Tag Archives: monastery

Narrator – Copenhagen and Amsterdam – a reunion

With all my belongings in the trunk of the Citroën DS, I left Stockholm on an early morning in spring. During the Nordic cycle that lasted more than one year, my reincarnation wherein I had adopted the appearance of an idol earlier in Amsterdam, evaporated. In the nearness of my beloved I had returned in the world of ordinary mortals again.

Just before the departure to his new stay in a monastery in America, my beloved was engaged in the Buddhist question: “One gain, One loss” [1]. Now he had left more than two months ago, my life felt like a gain and a loss – a void and a new destination. In the notes to this Buddhist question was written: “If you want to avoid misery, rely on your own lot” and “Gain and loss, right and wrong, let go of them all at once” [2]. Both sentences were applicable to my new reincarnation as ordinary mortal. Much later during the quest to “Who are you” I would get more insight in the first sentence. The peace of the second sentence I hoped to find in my final homecoming.

Via a road along the many water of several inland lakes – to which I had become accustomed during my stay in Holland – I drove in my white Citroën DS from Stockholm to Malmö. There I took the ferry to Copenhagen. First I visited my friends where I could stay a few nights. With their help I could quickly rent a room in the attic floor of a characteristic House in the Klosterstræde in the Centre of Copenhagen near the University and various libraries. First I saw this room as a temporary stay for several months; eventually I lived there for several years. I felt immediately at home. From my window I could see the moon and the starry sky at night. During daytime the name of the street reminded me of my beloved who really lived in a monastery now. I had received his book with Buddhist question [3] as a farewell gift. From time to time I read a passage from this book whereupon the question found a place in my life as far as I could realise. In this way my beloved and I remained connected with each other.


My years in Copenhagen I lived from the legacy – that my beloved had left for me – supplemented by a small income from performances in Jazz ensembles. Almost every day I visited the colourful painted houses along the Nyhavn, that reminded me of the fields with flowers and the canals in Holland.


My first autumn in Copenhagen I received sad news from Amsterdam; one of my precious lovers died from the mysterious disease which at that time around 1983 had received the name HIV and AIDS [6]. After reading the funeral card, I drove to Amsterdam in one day. Upon arrival I heard that many more of my former lovers suffered from this disease, which is caused by transfer of a virus – that affects the human immune system – during the love game [7].


In this sad environment I was welcomed by my former friends and acquaintances as an long lost friend and they saw me as a refound idol. I had discarded my mask of an idol during my stay in Sweden and the former carefree feast of everlasting love that wafted exotically around me through Amsterdam, was gone forever.

The funeral of my deceased lover was impressive. One of our loved ones was too ill to attend. With several former friends we cared for him until his death; his funeral was also intense. Both times all relatives, friends and acquaintances were present. For a number of lovers it was a sombre forecast for their future.

After this second funeral I fled to Copenhagen. Again it was an escape from my earlier stay in Amsterdam where I did not belong anymore and it was at the same time a flight for this disease wherefrom I was saved by a wondrous lot [9]. Later, during a medical examination it appeared that I belonged to a small group, which is resistant to the infection of HIV.

Back in Copenhagen, I was again an ordinary mortal, that was only noticed by a black/blue colour and rhythmic play on percussion during Jazz music.

[1] The Zen Koan: “Fayan points to the blinds”

[2] See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 118

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

[4] Source image: http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Den_danske_guldalder

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

[6] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS

[7] See also: http://www.rivm.nl/Bibliotheek/Professioneel_Praktisch/Richtlijnen/Infectieziekten/LCI_richtlijnen/LCI_richtlijn_Hivinfectie

[8] Cross-section of the Human Immunodeficientie Virus (HIV). Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aids

[9] Source: http://www.nationaalkompas.nl/gezondheid-en-ziekte/ziekten-en-aandoeningen/infectieziekten-en-parasitaire-ziekten/soa/aids-en-hiv-infectie/welke-factoren-beinvloeden-de-kans-op-hiv-infectie-en-aids/


Man Leben – modular building

Seelenspiegel – das Spiel daβ man Leben nennt

Soul mirror – the game one calls life

You continues the story of your life:

“In the beginning of the autumn in 1993, I returned from my trip to Auschwitz. At the funeral of my aunt and godmother, my best study friend asked for a business meeting. We agreed to meet each other in the autumn holiday, after my trip to Auschwitz.

Before the autumn holiday I started my everyday life again. In the beginning it was not easy. I already told that after my visit to Auschwitz I saw the reflections of the world in mirrors and in standing water. The image was sad, angry, guilty and acquiesced. With twigs and stones I disrupted the surface for a short time, but the images came back – bleak, cold, inhospitable. At the same time, the mirror and the water were empty inside and outside. After several days in Amsterdam, I wondered how the mirror and the water would see me [1]. All of a sudden the image in the mirror and I were a manifestation of life reciprocal interconnected in all Her glory. The universe is the medicine [2].


After my return, life had three surprises before we started our Odyssey.

The first surprise was the proposal of my best study friend to start a design office. With my best study friend I always kept in touch. When I returned to South Limburg our contact was rather intensive. With his architectural office, he had several important projects in Limburg. We also developed ideas for the continuation of the farm of my godparents. Then the farm served for him as rest place for several hours, a meal or an overnight stay. In the course of 1993, he came to the conclusion that in the future his office was too small to survive independently and too big to let it run its course. The merger with another office was almost finished.

My friend had the vision to introduce a modular industrial way of building in the last phase of his working life. He needed knowledge of building materials and construction of utility building; in these areas, an industrial way of building was already applied. For this knowledge and contacts he would like to have me as a partner. Another study friend was asked for knowledge of housing in an urban environment.


He himself would like to focus on the modular design of luxury residential houses, to obtain sufficient income.


We started the new office. After a short start-up phase, we prospered. Our Audi A8 years arrived. I did not need the exposure of this car – I always went by bike or by tram to the office, but the construction world expected visibility of success. The agency owned one car for visits and if necessary, we hired a second car.


From the revenue I have bought a small apartment in Amsterdam. My friends where I use to live until that moment, preferred to move to a smaller house. In this small apartment I still live.

The office took a lot of my time and energy. In order to have sufficient time for study and contemplation, I followed the “Sabbath”, well I spent Saturday and Sunday morning on study and contemplation. In the vacations I visited the monastery for longer periods of contemplation. At that time the convent only consisted of old monks and an abbot. They transferred the convent in a foundation with religious objectives in order to prepare the convent for another form in the future. In 2002, the second surprise occurred in my life. The following post is about this second surprise”, you say.

The next post is about the beginning of your retirement.

[1] See also case 52 in: Wick, Gerry Shishin, The Book of Equanimity – Illuminating Classic Zen Koans. Somerville MA: Wisdom Publications, 2005, p. 161

[2] See post: Man Leben – back to Limburg – 10 Oktober 2011, including the sentence: “Illness and medicine help each other. The medicine is the universe. Who are you?” This sentence is a free rendering of case 87 from the Hekiganroku. see also: Yamada Kôun Roshi, Hekiganroku, Die Niederschrift vom blauen Fels – Band 2. München: Kösel-Verlag, 2002 p. 321

[3] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiegel_(optica)

[4] The design office is fictive. Example of a modular building in an urban environment. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stoke_newington_raines_court_1.jpg

[5] The design office is fictive. Example of a modular building of a luxurious house. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huf_Haus

[6] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:A8_white.jpg

Man Leben – Oriental wisdom

Kann man leben in den Stand der Vollkommenheit?

Can you life in a state of perfection?

You continue the story of your life:

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

The next post is about on your visit to Auschwitz.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man Leben – Convent years

Im Kloster entdeckt man Leben in vielfältiger Form

In the monastery one discovers life in various forms

You continues the story of your life:

“After my visit to the camps at Dachau and the grave of mother on All Souls ‘ Day in 1983, I moved on. My continued presence in Dachau was not appreciated: wanderers are not welcome. For one week I could sleep in the open air, but I became to visible. Early November I returned to the North. I had a vague plan to visit the grave of my father in Auschwitz. But quickly I understood the impossibility of this plan. The winter is a very bad time of year for wandering and Germany was still divided in two. I couldn’t walk through Eastern Germany to Poland.

I became ill. It started with a cold, and afterwards the fever came. A relatively small monastery gave me hospitality and within four weeks I was fully recovered.

In a very short time the monasteries changed considerably. At the beginning of 1960, there were many young men who entered the monastery for study, contemplation, focus on God and His works, and for disseminating faith and His works in other parts of the world. The monasteries were still in full bloom. Ten years later, no young men entered the convent and many monks had left the monastery for ordinary life with or without a partner. Again ten years later, only the older monks and the Abbot remained. In 1983 the buildings were very inward oriented.


The monastery where I recovered, was not very large. In 1983 the intrusion of emptiness was not depressing in the buildings. The last 15 years only one new brother entered the convent and the resident monks were 15 years older. If the monastery wished to survive, then a change was needed.

I also needed a change. It was still winter and moving without purpose was not on my way. During my recovery I was getting used to the rhythm of the monastery. After my recovery I could stay until spring came. I helped with necessary maintenance and I did jobs for my meals and indwelling.

In the beginning of the spring I had a farewell meeting with the Abbot. This conversation was a new beginning. The Abbot expressed his concerns about the future of the monastery; the convent had to a change in line with the tradition and focus on the future.

Any time, any act, each prayer and singing, every day, every year, everyone’s life, the life within the monastery and the faith in the monastery were focussed on God. The world outside the monastery changed constantly over the centuries. In the past the changes have had effects on the monastic life. In the Middle Ages, monasteries were centres of almost all scientific knowledge and skills in the Western world. Many monasteries acquired richness that were not in line with the tradition of the monasteries. By the end of the Middle Ages – around 1550 [2] – many monasteries were violently stripped of their richness: a number of monasteries decayed.

The last 15 years, the world outside the monastery changed very fast. This rapid change had a significant effect on the monastery, because the average age of the monks increased very rapidly. Stillness, contemplation and focus on God belonged to the monastery; on the other hand inflexibility and clinging to the past was not in line with the tradition.

The Abbot asked if I could contribute to the orientation for the monastery. My architectural background and my introduction to different religions could give good points of view. In addition to the usual tasks for a lay monk, I would dedicate myself to advice for and contributing to this orientation.

The monastery building was in good condition. It was excellent for monastery. With a declining number of permanent residents, parts of the building could also be used for activities in line with the objectives of the monastery.


The orientation on the outside world showed that outside the monastery and the Christian Church, there was a need for reflection and contemplation. This need was often expressed in other manifestations.


This orientation resulted in a monastery open for reflection and education of outsiders: individually and in groups. A number of monks in the convent studied religions from Asia to enrich the monastic life with the motto “explore the new and preserves the good”. Also knowledge and skill was acquired for guidance of groups in religious activities and meditation. Lay monks entered the monastery for  guidance of contemplation and education. Often they stayed temporarily or permanently in the monastery.

Approximately 5 years I have worked and lived in the monastery accompanying groups. At the end of this period, the monastic vows oppressed me. The vows of simplicity/poverty was no problem; I had a luxurious life with good health, sufficient simple meals and a useful contribution to the monastery and the world. The vow of chastity was slightly trickier. Since my student days there were always women in my life. During my stay in the monastery, there were no women in my life; the temptation was not great. The vow of obedience was the major problem: I’ve always been independent and my motto was: “nobody’s boss, nobody’s servant”.

My wish to start studying Eastern religions did not go along with the request of the convent to accompany other monasteries with their changes. I remained involved in the drafting of future plans for other monasteries, but the implementation of these plans was carried out by others. Occasionally I have given advice given during the progress. From resident of the monastery, I became a periodic visitor.

Around my 55th year of life, a new phase of my life began. I began with my study of Eastern religions”, you say.

The next post covers your study of Eastern religions.

[1] Example of a monastery. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benedictijnen

[2] In England by King Henry VIII – see also:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissolution_of_the_Monasteries; In Europa during the reformation whereby in the Netherlands the iconoclastic and the Eighty Years’ War did harm the monastic orders.

[3] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Trappist_praying_2007-08-20_dti.jpg

[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Meditating_in_Madison_Square_Park.jpg