) is our human foundation for “being-t/here (“Dasein” in German): it is the human basis for being that I am myself [7]. A man is not alone on earth, we are with the other (“Mitsein” in German) or with things around us (“Mitdasein” in German). We are aware and knowing in the world [8] with the other or with things; this knowing is connected to “be in the world” (“Insein”) in German” [9]. “Being t/here” (“Dasein” in German) gets shape and form – in my capacity as a human being – in the context of “being in the world” in relation to the other or to things: herewith arises “being t/here” (“Dasein” in German) [10].

These separate ways of “being t/here” (“Dasein” in German) are for me perfectly clear with the metaphor of Indra’s Net [11] in mind. Additionally Martin Heidegger explored in this part of “Sein und Seit” (“Being and Time”) loss of being amongst others by death. Within the metaphor of Indra’s Net, this loss plays no role, because “being” inside Indra’s Net is present ungraspably changing in every glass pearl that reflects the whole pearl game, in the entire pearl game and in the emptiness of the pearl game. By its variability, elusiveness and omnipresence in every pearl, in the entire pearl game and in the emptiness, the loss of “being” is only a problem when Indra’s Net solidifies in time and every change does stop, the emptiness disappears and the pearl games comes to a standstill – similar to a continuous darkness wherein the lights and lighthouses on the horizon come forever to a stand – and/or light (life) disappears within the pearl game.

As far as I know, Martin Heidegger gives in his work “Sein und Seit” (“Being and Time”) a very limited answer to the question “Who are you”: you and I exist (“being t/here” or “Dasein” in German) in mutual relation to each other (“being with to other” or “Mitsein in German) and to the things around us (“Mitdasein” in German) in the world (“Insein” in German).

In the second part of “Sein und Seit” (“Being and Time”) Martin Heidegger addresses “being whole” (“ursprünglichen Ganzheit” in German); he concludes that “being whole” is by definition the end of all other forms of “being” in the world: because if “being” as separate being exists, it has not accomplished “being whole” [12]. The moment “being whole” has arrived, then this situation results in a complete loss of being in the world. “Being whole” can never be experienced according to Martin Heidegger [13]; I think that Heidegger made this statement because there is no one left to experience “being whole”.

During our stay at the first stage of our quest at All-encompassing One we have experienced that All-encompassing One cannot be captured in words, that are intended to distinguish.
Martin Heidegger does not dwell on “being whole”, probably he concludes with Ludwig Wittgenstein that “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen” (“Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we should remain silent”) [14]. He continues with subjects as temporality, worldliness and historicity. This is my recollection of “Sein und Seit” (“Being and Time”), says Carla.

“Impressive and a good accessible summary of a book that is seen by many as inaccessible. Probably Martin Heidegger – with his Roman Catholic background – had difficulty with the All-encompassing One, because within “being whole” also the separation of human beings with the Catholic Divine Trinity [15] and thus the existence of God and of humans is eliminated, and the existence of humans coincide completely with the existence of God. Sticking to the conceptual framework of “being whole” was certainly a bridge too far for Martin Heidegger in his time”, says Man.
Lam Gods[16]
“During your introduction I have noticed that Martin Heidegger is so close to our quest and – like a bird in flight – he clipped right past us without any touching. Maybe this is caused by the limitations of language or perhaps even by the limitations of human understanding. The Heart Sutra is slightly closer to the All-encompassing One without leaving daily world. I hope to be able showing this during our boat trip. How does Martin Heidegger continue with “being whole” – or the All-encompassing One – in his later work?”, says Narrator.

“In Contributions to Philosophy (from Enowning) – published after his death – Martin Heidegger makes a distinction between normal “being” in the sense of daily life, and “be-ing” in the sense of the All-encompassing One. Looked from the perspective of separate humans and/or beings, be-ing is no human or being, because “be-ing” in no “being” – so no human and/or separate living being –; “be-ing” is following our normal way of thinking “the nothing”. I do not know if “the nothing” of Martin Heidegger coincides with our concept of “emptiness” [17].

He continues with the position that “be-ing” is the basis of All-encompassing” (“Da” in German), and that “being” is the basis of our daily world wherein we live [18]. “Be-ing” does not surpass humans and beings, but exceeds the separation between “being” in the world and “be-ing”, and herewith at once goes beyond the possibility of surpassing “being” and “be-ing” [19]. Via the “All-encompassing be-ing” (Da-sein in German) humans are involved in the world of daily life (“Dasein” in German). “Be-ing” creates the basis for our involvement in the world [20]. By mentioning being in our daily life (“being”) separately from the All-encompassing One (“be-ing”) and at the same time letting both coincide with each other, Martin Heidegger tries to link “being t/here” (“Dasein” in German) with “being whole” (“ursprünglichen Ganzheit” in German).
The manner wherein Martin Heidegger creates this connection, corresponds to the way in which one and zero are reciprocally related to each other: without “zero” (or emptiness) there can exist no “one” (or All-encompassing One), because without “zero” there is no place for “one”, and without “one” the concept of emptiness or “zero” is completely empty of everything and without meaning and value”, says Carla.

“Your explanation of Martin Heidegger’s “being in daily world” along with “being in the All-encompassing One” shows similarities with the explanation hereof in some Buddhist books wherein the “Great Being” – also sometimes address with the “other shore” – is distinguished from “ordinary (human) being in the everyday life”.

Personally I think this distinction is artificial, because everyday life is completely included – or encompassed – in the “All-encompassing One”; any distinction between them, immediately forms the first schism in the “All-encompassing One” whereby the “All-encompassing One” ceases to exist as “being whole”. The same applies to “emptiness” and “form”: both create each other within the space of the “All-encompassing One”. To show this space of “emptiness” and “form” within the “All-encompassing One”, I have invited you for this boat trip on the Waddenzee”, says Man.

“It will be difficult to improve your explanation of “being whole” and “being t/here” in the work of Martin Heidegger. Martin Heidegger was a man of his time wherein “yes” and “no”, “zero” and “one” and “afterwards all other numbers starting with two” were clearly separated from each other. Surpassing these distinctions and then going beyond any kind of surpassing, I regard as a major intellectual achievement by Martin Heidegger in his time. Within the “All-encompassing One” the work of Martin Heidegger is comparable with a light spot on the horizon, as the light of one of the houses in the space of the dark distance. In my way of thinking, the light of one of the houses coincidents at the same time with the dark distance “one” and the “All-encompassing One”. My last sentence may not fully reflect the unspeakable wonder hereof. In my opinion Thich Nhat Hanh succeeds better in describing this miracle in the introduction to his commentary on the Heart Sutra [21]. Shall I continue herewith, or do we need more discussion on the work of Martin Heidegger”, says Narrator.
Aarde uit de ruimte bij nacht[22]

“The work of Martin Heidegger certainly requires more discussion: the libraries written about his work have still a lot of room left for works with new insights and outlooks. But tonight we have no time left for a further deepening of Heidegger’s work”, says Carla.

“Beautiful metaphor: the light of one of the houses. Examining this light in the world – with all the abilities and wisdom of humanity – will miss the core that Martin Heidegger – I think – had tried to interpret in his work. I’m looking forward to the introduction of Thich Nhat Hahn”, says Man.

“Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn begins his commentary on the Heart Sutra with the chapter “Inter-being” that – I think – goes beyond “being in reciprocal relation to one another” (or “Mitsein in German”) by Martin Heidegger, because the interconnectedness of “inter-being” is complete and because within “inter-being” the boundaries of the manifestations (phenomena) are diffuse at best and usually only artificial/imaginary as an illusion.

Waddenzee[23]

The chapter “inter-being” starts with the point of view of a poet who sees clearly that there is a cloud floating in the paper whereon he is writing his poem; and the sun also shines in the paper. Without the sun there is no rain, without rain the trees cannot grow, and without trees there is no paper for writing the poem. The woodcutter of the tree, the papermaker, etc. watch from the sheet of paper, without them there will be no sheet of paper for the poem. And also their parents and ancestors watch from the sheet, because without them there would be no woodcutter, no papermaker, etc. If we look closer then we ourselves – the writer, the future reader with all their loved ones, with all of our culture and civilization – are within this sheet of paper; without them no future bundle of poetry and no future readers of the poem. You can designate “nothing” that is not on one way or another connected to this sheet of paper. All – or “being whole” (or “Ganz Heit” in German) by Martin Heidegger – coexists with this sheet of paper.

According to Thich Nhat Hahn you cannot be on your own; or you wish or not, you must co-exist or “inter-being” with everything and everyone around you: the sheet of paper is created solely by “non-paper” humans and things.
Vel papier[24]

Carla – especially for you – Thich Nhat Hahn gives an interesting interpretation to the problem of the origin. Suppose you may wish to trace the rain, sunshine, or woodcutter to their origin H₂O, the sun or the ancestors of the woodcutter, is the paper of the poet then still possible? Thich Nhat Hahn says that the paper of the poet will not be able to exist: even how thin the sheet of paper is, the entire universe is inside.

The Heart Sutra even goes one step further than:

  • Martin Heidegger who states that “being a whole” is by definition the “nothing” or empty, because there is nothing to distinguish, and on the other hand that our being in the world is full of “being in”, “being with” and “being t/here” and
  • Thich Nhat Hahn who rightly points in the chapter “Inter-being” of his commentary on the Heart Sutra that a simple sheet of paper mainly is composed of “non-paper” people and beings,

because the Heart Sutra states that all things are empty. Later at this boat trip, I hope it will be possible to explore this statement on the subject emptiness in de Heart Sutra”, says Narrator.

“The explanation of “inter-being” has many characteristics of the metaphor of Indra’s Net and perhaps “inter-being” – as meant by Thich Nhat Hahn – may well be similar with this metaphor. The addition to the problem of the origin that you have mentioned is only part of the problems I have herewith: later during our quest maybe more. I’m starting to get chilly; shall we prepare for the night?”, says Carla.

“Good idea; I have missed some sleep last night in the car”, says Man.

“I will hold the night watch. It is already a little foggy: are we outside every sailing route at high tide tonight?”, asks Narrator.

“The boat is stranded stable and outside every sailing route. In case of emergency you may wake me”, says Man.

[1] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Heidegger
[2] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Being_and_Time
[3] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Heidegger
[4] See: Thich Nhat Hahn, The Heart of Understanding. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1988, p. 3, 4
[5] Chalet where Martin Heidegger had written Being and time. Source image and see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Heidegger
[6] See: New Testament, John 8:7
[7] See: Heidegger, Martin, Zijn en Tijd. Nijmegen: Uitgeverij Sun, 2013, p. 80
[8] See: Heidegger, Martin, Zijn en Tijd. Nijmegen: Uitgeverij Sun, 2013, p. 88
[9] See: Heidegger, Martin, Zijn en Tijd. Nijmegen: Uitgeverij Sun, 2013, p. 89
[10] See: Heidegger, Martin, Zijn en Tijd. Nijmegen: Uitgeverij Sun, 2013, p. 67
[11] See: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 65 – 68
[12] See: Heidegger, Martin, Zijn en Tijd. Nijmegen: Uitgeverij Sun, 2013, p. 302
[13] See: Heidegger, Martin, Zijn en Tijd. Nijmegen: Uitgeverij Sun, 2013, p. 302
[14] See: Wittgenstein, Ludwig, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Amsterdam: Athenaeum-Polak & Van Gennip, 1976 p. 152
[15] See: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 145 – 159
[16] Source image: part of http://www.bertsgeschiedenissite.nl/middeleeuwen/eeuw15/jan_van_eyck.htm
[17] See: Heidegger, Martin, Contributions to Philosophy (from Enowning). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999, p. 173
[18] See: Heidegger, Martin, Contributions to Philosophy (from Enowning). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999, p. 174
[19] See: Heidegger, Martin, Contributions to Philosophy (from Enowning). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999, p. 177
[20] See: Heidegger, Martin, Contributions to Philosophy (from Enowning). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999, p. 177
[21] Zie: Thich Nhat Hahn, The Heart of Understanding. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1988, p. 3, 4
[22] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nacht
[23] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wattenmeer_(Nordsee)
[24] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papier

Review: An English Translation of Fa-Tsang’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith


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An English Translation of Fa-Tsang’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith by Fazang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The translater Dirck Vorenkamp begins “An English translation of Fa-Tsangs’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith” with an outstanding introduction to the cosmology of “One” within the Hua-Yen branche of Zen Buddhism based on the Avatamsaka Sutra ( see: “The Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra” by Thomas Cleary).

In his commentary on the “Awakening of Faith”, Fa-Tsang describes that “One”-consciousness exists of:
– “Thusness” as the essence without characteristics that is the source of emptiness (or sunyata) wherein all exists in mutual interdependency. The “Thusness”-aspect is all before it is named and it is also the emptiness within Indra’s Net
and
– “Samsara” – or the “Concourse of things” – that shapes all the characteristics and functions wherein all originates in mutual interdependency. The “Concourse of things”-aspect creates the perceived characteristics of Indra’s Net; it is the “Gestalt” or the concourse of dharmas that are created in mutual interdependency within emptiness.

At once this description creates a problem, because emptiness is unspeakable by lack of features and because the capabilities of features and functions, that arise in interdependence and reciprocity, are infinite. We cannot put it into words – it is an entry into the inconceivable – and maybe we should conclude with Wittgenstein at this point: “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen“ (Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must keep silent)”.

The introduction to the commentary on the “Awakening of Faith” continues with the structure of consciousness, explained in a bird’s eye view.

“One”-consciousness has aspects of “Thusness”-consciousness and “Concourse of things”-consciousness. Thoughts arise – via an intermediate step – from the “Concourse of things”-consciousness (or “Gestalt”-consciousness).

There are five forms of thought:
1. Consciousness of cause and effect
2. Consciousness of development and evolution
3. Consciousness of manifestations
4. Consciousness of differences and illusions
5. Consciousness of continuing effects of cause and effect

When the first three forms of thought are also based in the emptiness of “Thusness”-consciousness, then these forms may be a basis for Buddhist enlightenment. The last two forms are the onset for the discrimination of things.

The ability to discrimination leads to awareness of separate phenomena:
• Consciousness of suffering and joy
• Based on desires that come out of suffering and joy, objects get shape
• When objects are shaped, names – including symbols and letters – arise for objects
• Based on names and symbols, actions arise with “cause and effect”
• Connected with actions, suffering (and joy) arises.

Then the introduction continues with an explanation of degenerate forms of consciousness that originate in a combination of a desire to illusions, symbols, acts, etc.

After this introductions follows the translation of “Commentary on the Awakening of Faith”.

The copy I received from the publisher, was accompanied with a bookmarker mentioning the makers of the book!

Highly recommended for a further study of the Hua-Yen branche of Zen Buddhism.

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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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Freedom and bound: fear for freedom


At the beginning of the evening Carla, Man en Narrator meet each other in the Vijzelstraat with a view on the Gouden Bocht [1] at the Herengracht.
Gouden Bocht Herengracht[2]
“This is a beautiful place to continue our quest for “a personal relationship with God”. At this place in Amsterdam the merchants and wealthy had placed in stone the legitimacy and grace of their personal relationship with God in the 16th and 17th century.
Gouden Bocht Herengracht 2[2]
During the Dutch Reformation, Calvinism – with the doctrine of the predestination of God’s grace – has radically changed the worldview of merchants and wealthy in the Amsterdam.
Within the Scholastic worldview before the Dutch Reformation, God’s grace was determined in the course of a lifetime in synergism [3] between God and human actions. Through good deeds, humans could obtain God’s grace, and by sin and mortal sin, humans lost God’s grace partially or even completely. When a large number of sins were committed during life, humans had to spend a certain time in purgatory after their death for purification before they can be adopted again in God’s grace.
During the Reformation, Luther has stated his doctrine of God’s monergisme [4]: only God determines the justification of het His grace for individuals in His infinite omnipotence. According to Luther, a man can only lose the grace of God by losing faith in God; man has a free will to preserve faith in God.
Within God’s monergisme of Calvin, the grace of God is solely determined by God. Man has no free will to obtain the legitimacy and the grace of God; man obtains and retains this grace solely through the election of God. By predestination God preserved his grace only to His elect.

Genade Gods[5]
The merchants and wealthy in Amsterdam regarded themselves as the elect of God by their Reformed faith based on Calvin. As a result, they must – as stewards of God – realise God’s work on earth during their earthly lifetime constantly. These canal houses are the fruits in stone of their stewardship of God”, says Narrator.

“On the one hand, the merchants and wealthy had received their puissant wealth naturally by the wind in the sails of their merchant ships. On the other hand, they had worked constantly so hard with the devil on their heels to fulfill this earthly stewardship of God in order to decrease the uncertainty about the destiny of God’s grace; one was never sure of this grace, and a prospect thereof in the here and now was more than welcome. In addition, the merchants and wealthy were of the opinion that by God’s providence and by their wealth they were entitled to the stewardship of God. This stewardship gave them the right to usurp their rightful share of earthly possession and to manage it in the name of God”, says Man.

“Erich Fromm [6] had examined and described in his book “Fear of freedom – the flight into authoritarianism, destructiveness, conformism” [7] the impact and consequences of Calvin’s predestination on humans during the Reformation and on humanity in the 20th century. According to Calvin, the complete omnipotence of God includes the complete impotence of man. Human faith is rooted in human powerlessness. Only on the basis of this powerlessness we can trust in God’s omnipotence, that – if it pleases Him – will lead us to the arrival of a new, better world. According to Calvin, man is not in any way a master of himself; the pursuit of virtue as a goal in itself is for Calvin unacceptable and would only lead to vanity. The salvation of man from this earthly life through God’s grace or eternal damnation is already fully determined by God before a human life begins; no good or bad deeds can change this. Only God in its absolute omnipotence determines the election of a man wherein man cannot and should not penetrate. Although Calvin projects all justice, charity and love in God, according to Erich Fromm the God of Calvin possesses the characteristics of an absolute tyrant with no compassion; the God of Calvin is not in harmony with the Christian God of the New Testament according to Erich Fromm.
The doctrine of predestination has two psychological faces according to Erich Fromm. Man is deprived of every freedom to change her/his life here and hereafter by own actions: man is only a powerless instrument in God’s hands. At the same time man is deprived of every doubt to be in God’s omnipotence constantly.
The God of Calvin has emerged from the Reformation that had brought massive social upheaval in Holland, Germany and England. In Luther’s Germany this social upheaval caused a general unrest; especially the middle class, but also the peasants and the urban proletariat felt their existence threatened by the disappearance of the old certainties and long standing interrelationships of a society founded on religious scholasticism, the rapid dissemination and direct accessibility of this change, the increase in knowledge by the printing press, and the rise of capitalism. By the Reformation and the increasing individualization, the “common people” in Holland, England and France felt themselves null and void, alone, frightened and powerless within a life wherein every human endeavor seemed pointless. Calvin’s predestination gave the “common people” words to these feelings of powerlessness and it gave purpose and meaning to this powerlessness.

Synode Dordrecht[8]
By Calvin’s predestination, the realization of complete inferiority is moreover sublimated into an absolute superiority of God’s elect; they are from the beginning of time to eternity in the grace of God’s omnipotence, nothing and no one can ever alter that election. As we have discussed before, the adherence to the right faith in a personal relationship with God and acquiring success is a sign of this election. Every hour of her/his existence a God-fearing human will establish His works in the sweat of her/his brow according to His predestination – out of conviction, of duty and of coercion –, because Calvin and his followers had the absolute conviction to be among His elect. By this direct relationship with God as His chosen, the Calvinists considered themselves as utterly superior to the dissenters and hereby they were destined to act as a steward of God in His world order.
Calvin’s predestination offers the traders and wealthy in Holland – the Nouveau Riche of the 16th and 17th centuries who have emerged from the “common people” – a justification for the sometimes questionable acquisition of their capital: by His election, the Calvinistic merchants and wealthy merchants regard themselves as absolute Stewards of God.
Calvin’s predestination offers a Calvinist captain of a Dutch trading ship in that time the justification to be Skipper besides God. By God’s election, the captain was absolute ruler of the boat, its crew and cargo; a rebellion against him was a revolt against the absolute power of God. This doctrine of predestination also offered justification for the Dutch to rule over its colonies and – more than one century later – to trade slaves as God’s steward over the non-elect inferior beings.
Rembrandt van Rijn, twee moren[9]
Calvin’s predestination produced according to Erich Fromm a flight from freedom in the following ways:
• docility to the Calvinist doctrines and the worldly authority on earth that was established by God,
• destructiveness of other dissenters and other cultures that do not accept God’s order
• conformity to the Reformed (Calvinist) Church.
Calvin’s predestination has sublimated fear, uncertainty, futility and helplessness to absolute superiority of the elect. This causes that it is extremely important for Calvinists – as elect – to have a direct relation with God whereby it helps to follow the pure beleive and to belong to the only true church; this motive for the absolute pure belief within the only right church has caused many divisions in families and in the Reformed churches in the course of time. [7]
Shall I continue tomorrow with the rise of capitalism during the Reformation where the doctrine of Calvin partly originated from and where Calvinism has given shape to a some extent?”, says Carla.

“Catholicism – that I met in my youth in South Limburg – has many shortcomings and the doctrine of the chosen people of the Jewish religion has caused much suffering and sometimes made hardship bearable. Because of these shortcomings, I never felt myself completely at home in both religions.
I finished Grammar school at a Christian Reformed school. In the beginning after my youth in South Limburg I regarded humility, purity of the letter and overzealousness in this belief rather strange; after some time I got used to it. But I retained difficulty with the steepness, the smugness and superiority of the front benches in the Reformed Church as I always kept struggling with the condescension of the notables in the Catholic church.
I had read Fear of freedom by Erich Fromm at the beginning of the 70s just like you. With your explanation of sublimation of powerlessness to superiority of the elect, you give an interesting addition to this book. The same sublimation of nothingness and helplessness to absolute superiority took place in the 30s in Germany with as consequences authoritarianism, destructiveness and conformism [10] by the other regime in Germany until the end of World War II”, says Man.

“The sad consequences of this sublimation can be read in the history books and some of us still feel the impact of these horrors on a daily basis.
Will Indra’s Net – wherein each and every glass pearl forms and simultaneously reflect the entire network – also show the insignificance and powerlessness within each pearl, wherefrom to acquire a real or perceived inner superiority by sublimation?”, asks Narrator.
“Interesting question. I think that the origin of Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, and this branch of Zen Buddhism have also emerged from deep feelings of nothingness, futility and helplessness in human life and within society. Herewith these Oriental religions are connected with the origin and cause of Calvin’s doctrine. But I’m sure that on one hand Indra’s net may easily comprise and reflect Calvin’s doctrine of predestination, but probably by many other lights Indra’s will not radically and definitely move to the ultimate consequences of Calvin’s predestination”, says Man.

“I am not so sure. I think that Indra’s net can indeed produce an extreme belief as the Nazi regime in Germany; as we saw earlier: Indra’s net can also be ill. But I doubt if every pearl will spontaneously decide to sublimate its insignificance and powerlessness into superiority; there is too much counterweight within Indra’s net just like there was also a counterbalance present in Germany during the Nazi regime; unfortunately in Germany this counterbalance was completely overshadowed by the mainstream of conformity to the authority of the leader and destructiveness of dissenters. The three streams of authoritarianism, destructiveness and conformism are timeless, like the ongoing cycle of honor/power – pride – wrath – revenge for warriors in antiquity. Unfortunately at this point I am realistic pessimistic”, says Carla.

“I agree with you on this realistic pessimism and I would like to add the Bodhisattva ideal with its limitless compassion whereby compassion also includes the acceptance of points of view where I totally disagree with”, says Man.

“A beautiful ideal that gives hope”, says Narrator.

“Without hope for a better future, it is difficult to live for many people”, says Carla.

“I think noting is excluded within the metaphor of Indra’s net”, says Narrator.

“Shall we continue tomorrow? Let’s now enjoy this beautiful evening”, says Carla.

“That is good”, says Narrator.

“Let’s have a drink, what do you want?”, says Man.

“For me some soda”, says Carla.

“For me a beer: that is needed after our overview of Calvin’s predestination”, says Narrator.

[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gouden_Bocht
[2] Source images: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gouden_Bocht
[3] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synergism_%28theology%29
[4] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monergism
[5] Source overview and see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justification_(theology)
[6] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Fromm
[7] This argument by Carla Drift is a free rendering – with several additions – of the pages on this subject in: Fromm, Erich, De angst voor vrijheid – de vlucht in autoritarisme, destructivisme, conformisme. Utrecht: Bijleveld, 1973 p. 67 – 138 (Fromm, Erich, Fear for Freedom. New York: Rinehart & Co, 1941)
[8] The-Synod-of-Dort-in-a-seventeenth-century-Dutch-engraving. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Calvijn
[9] Painting “Two moors” by Rembrandt van Rijn. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rembrandt_van_Rijn
[10] See also: Fromm, Erich, De angst voor vrijheid – de vlucht in autoritarisme, destructivisme, conformisme. Utrecht: Bijleveld, 1973 p. 104 – 138 (Fromm, Erich, Fear for Freedom. New York: Rinehart & Co, 1941)

Emo of Friesland – globetrotter in the 13th century


Carla, Man and Narrator are sitting in a pub in Amsterdam for their evening meal.

“It was good to continue our quest in Amsterdam this afternoon with two sermons in stone. Tonight you wish to give us a brief description of the life story of Emo”, says Man.

“Your prelude to intensities and associations was impressive in brevity and versatility”, says Carla.

“Thank you for this compliment. The life story of Emo of Friesland – priest, theologian, scholar and abbot in the 13th century – shows a nice contrast and a resemblance with the changes during the Reformation in Holland in the 16th century. His life shows at the same time a similarity and a unbridgeable rupture with the pastors, scholars and Protestants after the Reformation.

Emo of Friesland – in Germany known as Emo van Wittewierum and in the Netherlands as Emo van Bloemhof – was born around 1175 AD near Groningen within a family that belonged to the elite of the “Ommelanden” around Groningen. These “Ommelanden” were part of Friesland, but the city of Groningen and the areas west of the city belonged to the Diocese of Utrecht; the land north and east of the city of Groningen belonged to the Diocese of Münster [1]. This separation had started because the areas Christianised by Boniface [2] – in the eighth century AD working from the Diocese of Utrecht – became part of the Diocese of Utrecht. Boniface converted these areas preaching in the old Frisian language instead of Latin. The areas converted by Liudger [3] – the successor of Boniface and the first Bishop of the Diocese of Münster – ordered by Charlemagne, became part of the Diocese of Münster. The separation between the sacral power and profane power was usually virtual at that time.

Emo had attended the school of a Benedictine monastery in the “Ommelanden” where after he had studied church law at the Universities of Paris. In 1190, he was the first foreign student at the University of Oxford. Thereafter he had attended the University of Orléans in France [4]. We can only surmise how he had made the study trips; probably he had travelled overland on foot – whereby he had mostly stayed at clergymen or in monasteries – and part of the trip to England he had travelled by boat. During his studies he had mainly used Medieval Church Latin, supplemented by Medieval English – old Frisian was akin to old English – and flawed French for daily contact with the local population in France.

After his studies, he had been teacher schoolmaster in Northern Groningen around 1200 AD and afterwards pastor in Huizinge.

Kerk in Huizinge[5]

In 1208 AD Emo had entered the convent of his cousin Emo van Romerswerf. This monastery joined in 1209 AD – one hundred years before founded – the order of Premonstratensians [6]. By a donation of the Church of Wierum (Wittewierum) Emo had founded the monastery of Bloemhof. The Bishop of Münster had wished to reverse the donation by this Church – located in the northeastern “Ommelanden”, because the Bishop was concerned about the strong rise of the various monastic orders (Premonstratensians, Cistercians) in Friesland and Groningen with an independent authority of the monastic order outside the worldly sacral power. Emo – with his knowledge of Church law – had defied the decision of the Bishop and in 1211-1212 AD he had travelled by foot to Rome to set the decision of the Bishop for discussion with Pope Innocent III.

In 1213 AD the monastery could officially be founded under the name Hortus Floridus; hereby may be conclude that Pope Innocent III had accepted the donation of the worldly Church of Wierum to the monastery.

Abdijkerk Hortus Floridus Wttewierum[7]

In 1219 AD Emo had witnessed the Saint Marcellus flood that caused 36,000 casualties and resulted in a famine [8]. The monastery is located on a mound, hereby the damage to the monastery had probably been limited; also at that time the rich farmers and the clergy in Northern Groningen knew where to establish their farms and monasteries.

We know the life course of Emo – and herewith a part of the life of the “Ommelanden” in relationship to the world of the 13th century AD – so detailed, because Emo had started with the well preserved “Chronicle of the monastery Bloemhof at Wittewierum [9].

The decline of the influence of the monastic orders in Friesland and Groningen – and also in England – began with the rise of the Reformation in 1521 AD. With this Reformation, the authority, the knowledge and the influence of the monasteries and the Church with its centuries old customs and habits were defied, just like Emo – with his knowledge of Church law as a literate man –had defied the authority of the Bishop of Münster three centuries earlier in order to give his life and work shape in the monastery Bloemhof.

The unbridgeable contrast between the mindset of Emo in the thirteenth century and the conceptual framework during the Reformation in the sixteenth century, is evident from the manner whereby the right is sought on their side during disagreements. In his stubbornness Emo had sought – and probably received – his right in his dispute with the Bishop of Münster by submitting his case to Pope Innocent III. An impression of the scope of the worldly power of Pope Innocent III: he had contested the Cathars; he had excommunicated the English King John of England; he had forced the French King Philip II Augustus to take his wife Ingeborg – from whom he had been divorced – back again; he had succeeded in the deposition of the German Emperor Otto IV [10].

Paus Innocent III[11]

In their stubbornness the Protestants had proclaimed many aberrant religious doctrines during the Reformation, that were also proclaimed by many Catholics. The Protestants were not drawn or pushed in a schism by their different doctrines, but by their stubbornly clinging to these different doctrines. The cause of their separation was the refusal of Protestants to take back their words “unless convinced by the Holy Scripture – that the Protestants had started to study independently within their own faith community – and by pure reason” [12]. Where Emo and the Bishop of Münster had finally accepted the opinion of the Pope and the Catholic Church, the Protestants had followed only the judgement of Holy Scripture and their own pure reason.

In the Netherlands the Protestants were drawn or pushed by their stubborn clinging to different religious doctrines in a rebellion with King Philip II, who was an equal to the Protestants in stubbornness and piety  [13], who certainly had as many issues with the Catholic Church, which had fought with and against the Pope of Rome [14] as befits a worldly king in those days, but who had eventually accepted the Catholic doctrines and practices.

Partly due to the different internal positions in religious affairs and under the influence of the “pure reason” – whereby in Holland commercialism is never lost sight of –, the Protestants in Holland had decided to a marriage of convenience between Church and State [15]. From this marriage of convenience between Church and State, the Dutch Republic [16] had arisen as first republic in world history. Tomorrow more about the start of the Reformation at our visit to the Old Church of Amsterdam”, says Narrator.

“During your description of the life of Emo and your explanation of the gap between the mindset of Emo for settling issues in comparison with the reference framework of the Protestants over three centuries later, I was reminded of a passage that I had read in the bookstore “Au Bout du Monde” at the Singel this afternoon. Freely rendered:

Yunmen [17] – a Chinese Zen master from the 10th century AD – asked his students: “Each and every person embodies the radiant light. If you try to see it, it is totally invisible. What is each and every person’s radiant light?”

No one of the assembly answered.

Yunmen answered for them: “The monks hall, the church, the kitchen, and the monastery gate”

Yunmen klooster in China[18]

As commentary tot his Buddhist question was written: “It is not Yunmen’s personal answer, everyone’s light makes this answer” and “All humanity embodies the radiant light” and “Know that the radiant light that each and every person embodies, is each and every person that is actualised” and “Even if the church, the kitchen and the monastery gate are the ancestors of Buddha, they cannot avoid being each and every person[19]. From the point of view of Indra’s Net, it is an easy question, but in everyday life it is difficult to accept the light in the eyes of each and every person”, says Man.

“In times of rebellion against (supposed?) injustice – in society or in religious questions – a situation that previously was experienced as perfectly normal, is now seen as a unacceptable injustice. During the Waning of the Middle Ages, Holland had lived according the rhythm of the Catholic Church, but with the rise of book-printing – whereby literate people started to study independently – mindlessly following old customs and faith according to the habits of the then Catholic Church did not fit any longer. The radiant light had changed during the Reformation. Did the radiant light change because humanity had changed during the Reformation? Is the radiant light so all-encompassing that it can also contain any injustice? I think the latter, but for me it is hard to accept”, says Carla.

“Is the radiant light – just like the Gods – tied to the law of cause and effect, or can the radiant light surpass partly or entirely from this law? Perhaps both. Shall we have another beer before we ask for the bill?”, says Narrator.

“I like a Belgian Tripel Trappist beer because this beer filters the light so beautiful”, says Man.

“For me a Gulpener Pilsner as a reminder of the light of my uninhibited youth”, says Carla.

“I will buy these beers from the the proceeds of the musical performance at Centraal Station this afternoon”, says Narrator.


[1] Source: Boer, Dick E.H. de, Emo’s reis – Een historisch culturele ontdekkingsreis door Europa in 1212, Leeuwarden: Uitgeverij Noordboek, 2011, p. 11

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

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

[4] See: http://www.ox.ac.uk/about_the_university/introducing_oxford/a_brief_history_of_the_university/index.html and http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emo_von_Wittewierum and http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emo_van_Bloemhof

[5] Photo of the contemporary St. Jans-church from the 13th century on the place where the previous Church had stood where Emo of Friesland had been parish priest in the twelfth century. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huizinge

[6] see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premonstratensians

[7] Photo of the former abbey of the monastery Hortus Floridus in Wittewierum around 1600. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emo_von_Wittewierum

[8]  See also: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_der_Sturmfluten_an_der_Nordsee, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storm_tides_of_the_North_Sea and http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erste_Marcellusflut

[9] This record can be read via the following hyperlink: http://www.dmgh.de/de/fs1/object/display/bsb00000886_00464.html

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

[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Innocent_III

[12] Source: Fernández – Armesto, Felipe & Wilson, Derek, Reformatie – Christendom en de wereld 1500 – 2000, Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Anthos, 1997, p. 108.

[13] See also: Fernández – Armesto, Felipe & Wilson, Derek, Reformatie – Christendom en de wereld 1500 – 2000, Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Anthos, 1997, p. 98 and Noordzij, Huib, Handboek van de Reformatie – De Nederlandse kerkhervorming in de 16e en de 17e eeuw. Utrecht: Uitgeverij Kok, 2012, p. 18 – 19

[14] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_II_of_Spain

[15] See also: Noordzij, Huib, Handboek van de Reformatie – De Nederlandse kerkhervorming in de 16e en de 17e eeuw. Utrecht: Uitgeverij Kok, 2012, p. 414

[16] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republiek_der_Zeven_Verenigde_Nederlanden and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_Republic

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

[18] The contemporary Yunmen monastery in China. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yunmen_Wenyan

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

Five common realities – facts en logic 14


Carla, Man and Narrator are sitting on the little square at the entrance of the Basilica of San Lorenzo before they will visit the Palace of the Medici.

“The mind of the warrior shows a number of contradictions. The parable of Mŗtyu – death in the form of a woman – gives a glimpse into the contradictions, when Arjuna’s oldest brother – as crown pretender of the five Pāṇḍavaḥ brothers – is inconsolable about the loss of the many killed on the battlefield including family members, teachers and students, and loved ones. As a result of the battle – between on the one hand the world order and duty, and on the other hand human action – over their legitimate kingdom, at the same time death and destruction occurs on an extensive scale among the loved ones. Another example is “fight for peace”. We do not only recognise the mind-set of the warrior – with these contradictions – on the battlefield, but also in science, religion, philosophy, government and, of course, within ourselves”, says Carla.

Feiten en logica 14a[1]

“The parable of Śīla [2] – freely interpreted as “All-encompassing Oneness” – from the Mahābhārata shows the mind of the warrior within ourselves. Through a consistent use of all (human) qualities – or Śīla – a wise king in ancient India had achieved peace and coherence within his kingdom and eventually within himself. This gave him also the immense power of goodness. Through the wealth of goodness he obtained the three worlds including the world of the gods. On a good day Indra – in a manifestation of medicine – appeared before the King, and Indra asked the King to learn what goodness really is. The King said that administration of the three worlds took all his attention: he had no time to show goodness to Indra. Indra in the form of medicine remained at the Court and served the King so superbly that the King said: “Ask for whatever you wish and it shall be giving“. In response Indra said: “You have already given me so much, but you would make me blissfully happy with your Śīla“. The King gave Śīla to Indra and the “medicine” left immediately. After the “medicine” was gone the King felt an inner unrest without knowing why. A column of light in human form came from his body. The King asked: “Who are you?”. The column of light answered, “I am Śīla. Until now we were inseparable. But you have given me away, and I am leaving you“. Soon a second column of light emerged from his body and again the King asked: “Who are you?”. The second column of light said: “I am Dharma – the world order – and I am leaving you, because I live where Śīla lives“. Right away three columns of light emerged from his body, and Truth, Goodness and Solidity left, because they live where Śīla lives. At last there appeared a column of light in the form of a woman, and the woman answered to the question “Who are you?”: “I am Śri – interconnectedness –, I am all that is desirable in a human life; I live where Śīla lives“. Paralyzed with fear the king asked to Brahman who that medicine was and what had happened. Brahman answered: “The medicine is Indra’s Net. Through Śīla, you had become who you are, and with Śīla you have given away yourself to Indra’s Net[3], says Narrator.

“This parable beautifully shows some of the contradictions within the mind-set of the warrior. An imperator obtains a kingdom by his actions and then the imperator cannot maintain the empire: several laws of nature prevent this. In addition, there may be recognised contradictions within the mind-set of the warrior during a successful conquest or defence of a desired object: at the moment of success the warrior feels the volatile euphoria of an “All-encompassing Oneness”. This euphoria sets his temporary self-image that immediately starts to erode with the vanish of Śīla. We have seen this volatile euphoria during a victory in the self-image of rowers in the two students’ boat crews who compete for victory during the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race on the Thames [4]”, says Carla.

Feiten en logica 14b[5]

“The same euphoria of temporary uniqueness showed Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa when they shot arrows with joy at everything that tried to escape from the fire in the Khandava forest [6]. With shame I must now confess that I had known this kind of euphoria when I – as a young warrior with a militia in Central Africa – shot at everyone who tried to escape from a burning village [7]. Śīla had already left me at my desire to experience the adventures of my ancestors upon my urge for comfort, money, fame and power. That night – when shooting at the villagers who wanted to escape the burning village – I lost the last remnants of my innocence. I still bear this contradiction between euphoria of a temporary oneness during violent conquests, and directly emerging decay, with me in the form of the breath of the villagers. Although the villagers have the identity “death” in the human world, I keep them alive with my breath”, says Narrator.

feiten en logica 14c.[8]

“Shall we look at the inner unrest in the palace of the Medici?”, says Man.


[1] Image of Pallas Athene – goddess of wisdom, courage, justice and correct warfare. She is also the companion of shrewd heroes. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warrior

[2] Śīla means amongst others “natural way of living or of behaviour” in Sanskrit. In Buddhism Śīla means amongst “moral conduct or precept”. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9A%C4%ABla

[3] The parable of Śīla is a free rendering of the parable of Prahlāda from: Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006, p. 101 – 102

[4] See the post “Amateurs” in: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence –part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012 p. 190 – 194

[5] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boat_Race

[6] See also: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/maha/index.htm boek 1 Section CCXXVII and: Katz, Ruth Cecily, Arjuna in the Mahābhārata: Where Krishna is, there is victory. Delhi: Molital Banarsidass Publishers, 1990, p. 71 – 84

[7] See:  Leben, Man, Narrator – One Way. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 22

[8] Image of Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa who shoot with joy arrows at all that tried to escape from the fire in the Khandava forest. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khandava_Forest

Five common realities – facts en logic 13


After their visit to the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, Carla, Man and Narrator are sitting on the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella for their simple lunch.

“During your introduction to Kṛṣṇa – as God in human shape – it struck me how much sound agreement the name Kṛṣṇa has with Christ, the son of God within the Catholic Trinity. Both are appearances of God in human shape, who are immaculately received by their mothers. Are there any more similarities?”, asks Carla.

Feiten en logica 13a[1]

“The source of a possible immaculate conception of Kṛṣṇa by his mother is shrouded in mystery. This information may well be attached later, after this movement of Hinduism has come into contact with Christianity. The source for my introduction to Kṛṣṇa as God in human shape is the Bhagavad Gītā, which is composed well before our era. In the names of Christ and Kṛṣṇa, the verb root “kr” can be recognised meaning “to make, to do, and to act”, and “Īś” or “Ish” meaning “God or Supreme Spirit”. The combination of both word cores represents the incarnation of Kṛṣṇa as God in human shape and Christ as Messiah very well”, says Narrator.

“I do not exclude that there have been exchanges of religious ideas between India and Asia Minor around and after the time of Alexander the Great. The New Testament is written about a hundred years after the birth of Christ and the four Gospels show significant differences in content. Maybe the Evangelists in Asia Minor were familiar with several religious elements from the Bhagavad Gītā including Kṛṣṇa as God in human shape. I have no information about this thought; this may require a separate quest”, says Man.

“Christ and Kṛṣṇa have died both and at the same time they are both seen as “the unborn and unchanging source” by believers. Apparently God – in human shape – is on the one hand tied to the law of cause and effect, and on the other hand immortal. I think both facts are applicable on all manifestations in Indra’s Net. Let me explain this using a parable [2] from the Mahābhārata with the title “What is dead?”.

Feiten en logica 13b.jpg[3]

The battlefield – described in the Bhagavad Gītā – between the world order and duty (Dharmakshetra [4]) and human action (Kurukshetra) shows countless horrors. One of these horrors on the battlefield is the death of the beautiful son of Arjuna. The oldest brother of Arjuna – and crown pretender of the five Pāṇḍavaḥ brothers – is inconsolable. After this loss, he oversees the battlefield with the many fallen and he says: “This is worth no victory in this war, no kingdom, no heaven and no immortality“. He asks Vyāsa – the narrator of the Mahabharata –: “Family, teachers and loved ones are lying broken on the Earth with death as their identity. Why are they now known as “death”? Who dies here? What causes death? And why does death claim the living?

Hereafter Vyāsa tells the story about the origin of Death – Mŗtyu [5] in the form of a woman – by Brahman. Mŗtyu askes him: “Why am I created?”. Brahman tells her that she is created to relieve the Earth from the intolerable burden of the ever growing population of living beings. Hereafter Mŗtyu begins to cry uncontrollably. Brahman takes her tears in his hands, but some fall on the Earth. From these tears, the diseases are created whereby the bodies of living beings will die. Mŗtyu demands an explanation from Brahman: “Why did you create me in this form of a woman? Why am I knowingly engaged in the misery and cruelty of devouring of living beings. By taking away the lives of children, parents, loved ones and friends, their relatives will mourn on the loss and I will be the object of their hatred and fear. But I will fear the tears of sorrow the most. No, I will not be able to extinguish life; save me from this fatal existence”. Brahman explains her: “There is dead and there is no death at the same time. All living things cause their own death by sticking to their own delusions in sins [6] and in happiness. In Truth, there is no death. The tears of Death are the tears of our sorrow that cause death and destruction everywhere around us. Just as easily we can create, enrich en preserve a True life for ourselves and for others.” After this explanation Mŗtyu – death – asks bewildered:

“Why don’t you learn to live?” [7]

Why do we so anxiously hold to our manifestations in Indra’s Net? This living manifestations – in sins and in happiness – evaporate sooner or later; Mŗtyu will carry them away as she also had carried away all main characters from the Mahābhārata in all their different manifestations.

Why don’t we learn to live as a “True Man with no ranks going out and in through the portals of Your face“; I think that Mŗtyu – in her bewilderment – has asked this to Brahman”, says Narrator.

Feiten en logica 13c.jpg[8]

“During the question “Why don’t you learn to live” by Mŗtyu, I created the following haiku:

One living being,

Nothing is born and dies,

Wave in ocean

Feiten en logica 13d[9]

This haiku shows in an indirect way why the manifestation of God in human shape is bound by the law of cause and effect. In a human shape God is – just like any living being – created from dust and will return to dust, as a wave is born from the ocean and will return into the ocean. Which form does God have in Indra’s Net?”, says Man.

“May I formulate this question more directly: Is a living being – for example a human life of God in a human form – a manifestation of the True Man or is it the True Man self?”, asks Narrator.

“During my preparation for the Holy Communion, I had learned that a human being consists of a physical body and an immaterial soul. The body is mortal and goes back to the earth after death; the soul lives further after death in the purgatory or goes straight to heaven. At that time, I have never understood where my soul – and where life – originates from, and I still don’t understand it. The metaphors “Indra’s Net” and “golf in the ocean” give me an opaque image how people – as manifestations of the All-encompassing One – are born from dust and return to dust. I can comprehend this opaque image intellectually and I understand the concept of incarnation, but the image does not become transparent”, says Carla.

“Maybe we may have touched upon the limits of our human comprehension and we must conclude that “Mysterium est magnum, quod nos procul dubio transcendit” [10] or “The mystery is great, that transcends us doubtless”, just as the mystery of the wave without doubt originates from the ocean and without doubt returns into the ocean”, says Man.

“I notice a development in your thinking. During “The Word as object in the middle[11] at the first part of our Odyssey, you perceived the life mystery as so great, that it transcends us completely: this mystery transcends our doubt, with or without religion, and with or without sacrifice. Now you perceive the mystery of the human life that is created and merged in the All-encompassing One without doubt. Do I see this development well?”, says Carla.

“It is not a kind of a development or a change in thinking, it is a “Mysterium continuum” or a “constant mystery” in my thinking”, says Man.

“Shall we clean up our lunch? Later during our Odyssey at “And death has no dominion here” we can go further into the question “What is death?”. Shall we visit – as transition to mind of the warrior – the Palace de Medici this afternoon after the rest hour by Carla?”, says Narrator.

Feiten en logica 13e[12]


[1]The life of Jezus in a nutshell” by Matthias Grünewald at the Isenheimer altar. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jezus_(traditioneel-christelijk)

[2] Free and abridged taken from: Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006, p. 170 – 173

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

[4] See footnotes 15 and 16 in the last post for an explanation on both words.

[5] The name Mŗtyu means “death, dying” in Sanskrit. The name consists of Mŗt – where the sound of the Dutch word “moord” and the French word “mort” may be recognised – and “yu” meaning “to unite, to bind” in Sanskrit. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[6] See also the Seven Deadly Sins in the Catholic Church in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins . See also the Seven Deadly Sins in the Divina Commedia by Dante Alighieri.

[7] Free and abridged rendering of: Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006, p. 170 – 173

[8] One of the endless many manifestations of the “True Man”. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mann

[9] Painting “The Wave” by Gustave Courbet. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozean

[10] From the Papal encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharista by Pope John Paulus II. In the word “Eucharista” one can recognise “Eu” meaning “good” in Greek, “car” pronounced as “char” meaning “to move in Sanskrit and “Īś” pronounced as “ish” meaning “being able to” and “the supreme being/soul” in Sanskrit. See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 163

[11] See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 163

[12] Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_Medici_Riccardi

Five common realities – facts en logic 11


Carla and Narrator are waiting for Man outside their guest house in Florence.

“This afternoon I forgot to say that objects, symbols, rituals, words, slogans, music, literature, philosophy and religion can direct – and take over – the behaviour and consiousness of people. Two extreme examples in negative sense are:

  • a political leader and followers influence each other in words and rituals so far-reaching that a part of society proceeds to genocide,
  • a religion sect degenerates by rituals, slogans, words and behavior in religious madness.

feiten en logica 111[1]

In a positive sense, behaviour and consciousness of people are influenced – as exercises for the soul – by music, literature, religion (for basic trust), architecture, art, science. Via symbols and rituals, people feel security and belonging. An outspoken example is the hostia (sacramental bread) which – according to the Catholic Church – changes into the body of Christ after the epiklesis and the consecration during the Eucharist [2]. I think we should not delve into this further, because we use lightness and quickness as two guidelines during our Odyssey”, says Carla.

feiten en logica 112[3]

“Within the conceptional framework of Indra’s Net, every particle, every object and every living being reflects the body of Christ – as a historical person and as a Godlike being”, says Narrator.

“There is a small difference: Catholics believe that the hostia only after the epiklesis (or convocation of the Holy Spirit) and the consecration during a Catholic Eucharist changes in the body of Christ. The metaphor of Indra’s Net reflects the Catholic faith and at the same time, the disbelief in the hostia as a body of Christ in all its manifestations”, says Carla.

“You are right, we don’t have time to fully investigate the influences of symbols and slogans on the human behaviour next to our Odyssey to who are you. There is Man”, says Narrator.

“Do you like a real dinner tonight or shall we buy a simple supper in the supermarket and eat it in the park of the Piazza Massimo D’Azeglio, just like Dutch people?”, asks Man.

“Right then, just as people from Holland”, says Carla.

“I haven’t done otherwise for years, for me it’s all right”, says Narrator.

After a visit to the supermarket, they sit in the park and have the following conversation.

“Narrator, your last name Nārāyana is similar to the title of one of the older Upanishads that probably is created at the end of the Vedic period in India [4]. I refer to the following brief passage from the Nārāyana Upanishad [5] as stepping stone to my introduction to Kṛṣṇa as God in a human shape:

Nārāyana is the Supreme Reality designated as Brahman.

Nārāyana is the highest (Self).

Nārāyana is the supreme Light. Narayana is the infinite Self.

The supreme person Nārāyana willed to create beings.

Everything in this world is pervaded by Nārāyana within and without [6].

Did you know this similarity in name with your last name?”, asks Man to Narrator.

“My father had told me this in one of his stories when I was a young man. Later on in my life – during my incarnation as Bhikṣu – I have read the Nārāyana Upanishad via de University Library in Heidelberg.  In Sanskrit, Nārāyana means amongst others “son of the original Man”[7], whereby “Man” in Sanskrit means “to think, believe and perceive”. The book with Buddhistic questions that I had received from my American beloved, includes the question “True Man” about the meaning of “Man”. This beginning of this question is:

“There is a True Man with no ranks going out and in through the portals of Your face [8].

Beginners who have not witnessed it, Look, Look”

And the verse in this koan starts as follows:

“Delusion and (Buddhistic) enlightenment are opposite,

Subtly communicated, with simplicity;

Spring opens the hundred flowers [9], in one puff. [10]

Delusion and (Buddhistic) enlightenment also include symbols, rituals, words, slogans, literature, philosophy and religion that direct and even take over the behaviour and consiousness of humans in a positive and negative way. The “son of the original Man” in my last name Nārāyana is not only the human man, but also indicates the “True Man” in this Buddhistic question”, says Narrator.

feiten en logica 113[11]

“The difference between delusion and reality, crime and goodness are often paper thin and as a rule dependent on the framework wherein it is perceived. Your explanation about “thinking, believing and perceiving” show this. “Sein und Zeit[12] – the magnum opus by Martin Heidegger – also shows a glimp of this. Martin Heidegger has made a distinction between the “Improper Man” – or Delusion – and the “Own Self”. I am not sure if Martin Heidegger would equate the “Own Self” to the “True Man” in the Buddhistic question”, says Carla.

feiten en logica 114[13]

“I am deeply impressed by your introduction to Nārāyana and the “True Man”; you can express this far better than I can. Would you like to tell us who Kṛṣṇa is?”, says Man.

“May I do that tomorrow, let us first have our supper on this beautiful late summer evening in the park. Shall I break the bread and pour the wine?”, says Narrator.

“That is good”, say Carla and Man.

feiten en logica 115[14]


[1] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg

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

[3] Images of a traditional and modern monstrance. The monstrance is a holder in which the hostia (or sacramental bread) – that after the epiklesis (or the invocation of the Holy Spirit) and the consecration during the Eucharist, according to the Catholic Church changes into the body of Christ – is shown. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monstrance and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacramental_bread.  Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monstrance

[4] The Mahānārāyana Upanishad is, as chapter 10 of the Taittiriya Aranyaka, part of the dark – or inconceivable – Yajurveda (or Veda during sacrifices). See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taittiriya_Aranyaka#Taittiriya_Aranyaka

[5] The tekst in Sanskrit is available under the title “mahAnArAyaNa” at: http://sanskritdocuments.org/doc_upanishhat/

[6] Source: XIII-4 and XIII-5 from the English translation of the Mahānārāyana Upanishad via: http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/hinduism-forum/230825-maha-narayana-upanishad-translation-english.html

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

[8] Next to human face, “Your face” also refers to the “face of the world” and the “face of Indra’s Net”.

[9] See for an interpretation of flowers also “One – Blossom” in: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – A survey into our existence – 1. Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 50 – 53

[10] Abridged version of the Zen Koan “Linji’s True Man” from: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 167 – 170

[11] One of the unendless many manifestations of the “True Man”. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mann

[12] Heidegger, Martin, Sein und Zeit. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2006. See also: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sein_und_Zeit#Verfallenheit_und_Eigentlichkeit:_Das_Man

[13] Image of a tool to understand the main concepts in Heidegger’s “Sein und Zeit” – (Being and Time). Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sein_und_Zeit#Verfallenheit_und_Eigentlichkeit:_Das_Man

[14] Piazza Massimo D’Azeglio. Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piazza_d’Azeglio

Five common realities – facts en logic 10


Carla, Man and Narrator are walking towards their guest house after their visit to the Basilica di Santa Croce.

“I will come back to the words of Baäl Shem used as guidance in your introduction to “God in search of Man“. I have mixed thoughts on evil that we implicitly carry with us in interconnectedness. In my professional life I had investigated the causes, the facts and logic of evil in warfare. I also wear evil – like all people – in many forms with me; I will come back to this later. I wonder whether in a similar manner all human beings carry a godlike manifestation with them”, asks Carla to Man.

“Your question is a transition to God in the shape of a human being. The Jewish and Christian monotheistic God has created man in his own image [1]. In the Old Testament for Christians and the Tanakh for the Jews, God is described as almighty, invisible and in the core unmentionable. However, God shows many human characteristics: God is attached to loyalty and to a covenant [2], God is angry and jealous at times. The Christian God sends his son in a human form to the earth according to the New Testament. Should we fall back on religion in this description? Is God in human form physically possible? Or should we regard it as wisdom in the form of science together with religion according to Martin Buber?”, says Man.

Feiten en logica 10a[3]

“Interesting question. In nature lower organisms can direct the behaviour and even take over the consciousness of higher organisms for short or long duration. A well-known example is coughing during colds; this coughing is mainly focused on spreading the virus. Less well known examples are: certain fungi take over the behaviour of insects completely to optimize their own chances of reproduction. Ants – infected with fungus spores from the Cordyceps-stem – go to a favourable place located at a high leaf or branch where they bite and die; from the dead ants the fungus grows in this ideal place to spread its spores [4].

Feiten en logica 10b[5]

Another example is the infectious disease rabies that in its furious variant takes over and directs the behaviour of dogs and humans in an optimal way for its own propagation [6]. Conversely, also complex organism can customize the behaviour of simple organisms, such as humans by crop breeding to provide better crop yield in agriculture and varietal selection to achieve bigger and stronger livestock. Let us assume that God is a higher and more complex creature than humans; may God manifest itself in human form? If so, how? If not, why not?”, says Carla.

“During the rise of Christianity there had been a strong ideological struggle [7] over the position of Christ. Finally, this ideological struggle within the Catholic Church has resulted in the doctrine of the Trinity with a father God who had sent his Son to earth for the salvation of humanity and the Holy Spirit. Of this Trinity, the Son of God died on earth just like every human; also the Messiah in the form of son of God is at this point tied to the law of cause and effect. According to Christian doctrine, the Son has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven after 40 days on earth [8].

Feiten en logica 10c[9]

A different approach which I have mentioned before, is that humanity is created in the image of God. Erich Fromm [10] states, on the basis of analysis of the Tanakh [11] and the Talmud that:

“Man can be like God, but man cannot be God” [12].

He mentions that some Rabbinic statements imply that the difference between God and man can disappear, e.g.:

Raba said: If the righteous wanted, they would be creators, for it is written: ‘But your iniquities (unrighteousness) have separated – or forms the difference – between you and your God’ (Isaiah 59:2). Without unrighteousness the human power might match God’s almightiness and mankind would be able to create a world” [13] .

According to Erich Fromm the essence of humans is that mankind transcends its earthly bonds of blood and soil in order to achieve independency and freedom [14]. I think that Erich Fromm – next to “freedom from” – especially refers to “freedom to”. In my opinion, the most surprising fact in this analysis of Erich Fromm is, that – within the metaphor of Indra’s Net – mankind already has the independency and the freedom to the creation of a world within the earthly bonds of blood and soil. In Indra’s Net each glass bead creates the net, and in each glass bead the entire net is reflected without unrighteousness”, says Man.

“Because I was not free of unrighteousness, I have chosen to leave behind the callsign Kṛṣṇa that I had received from my parents in Kenia; at my departure from Amsterdam I had discarded my mask of an Idol due to the unrighteousness of beauty; and by innumerable unrighteousness in the mirror palace inhabited by secret services, my existence laid in smithereens [15]. The seeds of unrighteousness had affected my past incarnations to the marrow: at those moments my life needed another manifestation”, says Narrator.

Feiten en logica 10d[16]

“In my opinion incarnations and manifestations are not God in the shape of a human being. They may be a human being as God according to Erich Fromm”, says Carla.

“It may be different in the case of Kṛṣṇa. Let us discuss this further tonight”, says Man.

Carla, Man and the Narrator arrive at their guest house. Carla will take her afternoon rest and Man and the Narrator will make an afternoon walk.


[1] See from the Old Testament the book Genesis 1:27.

[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ark_of_the_Covenant and Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 104 – 106

[3] Moses with the Ten Commandments by Rembrandt (1659). Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covenant_theology

[4] See also: http://vorige.nrc.nl/wetenschap/article2327717.ece

[5] Source image and see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordyceps

[6] See also: Quammen, David, Spillover – Animal infections and the next human pandemic. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012, p. 296 – 297. See also: http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/rabies.html

[7] See also: MacCulloch, Diarmond, Christianity – The first three thousand Years. New York: Viking, 2010, Part II “One Church, One Faith, One Lord?”

[8] See also: Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51 and Acts of the Apostels 1:1-12 in the New Testament.

[9] Ascencion of Christ by Garofalo, 1520. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feast_of_the_Ascension

[10] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Fromm

[11] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanakh

[12] Bron: Fromm, Erich, Gij zult zijn als Goden (You Shall Be as Gods: a radical interpretation of the Old Testament and its tradition (1966)). Utrecht: Erven J. Bijleveld, 2010 p. 62

[13] Bron: Fromm, Erich, Gij zult zijn als Goden (You Shall Be as Gods: a radical interpretation of the Old Testament and its tradition (1966)). Utrecht: Erven J. Bijleveld, 2010 p. 62

[14] Bron: Fromm, Erich, Gij zult zijn als Goden (You Shall Be as Gods: a radical interpretation of the Old Testament and its tradition (1966)). Utrecht: Erven J. Bijleveld, 2010 p. 64

[15] See also: Leben, Man, Narrator – One Way. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013

[16] Krishna Mediating between the Pandavas and Kauravas. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna