Tag Archives: militia

Narrator – a new year


Around Easter the winter of that year was gone. The sun emerged and nature flourished again. Next to my city bike I had bought a touring bike by which I made several bike tours on the islands Amager and Sjælland whereupon the city of Copenhagen is located. In a few months I learned not only to cycle well, but I started to love this form of gliding over the roads in weather and wind.

Reiserad-beladen[1]

Near the end of spring I received again disturbing letters from former lovers in Amsterdam; they were also seriously ill with AIDS. I decided to travel to Amsterdam with my touring within a week. After a preparation of a small week, I departed to Amsterdam for a few months with a packed bike. My attic room I had temporary sublet to a friend.

Eventually I did two weeks about the trip, because I had almost always headwind. On the long straights, the turning of the pedals changed in turning of the prayer wheels in my experience, sometimes difficult, sometimes without effort.

Gebedsmolens[2]

On my way to Amsterdam I had the Buddhist question of the “iron ox” [3] in my mind. Some of my ancestors travelled on horseback. In Africa I had noticed people travelling on an ox. Now I was a rider on an iron steed instead of on horseback.

Man op os[4]

I missed the conversations on this question with my beloved who already lived in America at that time. My clue was the verse on the question:

“The works of an iron ox –

When the seal (of enlightenment [5] and of an idol) remains, the impression is ruined”. [6]

Cycling through northern Germany and the Netherlands my bike slowly took the shape of the “iron ox” in the Buddhist question. Sometimes nicely gliding, sometimes toiling during headwind, my iron ox did its work; we glided steadily with the road and the environment through the universe.

On the road I could usually stay with people during the night in exchange for stories or for some help on the farm. At resting place I tried to earn some money with magic, because during my bicycle trip I had no income from playing percussion with jazz ensembles. After some practice I could earn a national currency at each stop with two magic rope shows – which I had learned from a friend in Copenhagen; in Germany a D-mark and in a Netherlands guilder. During the first presentation a rope slid through my neck. A demonstration of this performance can be seen on the following video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=aSMZJ0w3DyM

During the second presentation, the rope glided unexpectedly through a ring. An example of this representation is shown on the following video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xx7UjeZYn4

When I performed both performances every day at five resting places, I earned enough money for daily meals for myself and another traveller with whom I shared the meal.

That summer and autumn in Amsterdam, I lived with and cared for old friends and former lovers with AIDS. In addition, I enjoyed the Dutch beaches and the beautiful clouds in Netherlands.

At the end of the autumn I cycled to Copenhagen with the wind in my back. The winter I spent in my attic room with the long nights in which the moon, the stars and the ghosts kept me company. I stuck to this rhythm of “heading to the south during summers” and “winters staying in Copenhagen” for several years; in later life I spent the winter in the south and passed the summer in the north.

Was this wintering on my attic room a penance for crimes committed as child soldier in a militia? Maybe, a year later I met a man who did penance for his deeds constantly.


[1] Source image: http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cykeltyper . This photo is made in 2005 showing a cycle of a later date.

[2] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_wheel

[3] See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 125 – 130.

[4] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Os_(rund). The oxen in Africa were not so well fed.

[5] According to Mahāyāna Buddhism, human enlightenment spreads a smell of vanity. Enlightenment only exists when all en everyone is enlightened.

[6] The first two lines of vers in the koan Fengxue’s “Iron Ox”. See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 125 – 130.

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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.

Zolderkamer[1]

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”.

800px-Glass_House_2006[3]

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.

Anterior_view_of_human_female_and_male,_with_labels[4]

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?”.

Male_Lion_and_Cub_Chitwa_South_Africa_Luca_Galuzzi_2004[5]

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.

800px-Cyclists_at_red_Kopenhagen[7]

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.

Narrator – On foot through France 2


On my hike through France, I met many people. I stood out by my dark skin; there were no other Maasai/Indian walkers on our way. In the Jura, people were dismissive at first sight: I was strange, unknown and obscure. But almost all fellow walkers thawed by my smile and with a friendly greeting in the French language. The farmers were more suspicious. This is understandable because they had to defend their homes against a dark unknown stranger.

[1]

Eventually I met much hospitality on the road. With two fellow travellers I walked several days to the North. We saw several cairns as guardians along our path. At one cairn we decided to have our lunch. One of my companions wondered how many people had placed stones here. The other asked where the people were now. I replied: “In any case we are here”. Then we had to laugh. While I drank water, I was wondering where all the sages of the past remained. Suddenly I felt clearly that we were directly connected with the people who had piled stones here and with all sages from the past [2]. We lived our life directly in the footsteps of the others.

[3]

The next night I dreamed the dream that I regularly dreamed after the fire in the forest during the night where my fellow militia members and I had massacred a village. In this dream the flames came toward me together with the ghosts of the villagers. They started to engulf me. My skin was already blackened by the flames and I began to lose myself in the ghosts of the villagers.

[4]

At the moment they were threatening to devour me, I awoke; I was all sweaty and I breathed heavily. When I opened my eyes, I saw the Moon and the starry sky as reassurance. The night sky slowly brought me back to life as in the Maasai myth the god Engaï brought the Moon to life each night [5].

[6]

The night after the cairn, that dream proceeded in the same way, but the moment I woke up terrified, the sky was completely cloudy. The moon and the stars could not offer me any consolation. Everything was pitch dark and I heard only a quick loud painful breathing; my chest moved violently. Terrified I asked myself: “What breath is there? [7]”. First I thought that the breath of the ghosts of the villagers had come back to life inside me. Therefor I dared not stop panting because, I was afraid that my breath would be carried away with the spirits when they disappeared in the dark.

Slowly my breath calmed down and I came to rest. In the darkness I promised the dead villagers that from now on my breath was their breath. I promised that my breath – as long as I lived – would be a temporal home for them. Once I hoped to arrive home together with them. After this, the dream returned less often.

I was on my way to Amsterdam – my new home for the time being.


[1] Source image: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Maison_typique_du_Jura_2.jpg

[2] See also koan “Attendant Huo passes tea” in: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 60 – 62

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

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

[5] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masa%C3%AF_(volk)

[6] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_sterrennacht

[7] This is the last question in the koan “Yunmen’s two sicknesses”. See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 46 – 50. See also: Maezumi, Hakuyu Taizan, The hazy moon of enlightenment. Somersville: Wisdom Publications, 2007 p. 21 – 27

Narrator – back on earth


The fire in the forest [1] burned all night. The next morning it still smouldered; in the late afternoon the fire finally died. The nocturnal massacre on the edge of the forest yielded nothing. The smell of burned forest mingled with the smell of dead bodies and blowflies were everywhere.

At the beginning of the next moonless night I left the militia. I walked the whole night. I followed the destination [2] of my name Kṛṣṇa [3] – in that moonless night I escaped alive from hell and I evaded the death of Engaï [4]. Later I understood that a few months later the militia was massacred by the army of the country. Just before the first sunlight I discarded my uniform and weapon.

[5]

The next day I traded some belongings from the militia against clothes. In just over a week I moved to my mother’s pastures [6]. Through information of acquaintances I found her temporary residence.

[7]

She saw me at a distance and my younger brothers and sisters ran to me. My mother was so happy until she saw my eyes – dark and cold as the night. She saw in my face the fire in the forest, my movements reflected the hungry ghosts and she smelled the hell on my skin. I received food and shelter, but the next morning she sent me away with the words: “You took from the world, now you must give back to the world. Afterwards you will be welcome as guest.”

By foot I went to the capital. On the outskirts of the city I received a non-paid post as indwelling teacher on a school. During the hours I helped pupils with their work and outside school time I went to the library for study. My English and Sanskrit improved tremendously and I learned and practised the important epic stories so I could start as storyteller – like my father.

[8]

In the city I met the most beautiful men on whom I secretly fell in love. After a year I encountered my first love – so normal, so obvious, so salvaged. His name was Arjen; I called him Arjuna [9]. His parents moved from Netherlands to Nairobi for their work. Outwardly we were only friends, secretly we were lovers. His skin was much lighter; he studied at the University. I helped him with Sanskrit; He helped me with English, French and German.

Two years later we visited my mother. She greeted me as her lost son. All my brothers and sisters were so joyful to see me. A few days later my father came along and we were happy.

My mother saw immediately that Arjen and I were more than just friends. To protect me against the overwhelming forces that a love between young men evokes in her country, she sent me away to a city in a distant land where men may love men. In this way she bridged [10] the dilemma between her world order and duty and human action [11]. She called the name of the city: Amsterdam. A few days later I left. Never I visited my parents again, but they accompany me wherever I go.


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

[2] In Sanskrit  nāmadheya means next to  “name” or “title” also “designation”. Source: Maurer, Walter Harding, The Sanskrit Language, An Introductory Grammar and Reader. London: Routledge Curson, 2004 Deel II p. 771

[3] Kṛṣṇa means in Sanskrit amongst other “black”, “black blue”, “dark period of the mooncycle” Source: electronic version of the dictionaire Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[4] According to a Maasai myth the God Engaï gives cattle to the people and he brings people to life after their death and each day he lets the Moon die. After a sin wherein an opponent was desired death, Engaï lets people die and each night he brought the Moon to life. Source:  http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masa%C3%AF_(volk)

[5] Source image: http://ki.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sunrise_over_Mount_Kenya.jpg

[6] In het Sanskriet betekent “nama” “weidegrond” (voor een nomadenvolk is dit een vorm van bestemming). Bron: elektronische versie van het woordenboek Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[7] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masa%C3%AF_(volk)

[8] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenya

[9] Arjuna is one of the main characters in the Mahābhārata. He is one of the five brothers who live together with one wife Draupadi – the most beautiful and influential wife of her time – in polyandry. The five brother fight for their rightful share of the kingdom, for the honour of Draupadi and for maintenance of the world order. The name Arjuna means amongst others “wit, clear, silver”; one may recognise also “arh” in the name meaning “worthy, capable of”.

[10] In Sanskrit the word “yuj” means also “link, tie, prepare, order”

[11] In the Bhagavad Gita – a small and old part of the Mahābhārata – Krishna – the charioteer – encourages  Arjuna to start the battle wherein families, teachers and pupils stand opposite each other in the warfare between world order and duty (Dharmakshetra) en human behaviour (Kurukshetra). Dharmakshetra consists of  Dharma meaning “place of continuous self/Self”, and  “kshetra” – literally: field. Kurukshetra consists of Kuru – a conjugation of “kr” meaning “to make, to do or to act” and “kshetra” – literally: field.

Narrator – from heaven to hell


In my youth I lived in heaven. At that time I had five obstacles in my life: my clothes got dirty, my body changed, my armpits sweated , my body smelled and life was sometimes uncomfortable [1]. My mother took care that my clothes, my armpits and my body were washed when we had enough water in the dry land. This was a feast. Changes of our body belong to human life; when the changes are over and the pains are forgotten, the situation is back to normal. And a sober, simple life does not always include comfort.

[2]

During my school time I sometimes adorned as warrior, more for fun and vanity than to prepare for battle. As student I was not interested in fighting.

[3]

At the end of my school time I moved from my motherland. I craved for the adventures as told in the stories of my ancestors and I felt an urge for comfort, money, fame and power. Or in the language of my ancestors: I wished to change from Nara [4] to Rājan [5].

While everyone was asleep, I left my mother; I left a note behind with the message that everything would be all right and that she could be proud of me.

After a few days wandering, I encountered a militia. I jointed them. I received an uniform with a weapon and I was trained to military just as the heroes from the Kṣhatriya [6] or warriors/rulers caste in the Mahābhārata.

[7]

I was not a strong soldier, but I was smart and fast and I immediately saw what was needed. The leaders of the militia saw this too: I was driver of the leader of the militia. Like Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad Gita [8] I was charioteer and advisor.

Similar to a charioteer on the chariot I was cook, I gave advise in battle, I encouraged, I offered protection in emergency, I rescued from difficult situations and afterwards I told the heroics of the fighters.

By the transition to the militia, I left heaven and I entered the world of hungry ghosts and the extremely painful world of hell. My life went from peace to war, from love and care to violence.

At the end of one night we set the forest surrounding a village on fire. The God of fire and the wind spread the flames. Our militia shot with joy at everyone and everything that came out of the forest and we were happy [9].

In daylight the disillusionment followed. We saw that we had killed everything and everyone from new-born to the elderly. Hereafter I left the world of hungry ghosts and hell.


[1] From: Cleary Thomas, The Undying Lamp of Zen – The testament of Zen Master Torei. Boston: Shambhala, 2010. Voetnoot 3 op p. 23

[2] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maasai_people

[3] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maasai_people

[4] In Sanskrit “nara” literally means “someone who does not rejoice”. This word is used for an ordinary man.

[5] “Rājan” means in Sanskrit “rejoice in birth/origin”. This word is used for someone from royal or military caste. Source: elektronische versie van het woordenboek Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.

[6] For the caste system in India see amongst others: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste_system_in_India

[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_use_of_children

[8] For an introduction of the Bhagavad Gita that is a small part of the Mahābhārata: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagavad_Gita. A good introduction for a translation Sanskrit – English: Sargeant, Winthrop, The Bhagavad Gȋtâ. Albany: State New York University Press, 1994. An introduction of a religious – yoga – background: Yogananda, Paramahansa, The Bhagavad Gȋtâ. Los Angelas: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2001

[9] See the last part of book 1 of the Mahābhārata where  at the fire in the Khandava forest, Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa shoot arrows with joy to all that leaves the forest. Sources: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/maha/index.htm boek 1 Section CCXXVII and further; Katz, Ruth Cecily, Arjuna in the Mahābhārata: Where Krishna is, there is victory. Delhi: Molital Banarsidass Publishers, 1990, p. 71 – 84