Tag Archives: Nirvana

Form is emptiness and emptiness is form

Around half past one in the afternoon the fog slowly disappears. Carla awakes Narrator and she says that Man and she will start preparing lunch. Man proposes to have a warm lunch, so in darkness of the evening at the next landing point a simple meal will suffice.

When Narrator is up and fully awake, the warm lunch is ready.

“A simple but wholesome meal. I hope you will enjoy this meal”, says Man.

“Enjoy your meal”, say Carla and Narrator.

“I think we will have sufficient visibility to sail away at high tide”, says Man.

“That would be nice, because then I can take a nap at the end of the afternoon in a rocking boat”, says Narrator.

“Now we have mentioned the rocking of the boat; a few minutes ago I saw a few ducks floating by on the puddle of water next to the boat. Upon seeing the waves’ game caused by kicking their legs in the wake of these ducks, I thought of our conversation this morning about our life as a dream superimposed within “being-whole”. The waves’ game – a metaphor for our life as a dream, because the waves’ game in the water surface is a superposition within the surface – in the water is a metaphor for being-whole”, says Carla.

Drijvende eenden[1]

“A nice example of the combination of being-whole with the swirling manifestations of daily life”, says Man.

“Now mentioning it, could you hand me some water?”, asks Narrator to Man.

“Please”, says Man.

“I believe we have now arrived at the core of the second part of our quest to “Who are you”. Being-whole and “you” appearing in daily life go together within the ineffable all-encompassing “being-whole”, whereby we – the other and I in our everyday manifestations – are superimposed like a dream in the “wholeness”.

Here I am reminded of a radio signal – superimposed on a carrier – that as one signal is transmitted through space. Without the carrier no transference of a radio signal, without space no transference of the signal: they are mutually interconnected and interdependent in space.


I come back to the question: “One – what is that?” to the wise woman in the Buddhist question whereupon she was unable to answer. Like a wave as manifestation and the ocean as “being-whole” inseparably superimposed on each other, is the “not knowing” of the wise woman also superimposed on “being whole” or is it fully encompassed in the “being-whole”?, asks Carla to Narrator.


Night kisses the stars
And lets the waves move
Within the cosmos
The dream of dream a complete
Answer to: “One – what is that”


A silent answer
To the question: “One – what is That”;
Being-whole in all

And together in one haiku:

In One breath
Form – empty, and empty – form
United in All

Herewith we have arrived at the heart of the Heart Sūtra according to one commentator [3] and the core of the Sūtra is:

“Here, form is emptiness and emptiness is form.
Emptiness is no other than form; form is no other than emptiness”.

Or in Sanskrit:

iha rūpaṃ śūnyata śūnyataiva rūpam
rūpānna pṛthak śūnyatā śūnyatāyā na pṛthagrūpaṃ

wherein we encounter several time the word “śūnyata”[4] for emptiness. The other keywords are:

  • iha is usually translated “here, in this world, in this place.” This adverb is composed of “i” meaning “compassion”, and “ha” meaning amongst others “meditation, knowledge, the moon, to destroy, to remove, to leave and as last letter of the alphabet also last breath or to kill”. Herewith the word “iha” has simultaneously the meanings of “removal of illusions with compassion” and “meditation and / or enlightenment in this world.”
  • rūpaṃ – the accusative of the word “rūpa” – usually translated with “form” and has also the meanings of “dreamlike appearance, inner nature, image, graceful shape and symptom.” The word “rūpa” comes from the verb core from the verb core √rūp meaning “to form, to figure” and also “to exhibit by gesture” and “to show oneself”. My father said that “to show oneself” is to realise – and to give shape to – the All-encompassing One or to “being-whole”.
  • “na pṛthak” is usually translated with “not without” or “not separate of”. [5]

According to the core of the Heart Sūtra, not only the manifestations of daily life and of our everyday life, but also “the realisation of the All-encompassing One and herewith being-whole” is empty”, says Narrator.

“In the Heart Sūtra several times an explanation is given to Shāriputra, for example: “Thus (evaṃ) Shāriputra, all Dharma’s are empty without characteristics, not arisen, not disappeared, nor immaculate, nor polluted, nor complete and nor unfilled”. What is the meaning of the name Shāriputra?”, asks Carla to Narrator.

“The name Shāriputra is composed of “Shār” meaning in Sanskrit “wind, arrow and injure”, and “putra” meaning “child” [6]. Herewith the name Shāriputra refers to “child of the wind” – volatile and always everywhere present – and thereby “child destined to remove the illusions (like an arrow in one sigh)”. Because this destination Shāriputra is described in several Mahayana texts standing with one foot in “being-whole” and with the other foor in “the phenomena of everyday world”; by this double role, Shāriputra is an ideal person to act in the “All-encompassing One” and within “the delusion of daily life” as part of “being-whole”. Shāriputra [7] is one of the most important disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha. According to Buddhists Shakyamuni Buddha is the historical person Siddhārtha Gautama after his complete enlightenment”, says Narrator.

“Your explanation of the core of the Heart Sutra reminds me of the name YHWH for God in the Tanach [8] – and in the Old Testament of Christianity – meaning “Eternal” or “Always” and this name can also be understood as the Hebrew verb “הוא” or “is” from the verb “to be”. Usually “הוא” is translated as “He who is” but the originally meaning is just “is” without further interpretation. While interpreting their core, many religions fall back on the “unmentionable” for example in Hebrews 7: 3 with “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life” for the Messiah (or the eternal priest). But immediately after the mentioning of the “unmentionable being”, religions begin to explain this “unmentionable being” within daily life and afterwards to secure the place of the followers within “being-whole” and in relation to the “unmentionable being””, says Man.

“Similarly, the Heart Sūtra. After the core: “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form. Emptiness is no other than form; form is not different from emptiness”, the Heart Sutra begins slowly to turn again like a cyclone, because hereafter is restated that – in addition to form – the four other skanda’s are empty: “In the same way feeling, perception, thought and consciousness are empty”. After this – as Carla mentioned before – the Sutra says that all forms of self / Self are empty without content:

“Thus [9] all Dharma’s [10] are empty without characteristics, not arisen, not disappeared, nor immaculate, nor polluted, nor complete and nor unfilled”.

I can only read this as: all Dharma’s are – via “emptiness is form” – fully included in the All-encompassing One” or the unmentionable and indivisible “being-whole” of Martin Heidegger. ”

And the Sūtra continues with a large number of negations:

“Therefore, in emptiness there is no form, no feeling, no perception, no memory, no consciousness, neither eye nor ear or nose or tongue, neither body nor mind, nor form, neither sound nor smell nor taste, neither feeling nor traces of perception from eye to conceptual consciousness, nor causation from ignorance to old age and death, no end of causation from ignorance to old age and death, nor suffering, nor relief, no way, no knowledge, no achievement or non-achievement”

With these negations the Sūtra begins (after “Form – emptiness and emptiness – form”) slowly to get fully form (and emptiness) again – like a photo immerged in a photographic developer – within the All-encompassing One.


Ah, finally the sun, within a short while the fog will disappear. With some luck we can soon look around us again. When are you planning to sail away?”, asks Narrator to Man.

“I propose to raise the anchor about three o’clock at high tide and start our return to Lauwersoog. Due to the fog this morning we have not been able to begin the last part of our trip to Vlieland. When we would sail this last part this afternoon, we will have a chance to end up in bad weather – according to the weather forecast – within two days: to me it seems better to avoid this. Now we can arrive in the marina before the weather change. And I can have the boat ready in time for the transfer to my friend”, says Man.

“”I’ve spoken so much that I’ve forgotten to eat. Could you hand me the bread and cheese?”, asks Narrator to Carla.

“Please. Are bread and cheese also empty according to the Heart Sūtra? I think I know the answer, but what do you think?”, asks Carla.

“They are no permanent – independent – forms: they are arisen by baking the bread and ripening of the cheese and they will change into another form during digestion. Even if they are not eaten, they will spoil within a short time. The generally accepted idea of “bread” and “cheese” are also no permanent independent forms: they receive meaning and value within a human society, they have originated once in the course of history, they change and they will disappear once again. In this way, bread and cheese are at the same time form and emptiness within our lifetime. In addition, they give form and emptiness to our lives within our “being-whole”.
Herakleitos had said according tradition:

“πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει” καὶ “δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης” [12]

of interpretated:

All changes and nothing remain still, and we cannot step twice in the same stream”.

Just like our sailing trip on the Waddensea: everything is constantly changing form, and no form is permanent. The fog that has just fully enveloped us, is gone. This reminds me of a short poem at the end of a Buddhist question. I have made this a haiku from this poem:

Sun shines in the sky
On vanishing of the mist
As bright as allways

Although we will consider “change” at the next part of our quest, I still ask the question now: Is the constant change within “being-whole” empty too?

This question is important because the Mahābhārata states on one hand that everything – even the gods – and perhaps “being-whole” is bound to dharma [13], but according to the Heart Sutra, the dharma’s are empty and simultaneously included in “being-whole”. Is the “being-whole” also empty?”, asks Man to Carla en Narrator.

“Based upon “facts and logic” no answer is possible according to the two incompleteness theorems [14] by Kurt Gödel [15]. Briefly – and focused on the question “Is “being-whole” empty” – the theorems read:

  • In case a system – “being-whole” or finite – is consistent (or empty), this system cannot be complete and
  • The consistency of the axiom’s like “Is “being-whole” empty” cannot be proven from the system – “being-whole” or endless – itself.

I come to this conclusion because “being-whole” is so unknowable endless, that there is always place for something additional. I think “being-whole” is endless because mathematics permits the concept of “infinity” easily, but I cannot prove that “being-whole” is infinite, because it is – due to indivisibility – by definition unknowable and incomparable in size.

From metaphysics, I think that “being-whole” has by definition has no distinction and is therefore indivisible; hereby “being-whole” is empty of all discrimination and understanding, because there is nothing to understand or grasp. I think this definition – as all assumptions – is debatable.

Besides that there are of course the various temporary manifestations superimposed within “being-whole”, like photos immerged in a photographic developer. These manifestations are as real as when I squeeze you in your arm and as volatile, empty and real – as form is emptiness and emptiness is form – within the metaphor of Indra’s Net”, says Carla

“This lunch was excellent; shall we have some coffee?”, says Narrator.

“I will make some coffee”, says Man.

“Your haiku is based on the poem in the Buddhist question “Wash you bowls”. Summarized and adapted to our time this question is:

“A student enters a monastry and asks for instructions. The teacher asks: “Did you have your lunch?” The student answers: “Yes, I have”. “Then”, the teacher says: “Wash your plate and cutlery”.

And the poem is:

Because it is so clear
It takes longer to realise.
If you acknowledge at once that candlelight is fire,
The lunch has long been prepared. [16]

Or said in another way: “A fish discovers water last of all. So it takes a long time to realise “being-whole” because it is omnipresent. When you recognise that all forms are completely included in the All-encompassing One, then this lunch has long been prepared”.

The poem gives immediately – or directly and momentaneously – an answer to the question where we may find “being-whole”: “Here (“iha” in Sanskrit) at this place where we sit” and “Here in the shoes wherein we stand”. Because it is so obvious, it will go unnoticed.

The non-dualistic Vedānte [17] – amongst other based upon the Upanishads and the Bagavad Gītā – often refers to the All-encompassing One, whereafter at once a distinction is introduced, for example the caste in India, student and teacher, higher beings and humans [18].
This same distinction within “being-whole” immediate arose within the Tanakh and the Old Testament where God – YHWH (or “is”) – humans are separated after a few words thereby entering our manifestations within everyday life.

Recently I read on the back cover of “Deze wereld anders – Politieke geschiedenis van het grote verhaal” (This world different – Political history of the grand story) by Ton Veerkamp:

“Christianity focused on heaven – the heaven of the folk religions – and the afterlife. Everyday life and the “here and now” was a side issue and thus Christianity has often excessively adapted itself to a world of power and oppression.”

De wereld anders[19]

I think every religion has done this in to some extent: nothing human is excluded from religions.
The Heart Sutra continues after mentioning the core of “being-whole” – and after a large number of negations of daily realities that are empty of content and form – by entering the path of the bodhisattva.

“Therefore without attainment, the bodhisattva’s [20] – via perfect wisdom (prajñāpāramitā) – are without obstructions on their life course. Without obstructions and thus without fear they surpass their illusions (within daily life and within “being-whole”) and nirvana [21]. Due to the perfect wisdom (prajñāpāramitā) all past, present and future Buddha’s realise the “All-encompassing One”.”

The All-encompassing One” is “Here (“iha” in Sanskrit) at this place where we sit” and “Here in the shoes wherein we stand”.

In this manner the Heart Sūtra – although in words that distinguish and create distance – has tried to describe life course (or Tao) within the non-dualistic All-encompassing One.
Time to wash my plate and cutlery”, says Narrator.

“With your plate and cutlery also the All-encompassing One” is washed within our world. This is perfectly clear within the metaphor of “Indra’s Net”.

In everyday life, I notice a limitation on the scope of washing your plate and cutlery, because the transfer of information – the light within the metaphor of Indra’s Net – has obvious limitations and because way of perception does affect our way of seeing.

Approached from the world of phenomena and viewed from everyday individual objects it is utterly impossible to wash only the plate and cutlery without having an impact on the environment, because there is always an influence on dishwasher, soap and the dishwater had an initial temperature by the sun before it is heated etc. etc.

In my life, I experience both worldviews as completely real and practical, but I cannot let both completely overlap in one comprehensive system: the metaphor of superposition of the world of phenomena within “being-whole” helps, but is not fully satisfactory for me”, says Carla.
“The Heart Sūtra is a scripture originated from Mahāyāna Buddhism. This form of Buddhism is also called the “middle way” because within this religion one tries to unite the world of “being-whole” with everyday life. This “middle way” takes shape in the bodhisattva ideal. A bodhisattva – with both feet together in the worlds of “being-whole” and of “everyday life” – will only enter the All-encompassing One together and at the same time with everyone and everything. Within this ideal a bodhisattva enters – here and now – constantly “being-whole” and “daily life” to save everything and everyone from life suffering”, says Narrator while washing his plate and cutlery.


[1] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superpositie_%28natuurkunde%29
[2] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amplitude_modulation
[3] See: Lopez, Donald S. – The Heart Sutra explained Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990 p. 57
[4] See for an exposure of “śūnyata” the post: “Emptiness: to the end of the night”
[5] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta
[6] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta
[7] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sariputta
[8] Source: Tanach Heerenveen: Uitgeverij NBG, 2007, p. 113
[9] The Heart Sūtra uses the word “evaṃ”. See for an explanation footnote 14 in chapter “Mist”
[10] Dharma means literally “continuously placing of the self/Self”.
[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darkroom
[12] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heraclitus
[13] See for an explanation of Dharma: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 2.1 – Facts and Logic. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2014, p. 34 e.v.
[14] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_G%C3%B6del
[15] See also: Origo, Jan van, a survey into our existence – part 2.1 – Facts and Logic. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2014, p. 62 – 64
[16] See also: Shibayama, Zenkei, The Gateless Barrier, Zen Comments on the Mumonkan. Boston: Shambhala, 2000, p. 67 – 71 and Yamada Kôun Roshi, Gateless Gate (Mumonkan). Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1990, 40 – 43
[17] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedanta
[18] See: Venkataramanan, S. Select Works of Sri Sankaracharya. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications, 2003
[19] See: Veerkamp, Ton. Deze wereld anders – Politieke geschiedenis van het Grote Verhaal. Vught: Uitgeverij Skandalon, 2014
[20] The word bodhisattva consists of two words “bodhi” and “sattva” meaning “perfect knowledge, wisdom” and “being, conscience, living being” in Sanskrit. The school of Maha ya na buddhism knows the bodhisattva ideal. According to this ideal, a human who is on the verge of enlightenment – named bodhisattva, will refrain of entering until the complete universe and every particle is capable to enter enlightenment. In the meantime a bodhisattva will prepare everyone and everything for enlightenment.
[21] Literally: absence of forest (or barriers) or the open plain

Emptiness: to the end of the night

Night. A clear sky at new moon. Narrator drives the borrowed Skoda Superb [1] Combi from Amsterdam via the Noordoostpolder [2] to the marina at Lauwersoog near the departure of the ferry to Schiermonnikoog. Both headlights shine on the empty highway through the dark void land that over 50 years ago still was bottom of the Zuiderzee (Southernsea). Carla dozes in the back seat. Man sits as a passenger next Narrator; in the dim light of the dashboard they look to the exit at Emmeloord that in the far distance is lit by lantern light.

Skoda Superb Combi[3]

“Within the emptiness the headlights – with the lantern light in the distance – conjure a dark magic landscape wherein everything we now see emerges and immediately disappears like phantoms who are called to live in a flare in order to slip at once into the dark emptiness again.

As boy in South Limburg I have loved the dark nights with the infinite universe wherein I – included – was one with all the stars and galaxies in the firmament. Now I feel myself floating within a faint white glow on an infinite journey through the universe and thereby perfectly at home in this vessel. Tonight – before we were getting ready to depart – I have looked up a definition of Buddhist enlightenment [4] in a book: “Enlightenment is realising the oneness of life”[5].

I looked for this definition yesterday afternoon we have ended our survey of intensities and associations with the question: “One – what is that?”, that had been asked by a Buddhist sage to a wise woman. She was unable to answer this question. I wonder whether the inability – or the emptiness – of the wise woman to answer fits better with the question: “One – what is that?” than this definition of Buddhist enlightenment.

We now begin the survey of emptiness during our quest to “Who are you”. In Sanskrit the word for emptiness in the Heart Sutra is ” śūnyatā”. Do you know the meaning of this word in Sanskrit?”, asks Man.

The car is nearing the exit at Emmeloord. Narrator slows down and takes the exit to Lemmer; hereby Carla has awakened and she asks: “Where are we?”. “Near Emmeloord in the Noordoostpolder, now we are heading to Friesland. I have asked Narrator for the meaning of the word “śūnyatā””, says Man.

“The word ” śūnyatā” is usually translated with “emptiness” or “empty of self” [6], but this translation only reflects the core of the word just like within the core of the tropical cyclone there is usually a clear sky and no wind; the centre of the cyclone is sunny and “free” of wind.

Kern van een cycloon[7]

The word “śūnyatā” consists of the verb cores:
• “śvi” – with the weak form “śū” – meaning “swell”, “grow” and “increase”;
• “ya” meaning “mover” and “incentive”. My father was of the opinion that “ya” is closely related to “yaj” in the sense of “sacrifice”, “offering for a higher – Godlike/heavenly– purpose” (perhaps “God’s gift” in reciprocity”and,
• “tā” meaning “impassableness”, “inaccessibleness”, and also “unviolability” and “sacred” [8].

A contemporary Japanese Zen master in America had written in his explanation of “śūnyatā” that this word is not a negation of the concept of existence, but the word indicates that our entire existence in all its forms is completely dependent on the principle of cause and effect; we have read earlier that even the Gods are bound by the principle of cause and effect [9]. As the factors of cause and effect are changing constantly, there is no static – fixed – existence possible. The word “śūnyatā” categorically denies the possibility of the existence of static – fixed – manifestations. All appearances are relative and interdependent according to this contemporary Japanese Zen master.

In addition, he writes that “śūnyatā” also means “zero”, a concept that became known rather late in Europe, but has been in use for much longer in India. Zero has no numerical value in itself, but it represents the absence of numerical values and thus symbolises at the same time the possibility of all numerical values. Similarly “śūnyatā” – through the concept of “zero” or “no” – represents the possibility of the existence of all manifestations and it is also included in all forms, that themselves only exist in relation to their non-existence and by their interconnectedness [10]”, says Narrator.

vorm en leegte[11]

“The definition of zero is too limited: but I will not go into it now. If I understand it correctly, “śūnyatā” refers to “emptiness from” and “emptiness to” just as – in my opinion – Erich Fromm is referring to “freedom from” and “freedom to” in mutual dependency with the concept of “freedom” [12 ]. Here I am reminded of the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty who has argued that manifestations are caused by a creative process of giving meaning and taking meaning at once[13]. The Zen master adds to this argument the void – or space – for allowing the creation of manifestations”, says Carla.

“Quite interesting that you refer to a creative process for the creation of manifestations. The Japanese Zen master indicates that an intuitive and immediate understanding of ” śūnyatā” is the basis for all understanding. But before he states this, he first mentiones the ” śūnyatā” of the ego and then the “śūnyatā” of dharma [14] – the world order and duty [15] – and of the subjective and the objective. After this he concludes that everything – every manifestation and every being – only exists through the principle of interdependence bound by the law of impermanence. The intuitive and immediate understanding leads to knowledge and understanding of the four great truths to know: impermanence, interconnectedness, manifestations and essence; maybe it’s good to come back on these four values later. The Zen master goes further in his statement on the importance of impermanence – emptiness or vanity – and interconnectedness than Maurice Merleau-Ponty in the arising or creation of all manifestations and of every being

I have this explanation of “śūnyatā” from the introduction by this Zen master in his book on the Buddhistische Heart Sūtra.

This description of the Zen master has stayed with me because it fits so well my perception of the ghosts in the night. As a child soldier in Africa with our militia we had put the forest around a village on fire at the end of the night. We had shot everything and everyone that had come out of the forest and we had been happy [16]. I still carry the ghosts of these villagers with me; their breath – in emptiness and vanity – has become my breath. At night they are as real to me as people I meet during the day; these spirits are connected with me in interdependence within the law of impermanence: during daytime they have disappeared”, says Narrator.

“Are these spirits really present for you here and now in this car?”, asks Man.

“No, driving the car I have my attention on the road, but if I do not focus my attention any longer, the ghost come to life from the emptiness of darkness just as real as a dream during sleep. Or to cite a quote often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain: “I am an old man and have suffered a great many misfortunes, most of which never happened” [17]”, says Narrator.

“Fortunately, because otherwise I should have asked you to look for a parking place and we might continue our journey tomorrow during daylight. I have several versions of the Heart Sutra to study in my luggage. Would you like to help me with the interpretation of Sanskrit?”, asks Man.

“That is fine. I have a copy with the explanation by the Japanese Zen master with me. Do you have a waterproof compartment for books on your boat?”, asks Narrator.

“Your book easily fits within the waterproof ton. When we will lay dry at low tide, we will have time to read”, says Man.

“The definition of enlightenment that you have just mentioned, gives one aspect of enlightenment – in line with the interconnectedness within the metaphor of Indra’s Net – quite clearly. It is only one side of the coin, the other side is “śūnyatā”. In Buddhism, the term “nirvana” – literally absence of forest (or barriers) or the open plain [18] – is often used for enlightenment. In Hinduism one often addresses enlightenment with “moksha” [19] that comes from the verb core “muc” meaning amongst others “to loosen, or to liberate”. With both interpretations, I am not happy because in my opinion “śūnyatā” together with the metaphor of Indra’s Net gives a better interpretation of the term enlightenment. I think it is a good idea that we do not only survey emptiness in the sense of “empty from” at this part of our quest, but also in relation to the four great truths of Buddhism and in relation to Indra’s Net”, says Narrator.

“Good idea. When I had lain awake during my travels under the dark starry sky, I had felt myself fully included in space or in the infinite void. The boundaries between the space and myself had dissolved and I had become one with everything around me. In a book on Zen Buddhism I had read two poems mentioning an empty mirror as metaphor for life; in the second poem also the illusion of the empty mirror was removed just like during this journey by car through the dark polder the sight on the landscape is non-existing. Do you know the text of these poems?”, asks Carla.

“The two poems had been written during the appointment – or better the Dharma transmission – of Huineng [20] as the sixth Zen patriarch. In my own words: the fifth patriarch sensed that the obvious candidate was fit for the position. He asked each monk who would like to be candidate, to write a short poem on the core of Zen and to affix it on the monastery wall. Only obvious candidate anonymously published the following poem:

The body is a Bodhi tree;
The mind like an empty mirror stand.
Time and again brush it clean
And let no dust alight [21]

Bodhi – with a sound (and a meaning via “et incarnatus est” [22]) akin to the English word body – meaning in Sanskrit “a tree of wisdom, or a tree where under a human becomes a Buddha” [23].

The next morning a second poem was affixed alongside the first poem with the following text:

Originally bodhi has no tree;
The empty mirror has no stand.
Originally there is not a thing.
Where can dust alight?

In Sanskrit Bodhi has a second meaning: “perfect enlightenment” [24]. The Fifth Patriarch knew a humble firewood-gatherer – without any formal training as a monk – had written this second poem and he foresaw an uprising of the monastery to the appointment of this uneducated layman as Dharma heir. The following night, the Dharma transmission took place and at dawn the sixth Zen patriarch had to flee from the monastery. The monks have haunted him for a long time. Eventually after a long flight he had been fully accepted is as Dharma heir; every Zen master is in direct line associated with this sixth patriarch. And reciting the poem I also reflect him in the emptiness of this night”, says Man.

“Splendid explanation. Shall we continue tomorrow? I would like to continue dozing”, says Carla.
“Then I will also take a nap. Tomorrow we have to get up early”, says Man.

Narrator drives the car with Carla and Man sleeping via Friesland and Groningen to the parking place at Lauwersoog near the ferry departure to Schiermonnikoog. He parks the car facing east to see the dawn over a few hours. Upon seeing the first twilight he awakes Carla and Man.

“On this bright morning we have to see the sunrise before so we will start rigging the sailboat at the marina”, says Narrator.

“Upon seeing the emergence of the first sunrays trough this windshield, I think of the poem “The Windows” by Guido Gezelle, wherein he as a Catholic priest at the end of the nineteenth century has marginally repeated the iconoclasm:


The windows are full of saints, mitred and staved,
martyrised, virgin crowned, duked and knighted;
that the burning from the oven fire glassed has in the shard,
that, glittering, speaks all the tongues from the heaven bows paints. [25]

Thou scare is again enkindled in the east the violence
Of sun flame, and does she touches the saints, so melted
The mitre from the mantle collar, the gold ware from the crone,
and all, even white now, shines and lightens even clean.

Disappeared art thou, dukes and counts then, so soft;
disappeared, virgins, martyrs and bishops: forever
no palms, staves, stolen anymore, ‘t is all gone, to
one clarity molten, in one sunlight – in God. [26]

– Guido Gezelle [27]

Kerkramen Noordzijde Keulen[28]

In my opinion Guido Gezelle advocates with this poem – despite the beauty of church windows as windows on the world – an empty mirror without stand in God’s face”, says Man.


[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%A0koda_Superb
[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noordoostpolder
[3] Source image: http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%A0koda_Superb
[4] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhi
[5] Source: Bridges, Jeff & Glassman, Bernie, The Dude and the Zen Master. New York: Plume, 2014, p. 95
[6] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunyata, see also the English Wikipedia-page on this subject
[7] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropische_cycloon
[8] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[9] See: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 2.1 – Facts and Logic. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2014, p. 85 and 122
[10] Source: Deshimaru, Taisen, Mushotoku Mind – The Heart of the Heart Sutra. Chino Valley: Hohm Press, p. 28, 29
[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9A%C5%ABnyat%C4%81
[12] Source: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 2.1 – Facts and Logic. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2014, p. 97
[13] See also for the “creative act of giving meaning to and taking meaning from”: Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, Phenomenology of Perception 1945
[14] Dharma means literally “placing of the self/Self continuously”.
[15] 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 on Dharma.
[16] 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
[17] See: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/10/04/never-happened/
[18] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[19] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moksha
[20] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huineng
[21] Source: The Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra. Burlingame: Buddhist text translation society, 2002, p. 67
[22] Literal translation from Latin: he/she/is becomes flesh
[23] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[24] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[25] “mitred and staved”: with signals of authority; “all the tongues from the heaven bows paints”: showing all the paintings on the ceilings of the churches.
[26] Free translation of this poem. Original: http://cf.hum.uva.nl/dsp/ljc/gezelle/rijmsnoer/ramen.htm This poem is date by Guido Gezelle on 14th of April 1895.
[27] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guido_Gezelle
[28] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stained_glass

Narrator – gate in the north 2

Life with my beloved in Stockholm – who had evaded his military service in the U.S. Army during the war in Vietnam and still stayed in Europe although he might return to the United States after the general pardon of president Carter in 1977 [1] – was as familiar as in Amsterdam and at the same time it was different in all respects.

In addition to the golden house in the old town, he also had a beautiful country house in the Stockholm archipelago. In the weekends and during holidays we stayed in this wooden house on a small island. We enjoyed the beautiful skies and during night we slept outside if the weather permitted. I was amazed about the long days.


Several friends of my lover played in jazz ensembles. Through them I learned to appreciate the music of the giants in jazz; my favourites were the Miles Davis Quintet [3] and John Coltrane [4] with his quartet; I learned his records of “Joy”, and “A Love Surpreme” – composed during the struggle for equal rights in America wherein John Coltrane wanted to create a spiritual unity with this music in order to influence a social change [5] – by heart.


During several practice sessions with a jazz ensemble I played on percussion; the members were so impressed that I could join playing at the Stockholm Jazz Festival [7] that summer. Afterwards I regularly performed with varying musicians in Stockholm and later in Copenhagen.

My beloved practised and studied Buddhism and meditation in Stockholm in order to give meaning to his life. Under his influence, I slowly engaged in the Buddhist and Taoist side of Oriental wisdom.  He could use some help with comprehending the source texts written in Sanskrit. Together we followed this way of living in Stockholm: he studied the content and I supported at the form.

Friday and Saturday before the last week in June, I celebrated Midsummer in Scandinavia for the first time. In Stockholm the night lasted only a few hours and that Saturday and Sunday the entire public life was closed. We stayed at friends for participating in this traditional celebration.

A few days after midsummer my lover and I began our holiday trip to the North Cape in the Goddess. By an almost deserted landscape of Northern Sweden – where your neighbour is your best friend, because there is no one else in the vicinity – we drove in eternal light.


Just before the border with Norway we saw Lapporten. My beloved named it the Empty Gate [9]. He asked me what “empty” is in Sanskrit. Hereupon I replied “śūnya” [10] that is akin to the English word “shunt” [11] where a low parallel resistor causes a parallel circuit within an electric circuit. He began  to chant a part of the Heart Sutra:

The Heart Sutra can be listened at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0jcx9fnoWc

A free rendering in English:

Form is equal to emptiness as emptiness is equal to form;

Form itself is empty and emptiness is form;

So also feeling, knowledge, formation and consciousness.

Thus Shariputra, all Dharmas are empty of characteristics.

They are not made, nor destroyed, nor defiled and they are not pure;

And they neither increase nor diminish.

There is no form, feeling, cognition, formation, or consciousness;

no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, or mind;

no sights, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, or Dharmas;

I said that the Empty Gate may give access to the Nirvana [12]. He replied that the Empty Gate was also empty of Nirvana and he shone [13] as a god. My beloved remained perfectly shining well beyond the North Cape.


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

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

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

[4] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Coltrane

[5] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Love_Supreme

[6] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Love_Supreme

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

[8] Source image: http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nalovardo

[9] The Mumonkan – in English often translated in Gateless Gate – is a collection of 48 Zen Koans compiled by the Zen monk Mumon in the 13th century after Christ.

The character 無 () has a fairly straightforward meaning: no, not, or without. However, within Chinese Mahayana Buddhism, the term 無 () is often a synonym for 空 (sunyata). This implies that the 無 () rather than negating the gate (as in “gateless”) is specifying it, and hence refers to the “Gate of Emptiness”. This is consistent with the Chinese Buddhist notion that the “Gate of Emptiness” 空門 is basically a synonym for Buddhism, or Buddhist practice. 門 (mén) is a very common character meaning door or gate. However, in the Buddhist sense, the term is often used to refer to a particular “aspect” or “method” of the Dharma teachings. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gateless_Gate

There are four well known versions in English:

Aitken, Robert, The Gateless Barrier, The Wu-men Kuan (Mumonkan). New York: North Point Press, 2000

Sekida, Katsuki, Two Zen Classics – Mumonkan & Hekiganroku. New York:Weatherhill, 1977

Shibayama, Zenkei, The Gateless Barrier, Zen Comments on the Mumonkan. Boston: Shambhala, 1974

Yamada Kôun Roshi, Gateless Gate (Mumonkan). Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1990

[10] “Empty, void” according to: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[11] According to Shorter Oxford English Dictionary a natural or artificial blood vessel to divert the blood stream.

[12] “Land without forest” according to: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[13] The word Deva whereof Deus in Latin, Zeus in Greec and Dieu in French arose, is Sanskrit connected with the verb root “Div” meaning amongst others “to shine, to play, to increase”.

[14] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapland_(Zweeds_landschap)