Tag Archives: Tao

Review: Taoteching by Lao Tzu (translation by Red Pine)

Lao-tzu's TaotechingLao-tzu’s Taoteching by Lao Tzu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This translation by Red Pine – Bill Porter – of the Tao Te Ching in 2009 is among the best available.
It is a revised version of the edition published in 1996.

Both versions start with:

The way that becomes a way
Is not the immortal Way

A footnote states that Tao originally meant “Moon”. This may well be the Moon as pointer to the All-encompassing One, wherein this Moon and pointer are fully encompassed as waves in the ocean.

Also highly recommended are the translations by:
– Ellen M. Chen – with different interpretations for several verses
– Jonathan Star – also including an interpretation per Chinese character

View all my reviews

Way of emptiness

Note: the original title “Weg van leegte” in Dutch, has three meanings: “Way of emptiness”, “Way from emptiness” and “Loving emptiness”

Halfway through the afternoon – when the boat is released by the rise of the tide – Narrator raises the anchor. Carla and Man hoist the sails and with a breeze from the west they sail with the flow in the direction of Lauwershaven.

“Where shall we moor tonight?”, asks Narrator to Man.

“With some luck southeast of Ameland. Tomorrow at the end of the morning – well before the change of weather – we will be back in the marina near Lauwersoog”, says Man.

“You are completely at home while sailing this boat: it seems that the boat, the waves, the wind and you fully go together. I recognise this, because looking back on my life I have always been completely at home in my four separate incarnations [1]: these have always fit me like the left eye and the left hand go together with the right eye and the right hand. In my third incarnation as wandering bhikṣu in Europe – following the annual migration of birds between South and North Europe – I have completely been absorbed in emptiness of meditation during my wanderings. My sense of time was gone, I lived in a timeless endlessness. If I look at you sailing in a relaxed and focused way, I perceive complete natural meditation in action: the boat goes – with help of small movement of helm and sail – smoothly by itself over the waves”, says Narrator.

“For me, sailing is a form of meditation; I already sail a long time. As a high school student, I aimed to sail as fast as possible and let the boat – without loss of speed – spectacularly cut through the waves. Now I let the wind and waves do the work together with the boat and the sails; I steer only occasional, as during meditation I let lingering thoughts drift away”, says Man.

“It is very easy for you”, says Narrator.

“That is partly true, I have to keep my attention and thoughts focused on the direction that we want to go and on the shoals that we must avoid. Meditation on a pillow is endlessly easier for me”, says Man.

“That is true for humans. I am not sure whether this is also true for other beings. A Buddhist teacher compares meditation with sitting as a frog. [2] Sitting is an everyday activity for a frog. The teacher says:

”When you are you, you see things as they are and you become One with your surroundings”.

In everyday life I see humanity often focused on a small part of oneself. Because of this, they lose sight of the things as they are – they confuse a wave with the ocean – and thus estrange from their surroundings.


Before we sailed away this afternoon, I saw the high tide arriving in waves; observing the interplay of waves and shells on the flats, this haiku originated:

In every wave
Nothing comes and goes;
Shell in the tide

Maybe this haiku came forth form the poem “Shell” by the Japanese poet Shinkichi Takahashi:

“Nothing, nothing at all is born, dies”, the shell says again and again
From the depth of hollowness.
Its body swept off by the tide – so what?
It sleeps in sand drying in sunlight, bathing in moonlight [4],
Nothing to do with sea or anything else.
Over and over it vanishes with the wave [5]

Since 30 years ago – at the opening of blossom buttons in the warmth of the sun – upon saying goodbye to my beloved [6], I carry this poem with me”, says Narrator.

“This haiku and poem give a voice to my perception of unicity – in oneness and uniqueness – while sailing”, says Man.

“Almost always when I’m busy with only one activity, I experience this feeling of oneness. When doing several things at once – for example: quickly packing luggage for a journey and also dealing with all kind of practical matters, such as paying bills, call people, etc. –, my experience of oneness evaporates in the cross swell caused by dividing my attention”, says Carla.

“The boat rocks so beautiful now; I will go back to sleep. Would you wake me at the beginning of the evening? Or no, please wake me when the boat has moored at low tide”, says Narrator.

Man sails the boat with help from Carla to the planned mooring. Carla and Man lower the sails, drop the anchor and let the boat moor. Carla wakes Narrator as promised.

“You have already ignited the lamp in the kitchen. Shall I prepare the supper for tonight? What would you like to drink? I have one last bottle of red wine”, says Carla.

“Nice, I think we have enough bread tonight and tomorrow”, says Man.

“I would prefer some water first, do we still have enough water left?”, asks Narrator.

“More than enough for two days”, says Man.

“Before I went to sleep, I thought that this afternoon – during our conversation while sailing – I have done injustice to everyday life. A Buddhist question focuses on the importance of everyday life. The question is as follows:

A student [7] asks a teacher: “What is the way (Tao)?”. The teacher answers: “Daily life [8] is the way”. The student asks: “Should we direct ourselves to it or not?”. The teacher answers: “If you direct to it, you go away from it”. The student asks: “If we do not direct to it, how can we know it is the way?”. The teacher answers: “The way does not belong to knowing and not-knowing. Knowing is an illusion, not-knowing is emptiness of consciousness. If you realise [9] the way, you perceive this way as vast and boundless as the endless empty firmament. How can the way be seen as right or wrong”. With this answer the consciousness was like the full moon. [10]

Maan eenMaan twee[11]

And the poem accompanying this question reads:

Flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
A cool breeze in summer, and snow in winter;
If there is no vain cloud in your mind,
For you it is a good season.

Upon reading this poem I have made this haiku:

Every season
Without a cloud in your mind
A good season

This question covers by all means the way of emptiness, of the All-encompassing One and of everyday life”, says Narrator.

“This is a famous question from the Mumonkan [12] – in English the “Gateless Gate” – the gateless gate to the gate of emptiness whereby every distinction within the All-encompassing One (or “being-whole” according to Martin Heidegger) is lifted. Via this question a Buddhist teacher has realised enlightenment: the voice of this teacher still sounds within all and everything. A student of this teacher was once confronted with a famous phrase by this teacher, whereupon the student said: “My teacher never said this. Please do not gossip about my teacher“. I think this student is referring to the universal teacher inseparable included within the All-encompassing One wherein also his former teacher completely coincides [13].
Mentioning the “Gateless Gate”, I think that we have arrived at the mantra of the Heart Sutra. Can you explain the meaning of this mantra in Sanskrit”, asks Man to Narrator.

“Delicious cheese with bread. Please, could you pour me some wine?”, asks Narrator to Carla.

“Please”, says Carla.

“The wine tastes wonderful with cheese and bread. It is like a dessert at this short boat trip.
The Heart Sūtra is one of the few sūtras with a mantra; hereby can be seen that it is a later Buddhist sūtra, because mantras became popular in India well after the onset of Buddhism [14].

The mantra is as follows:

tadyathā | gate gate pāragate pārasaṅgate bodhi svāhā

Wherein the separate words have the following meaning:

  • • “Tadyathā” consists of:
    • “tad” meaning “also, in this world”,
    • “ya”: we have seen this word in śūnyatā and it has the 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). My father has also told me once that “ya” is connected with our word “yeah” as positive consent and confirmation,
    • “yathā” meaning “in this manner”,
      Hereby “tadyathā” has the meaning: “all thus”. The full literary meaning is: “All-encompassing One” or “being-whole” here and now in all its glory – as “God’s gift” in complete reciprocity.
  • The word “gate” has for me a very special meaning. I had lived one year of my life with my beloved lived in the Prästgatan – the priest street – on the island of Gamla Stan in Stockholm [15]. In Sanskrit “gate” is not only a conjugation of the verb “gam” meaning “to go”, but it is also the “locative or place-conjugation” of the noun derived from the verb “to go”. Thereby “gata” has the meaning of “disappeared, disappeared from this world, deceased, dead, gone, come, come forth, near, arrive, know, and spread everywhere” [16].


  • The word “para” is used in Sanskrit in three ways with the following meanings:
    • pāra: crossing, the other side, the other shore, guardian, fulfil, go through, to bring to a close. In Buddhism “the other shore” is used as metaphor for enlightenment.
    • parā: away, off, aside
    • para: highest, supreme, old, ancient, better or worse, and sometimes also superior or inferior.
      Here the first meaning of the word is used; my father added that while using one way and meaning of the word para, the other ways and meanings are always gently resonating.
  • The word “sam” meaning: “together, binding, intensity, complete, and completely destroyed”,
  • Bodhi: perfect wisdom, enlightened mind,
  • Svāhā: exclamation at an offer, hallelujah or “amen”.
    Usually this mantra is not translated; freely rendered the meaning of this mantra is:
    All thus, gone, gone, gone beyond, all and everyone gone together beyond, enlightenment, amen!

One commentator [18] has written that the first “gate” refers to the deep inner desire to enter the path of the Bodhisattva, the second “gate” refers to obtaining inner maturity and the third “gate” together with “pāra” to a perfect maturity – or probably enlightenment.
I think that every form of “gate” and every word in this mantra – like every word that we speak – directly and without distinction refers to the All-encompassing One or the “being-whole” as described by Martin Heidegger.

In the long version of the Sutra, several confirmations of the truth of the contents of the Sūtra and a few words of praise for the attendees follow upon the mantra; in the short version the Sutra ends with this mantra.

Time for some bread and wine”, says Narrator.

“What can I add to this introduction on the Heart Sūtra? Of course, a complete study as lifework can be made on many details and on the content and the influence of this sūtra. But I think the biggest challenge is the integration of the content of this sūtra in our daily lives. I do my best, but often I am carried away by the everyday concerns and ordinary issues”, says Man.

“The daily concerns and issues of the day are part of our “being-whole”: these concerns and the issues of the day are perfectly encompassed in “being-whole” and they certainly require attention – or better compassion – to receive a suitable place in our “being-whole” without outshining everything and causing a Buddhist hell. This compassion is nicely displayed in the words “All-encompassing One” for our “being-whole””, says Narrator.

“Until now, I have followed the introduction without giving significant additions, also because I want to take note of this new way of looking at emptiness. Now we have come to the end of the introduction, I see that the merging between “being-whole” and our everyday life provides a good basis for ethics; many ethical principles and assumptions of humanity and compassion are in some way based hereupon.

I understand this basis – static and dynamic – intellectually. But emotionally, I struggle to unite change, renewal and aging in our lives within the merging between “being-whole” and everyday life. In addition, I do not know how the miracle of “life” relates to the merger between “being-whole” and the issues of the day via superposition. Or in a metaphor: how does the hologram of impressions – that we have – relate to the whole interplay within Indra’s net, and also, where does the light within Indra’s net come from?”, says Carla.

“The miracle of the origin of life, the light and the origin of change seems to be beyond our comprehension, although we are constantly right in the middle of this miracle: just as the fish who will discover water as last although the fish is completely immersed herein. By being complete involvement, we live it constantly and completely”, says Narrator.

“What do you think of my following proposal: shall we locate “change” – the following common reality in our quest to “Who are you” – on a holiday tour in Kenya? It is my wish to go to Africa once in my life, and I understand that Carla also would like to return to Kenia again. I can easily offer the travel and stay from my funds. Narrator, I understand that you cannot travel to Africa because of your past as a child soldier and your former role in the worlds of secret services for which you are still on the run: maybe we should forget this proposal”, says Man.


“No, I think it’s a very good idea. I would like to hear a report of this tour to the country of my mother and my childhood. During the report, I will give the necessary additions. In the meantime, I can make preparations for the first two sub-parts “Ishvara” and “Et incarnatus est” of part three of the quest. These two sub-parts of the third part will fit well with “emptiness” in the form of “being-whole””, says Narrator.

“I would like to accept this offer gladly, but I have reservations about the absence of Narrator on this tour”, says Carla.

“From a distance I will travel constantly with you: I will breathe with your breath and will look with your eyes. If you will not go, I will not breathe the air of Africa and I will not see my homeland again with your eyes. I will join you on this tour within the emptiness of the “All-encompassing One”, says Narrator.

“Would you like one last sip of wine from the bottle? Maybe Man and I should fulfil our desire to visit Africa”, says Carla.

“Let us yet share the last sip of your wine with my bread and cheese before you go to sleep. And you should definitely go: I look forward to hear your experiences and learn the changes that have taken place in my homeland”, says Narrator.

“Yes, please one last sip of your delicious wine. We will sail away tomorrow at dawn. It’s good that Carla and I go to bed early; would you like to wake me up when you wish to transfer the vigil?”, asks Man to Narrator.

“I will keep the vigil; I will wake you at dawn, because I cannot sleep under the starry sky”, says Narrator.

After a few moments, Carla and Man go to bed. The next morning they sail to the marina near Lauwersoog. There they prepare the boat for the transfer to the friend of Man.
Mid-afternoon Carla and Man say goodbye to Narrator at the bus station.

“I am looking forward to see my friend in Groningen. Over 25 years ago we were both lovers within a turbulent life in Amsterdam, but now we are good friends who both have a pleasant life: he as an associate professor in Groningen and I am a wandering monk. Our mutual passion is gone, but the mutual compassion has remained. We are pleased to be able to see each other again: many of our friends did not survive the AIDS-era in Amsterdam. Meeting him again, I will also meet the deceased common old friends. I wish you a nice trip in Africa during the coming weeks. When you are back, I will contact you”, says Narrator.

“I am looking forward to your postcard for our next meeting”, says Man.

“I will let you know when I am back at Schiphol Airport. There is the bus to Groningen. Send my regards to your friend”, says Carla.

“And mine too”, says Man.

Near dinnertime the boat is ready for the transfer. At sunset Carla and Man drive to a hotel for overnight stay nearby.


During the next morning a storm rages over the Wadden Sea and hunts the water forth.

Voidness of the storm
In the water of the sea,
Hunts the waves forth

[1] See: Leben, Man, Narrator Nārāyana – One way – One Biography. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 202
[2] Source: Suzuki, Shunryu, Zen Mind, Beginners Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice. New York: Weatherhill, 1980, p. 80
[3] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kikkers
[4] In Buddhism the Moon is often a reference to religion – or to the All-encompassing One.
[5] Source: Stryk, Lucien & Ikemoto, Takashi, Zen Poetry. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd, 1981, p.133
[6] See: Leben, Man, Narrator Nārāyana – One way – One Biography. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 131 – 135
[7] This student is the later teacher Zhaozhou Congshen, who is also known as Joshu (the name whereby he is known in Japan). See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhaozhou_Congshen
[8] Free rendering of “The ordinairy way”
[9] Narrator has already given an explanation of “realise”: “My father has heard from his ancestors the meaning of the keyword “realise” that is composed of “re”, “all”, “Īśe” [this is the locative of Īśa whereby Īśa means in het Sanskrit amongst others “God in celestial heaven”, “One who is completely master of”. The sound of Īśa has similarity with “ich” – the German first person singular]. Herewith realise means amongst other “honouring” “again and again”, “all”, “in its all-encompassment”. See also: Leben, Man, Narrator Nārāyana – One way – One Biography. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 126
[10] See also: Shibayama, Zenkei, The Gateless Barrier, Zen Comments on the Mumonkan. Boston: Shambhala, 2000, p. 140 – 147; Yamada Kôun Roshi, Gateless Gate (Mumonkan). Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1990, 93 – 97; Green, James, The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu. Boston: Shambhala, 1998, p. 11
[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_moon
[12] The Mumonkan – in Engish mostly translated with Gateless Gate – is a collection of 48 Zen Koans that is compiled by the monk Mumon in the 13th century AC.
The character 無 (wú) has a fairly straightforward meaning: no, not, or without.
However, within Chinese Mahayana Buddhism, the term 無 (wú) is often a synonym for 空 (sunyata). This implies that the 無 (wú) 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
[13] See also: Shibayama, Zenkei, The Gateless Barrier, Zen Comments on the Mumonkan. Boston: Shambhala, 2000, p. 262, middle of the page; Yamada Kôun Roshi, Gateless Gate (Mumonkan). Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1990, 178, last paragraph
[14] Source: Lopez, Donald S. – The Heart Sutra explained Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990 p. 109
[15] Zie ook: : Leben, Man, Narrator Nārāyana – One way – One Biography. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 103 – 133
[16] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta
[17] Source image: http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pr%C3%A4stgatan
[18] The name of this commentor is Śrimahājana. Source: Lopez, Donald S. – The Heart Sutra explained Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990 p. 111
[19] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maasai_people
[20] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waddenzee

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

The wind in the sails

Around 9 o’clock in the morning Carla, Man and Narrator sail on the outboard motor through the ferry terminal at Lauwersoog harbour. Passengers are boarding the 9:30 morning ferry to Schiermonnikoog; they wave to the small sailboat. Carla and Man wave back while they are busy getting the sails ready: Narrator has already entered the cabin to sleep. One passenger calls: “Have a nice trip!” Man shouts back: “Have a nice day” and Carla: “Good holidays”. A man on the ferry calls: “No problem, the weather will be fine!”

Upon leaving the harbour Man puts the outboard off and tilts it out of the water. Then Man hoist the sails with help of Carla; first the headsail and the mizzen and afterwards the mainsail of this yawl-rigged [1] sailboat. There blows a gentle breeze from the southwest. Then the miracle happens: from nowhere the sails curve with the wind while slightly flapping and the boat is propelled by the wind. Man trims the sails tight and the boat is well on track.

Half hour later the ferry catches up with them; again passengers and Carla and Man are waiving to each other. Narrator is still sleeping quietly in the cabin.


“Within half an hour we will have a flow of two knots along; with this wind and flow, we will sail at a speed of seven knots for about two hours and after passing Het Rif we can land the boat during low tide around 12 o’clock on the tidal flats of the Waddenzee in the direction of Ameland. Then we may have lunch and wait for the next high tide by the end of the afternoon to land again by nightfall near Terschelling”, says Man.

“A speed of seven knots is not bad, because with a waterline of around 5,80 meter a speed of 5,90 knots is possible with this Drascombe Drifter according the rule of thumb “2.45 x square root of the waterline (in meters) = hull speed””, says Carla.

“Maybe it’s good that I will give you some instructions to operate the boat when something happens to me. In that case you may sail the boat on the outboard motor to a harbour. When it begins to storm is wise to hoist only the mizzen sail, whereby the boat remains with the head in the wind and usually also the waves. When the engine fails, the boat will sail excellently with only the headsail and the mizzen. In case of emergency, you can always ask for help or you can land the boat at a beach”, says Man.

“Except during storm we can also save ourselves with the oars. Let’s hope it is not necessary”, says Carla.

After three hours sailing Man raises the fin keel, lets the boat strand and lowers the sails; Carla helps Man. On the two-burner gas stove Man bakes eggs for lunch. Carla awakes Narrator and she takes the bread, plates and cutlery. In the grand view of the tidal flats – exposed by low tide – they enjoy their lunch.

“Now I understand why you have invited us to come here for this boat trip. With the changing of the tide, water and flat lands merge – constantly complementary –into each and other infinitely changing, like emptiness and form. In the biography of Narrator you have included a part from the Heart Sutra [4] with the stanza “Form is the equal to emptiness as emptiness is equal to form.” Until now I have seen “form” and “emptiness” as complementary similar to “one” and “zero” within computer sciences that has created a completely new way of human communication via displays; without emptiness no form as without form no emptiness: both replace each other like letters on a blanc sheet – in graphics design – replaces emptiness.
Here on the mudflats on Het Wad during the tide changes, the boundaries between form and emptiness fade; still form and emptiness keep each other alive. Now I don’t see both as separate and complementary, but as interconnected and constantly intermingling in each”, says Carla.

Het Wad[5]

“Yeah, I always came back to Het Wad to experience this seemingly timeless intermingling of tides – according to the strict regularity of the tides – and at the same time constantly changing, always different. Within a day of sailing on Het Wad, I become one with the rhythm of the tide and my hectic daily ego fades. Thereby it requires constant discipline and overview to take care for a safe boat journey. Here I have always felt at home under all circumstances, even in bad weather and storm”, says Man.

“On my journey from Kenya – my mother’s land – to Rome, I have had the same experience of merging between form and emptiness in the outer skirts of the desert and desert steppe, on the boat on the Nile and during my boat trip across the Mediterranean; herewith I grew to a new life in a different environment [6]. Now in my life as bhikṣu I am back into the eternal womb of mother earth; and the wind takes me, in its volatility of form and emptiness”, says Narrator.

“Maybe an idea: shall we survey “change” – the next common reality on our quest to “Who are you” – in Africa (e.g. Kenya)? I have never been in Africa and for you it may be an excellent opportunity to revisit that part of the world. I can easily cover travel and subsistence from my means. Maybe something to come back to at the end of this boat trip.
As far as I am aware, form and emptiness are key concepts within the Heart Sūtra. What does the title of this Sūtra mean in het Sanskrit”, asks Man to Narrator.

“Shall we translate the Sūtra from Sanskrit?”, asks Narrator.

“That is one of my hidden wishes. Herewith my study of Sanskrit can be useful for everything and everyone. Without your help it will not be feasible”, says Man.

“Good idea. Then I will give comments from my background and general knowledge”, says Carla.

“Let us begin with the title of the sūtra. The full title “prajñāpāramitā hṛdaya sūtra” is often translated with “Complete transference of the heart – or the core – of wisdom” [7].

My father has explained the meaning of “prajñāpāramitā”, “hṛdaya” and “sūtra” by showing the separate parts of these words in their consistency.
According to my father the word “prajñāpāramitā” is composed of the main parts “prajñā”, “pāra” and “mitā”.

The word prajñā – mostly translated with wisdom – consists of pra and jñā, wherein:
• pra has the meaning of “before, forward, in front, away, excessive” and “filling, fulfilment, resemble, and like” – just as the Latin word “pro” as opposed to “contra” – and
• jñā has the meaning of “knowledge, apprehend, perceive, remember, familiar with” [8].
In its composition “prajñā” has the meaning of “wisdom (of life), intelligence, know about, discrimination and/or wisdom of a wise of sensible woman/mother”. This last meaning points at “tao” or “course of life” in the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching wherein “tao” – in the form of “name” – is the “mother of all things” [9]”, says Narrator.


“I have read somewhere that Buddhism knows three kinds of “prajñā”:
• wisdom within our daily world, wherein temporality within our life is seen as permanent, where illusions are experienced as real and wherein the transitory ego is considered as the Real Self. Most people live within this framework of wisdom.
• Wisdom within the metaphysical world, wherein the permanent manifestations are seen as temporal, where reality is experienced as an illusion, and where the manifestation with a “self” is considered without a self. This wisdom is attainable with meditation and philosophy.
• Wisdom that surpasses our daily and metaphysical world wherein the manifestations are seen as neither temporal nor permanent, and are experienced as neither pure nor impure, neither with a “self” nor “without self”, and where all is unconceivable and inexpressible.
While our daily wisdom and metaphysical wisdom results in attachment to manifestations, illusions and characteristics, the third form of wisdom remains free hereof [11].
What kind of wisdom is meant here in Sanskrit?”, asks Man to Narrator.

“My father says that “prajñā” precedes all wisdom without passing any wisdom: it contains Al and One without passing the variety of things in our daily life, the ideas and thoughts in science and the knowledge and wisdom of the unconceivable and inexpressible”, says Narrator.

“Your father is a wise man”, says Man.

“Within all his limitations and bondages. Shall I continue with pāramitā?”, asks Narrator.
“That is good”, says Carla and Man.

“The word “para” is used in Sanskrit in three ways with the following meanings:
• pāra: crossing, the other side, the other shore, guardian, fulfil, go through, to bring to a close. In Buddhism “the other shore” is used as metaphor for enlightenment.
• parā: away, off, aside
• para: highest, supreme, old, ancient, better or worse, and sometimes also superior or inferior.
Here the first way and meaning of the word is used; my father added that using one way and meaning of the word para, the other ways and meanings are always gently resonating.
The main part “mitā” is the nominative (or subject) plural of the word “mita” – related to the Latin verb “mittere” with the meaning “do go” or “send” and “let go” – that in Sanskrit has the meaning “fixed, established, measured, containing, moderate, of a Godlike being”.

Via this analysis, the word “prajñāpāramitā” has next to the meaning “perfect wisdom” also a reference “tao” from the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching as “name” – not the “Immortal Name” but “the mother of all things” – at one hand in designation and on the other hand in volatility and inevitability.

In Buddhism – with a creative explanation of pāramitā that might be compose of “pāra” and “ita” meaning “gone”, “returned”, “obtained” and “remembered” in Sanskrit, and therefore in the assembly “go/return/recall to/of the other shore” [12] – the wisdom of “the other shore” or wisdom of the state of enlightenment is often meant with the word “prajñāpāramitā” whereby “the other shore” is interconnected with “the shore” of daily life by the river or the source [13], just like in the metaphor of the cyclone the core is connected by a wall of wind with the tolling tropical storm.

The word “hṛdaya” is often translated with “heart” or “interior of the body” and “heart, core, essence, best, dearest or most salvaged part of something” [14]. According to my father the word hṛdaya consists of the parts “hṛ”, “da” and “ya” with the meaning:
• “hṛ” meaning “take away, present, steal and offer” – as in the cattle-cycle [15], whereby this verb root is possible connected with the German word “Herr” – and “destroy/lose (also of one’s own ego), receive, win, charm, fascinate”
• “da” meaning in Sanskrit “give”, “grant”, “offer”, “produce” and “cutting of (as disparting from the “All and One” according to my father)”
• “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”. My father uses this verb always in the form of “yayate”, whereby the fruit of the action of offering or giving reflects to the giver or the All-encompassing self and it is probably a “God’s gift” in complete reciprocity. He also says that “ya” is closely related to our word “Yeah” as a positive agreement and confirmation. In Holland, “yes” – with mercantilism always in mind – is close related to a deal, but I think that my father points at recognition of the other and at a consenting attitude for the other.

By looking at the meaning of the parts of “hṛdaya”, this word receives next to “heart, core, essence, best, dearest or most salvaged part of something” also the meaning of “empty core” similar to the core of a cyclone or a waterspout with far fetching consequences for all and everyone.


In the word “sūtra” we see the two cores “sū” and “tṛ”, whereby “sū” in the Vedic time – and as prefix in words – had the meaning “good”. Later the meaning has changed in “create, procreate, vivify, produce, grant and bestow”. And “tṛ” has the meaning of “crossing”.

With this addition by my father, the usual translation “Complete transference of the heart – or the core – of wisdom” gets a widening and transparency – and at the same time a volatility – as life itself. Actually, this title is referring to life itself, in all its richness and facets”, says Narrator.

“During your explanation, I thought constantly of the pearls and all the separate reflections in the metaphor of “Indra’s Net”. Thinking of the metaphor of Indra’s Net, I have always thought – until now – of an entry into the unconceivable. With your explanation – completed by your father’s wisdom – of the title in Sanskrit Heart Sutra, it is clear to me that Indra’s Net is also a metaphor for our daily life”, says Carla.

“Upon a closer examination, all serious religious philosophies cover the same constantly. It is time to end this extensive lunch and we have to wash the plates and cutlery. We must prepare ourselves for the next part of our boat trip during the following high tide. Tonight we will have to eat in darkness after we have landed again. Now we must do the dishes, because that will not be easy during darkness before our evening meal. Besides my mother said that only Bohemians wash the dishes before the meal. I have nothing against Bohemians, but sailing a tidy boat is more enjoyable”, says Man.

“Do we have enough water for doing the dishes?”, asks Carla.

“I will put a kettle on: that should do when we rinse our plates and cutlery before in seawater”, says Man.

After they washed the dishes, the high tide slowly arrives. Man and Carla prepare the boat for sailing.

“At this landing I have placed the front of the boat in such a way that we can sail away at once with the flow. We do not need to push the boat against the tide to deeper water. There I see the tide already between Schiermonnikoog and Ameland. When I will give a signal, please raise the anchor”, says Man.

With the arrival of high tide, they sail away to their landing at the next low tide.

[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yawl
[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wagenborg_(rederij)
[3] Example of a yawl-rigged sailboat. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yawl
[4] See: Leben, Man, Narrator Nārāyana – One way – A Biography. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 110 – 112
[5] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wattenmeer_(Nordsee)
[6] See: Leben, Man, Narrator Nārāyana – One way– A Biography. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher 2013, p. 31 – 36
[7] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_Sutra Zie: Lopez, Donald S., The Heart Sutra explained. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990, p. 21 – 31. Zie: Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Heart Sutra. Washington D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004, p. 29 – 40
[8] Source translation of words from Sanskrit: electronic version of dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[9] See: Red Pine (Bill Porter), Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (revised edition). Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 2006, p.2
[10] Symbol commonly used to represent Tao and its pursuit. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao
[11] Source: Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Heart Sutra. Washington D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004, p. 30 – 31
[12] Source: Lopez, Donald S., The Heart Sutra explained. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990, p. 21-22
[13] Sources: Lopez, Donald S., The Heart Sutra explained. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990, p. 21-22 and Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Heart Sutra. Washington D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004, p. 32
[14] Source translation of words from Sanskrit: electronic version of dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[15] See: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 94 – 95
[16] Image of 3D echocardiogram of a human heart. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart

Man Leben – on the way 2

Wie kan man leben?

How can one live?

You continue the brief summary of your life with the journey on foot from the chapel “Notre Dame du Haut” in Ronchamp, France to Ronchamp, Germany:

“In the end of September 1983 I visited the chapel “Notre Dame du Haut” in Ronchamp. My way would lead to Dachau where my mother died and where she was buried in 1944. My godmother had recommended me this pilgrimage to embed the death of my immediate family and the others in my life. I have started this journey on foot to honour the wish of my aunt; she had asked me just after my 21st birthday to carry out the traditional Jewish remembrance of the dead for my parents, when I would be able to do so.

In 1983 I was 49 years old; my life was ready for a change. In the course of the first part of the hike I started to identify the wind [1] and the moon with the “He” and “his” in the Kaddish prayer [2]. From then on, I have said this prayer every day for a year for my father, mother, aunt and godfather. With the second part of the journey I also wished to perform the Catholic grave worship as is customary in South Limburg. During the 2nd of November – on All Soul’s Day – I hoped to honour the grave of my mother with a visit.

My sense of luxury increased. How bad the weather was and how tired I was, I still owned a lot more than the pilgrims in the past. My backpack included a set of clean and dry clothes, my bivouac sack was of waterproof and breathable material and the sleeping bag was warm. My health was excellent. In short, my existence was more luxurious than in my “Jaguar-years”.

Via Belfort I walked to Mulhouse in France. In his early years my father loved race-car races. Against the wishes of my grandparents he followed the reports in the newspapers and he read books on this subject. In his boyhood he wanted to be a racing driver. As ode to the boyhood of my father, I visited the Schlumpf automobile museum in Mulhouse [3]. The museum came forth from the collecting mania of the brothers Schlumpf, who mainly converted their capital from the wool factory to an exceptional collection of classic cars. The French State, confiscated this collection for 1 French franc – as “object in the Middle”. The collection of Bugatti’s made a deep impression. Vanity of vanities [4], but a vanity of great beauty.


Near Freiburg I crossed the Rhine and the border with Germany. Not much further I left behind the area where so many wars were fought for. The wars in this area already began in Roman times. How could this continuation of greed, honour, anger, horror and bottomless grief be prevented? Later in a book [6] of Robert Aitken – in the chapter “Not Stealing” – I read good proposal.

First he cited Unto Tähtinen:

“There are two ways of avoiding war: one is to satisfy everyone’s desire, the other, to content oneself with the good. The former is not possible due to the limitations of the world and therefore there remains this second alternative of contentment “ [7]

He subsequently cited Mahatma Gandhi:

“In India we have many millions of people who have to be satisfied with only one meal a day. This meal consists of a chapati containing no fat and a pinch of salt. You and I have no right to anything until these millions of better fed and clothed. You and I ought to know better and adjust our wants, and even undergo voluntarily starvation in order that they may be nursed, fed and clothed.” [8]

The German language has a beautiful expression for this attitude: “In der Beschränkung zeigt sich der Meister” – “In the restraint the master shows himself”.  I continued my trip through the Schwarzwald – Germany. I visited Ulm, Germany, because the Hochschule für Gestaltung [9] – University for Design – was located there from 1953 to 1968.


This University has brought forth a number of designs and designers who strove for simplicity and restraints. For example, the TC 100 tableware designed by Nick Roericht.


The study model for the continuum from the workshop of Tomas Maldonado includes the universe in simplicity and limitation. Inside and outside exchange continuously. At the same time the form gives shelter and includes the universe breathable. Shelter and openness together: a reflection of my experience of the journey.















On this tour the wind and the moon were my constant companions. My introduction to the wind, I have given in the previous post. As promised, now I show how I have got to know the moon.

The months of the year are important on the farm . The twelve months of a year may easily be counted with the thumb along the 12 phalanges of the four fingers. In the open air, at night, in a dimly illuminated environment I learned the new moon, the crescent moon, the full moon and the waning moon. On a clear night with full moon I could do almost everything, except reading outside: for reading there was just too little light. The moon also gave a beautiful image in the sky during the day.

By the “moon illusion”, the full moon near the horizon is awesome. This moon illusion I have also seen on my journey.


In a clear night with new moon lying outside in my sleeping bag, I seemed to be fully included in the universe. The distance between the universe and I faded: I was sucked into it.

The course of the moon – in addition to the rhythm of the sun – must  have been crucial and ungraspable for people living outdoors. Probably the word Tao – literally meaning “road or life” – came from the word moon [14]. In Sanskrit one of the words for moon is “candra”, where the “c” is pronounced like the word “chair” and the “a” as “America”.  “Candra” means in Sanskrit “moon, shining like gold, the number one/whole, pleasant or lovely phenomenon” [15].  The word is composed of “can” meaning “to delight in, to satisfy with” and “drâ” meaning “to run freely”. The consistent of “dra” and “va – for wind” or “drava” means “to run, flow, stream, essence”. The set of “Candra” may be understood as “the course of things, the course of the moon, the essence of the whole”.

In the Zen literature the moon occurs frequently. The word for Zen is derived from “dhyâna” [16] meaning in Sanskrit “meditation, thought, far-reaching and abstract meditation”. This word is composed of “dhî” meaning “wisdom, intelligence, intention, knowledge, meditation, prayer” and “yâna” [17] meaning “path, journey, going, moving and vessel”. Zen Buddhism originated in China by a merger of Mahâyâna Buddhism and Taoism.

By encountering the moon on my pilgrimage, I noticed how much the Chinese word “Chan” – or Zen in Japanese – matches in meaning and sound the “can” in “candra”. If this resemblance is not accidental, than Zen may also be seen as “the revolving Moon”. This thought gave me comfort and confidence on the road to Dachau”, you say.

The following post is about your visit to Dachau.

[1] See post “Man Leben – on teh way” from 14th Oktober 2011.

[2] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaddish

[3] See: http://citedelautomobile.com/en/home

[4] See: Book of Ecclesiastes

[5] See: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bugatti

[6] Source: Aitken, Robert, The Mind of Clover – Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. New York: North Point Press, 2000⁸. Pag. 31

[7] Source: Tähtinen, Unto, Non-Violence as an Ethical Principle. Turku, Turun Yliopisto, 1964. pag. 136.

[8] Cited in: Tähtinen, Unto, Non-Violence as an Ethical Principle. Turku, Turun Yliopisto, 1964. pag. 128.

[9] See also: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hochschule_f%C3%BCr_Gestaltung_Ulm en de Engelse pagina: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulm_School_of_Design

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

[11] From the TC 100 designed by Nick Roericht. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hochschule_f%C3%BCr_Gestaltung_Ulm

[12] Model for the continuous study of the workshop of Tomas Maldonado. Source image:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulm_School_of_Design

[13] Moon illusion above the Parthenon in Athens. Source image: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110320.html

[14] Source: Porter, Bill, Road to Heaven – Encounters with Chinese Hermits. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 1993, p. 35.

[15] Source: elektronische versie van het woordenboek Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[16] Source amongst others: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen

[17] Remark: this word is also part of the consistent “Mahâyâna”.

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Lamb of God

In the previous post we have looked at the sacrifice as “object in the middle”. For this, you and I have looked at the movie “Offret” – or “The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1986. At the end of the film we have seen how the father has sacrificed everything he owns and binds him in this life, to God. He has made this sacrifice to save the world, in order that everything remains as it was before the threat of war and to be freed from that deadly, unbearable, animal fear. This sacrifice of the father is as well an unintentional sacrifice of his family and his relatives.

The son brings three sacrifices. He loses his father because his father sticks to his word and to God’s word. He is constantly giving water to the dead tree and therefore he brings the tree – the tree of life – back to life. By the third sacrifice he remains silent throughout the film.

The son asks to his father – and to God – why his father should keep his word. The son does not need any words for his sacrifice; his life, his actions and his knowledge precedes words.

Rightly the son asks at the end of the film: “In the beginning was the word. Why Father? ”

This question brings us to the first sentence in John’s Gospel in the New Testament [1]. Later in our Odyssey, we will try to give answers to this unavoidable question of the son.

In this post we will look further at the sacrifice as “object in the middle”. We look at the painting of the Mystic Lamb by the brothers Van Eyck in Ghent. This painting depicts Jesus in the form of the Lamb of God. The Lamb of God is described in the first chapter of John’s Gospel in the New Testament: “The next day St. John sees Jesus approaching. St. John says: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”[2]


In me I hear the Agnus Dei from Mass in B – minor by Johann Sebastian Bach.

“Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, Miserere Nobis.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, Miserere Nobis.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, Dona Nobis Pacem. [4]

“It seems that the last weeks of our Odyssey we are travelling according parts of the liturgy of Holy Mass from the Catholic Church. A few weeks ago we started with the Kyrie: the word “church” probably originates from Kyrie[5]. Inside the churches, we continued with the Credo in the form of light and hope. The reflection and the sermon followed within two meditation rooms. And now we arrive at the sacrifice by watching the movie “Offret” and at the Agnus Dei [6] as the Lamb of God, “I say.


“I could never say the Credo – or I believe – with conviction. It is not possible for me to believe in the Christian theology”, you say.

“You’re not alone and I feel this doubt with you. Also Thomas one of the disciples of Jesus, cannot believe in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God and the resurrection of Jesus as salvation and resurrection of all people or believers. Caravaggio’s painting shows that. This doubt of Thomas is not taken away by feeling the wound. Probably, faith and doubt go hand in hand for many Christians”, I say.


“I believe that every day the sun rises as resurrection and I believe in my next breath. But I cannot believe in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God as salvation of the universe”, you say.

“People have also questioned the next rising of the sun and the next breath. Hereof many rituals are known for establishing and perpetuating this confidence. People know a lot of uncertainties about the past, the present and the future. Christian theology tries to overcome these uncertainties (“in doubt” or “doubt” in Latin) by faith, rituals – including offerings – and hope. A deeply religious Christian once said: “The last thing I want to lose is my faith.” For me, this sentence includes even a trace of doubt. A rock-solid belief never fades. By rituals people try to establish and maintain trust and hope. The Christian faith says: “And they that know your name, will put their trust in you.” [9]  The painting of the Mystic Lamb by the brothers Van Eyck nicely show this: the Father, the Son as the Lamb of God and the Holy Spirit as trinity”, I say.

“The Bible includes the Book of Job that is about a rock-solid faith [10]. I also think of the Japanese poet Rӯokan. Once at night everything was stolen from his simple hut:

“The thief leaves behind,

the ever changeful Moon

at the firmament.” [11]

The moon [12] points to the firm belief of Rӯokan”, you say.

“The faith of people in the past often seems more certain, because we see their past as well established. But maybe their rock-solid faith does also know uncertainties in their lives. If we look with their eyes, do we see a different world, other uncertainties, different expectations, a different religion? I do not know”, I say.

“Me neither. Shall we continue with the Dove as the Holy Spirit in the next post?”, you say.

[1] St. John 1:1 from the New Testament: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

[2] St. John 1:29 and 1:36 from the New Testament.

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

[4] Translation: Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

[5] The source of the word “Church” probably is Greek: “Kūrios” meaning “Lord, Master”. Source: Ayto, John, Word Origins, the hidden History of English Words from A to Z. London: A &C Black, 2008. Maybe the word Church originates via the German word “Kirche” from the compound of Indo-European words “kr” (karoti, kurute) meaning “make, do, perform”, and “ish” depending on the “sh” sound either “sacrifice” or “ruler”, or “ich – I ” in Sanskrit.

[6] “The Agnus Dei is part of the Mass in the Catholic church and seems to be introduced for the first time during a Mass by Pope Sergius I (687-701 AD).  Agnus Dei means Lamb of God and literally refers to Christ in his role as the perfect sacrifice that reconciles the sins of mankind in the Christian theology. The prayer dates from the time of the ancient Jewish sacramental sacrifices. The Agnus Dei is sung during Mass when the priest breaks the Holy Bread and unification takes place, the priest drops a piece of the wafer in the chalice – filled with wine and water as blood of Christ.
The sacrifice of a lamb and the blood of the lamb are often used metaphors in the religions of the Middle East. It refers to the ancient Jewish custom to liberate people from their sins by a sacrifice. In the Protestant churches in the Revelation the phrase “washed in the blood of the lamb” is used to designate the deliverance of the original sin supposed by the churches. On our Odyssey, we already have encountered the cattle-sacrifice in the myth and Trito cattle cycle.
In art, Agnus Dei, the figure of a lamb bearing a cross, symbolizing Jesus as the Lamb of God. This metaphor is often used in Christian art, where the Mystic Lamb by the brothers Van Eyck in Ghent is famous.
Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnus_Dei

[7] Source image: http://www.bertsgeschiedenissite.nl/middeleeuwen/eeuw15/jan_van_eyck.htm

[8] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas_by_Caravaggio.jpg

[9] Source: Psalm 9:10: “God, the protector of the believers”.

[10] Also Job despairs when he and his wife feel the big setbacks directly in their bodies. Job asks God why he deserves these setbacks, his faith is unconditional. In a storm God replies: “Where were you when I separated the sky and the earth and created the universe!”. Hereafter Job recognizes his ignorance, he calls for teaching and confesses that he has directly God in his omnipotence. Job does penance in dust and ashes. After a cattle sacrifice, God’s wrath disappears and prosperity returns for Job.

When Job would have recognized all setbacks as part of himself, may Job have answered God that he is present in the separation of air and earth? May he have the courage to say that his appearance in the separation of air and earth is adapted to the circumstances?  That he always remains one during and after the separation of air and earth and during and after all the crackle that follows?

[11] Source: Stevens, John, Three Zen Masters, Ikkyū, Hakuin, Rӯokan. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1993. Page 131.

[12] Rӯokan is a Japanese Zen Buddhist. Zen Buddhism starts in China by a merger of Taoism and Buddhism. Taoism knows Tao as a keyword meaning “road or course of life”, but this word is probably derived from the ancient Chinese word for “Moon”. Source: Porter, Bill, Road to Heaven – Encounters with Chinese Hermits. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 1993 Page: 35.