Tag Archives: life

The Oude kerk in Amsterdam – a church on the move

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

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

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

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

Oude Kerk Amsterdam 1[9]

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

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 In the second half of the thirteenth century this wooden chapel had been replaced by a stone hall church.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


Carla, Man and Narrator enter the church.

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

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

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

Oude Kerk Amsterdam 3.jpg[15]

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

Scheepvaarthuis Amsterdam[16]

Scheepvaarthuis Amsterdam 2[17]

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

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

Oude Kerk Amsterdam 4.jpg.png[18]

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

Carla, Man and Narrator leave the Oude Kerk.

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

Oudekerkplein Belle Amsterdam[22]

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

Oudekerkplein Amsterdam[23]

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

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

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

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

Verzuiling in Nederland[28]

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

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

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

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

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

“That is good”, says Carla.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[29] From: John 1:4

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

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


Who are you – Part 2.1 / E-book and Paperback

Who are you 21

Then rained down into
The high fiction of mind
of rising people

The Odyssey to “Who are you – survey into our existence” is an quest with many stages. The search for “Who are you” is about you and me and all that is in connection with us. Nothing is on beforehand excluded. Are you and I connected or are we separated? What makes you to the person who you are? Who are you before your birth and who will you be after your death? The answer to these questions is currently unknown, but nevertheless we raise these questions.

You, imagination, that prevented us
Many times to perceive the world,
Although around may sound a thousand cymbals

What moved you, outside our sense?
A flash of light, created in heaven,
By itself, or by the will of God.

The first part of this contemporary Odyssey includes our oneness and separation and also our connectedness in mutual trust.

The second part of this quest deals with five common realities; section 2.1 is an exploration of “facts and logicduring a holiday week in Florence, where the three main characters consider the transition from Medieval Scholastic to Renaissance. At the same time they explore the limits of “facts and logicthe boundaries of science, life and death, the hereafter, God, and the possibility of God in the form of a man, the mind of the warrior and the foreshadows of the Reformation.

Printing of this Ebook is allowed for your own use or for educational purposes. Readers and users of publications by Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher may show their gratefulness by donations to charities of their choice.

Author Jan van Origo
Title Who are you – A survey into our existence / Part 2.1Five common realities – Facts and logic
ISBN number 9789491633126 and 9789491633133
Print 1.0
Edition E-book in Pdf-format – 16 MB
Format A5 – format
Pages 196
Publisher Omnia Amsterdam Publisher
Publication status Published in 2013

under: Books / Published

Price Suggestion: a donation of $ 15.00 to a charity of your choice 


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

Narrator – A Nordic Cycle, A year from a biography

If you want to avoid misery, rely on your own lot.


As free E-Book available via the website of the publisher:


Carla Drift, Narrator Nārāyana and Man Leben are the three main characters on this part of the Odyssey “Who are you – A survey into our existence”.

“A Nordic Cycle” is one year from the biography on the life of Narrator so far. In this year Narrator fled his existence as idol in Amsterdam by living with his beloved in. Together they made a trip to the North Cape in midsummer; they returned via the Norwegian fjords, the Hardangervidda, and Oslo. There they heared that acquaintances and friends in Amsterdam suffered from a mysterious disease; the beloved of Narrator receives a letter with the news that his mother was seriously ill. The following spring Narrator’s beloved returned to America and Narrator decided to live in Copenhagen. At the end of the spring he visited Amsterdam to attend the funeral of a former lover who is deceased by AIDS.

The Odyssey to “Who are you – survey into our existence” is an quest with many stages. The search for “Who are you” is about you and me and all that is in connection with us. Nothing is on beforehand excluded. Are you and I connected or are we separated? What makes you to the person who you are? Who are you before your birth and who will you be after your death? The answer to these questions is currently unknown, but nevertheless we raise these questions.

The progress of this quest to “Who are you” can be read on the weblog of Jan van Origo: www.janvanorigo.com

The following two part of “Who are you” will include the chapters 5, 7 and 0 of this quest.

This work is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Photos, images, renderings and quotations in the text may be copyrighted by third parties.

Printing of this Ebook is allowed for your own use or for educational purposes. Readers and users of publications by Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher may show their gratefulness by donations to charities of their choice.

Narrator – A cold winter

At the beginning of the winter, I came back to my attic room in Copenhagen. I mourned for the loss and the death of two former lovers from Amsterdam who had died from AIDS. A few days after my return I was ill with a cold. I had fever, I sweated at night in bed, I had a headache, my breathing was difficult and I felt exhausted. In the library I had read the beginning symptoms of AIDS – I was afraid that I was also infected by the virus. After a few weeks the cold was gone, but my concern for infection with the disease remained.

My attic room was not properly heated. That winter I was only in my room at night; I slept under a thick duvet at the open window when the weather allowed. In bad weather with the window closed, I felt trapped in my room; my nightly fearful visions could find no way out. During daytime I was rarely home; usually I was at friends, I read in the library or I played in a jazz band.


In this attic room I slowly detached myself from the three embarrassments [2] , which I read in the book with Buddhist questions that I had received as farewell gift by my previous beloved.

The first embarrassments wherefrom I had detached myself at the end of my youth, was an own home. As a child I had moved around with my mother and her herd; our home was the place where we had stayed temporarily. In my time as child soldier, the militia was my temporal home. After my flight from the militia, I continued to wander with temporary resting places. During my stay in Copenhagen my house became more and more transparent coinciding with the human world during daytime and with the universe during night-time when the window of my attic room was open. Once I hoped to arrive home, maybe at the end of the Odyssey to “Who are you”.


The second embarrassments that I gave up gradually, was an own body, because due to aging my appearance as exotic idol eroded and because due to the threat of infection with HIV I saw the individuality of my body in a different light. In Copenhagen my body became more and more connected with the city, the world and, of course, the universe.


The third embarrassment that disappeared gradually, was an own life. After reading and studying in libraries in the neighbourhood of my attic room, I became increasingly connected with all the knowledge in the world. Also I read in a book the questions: “Where is a Buffalo when it is eaten by a lion” and “How does a lion change after eating Buffalo?”.


Together with my body, my life became gradually connected to the world and the universe. At that time I read in a novel by Hermann Hesse: “Deine Seele ist die ganze Welt” [6] – or in English: “Your soul is the whole world“. In the dark at the open window in my attic room, my life became interconnected with the whole space.

The legacy that my beloved had left behind for me, depleted. I had no money left to maintain the white Citroën DS; it was time to give this Goddess another destination. With a part of the selling price, I bought a bike. After some practice I could move around with the inhabitants floating on the roads through the city.


The next spring I made several long bike tours through Europe.

[1] Source image://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comble_(architecture)

[2] Source: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 120 – 124. The “three embarrassments” are freely rendered in this post.

[3] “The Glass House or Johnson house, built in 1949 in New Canaan, Connecticut – USA, was designed by Philip Johnson as his own residence”. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_House

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

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

[6] See: Hesse Hermann, Siddhartha. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag: 1989 p. 10.

[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycling_in_Copenhagen. This photo was made around 2010.

Man Leben – love

Liebe muß man leben, sie wächst und sie kann auch wieder vergehen

Love one must live, she grows and she may also perish again

You continue the story of your life:

“After my journey to Auschwitz in the beginning of the autumn in 1993, there are three surprises in my life. The first surprise is working in a design office to introduce a modular industrial way of building. This work is unexpectedly successful.

The second surprise is completely unexpected. I have previously told that I have suddenly fallen in love at the age of ten on a girl in the village in South Limburg. It seemed that lightning struck, so fierce and unexpected; I only saw a white glow. In grammar school I have fallen in love several times. Nobody has ever known of this love. After my studies I have met my wife through my work on the architectural office. The first time I saw her in a white charming glow. We have had a happy time until our roads slowly split. The divorce was not easy; I should have shown more wisdom and compassion. At the end of our marriage until the start of my trip to Auschwitz, there have ever been women in my life, but always at a certain distance.

After Auschwitz, love has adopted the form of compassion and sympathy in my life. These feelings are expressed in the poem “Bani Adam” or “Opening of all Gates“, which is composed about 700 years ago by Abū Muṣliḥ al-Dīn Muḥammad bin Abdallāh Shīrāzī-– better known by his pen name Saʿdī  (or Saadi):

“The children of Adam are limbs of one body

Having been created of one essence.

When the calamity of time afflicts one limb

The other limbs cannot remain at rest.

If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others

You are not worthy to be called by the name of “Man (or Woman) [1]

 This poem is addressed to me personally; I wear the name Man.


Not so long ago, I read that an old zen master once said: “If there would be no suffering and no sentient people, then there would be no finger, no eye, no ear, no hand. Everywhere and One would be empty and deep, deep. There would be no loss and no gain” [3]. These sentences also express my form of love at that time. Buddhism has the word “Karuṇa” which means in Sanskrit compassion. The word Karuṇa is associated with wisdom. [4]

In the summer of 2003 I turned my head and I saw her face full of furrows of life, bottomless eyes, wrinkled hands. As companions we have admired each wrinkle and scar of our life. Later I have written the following short poem:

Your eyes bottomless

Together in eternity

Tender little death

Two years later we met Her big death. The following message more about the third surprise – simplicity – in my life”, you say.

The following post is about the third surprise in your life

[1] See amongst others: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love en http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saadi_(poet)

[2] The tomb of Saʿdī in Shiraz, Iran. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saadi_(poet)

[3] Source: Wick, Gerry Shishin, The Book of Equanimity – Illuminating Classic Zen Koans. Somerville MA: Wisdom Publications, 2005 p. 170

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

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.


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]“.


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