Tag Archives: Middle Way

Five common realities – facts and logic 3


“After my afternoon-rest I have enough energy for the evening. The many tropical diseases left their traces in my body; a whole day staying active is often too much for me. What books did you buy?”, says Carla.

“An Italian course for Sanskrit to revive my study and “Six memos for the next Millennium” by Italo Calvino. The titles of these memos are intriguing:

  • 1 – Lightness,
  • 2 – Quickness,
  • 3 – Exactitude,
  • 4 – Visibility,
  • 5 – Multiplicity

and the never written memo “6 – Consistency”. The titles for these memos may also be guidelines for our Odyssey, in which we – just like Italo Calvino –can never put the sixth memo on paper, because then we should describe the entire universe in its complete infinity”, says Man.

feiten en logica 31[1]

“There I see Narrator approaching. Good to sit here in the evening sun overlooking the “Basilica di Santa Maria Novella”. Does the façade of the Basilica also meet the titles of the memos?”, says Carla.

feiten en logica 32[2]

“Good question with many answers. Did you have a good meeting with your friend?”, says Man.

“Nice to see each other again after so many years. We have change a lot and also remained the same; familiar and different. Over the years, the physical attraction had disappeared but the pleasantness of being together has stayed. Let’s first order drinks and ask for the menu”, says Narrator.

“That is good. After we ordered our meals, I will share with you – as promised this afternoon – my view on “facts and logic” of “Who are you”?”

Carla, Man and Narrator order their drinks, make their choice from the menu and order their meals.

“Yesterday I started in “Man is not only – A philosophy of Religion” by Abraham Heschel [3]. The title of this book appeals to me, because my first name is mentioned in it and because I wish to know more about the faith in God that has remained strange to me in my adult life. I have lived in monasteries and I have guided groups on Oriental wisdom, but I’ve never had an experience of God’s presence. The first eight chapters of the book on “the Unspeakable”, “the Supreme Astonishment”, “the ultimate question that exceeds words” come directly from my heart and exceed it, like blossom on a tree – included in the universe – arose from the earth, is fed by it and will return in it [4]. In Chapter 9 of the book is a passage – I quote – “We praise together with the pebbles on the road surface that appear petrified marvels, together with all flowers and trees that look like they are hypnotized in silence. When mind and spirit correspond, faith born” [5]. Until here the book makes perfect sense to me, as also the fact that the “One” – that is omnipresent – exists, wherein we are completely included and from which we, each and everything around us are temporary manifestations. But God – as the Other – remains a stranger to me. Who is he? Whereby is God separated from “the Unspeakable”, “the Supreme Astonishment”, “the ultimate question that goes beyond words”? This separation is unreal for me; I cannot understand it: it is not logical”, says Man. feiten en logica 331[6]

“In the land of my ancestors, the “Individual One” or Ātman [7] and the “One all-encompassing” or Brahman [8] are expressed and taught by the Upanishads [9]. Through a full consciousness that Ātman and Brahman are two manifestations of the “One” and thereby fall together like a drop in the ocean, we transcend humanity on Earth.

feiten en logica 34[10]

Whether one believes – or one does not – in an “All-encompassing Self” as permanent entity, is hardly of any importance in our daily life with common happiness, suffering and madness. Buddhism follows a strict Middle Way between “One All-encompassing Self” and “human daily life” in order to avoid the bottomless pit of metaphysical questions and the discussions over them [11]. A branche of the Middle Way is the metaphor of Indra’s Net [12] that gives a limited rendering of the interconnectedness between all the separate manifestations en the “All-encompassing Self”. The Mahābhārata had marked a radical shift by moving the mind in daily life from Ātman to “Dharma” – or world order and duty [13]; Dharma means literally “placing the continuous self/Self”. In the Bhagavad Gita – a small and old part of the Mahābhārata – the “attention to daily life” accumulates when Arjuna enters the arena in which families, teachers and students face each other in the field of tension between – on the one hand – the world order and duty (Dharmakshetra [14]) and – on the other hand – human actions (Kurukshetra [15]). When Arjuna faces his family, teachers and loved ones among the opponents, he refuses to give the go-ahead in the battle between the two parties. Kṛṣṇa – his spiritual leader and charioteer during this battle – encourages Arjuna to fulfil his duty within the world order and Kṛṣṇa only succeeds herein when he takes his Godlike form during this dialogue; hereupon Arjuna gives the starting signal for the battle with disastrous consequences to all main actors, but in which they fulfil their duty and task within the resulting world order. Within and coinciding with the “All-encompassing Self”, the Godlike form of Kṛṣṇa is the guardian and spiritual leader in this part of the Mahābhārata”, says Narrator.

“Within the mind-set of your ancestors with their view on “facts and logic”, humans and Gods fulfil their role in the world order. Within my conceptual framework, a Godlike role separated from “the All-encompassing One” does not fit: I feel myself at home within the mind-set of the Upanishads and within the Middle Way of Buddhism, but I like to study views with which I disagree in order to figure out what others have seen and I didn’t see until now”, says Man.

“In the last sentence I notice a statement by Professor Dr. W. Luijpen during his lectures series in philosophy at the Delft University of Technology. I too have studied a lot in my life with which I fully disagree. In my studies of crimes against humanity, I came across many sound, incorrect and false mind-sets with which I totally disagree. After studying the Old Testament and the Mahābhārata – with emphasis on ahiṃsā or non-violence as foundation of life [16] – I came to the conclusion that these books aim at peace, although both books are full of cheating, violence and atrocities. I see that our meal is arriving. Later, I hope to tell a little about the warrior mind-set”, says Carla.feiten en logica 35 [17]

“Enjoy your meal; later we will continue with our quest”, says Man.

“Did our discussion meet the titles of the six memos from Italo Calvino?”, asks Narrator.

“I think so”, says Carla.

“Fully”, says Man.


[1] See also: Calvino, Italo, Six Memos for the next Millennium. New York: Vintage Books, 1993

[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Maria_Novella

[3] See: Heschel, Abraham Joshua, De mens is niet alleen – De ervaring van Gods aanwezigheid. Utrecht: Kok, 2011. The original edition is: Heschel, Abraham Joshua, Man is not alone – A Philosophy of Religion. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1951. See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Joshua_Heschel

[4] See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – A survey into our existence – 1. Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 50 – 51

[5] See: Heschel, Abraham Joshua, De mens is niet alleen – De ervaring van Gods aanwezigheid. Utrecht: Kok, 2011, p. 85.

[6] Source image: http://www.amazon.com/Man-Is-Not-Alone-Philosophy/dp/B0015KDICQ

[7] See amongst others: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%80tman_(Hinduism)

[8] The word Brahman is probably derived from the verbroot √bhṝ meaning “enhance or enlarge”. See for a further introduction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahman

[9] Upanishad literally means in Sanskrit: “sitting down to”. This sitting takes place near a teacher for teaching in the perpetual all-encompassing mystery that is our life is. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.  Zie ook: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upanishads

[10] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahman

[11] See also: Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006, p. 67 – 68

[12] See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – A survey into our existence – 1. Omnia – Amsterdam publisher, 2012, p. 65 – 67;  Cook, Francis, Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra. University Park and London: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977; Cleary, Thomas, Entry Into the Inconceivable: An Introduction to Hua-yen Buddhism. Boston:  Shambhala, 2002; en Cleary, Thomas, The Flower Ornament Scripture, a Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Boston: Shambhala, 1993

[13] Source: Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006, p. 68. See also chapter 4 for an introduction to Dharma.

[14] Dharmakshetra consists of Dharma “placing of the continuous self/Self”, and “kshetra” – litterally: field (to be ploughed).

[15] Kurukshetra consists of Kuru – a conjugation of “kr” meaning “to make, do or act” and “kshetra” – litterally: veld (to be ploughed).

[16] See also: chapter 5 of Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006

[17] Source image: http://www.exoticindiaart.com/book/details/mahabharata-inquiry-in-human-condition-idh471/

Man Leben – Oriental wisdom 2


Alles gelebt was man leben kann?

Lived everything what you can live?

You continue with the story of your life:

“In the previous post I told how I explored Oriental wisdom. I have mentioned my preference for mavericks. The meaning of the mavericks “ya, ra, la, va and ha” in the Devanāgarī alphabet express my experiences at that stage of my life. In examining the meaning of “la” – meaning in Sanskrit “of Indra”– and consulting several sources, I encountered the meanings of Indra. Indra means “God of heaven” or “Svargaloka” [1]. Indra is often depicted seating on a multi-headed elephant.

[2]

Now I explain the underlying meanings of svargaloka, because this gives light on the developments in my life around the death of my aunt and my godmother.

Svargaloka is composed of the words “svarga” meaning in Sanskit amongst others: heaven, the residence of light and of the gods, heavenly bliss, Indra’s heaven (where the souls of virtuous mortals go before they return in earthly bodies) and “loka” which means: free or open space, the universe, of number 7 – which we encounter later on our Odyssey. The world has three loka’s: the sky/heaven, the earth and the underworld.

Svarga is composed of the parts:

  • Sva: meaning “own, one’s self/Self, the human soul”.
  • Ra: meaning “give, love, desire, motion, brightness, splendour”,
  • Ga: meaning “abiding in, staying” [16]

On the basis of these parts, “svarga” is the residence of our/your own being in all its splendour. The svargaloka is heaven, earth and underworld – all, everywhere and one – in all its manifestations. Here and now, it shows its splendor.

Around 1993, I studied Jalâl al-Din who is better known as Rumi. He has been given the name Rumi in the Arab world, because he lived in Konia, south of Ankara in Turkey while writing his great works. This part of the Arab world was identified with Rome from the Roman Empire. That is the reason why Jalâl al-Din is better known after the name under which his whereabouts is named in the Arab/Persian world [3]. In Chapter 7 we meet Rumi on our Odyssey.

[4]

In a book about the life of Rumi I read: “Love for the dead is not lasting. Keep your love (fixed) on the Living One who increases spiritual life [5] . At that time this way of seeing was for me one half of the mirror. I lived completely in our/Your own being in all its splendour. I was in the svarga one with the wind, the light, my parents and foreparents; the entire universe was omnipresent.

The other half of the mirror was formed by a passage from the Diamond Sutra: “The past is ungraspable, the present is ungraspable and the future is ungraspable [6]“. The past is fixed in solidified glass; of course, our view on the past changes continuously, but a carefree life in Amsterdam with my father and mother as a five year old boy is no longer possible. Occasionally in dreams or with a particular taste – think of the madeleine biscuits in À la recherche du temp perdue of Marcel Proust – or with a particular smell, as a miracle the images and experiences of that lost world emerge in me. “Only in the present I can live, nowhere else I found shelter” [7]; sailing on the wind over the waves we experience the present: try to grab the “here and now” and it is gone. The future is ungraspable as the flower in the bud: the flower manifests itself in all its glory once and for all when circumstances permit – not earlier and not later. The flower arises from the void, flourishes in the void and passes away into the void. This elusiveness reminds me of the text that we encountered earlier in our Odyssey [8]: “Mysterium est magnum, quod nos procul dubio transcendit” [9]  or in English: “The mystery is great, without doubt it transcends us.”

In that time I experienced life fully, overwhelming and transparent. Or shown by a metaphor, both these images in the mirrors – which were placed at a 90-degree angle – were a reflection of my experiences. The mirrors were empty [10].

In the past I thought that if people or things had a name, they also got a place or a destination. On our Odyssey we will encounter this way of seeing a number of times.

In that time I also studied the Hua-yan school of Buddhism [11] and read texts about Indra’s net [12], that is a metaphor for the emptiness of all things and living beings. This void has two sides: it is “emptiness from” and “emptiness to” [13]. Both these sides are similar to “freedom from” and “freedom to” as explained “ Escape from Freedom [14]” from Erich Fromm.

[15]

By these insights I was freed from the latent feelings of guilt about my existence, mainly because my immediate family – with the exception of my aunt – had not survived the other government in Germany. Until then, there was always the question: “How did I deserve to be still alive”. At the same time, I evaded the question for the meaning and reason of this dark, dark, dark history. The religion of my parents offered me no interpretation: I could not say with conviction the verses of Kaddish including “Thou art the glory” and “The world is created according to His will”. For saying these texts I had to identify “You/His” with  “the wind” and “the water”.

This insight helped me organizing my aunt’s funeral. Her funeral was attended by many old acquaintances – as far as still alive. Also some distant relatives were present. I was the only immediate family. For her I have said a whole year with conviction the daily prayers according to the Jewish remembrance of the dead. May her memory be a blessing for here and for there.

I also attended the funeral and mourning services for my godmother. May her memory be a blessing for here and for there. It was a beautiful Catholic funeral in the tradition of South Limburg.

After these funerals I went to Auschwitz”, you say.

“I can follow your view of Oriental wisdom, but for the time I let my mind in the middle if I can agree with this view”, I say.

“Buddhism is the Middle Way; consent with my view of Oriental wisdom is not asked for. I look forward to what the continuation of our Odyssey will bring. It will be a homecoming for me”, you say.

The next post is about your visit to Auschwitz.


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

[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra

[3] Source: Lewis, Franklin D., Rumi, Past and Present, East and West. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003 p. 9

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

[5] Free rendering from: Iqbal, Afzal, The Life and Works of Jalaluddin – Rumi. London: The Octagon Press, 1983 p. 239.

[6] Free rendering from: Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Diamond Sutra. New York: Counterpoint, 2001 pag.308

[7] Free rendering from the first two lines from the poem “Woninglooze – Homeless” from Jan Jacob Slauerhoff. See for the text of the poem: http://4umi.com/slauerhoff/woninglooze

[8] See the posts: “Three – Object in the middle – The Word” from 11 Juni 2011; and “A day without yesterday –a day without tomorrow?” from 3 Juli 2011.

[9] Source: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/special_features/ encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_20030417_ecclesia_ eucharistia_lt .html:  Ionnis Pauli PP. II Summi Pontificis, Litterae Encyclicae Ecclesia de  Eucharistia, Rome, 2003

[10] See: Wetering, Janwillem van de, De Lege Spiegel. Amsterdam: De Driehoek p. 118 – 120

[11] Sources: Cleary, Thomas, The Flower Ornament Scripture, a Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Boston: Shambhala, 1993; Cleary, Thomas, Entry Into the Inconceivable: An Introduction to Hua-yen Buddhism. Boston:  Shambhala, 2002 and : Cook, Francis, Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977

[12] See also the posts “One – Pantheism – Indra’s net” from 8 April 2011 and “One – “Powers of Ten”” from 10 April 2011

[13] See for “empty to”: Thich Nhat Hahn, The Heart of Understanding. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1988 p. 8, 9

[14] See page 91 in the Dutch version of “Fromm, Erich, Escape from Freedom. New York: Rinehart & Co, 1941” published by Bijleveld in Utrecht, 1973.

[15] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra’s_net

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

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