Tag Archives: śūnyata

The wind takes you along

Carla, Man and narrator have seen the sunrise. They are sitting in the car waiting for the harbour master to handle some formalities before they can start their sailing trip on the Wadden Sea.

“After your explanation of the word ” śūnyatā” – via the core of a cyclone – I understand far better the symbolism of the black ink paint circle that Japanese Zen masters calligraphy in one smooth motion brush stroke. What is the name of this painted circle?”, asks Carla.


“The Japanese name for this circle is “ensō” and the circle symbolises a minimal simplicity – as the core of the cyclone in the metaphor for ” śūnyatā” –, perfect enlightenment, strength, elegance, the entire universe and emptiness as in the word ” śūnyatā” in Sanskrit. The spiritual practice of ensō-painting and Japanese calligraphy with the aim of self-realization is named “hitsuzendo” – or the way of the brush – in Japan. Thereby “ensō” illustrates the various forms of “wabi-sabi” [2] or the all-encompassing Japanese world view and aesthetics in the acceptance of transience and imperfection via:

• Fukinsei (asymmetry, irregularty),
• Kanso (simplicity),
• Koko (basic; weathered),
• Shizen (without pretense pretentie; natural),
• Yugen (subtly profound grace),
• Datsuzoku (freedom) and
• Seijaku (tranquility) [3].

This all-encompassing worldview of impermanence and imperfection – how much during maintenance there is strived for rest, purity and consistency – can be seen in Japanese gardens.

Japanse tuin[4]

Sailing in a small boat does a great appeal on the same all-encompassing worldview of transience and imperfection in combination with rest, purity and consistency in rough weather with high waves”, says Man.

“Just before we rang the bell at the front door of your friend’s house to pick up the keys to his car, you told us that it would be a basic car. In my view we have travelled very comfortably in a luxurious limousine. How does the Skoda Superb fit within the Japanese worldview of basal weathered and unpretentious? Ann outdated basal Renault 4 from swinging late 60’s – comfortably rocking on the road – would better fit into the worldview of “wabi-sabi”, or I am wrong?”, says Carla.

Renault 4[5]

“From your point of view, you are fully right. Everything is relative: even the size and luxury of my friend’s cars. Until his retirement he had worked for 40 years in large construction companies; the last 25 years as director of major construction companies, before he has started a smaller company for modular construction with me. In his world of board activities, success and prosperity must be shown – in order to survive – with possession of lavish homes and the latest models of cars from the absolute top class. After his retirement he has chosen on my recommendation a modest middle-class car in which his sons who have very long legs, can also sit well in the backseats. In the worldview of my friend a Skoda Superb Combi is a very simple car; after purchasing the car he was jokingly asked if he had to earn as taxi-driver after his retirement: of course they knew better. He now lives in a – by his standards – simple house that was designed and built by our latest company”, says Man.
Modulair huis


“Has your friend had several sports cars in his heydays?”, asks Carla.

“No, that does not suit him. This, he said when you’re young enough for a sports car, you don’t have the money for it; and if you do have the money for it, then you’re too old to sit well in it. Actually, he is a sober man, but in the world of construction money came naturally to him. With every construction project he had earned several millions within a few years earns millions: so after some 20 projects he was a very wealthy man. After the death of his wife he lived sober given his background; he was 60 years old at that time. Their marriage was childless; they had two adoptive sons and he has – to my knowledge – no interest in other women. Half a year after the death of his wife, he asked me to start our company on modular construction. At that time, we were both in need for a new purpose in life and with this company we have found it.

No, sports cars really do not interest him: that does not fit with his Jewish background. He gets satisfaction from helping others. My friend has financially helped many friends in his surroundings, and from the profits of each project, he had certainly give away 10% to charity [7]: at this point he is an old fashioned man”, says Man.

“Maybe the all-encompassing worldview of “wabi-sabi” together with peace, purity and consistency is also possible in great wealth”, says Carla.

“His later life he is in my eyes an example of it, with a good balance between the next ten characteristics for Jewish spiritual leadership:

1. Sacrifice
2. Involvement,
3. Inspiration
4. Servitude
5. Overview
6. Unselfishness
7. Respect for predecessors
8. Aversion of authority
9. Practise what she/he preaches
10. Leadership without structure

Within his world he fulfils a role model for others”, says Man

“How did sailing come into your life”, asks Narrator.

“As my friend had adapted his lifestyle continuously to the circumstances wherein he was placed, so the sailboats in my life have been adapted to the circumstances; I did not bother: it came by itself.

As a boy at the beginning of elementary school, I was always playing with homemade model sailboats around a pond in the Beatrix park near our former home in the Rivierenbuurt in Amsterdam. At the other side of the pond I collected the boats again. In the vicinity of the village of my godparents in South Limburg were only small meandering rivulets; thus no possibility for sailing. After I had moved to Rotterdam I have started sailing with classmates, first on the Bergsche Plas in a small training boat and not much later on the Rottemeren in a Valk. At the end of grammar school we hiked during long weekends and vacations with sailing boat in South Holland.


During my student years, I started sailing at sea around the North Sea coast on a 10-meter sailboat owned by father of my co-students. On this boat, I received my practical training to yachtsman. After my studies I have often sailed with friends who owned a seaworthy sailboat.

After our family had moved to Amsterdam and we had received a stable income from the trade in construction materials, I bought a seaworthy Norwegian 7.70 meter Nordic Folkboot [9]. Herewith I have spent many weekends and holidays with friends and acquaintances on the North Sea and the IJsselmeer. My wife and kids did not like the – in their eyes – Spartan existence on boat; they were often seasick.

Noorse Folkboot[10]

When my children were young I have sailed with them in an Optimist on lakes near Amsterdam; at the end of primary school the interest of my children changed and I have done away this boat to acquaintances with small children who wanted to learn sailing.

At the start of the walk to the grave of my mother [12] the Norwegian Folkboat disappeared from my life; a friendly couple had bought this practical boat from me with the plan to make half a world trip: they have sailed with this boat around a part of the world.
Between my divorce and my work for the modular construction material company there have been no sailboats in my life. The wind took me over land to many places [13].
During getting a foothold in the world again with modular construction, two new types of sailboats came into my life. First I bought a 4-meter Laser [14] sailboat, wherein I have gone boating for fun on many lakes in Europe: this Laser boat fitted on the roof of my station wagon. After my 70st birthday, I took leave of this boat: transporting and sail this boat had become too heavy for me.

For the holidays, I bought after my retirement a new versions of a Folkboat: first a 6.63 meter long Drascombe Coaster with a small cabin. A few years later I have exchanged this boat for a Drascombe Drifter, a boat adapted by myself to modern standards and with just a little more comfort. Later today I will show you the adjustment I made. By a mizzenmast – a second sail on the back of the boat – both boats can be easy handled and kept on course by myself. Because of its shape and rigging the boat is pretty storm-proof”, says Man.
Drascombe Drifter[16]

“Is such a small boat seaworthy enough?”, asks Narrator.

“Also this is relative. With similar boats good crews did sail to the other side of the world. But I would not like to pass Cape Horn with my boat. For a full seaworthiness the boat is missing several components like a full railing. I have equipped my boat myself with air-tight chambers filled with foam, so the boat – even reversed – will always float. At high breaking waves hitting the boat sideways from behind, sailboats can easily turn over [17] ”, says Man.

“Fortunately the weather forecast for the next days in spring promises nice sailing weather with not too much wind”, says Carla.

“It is good to be always prepared to everything on a sailboat. In 1983, during Ascension it had promised to be a beautiful day for sailing in the Netherlands with a temperature of 14 degrees, moderate southerly wind, cloudy and in the afternoon a few tiny showers, but by mid-afternoon an unexpectedly brief heavy storm with gusts of local wind force 11 raged over The Netherlands [18]. That day two friends and I had planned having a long weekend sailing on my Norwegian Folkboat from Muiden via the IJsselmeer to the Wadden Sea.

Mid-afternoon we saw in the distance a pitch-black sky approaching. Very quickly we had lowered almost all sail and we prepared the boat for a heavy storm. Ten minutes later we were in a that very heavy storm that fortunately lasted less than half an hour. With good seamanship and a seaworthy boat all had ended well for us, but that afternoon several water sports enthusiast had not survived the storm. The rest of the day we had given help to heavily damaged boats. The rest of the weekend we had spent repairing the fortunately limited damage of my boat in the home marina”, says Man.

“Fortunately there are no tropical cyclones in the Wadden Sea. I once read that in the summer and early autumn – when the sea water is quite warm – waterspouts can occur under clouds”, says Carla.

“That’s true, I have seen these waterspouts [19] a few times seen in the Wadden Sea. Over land these whirlwinds usually loose power quickly, but at sea they can cause considerable damage to the sails and a sailboat with full sail can easily turn over”, says Man.

“Is there also rest in the core of a waterspout”, asks Narrator.

“I think the that the diameter of the eye of a waterspout is too small to experience this rest consciously. The eye of a tropical cyclone can have a diameter between 30 to 50 km [21]”, says Carla.

“To come back to the core. If we look on our life, have we personally fulfilled the ten characteristics of Jewish spiritual leadership?”, asks Narrator.

“I do not know if I have pursued spiritual leadership. But when I look at these characteristics without this pursuit, then I have seriously sinned against “respect for predecessors”; this comes forth from my character and my position as an outsider in society. I also might have offered a little more inspiration to others and shown a little more openness about my studies. In the past I considered this openness too dangerous, now I see better the relativity of danger and my personal life”, says Carla.

“I did my best, but usually I have not succeeded to give the all-encompassing worldview of “wabi-sabi” – with the acceptance of transience and imperfection – a worthy place in my life. Until middle age, I had tried to provide security for my family but at this point my intentions entirely failed: with this endeavour I have completely alienated my wife and children from me. Just like you, I am a sinner against the characteristics “respect for predecessors”: I try to do my best, but in my opinion it is not enough”, says Man.

“In my first three incarnations – first as Kṛṣṇa and child soldier, then as idol in Amsterdam, and afterwards as a player in the mirror palaces of secret services – I have sinned seriously against different (always other) characteristics. As Bhikṣu – or mendicant – in my last incarnation in this life, it just happened to live up to all these characteristics; it is no merit, in the absence of any endeavour these characteristic come naturally by itself into my life”, says Narrator

“There comes the harbour master. I have to settle several formalities with him and I will ask him for the last information on local currents and movements of shoals. I will also ask him for a cart to bring all our belongings to the boat”, says Man.

“Do you think we will be on time to sail by morning tide to the Wadden Sea?”, asks Narrator to Man.

“That will certainly happen, probably within half an hour we will leave the harbour on the motor sailing”, says Man.

Man goes to the office of the harbour master. Carla and Narrator bring all their luggage, and forage for a week with a cart to the boat and put it in the cabin. Several minutes later Man comes to the boat and together they store everything – according to instruction by Man – in the right place. Half an hour later they leave the marina on the motor sailing to the Wadden Sea.
[1] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ens%C5%8D
[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabi-sabi
[3] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ens%C5%8D
[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabi-sabi
[5] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renault_4
[6] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huf_Haus
[7] Source: Malachi 3:10 (book and prophet from the Tanakh (Hebrew bible; see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanakh). See also: http://www.nik.nl/2010/01/parsja-simchat-tora-wezot-haberacha/
[8] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valk_(boot)
[9] See: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folkboot and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordic_Folkboat
[10] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacht_(scheepstype)
[11] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimist_(Bootsklasse)
[12] See: Drift, Carla, Man Leben: One Life – A Biography. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 53 – 54
[13] See: Drift, Carla, Man Leben: One Life – A Biography. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 50 – 111
[14] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_(dinghy)
[15] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_(dinghy)
[16] Source image: http://www.nauticaltrek.com/12395-drascombe-drifter-a-vendre
[17] See also: Bruce, Peter, Adlard Coles’ Zwaarweerzeilen. Haarlem: Uitgeverij Hollandia B.V., 2010, p. 26
[18] Source: http://www.kb.nl/dossiers/nederland-algemeen/zomerstorm-hemelvaartsdag-1983
[19] See also: Youtube film showing a waterspout near Ameland (The Netherlands): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhpwuC8udzc
[20] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterspout
[21] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_cyclone


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

Five common realities – facts en logic 8

Carla, Man and Narrator are sitting at the Piazza di Santa Croche for their lunch.

“Have we belittled the existing science in our introduction?”, asks Man.

“Certainly, because the existing science is – as well as the classical logic – the “best coherent intellectual system” that is well documented and prone to criticism. The pretension that the existing science could predict and prove everything of value, is too ambitious. You wish to hear our opinion about facts and logic of the outlook on God”, answers Carla to Man.

“Let me start with the All-encompassing One – and the two aspects of “One”-consciousness – and then continue with monotheism. Therefrom I would like to end with the monotheistic God in the shape of a human being. In order to keep the momentum of our quest, I think it would be wise to skip polytheism”, says Man.

feiten en logica 81[1]

“I think you are right; There are several good introductions to the history of God and to world religions wherein different forms of polytheism are explained”, says Narrator.

“When it might be necessary to study polytheism, we can still do so. I am looking forward to your explanation of the two aspects of “One”-consciousness; I can envisage different ideas, but I don’t know if my thoughts are in line with what you have read”, says Carla.

“In the “Commentary on the Awakening of Faith” by Fa-Tsang [2] I read an introduction to the cosmology [3] of “One” within the Hua-Yen [4] branche – based on the Avatamsaka Sutra [5] – of  Zen Buddhism [6]. In his commentary on the “Awakening of Faith” Fa-Tsang describes that “One”-consiousness exists of:

  • “Thusness” – or “evaṃ” [7] in Sanskrit. The “Thusness”-aspect is described as the essence without characteristics that is the source of emptiness or śūnyata [8] wherein all exists in mutual interdependency. The “Thusness”-aspect is all before it is named and it is also the emptiness within Indra’s Net [9]


  • “Saṃsāra” [10] – or the “Concourse of things”. The “Concourse of things”-aspect shapes all the characteristics and functions wherein all originates in mutual interdependency. The “Concourse of things”-aspect creates the perceived characteristics of Indra’s Net; it is the “Gestalt” [11] or the concourse of dharmas [12] that are created in mutual interdependency within emptiness.

feiten en logica 82[13]

At once this description creates a problem, because emptiness or śūnyata is unspeakable by lack of features and because the capabilities of features and functions – that arise in interdependence and reciprocity – are infinite. We cannot put it into words and maybe I should conclude with Wittgenstein at this point: “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen [14]“ (Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must keep silent)”, says Man.

“That is a question; I’m not sure if the possibilities of characteristics and functions – that arise in interrelationships – are infinite [15]. In case these characteristics and features are finite, then the dependent combinations may also be finite. Please, continue your introduction”, says Carla.

“I remember the chapter “Looking back at my innocence” in your biography in which you – as a young girl – had shown by using matchboxes that you may well exist a number of times in the same form within the infinite universe.  For now the “Awakening of Faith” solves the problem of finiteness and infinity by pointing to the emptiness and fleetingness of all dharmas which are only names – without words and reality – for illusionary perception”, says Narrator.

“Suddenly I am reminded of holograms that are illusionary and lifelike at once. The older I am, the more my past looks like holograms: perfectly real and true and at the same time unreal and volatile”, says Man.

feiten en logica 83[16]

“Maybe we should now skip answering the question on the finity or infinity of śūnyata (or void). We can investigate this problem during our Odyssey when we encounter “emptiness” as the third common reality”, says Carla.

“That is good”, says Man.

“On hearing the “Thusness”-aspect and the “Concourse of things”-aspect of “One”-consciousness, I got the idea that herewith a synthesis began to emerge between the world of the Upanishads (with emphasis on Ātman) and the Mahābhārata (including the tension between – on one hand – the world order and duty (Dharmakshetra) and – on the other hand – human action (Kurukshetra)). I let this thought rest until you have finished the introduction”, says Narrator.

“The introduction to the commentary on the “Awakening of Faith” continues with the structure of consciousness. I explain this in a bird’s-eye view. “One”-consciousness has aspects of “Thusness”-consciousness and “Concourse of things”-consciousness. Thoughts arise – via an intermediate step – from the “Concourse of things”-consciousness (or “Gestalt”-consciousness) [17].

feiten en logica 84[18]

There are five forms of thought:

  1. Consciousness of cause and effect
  2. Consciousness of development and evolution
  3. Consciousness of manifestations
  4. Consciousness of differences and illusions
  5. Consciousness of continuing effects of cause and effect [19]

When the first three forms of thought are also based in the emptiness of “Thusness”-consciousness, then these forms may be a basis for Buddhist enlightenment. The last two forms are the onset for the discrimination of things.

The ability to discrimination leads to awareness of separate phenomena:

  • Consciousness of suffering and joy
  • Based on desires that come out of suffering and joy, objects get shape
  • When objects are shaped, names – including symbols and letters – arise for objects
  • Based on names and symbols, actions arise with “cause and effect”
  • Connected with actions, suffering (and joy) arises.

Then the introduction continues with an explanation of degenerate forms of consciousness that originate in a combination of a desire to illusions, symbols, acts, etc. Maybe we can go into this explanation during our investigation of the next common reality “intensities and associations”.

I wish to present this introduction to you because it gives in a nutshell an integral, differentiated and logical description of the origin of things, and of the degeneration of things. I also like this introduction because in this description a sacral and profane consciousness arise from one origin, and because at the same time enlightenment/heaven, profane/earthy and degenerate/hell are intertwined with each other in an all-encompassing oneness. In principle – according to this introduction – the enlighted/heavenly world is similar to our earthly existence [20]. Based on this reasoning, the “Porta del Paradiso” is always open; with our thoughts and illusion we close the doors and place a fence for the entry. What is your opinion about this introduction”, says Man.

“In your luggage I noticed a book on Hua-Yen Buddhism with the title “Entry into the inconceivable [21]”. This title is also very well applicable to your introduction. I have – of course – my usual questions about the definition of the first fundamentals of “One”-consciousness. But my questions and hesitations on the starting point in your introduction are far more abstract and fundamental than on the beginning of other parables, stories and introductions to the awakening of consciousness. I am looking forward to the third common reality “Emptiness” that we will investigate on our Odyssey. At the “concourse of things”-aspect and its sequel, I have additions, comments and criticism from phenomenology, but you know these already [22]”, says Carla.

“I will come back on a possible synthesis between the world of the Upanishads and the Mahābhārata; your explanation during the introduction to the commentary on the “Awakening of Faith” showed indeed a possibility for a synthesis at a high abstract level with other accents. Because we wish to travel in “lightness” and “quickness”, I think we can better move forward. I’m curious how you will connect “God in Search of Man” with this introduction. But let us first walk around the square”, says Narrator.

[1] Detail of Sistine Chapel fresco “Creation of the Sun and Moon” by Michelangelo (c. 1512). Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God

[2] See also: Vorenkamp, Dirck, An English Translation of Fa-Tsang’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press. 2004 p. 10 – 14

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

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

[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatamsaka_Sutra

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

[7] In Sanskrit the word “Evam” consists of the verb √e meaning “approach, reach, enter” and the noun “va” meaning “wind, ocean, water, stream, going”. Source: electronic version of the dictionairy Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[8] See also: Leben, Man, Narrator – One Way. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 110 – 112

[9] See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 66 – 68

[10] Saṃsāra consists of “sam” meaning “together, with, together with” and “sāra” meaning “course, motion, uitbreiding, strength, core, value” in Sanskrit, whereby Saṃsāra can be understood as “the concourse of things”.

[11] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestalt_psychology

[12] See also: Five commen realities – facts and logic 3

[13] Emptiness (or śūnyata) and Gestalt (or Saṃsāra) may be compared with emptiness and bubbles; both create each other. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9A%C5%ABnyat%C4%81

[14] See also: Wittgenstein, Ludwig, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Amsterdam: Athenaeum-Polak & Van Gennip, 1976 p. 152

[15] See also: Nārāyana, Narrator, “Carla Drift – An Outlier, A Biography”. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 156

[16] Example of a hologram. Souce image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holography

[17] See also: Vorenkamp, Dirck, An English Translation of Fa-Tsang’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press. 2004 p. 14 – 15

[18] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestalttherapie

[19] Somewhere was written that even the gods are bound by the law of cause and effect.

[20] See also the parable about heaven and hell narrated by a parish priest in Valkenburg in: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012 p. 82 – 83

[21] Cleary, Thomas, Entry into the inconceivable – An introduction to Hua-Yen Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983

[22] See also: Nārāyana, Narrator, “Carla Drift – An Outlier, A Biography”. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 34 en 114