Tag Archives: Thomas Cleary

Review: An English Translation of Fa-Tsang’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith

An English Translation of Fa-Tsang’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith by Fazang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The translater Dirck Vorenkamp begins “An English translation of Fa-Tsangs’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith” with an outstanding introduction to the cosmology of “One” within the Hua-Yen branche of Zen Buddhism based on the Avatamsaka Sutra ( see: “The Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra” by Thomas Cleary).

In his commentary on the “Awakening of Faith”, Fa-Tsang describes that “One”-consciousness exists of:
– “Thusness” as the essence without characteristics that is the source of emptiness (or sunyata) 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
– “Samsara” – or the “Concourse of things” – that 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” or the concourse of dharmas that are created in mutual interdependency within emptiness.

At once this description creates a problem, because emptiness 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 – it is an entry into the inconceivable – and maybe we should conclude with Wittgenstein at this point: “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen“ (Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must keep silent)”.

The introduction to the commentary on the “Awakening of Faith” continues with the structure of consciousness, explained 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).

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

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.

After this introductions follows the translation of “Commentary on the Awakening of Faith”.

The copy I received from the publisher, was accompanied with a bookmarker mentioning the makers of the book!

Highly recommended for a further study of the Hua-Yen branche of Zen Buddhism.

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Review: The Heart Sutra

The Heart Sutra
The Heart Sutra by Red Pine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Heart Sutra – a very brief Sutra – is Buddhism in a nutshell.

Bernie Glassman says in “The Dude and the Zen Master” that the Heart Sutra begins with the most important word “Avalokiteshvara” or even better with the letter “A”. If this “A” is wholly encompassed, the Heart Sutra is all encompassed.

So true, bearing in mind the metaphor of the jewel net of Indra – in the Avatamsaka Sutra (translated by Thomas Cleary as “The Flower Ornament Scripture”) – stating that every single glass pearl in Indra’s Net reflects the whole endless Net, and at the same time every single glass pearl shapes the whole Net.

In the same way, although the Heart Sutra is Buddhism in a nutshell, it is not so much a summary of Buddhism, this Sutra is the very core of Buddhism (as all is the very core of Buddhism).

This translation – in English – and the commentary by Red Pine is excellent, and extensive in a tiny book.

Highly recommended.

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Review: Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra

Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra
Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra by Francis Harold Cook
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is about the world view of a Chinese form of Buddhism – named Hua-yen (Flower Ornament) – with a fascinating philosophy describing our existence as infinite realms upon realms, mutually containing one another (the jewel net of Indra).

Francis Cook’s book is in my opinion an excellent introduction in the English language to the Hua-yen school of Buddhism – one of the seven branches of Zen Buddhism.

Highly recommended.

Also highly recommended as an introduction to, and explanation and background of “The Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra”, by Thomas Cleary.

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Intensities and associations in the end

Halfway through the afternoon Carla, Man and Narrator are sitting in the Vondelpark outside Het Blauwe Theehuis (The Blue Teahouse) [1].

Blauwe Theehuis[2]

“This morning I had mixed feelings about our proposal to start preparing the next part of our quest. On one hand, our proposal fits nicely with the overwhelming emptiness of the virtual digital world made of bits and monitors wherein we experience everyday world in our century; so I had noticed in the tram to the Vondelpark a mother giving her attention all the time to the 5 inch screen of her mobile phone instead of to her toddlers. On the other hand, in my opinion this part of our quest is not completely finished. In Florence – at the previous part of our quest – we had planned to give attention to the paintings in Holland. I also had in mind to address feelings, emotions, and the seven deadly sins according to Dante during this part of our quest. I am aware that these topics are quests in themselves. Maybe we can treat these topics in a nutshell, just like the treatment of capitalism this morning; I can nicely align the development of painting with the development of capitalism”, says Carla.

“You’re right. The transition is too abrupt, but the next few days it’s pretty stable weather for sailing: an opportunity not to let pass easily”, says Man.

“Could you summarise these subjects, so we can see how much attention will be needed”, says Narrator.

“Oil painting during and after the Reformation had boomed in Holland, because the inhabitants wanted to show their welfare within private homes – to themselves and to others – through images that showed landscapes designed by humans – as God’s steward –, paintings of tables displaying wealth of glassware, food and dishes and of course paintings of themselves and acquaintances in wealthy clothes. These paintings have characteristics of a desire to retain and acquire wealth. This way of looking, I have taken from John Berger’s “Ways of seeing” [3]; he shows a striking example of this display of prosperity with the painting “Mr. and Mrs. Robert Andrews” by the English painter Thomas Gainsborough. Many of the oil paintings by Dutch masters include a similar display of wealth and prosperity of the individual human being.

Mr and Mrs Rober Andrews[4]

In addition to the display of wealth and prosperity, these paintings ought to show always some moderation as a good steward of God suits. Essentially, many paintings show the election by God in the here and now and in the afterlife of the owner or of the person portrayed. This is in a nutshell the summary of my contribution on traditional oil painting in Holland to intensities associations. I am aware that I have done injustice to many masterpieces”, says Carla.

“I have always felt some discomfort seeing paintings made by most Dutch masters. You have aptly summarised my discomfort”, says Man.

“As idol in Amsterdam, I paid no attention to painting, I lived a life as a desirable exotic – non-Dutch – appearance. I myself was the shining chosen star to which everyone was attracted and around which life revolved. After I had left behind this life as idol, I never had time for viewing the Dutch masters. After our sailing trip I will visit several museums”, says Narrator.

“Could you give a similar summary on the seven deadly sins according to Dante?”, asks Man to Carla.

“OK. As brief as my summary of oil paintings in Holland.
The seven deadly sins of the Catholic Church had already been described in a systematic overview by clerics in the fourth century AD. In the sixth century AD, these deadly sins had been officially defined in a list by Pope Gregory. This list was used by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy. Besides the Catholic church has seven virtues opposite to the seven deadly sins.

Hieronymus Bosch had depicted the seven deadly sins in a painting [6].

Zeven hoofdzonden - Bosch

I will give a brief explanation of the seven deadly sins.

Lust is usually understood in the light of excessive thoughts, wishes or desires of a sexual nature. In Dante’s purgatory, sinners are purified of lustful/sexual thoughts and feelings by flames. In the hell of Dante sinners are blown by hurricane-like glowing winds that match their lack of self-control of lust in earthly life. During our search we have not encountered lust; in Aldous Huxly’s “Devil of Loudun” [8], lust as cardinal sin is treated: I think we can skip this cardinal sin during our quest.

Gluttony refers to both excessive eating and consuming things past the point of usefulness. Gluttony denotes waste by excessive energy: one of the pitfalls for God’s steward.
Greed/desire is a sin of excessiveness like lust and gluttony. Greed refers to a very excessive desire and a pursuit of wealth, status and power for personal gain: one of the pitfalls in the pursuit of success as a prelude to the grace of God.

Sloth has changed slightly in character in the course of the time. Initially it was seen as not fulfilling God’s gifts, talents and destination. Now it is seen as willfully negligence, e.g. of the duty of care for others, or for society. In my opinion sloth also implies the unwillingness to take notice and to be open to opinions or religions of others even if they do not comply with your own opinions or beliefs. This form of laziness consists of avoiding the question, “What is the other seen that I do not see?”.

Wrath or rage is the sin of excessive and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. In its extreme form, wrath shows itself as self-destruction. The feelings of anger and hatred may persist many generations. Wrath or anger is the only sin not necessarily associated with selfishness or self-interest.

Envy is to some extent related to greed: both sins are characterized by an inner unsatisfied desire. Envy and greed differ on two points. Firstly, greed is usually linked to material things, while envy is characterized by a more general feeling of loss. Secondly envy recognises something missing in itself that another has or seems to have.

In almost every list pride or arrogance – e.g. the opinion to be exclusively God’s elect as individual, as group or as a religion – is considered the most serious cardinal sin: it is seen as the source of the other deadly sins. Characteristics of pride or arrogance are the desire to be more, more important or more attractive than others; herewith the good works of others – in religions God’s works through other religions – are ignored. The sinner has an inordinate love of his own or of his own environment and/or religion. Dante described it as “love of the ego – in religions, one’s own faith – perverted to hatred and contempt for the other.”
This is in a nutshell the summary of the seven deathly sins”, says Carla.

“Again impressive in extension and brevity. During this introduction I must think – with shame – of my many shortcomings and mistakes in my life”, says Man.

“My most serious deadly sins had not been born out of pride or arrogance. Envy – caused by a general feeling of absence – during my puberty has encouraged me to become a child soldier with consequences that I still carry with me. My life as an idol in Amsterdam had come naturally to me; fortunately, I have left it in time away. Maybe laziness was the cause of my years at the edges of the mirror palaces of the intelligence services; although in this part of my life I had fulfilled my talents and destination given by God, I should have given more attention to the duty of care for others outside my small environment. My life as a mendicant – or Bhikṣu – has elements of envy in the form of a general lack: at that time I’ve tried to avoid cardinal sins”, says Narrator.

“Could you summarise in the same way the many forms of emotions and feelings, after we’ve had a drink?”, asks Man to Carla.

“There are many theories about emotions and there are different approaches to classify emotions [9]. The psycho-evolutionary theory of emotion by Robert Plutchik is interesting because this theory is based upon the following ten postulates [10]:

  1. The concept of emotion is applicable to all evolutionary levels and applies to all animals including humans.
  2. Emotions have an evolutionary history and have evolved various forms of expression in different species.
  3. Emotions served an adaptive role in helping organisms deal with key survival issues posed by the environment.
  4. Despite different forms of expression of emotions in different species, there are certain common elements, or prototype patterns, that can be identified.
  5. There is a small number of basic, primary, or prototype emotions.
  6. All other emotions are mixed or derivative states; that is, they occur as combinations, mixtures, or compounds of the primary emotions.
  7. Primary emotions are hypothetical constructs or idealized states whose properties and characteristics can only be inferred from various kinds of evidence.
  8. Primary emotions can be conceptualized in terms of pairs of polar opposites.
  9. All emotions vary in their degree of similarity to one another.
  10. Each emotion can exist in varying degrees of intensity or levels of arousal.

Based upon amongst others these ten postulates, Robert Plutchik composed in 1980 a wheel of emotions that consisted of the following eight basic – or biologically primitive – emotions, and eight more advanced – to increase the reproductive fitness of animals, such as the flight or fight response – emotions, each composed of two basic emotions.

Basic emotion[11]

The wheel of emotions composed by Robert Plutchik looks like:

Wheel of emotions - Robert Plutchik[11]

Recently – based on a comprehensive study of existing theories of emotions [12] – the following table is compiled from opposing basic emotions. In compiling this table, the following three criteria have been applied for emotions: 1) mental experiences with a strongly motivating subjective quality like pleasure or pain; 2) mental experiences that are a response to a particular event or object that is either real or imagined; 3) mental experiences that motivate particular kinds of behavior. The combination of these criteria distinguish emotions of sensations, feelings and moods [11].

Kind of emotion[11]

These basic overviews of feelings and emotions provide a good starting point for further exploration of these feelings, but I think a far-reaching exploration is beyond the scope of our quest. In so doing, Robert Plutchik stated in one of his works [13] that poets and writers capture and summarise the nuances of emotions and feelings better than scientists; he gave the example of how Emily Dickinson who had been raised in a Calvinist family [14] describes her feelings of despair – in my opinion the despair over a separate existence after God’s election at the end of time as close of this life and the hereafter [15] – in her poem[16]:

My life closed twice before it’s close
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event in me,

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

Probably this poem also partly expresses the hope and despair of Calvinism with – at the end of time – an unimaginable separation equal in inconceivability to the separation of air from earth at the beginning of time. Is my summary on this topic sufficient?”, says Carla.

“Comprehensive in its brevity. Impressive use of the poem by Emily Dickinson at the end. Your explanation reminds me of the Buddhist question:

“When the fire at the end of time rages through and everything is destroyed, is this destroyed or not?” One master answered: “Destroyed, because it goes along with this”. Another master answered: “Not destroyed, because it is the same as this”. [17]

At the end of this part of our quest, I have the impression that the Calvinists in Holland – with their many secessions – lived as if the end of time has already come. All we know of heaven is parting from the loved ones who have another believe, and all we need of hell. The end of time will not bring change to this, “said Narrator.

“The poem by Emily Dickinson describes for me the inconceivability of the end times.
Looking at the wheel of emotions by Robert Plutchik I have noticed with gladness that joy is a combination of the two emotions optimism and love. Tracing all emotions and investigating all combinations of emotions is indeed beyond our quest. Are there other topics that we wish to investigate?”, says Man.

“I am fascinated by intensities and associations and I am often surprised by intensities and associations within our environment, in relation to the other and by my own emotions and feelings. The quest to investigate all these kind of feelings requires a full human life, “says Carla.

“In my opinion this is applicable to every part of our quest”, says Man.

“And surpasses our lives. Shall I prepare a simple meal for us in Man’s kitchen as the close of intensities and associations?”, says Narrator.

“Then we can consider during the meal where we meet tomorrow to travel to my sailboat. I can borrow a car from a former companion; he is a couple of weeks on holiday, “says Man.



[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blauwe_Theehuis
[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vondelpark
[3] Source: Berger, John, Ways of seeing. London: British Broadcasting Company and Penguin, 1972 p. 106 – 107
[4] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Gainsborough
[5] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins
[6] Zie ook: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seven_Deadly_Sins_and_the_Four_Last_Things
[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins
[8] See: Huxley, Aldous, The Devils of Loudun. 1953
[9] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotion_classification
[10] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Plutchik
[11] Copied from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contrasting_and_categorization_of_emotions
[12] Source: Robinson, D. L. (2009). Brain function, mental experience and personality. The Netherlands Journal of Psychology, 64, 152-167
[14] Bron: http://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/church
[15] Another explanation of this poem is based on the loss of two beloved ones. According to Christian faith before the Reformation a reunion may be expected at the end of time, but the explanation suggests that Immortality may be a fiction and creates the hell of the future. See: Vendler, Helen, Dickinson – Selected poems and commentaries. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010, p. 520 – 521
[16] Franklin, R.W. edited, The Poems of Emily Dickinson – Reading Edition. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999, p. 630 – 631
[17] Free rendering of the koan Dasui’s “Aeonic Fire” in: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 131 – 136

Who are you: Intensities and associations

Reunion in Amsterdam: two sermons in stone

“The square in front of Amsterdam Centraal railway Station is a good place to meet Narrator again after his trip from Florence [1]. I hear his specific rhythm in the bongos of the jazz band that plays Nature Boy [2] of Eden Ahbez [3] in the distance”, says Man.

“I hear, Narrator has seen us; he changes his rhythm”, says Carla.

Carla and Man listen to the singer:

There was a man [4]

A remarkable enchanting man

One says he wandered very far,

Very far, over land and sea

A little shy and sad of eyes

But very wise, so worldly-wise.

And one day, a magic day

He crossed my way, and while he spoke

Of many things, priests [5] and kings

He said to me:

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn

Is the immense wealth of goodness”


“The text of Nature Boy is adapted for us”, says Man.

After playing this song, Narrator takes his bongos, he says goodbye to his fellow musicians and he stands with Carla and Man.

“Beautiful song. Thanks for your card. Why did you invite us here as a starting point for the survey of “Intensities and associations” at the second common reality on our Odyssey to “Who are you”?”, asks Man to the Narrator.


“In the Golden Age at the beginning of the Reformation the smaller sea-going vessels – that had returned laden with merchandise from distant lands – had moored on this place. In the 19th century  Amsterdam Centraal railway Station was built at this place. Before the Reformation many expressions of the Christian faith could be seen everywhere throughout the city. Now we can only see two beacons of Christian faith from here. In the distance we see the tower of the Old Church [7], before the Alteration [8] – whereby the Catholic administration in Amsterdam was deposited –  the Old Church had been named the St. Nicholas Church after the patron of sailors. Here before us on the waterfront we see the Roman Catholic Basilica of Saint Nicholas [9] that had been built at the end of the 19th century as the third St. Nicholas Church; the second St. Nicholas Church which is now known under the name “Ons Lieve Heer op Solder” [10], is a hidden church on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, .


As introduction to “Intensities and associations”, I suggest to visit this afternoon the Basilica of Saint Nicholas and the Round Lutheran Church at the Singel for two sermons in stone that emerged from the Protestant Reformation. We can visit tomorrow the Old Church in the Centre of Amsterdam to look at the start of the Reformation”, says Narrator.

“The Basilica of Saint Nicholas has a Christian cross as floor map as many traditional Catholic churches; but a real church tower is missing and the Church is incorporated into the street plan instead of directing to the east”, says Man.

“I wish to show you the dome of the Basilica, because the ceiling displays the huge change that the Reformation had also caused within the Roman Catholic Church in Holland. Shall we go inside?”, asks Narrator.

Carla, Man and Narrator walk to the Basilica and go inside.

“The ceiling of the dome shows no painted sermon of the Catholic faith ordered to the Medieval Scholasticism with a Divine Trinity, a Roman Catholic worldview and heaven. This dome only shows the images of the four Evangelists of the New Testament and thus a reference to the Word of God in which the Son of God was sent to Earth for the salvation of the faithful. According to the painting of this dome, the four evangelists are the connection to the Divine Light. The reference to the Word of God – that the spectator could read alone after the rise of the printing press – in this painting of the dome has taken the place of the story in images in the domes of the churches in Florence. This change in the painting of the Church dome from the image of the self/Self according to the Medieval Scholasticism in the Florentine churches to the painting in this dome of intermediaries that refers to the Light of the Other – the invisible God –, shows similarities with the third revolution in the scientific development [12] with a reference to the open-minded and non-normative representation of the Light of the Other – in this case the Divine Trinity”, says Narrator.

“Also in this Basilica the light shines from above. With the light as hope for the resurrection, the dome itself shows the constant resurrection. “Et lux perpetua luceat eis –and let perpetual light shine upon them [13]”, says Man.

“On whom shines the perpetual light? Let’s rest this question until later on our quest. In Holland I am a woman from the South, in Florence I am a woman from the North. Although I think this Dome is also excessive, I feel more at home in this church than in the lavish churches in Southern Europe”, says Carla.

“Good question with many answers over which is fought hard. Many thought that they exclusively possessed the Divine Light whereby other lights had to be extinguished with fire and sword. Shall we go to the Round Lutheran Church at the Singel to observe the influence of the Reformation on Protestantism”, says Narrator.


While Carla, Man and Narrator walk from the Prins Hendrikkade to the Singel, Narrator asks Man : “On which Buddhist question are you now working?”.

“With a – at first glance – very simple question with the metaphor of Indra’s Net in mind:

Question: “When arising and vanishing go on unceasingly, what then?”

Answer: “Whose arising and vanishing is it?”

And part of the accompanying verse:

Severing of entangling vines

Arising and vanishing in profusion – what is it? [15]

This question is very well applicable to the Reformation during the 80 year war in Holland; whose emergence and disappearance took place during this Reformation. What is “The” severing of entangling vines – arise and vanishing in profusion – of Christian faith in Holland? I do not know; “Mysterium est magnum, quod nos procul dubio transcendit” of “The mystery is great, that transcends us doubtless” [16]“, says Man.

“Life consists of change, but when everything is constantly changing, then change continues as a fixed constant. We have immediately mentioned the contradiction in this reasoning and in this starting point”, says Carla.

“I’m not so sure. The comments to this question states: “You don’t see the constant mover” and: “If you – the divine light? – agree, you have not yet escaped the senses, but if you disagree you are forever sunk in birth and death” [17]. This is a difficult question; it looks similar to the dilemma of the true faith and the direct relationship with God that the believers in Holland have constantly struggled with during and after the Reformation. There we see the Round Lutheran Church as a fortress in the shape of a donjon. The Lutherans were not allowed to build a church with a tower in Amsterdam”, says Narrator.


“This Lutheran Church reminds me of a hymn that I have learned at the Gymnasium in Rotterdam: “A mighty fortress is our God. A bulwark never failing” and “The enemy is nearing with raised flag”. At the end of this hymn is the verse: “God’s word will remain in eternity and not waiver an inch”. Let’s enter this bulwark”, says Man.

“The floor plan of the Church shows that the church-goers – as municipality in a circle – have focused their attention on the minister of the service: also these human municipalities need a “person in the middle” in order to establish and maintain mutual trust. The Church has no pictures, also no image of a Christian cross in the floor plan.

Plattegrond Ronde Lutherse Kerk Amsterdam[19]

In this church the rituals and the sermon in pictures have passed in the sermon of God’s Word. In this church sings no choir in the background, but the municipality sings at the top of their voices. The expressions of faith have changed from images, references, associations and persons in the middle as mediator for a relationship with God into an internalisation of God’s Word and singing of hymns together. In this church, it is important to be elected within God’s mighty fortress with a direct relationship with God, in which the minister expresses the common relationship with God”, says Narrator.

“This Round Lutheran Church shows me a donjon – a shelter and a private meeting – for the faithful and a rejection of and fear of infidels and dissenters. The Basilica of Saint Nicholas refers me as well via the evangelists to God’s Word, but is more distant in the reference to God and opener to outsiders as Christian beacon. The latter may have to do with my Catholic upbringing in South Limburg”, says Carla.

“Tonight I wish to give a short description of the 13th century Abbot Emo of Friesland as a contrast to the Reformation in the 16th century in Holland”, says Narrator.

[1] See also: Origo, Jan van, “Who are you – A survey into our existence, Five common realities – Facts and logic”, Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 165

[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nature_Boy. John Coltrane with his quartet has recorded a version of this song on LP record. A recent (illegal?) record of this song is available via the following hyperlink: http://soundcloud.com/lennart-ginman/nature-boy-live-recording-eiv

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

[4] In Sanskrit – the language of gods in the world of humans – “man” means amongst others “tot hink, to believe and to observe”.

[5] In het woord priester zijn de woordkernen “pŗ”, “ish” en “tr” te herkennen die in het Sanskriet respectievelijk “in staat tot, beschermen of levend houden”, “God of Hoogste Geest” en “oversteken, overbrengen” betekenen.

[6] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sint-Nicolaaskerk_(Amsterdam)

[7] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oude_Kerk_(Amsterdam)

[8] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alteratie

[9] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_St._Nicholas,_Amsterdam

[10] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ons%27_Lieve_Heer_op_Solder

[11] Bron afbeelding: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ons%27_Lieve_Heer_op_Solder

[12] See a description of this third revolution in science: Origo, Jan van, “Who are you – A survey into our existence, Five common realities – Facts and logic”, Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 50 en 51.

[13] Verse from the Catholic requiem mass. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_for_the_Requiem_Mass#Communion

[14] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sint-Nicolaaskerk_(Amsterdam)

[15] See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998, p. 183 – 186

[16] From the Papal encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharista by Pope John Paulus II. In the word “Eucharista” one can recognise “Eu” meaning “good” in Greek, “car” pronounced as “char” meaning “to move” in Sanskrit and “I s ” pronounced as “ish” meaning “being able to” and “the supreme being/soul” in Sanskrit. See also: Origo, Jan van, “Who are you – A survey into our existence, Five common realities – Facts and logic”, Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013 p. 166 and Origo, Jan van, “Who are you – A survey into our existence, Five common realities – Facts and logic”, Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 127

[17] See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998, p. 183

[18] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronde_Lutherse_Kerk_(Amsterdam)

[19] Source image: Google afbeeldingen uit: Jaarboek Monumentenzorg 1990, Zwolle: Waanders Uitgevers, 1990

Five common realities – facts en logic 12

The next morning Carla, Man and Narrator have their breakfast seated on a beanch at the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, in Florence.

“Last night I read the following two comments by a Zen master on a Buddhistic question, that are in line with our discussion during our supper last night:

“Fundamentally there is no delusion or enlightenment

“Peace is originally the accomplishment of the general, but the general is not allowed to see peace.” [1]

The first comment reflects Carla’s introduction on the sometimes razor-thin difference between delusion and reality. I think the Zen master goes several steps further than Carla; in the tradition of the Heart Sūtra [2], the Zen master will probably identify delusion and enlightenment as empty; we will come to this later – at “Void” as the “Third common reality”. The second comment is not clear to me. Do you know an explanation?”, asks Man to Carla and Narrator.

feiten en logica 12a[3]

“This comment looks structurally like the well-known fallacy in logic “Every ox is an animal, so each animal is an ox”; in this comment, a denial in the second clause might cause a tautology. In my opinion, peace is originally only possible if it includes peace in everything and everyone; but due to entropy [4] – or very loosely interpreted: the organised  chaos – it is not possible to create and establish human peace for all an everyone. The effort to maintain this form of entropy, surpasses our environment”, says Carla.

“You are right for the manifestations in our environment, and that is partly meant with this comment on the  Buddhistic question “Zhaozhou’s was your bowl”. The question is:

“Have you had breakfast yet?”

“Yes, I have eaten”

“Then go wash your bowl”

In this question “breakfast” stands for (a personal experience of) Buddhist enlightingment and “Go was your bowl” stands for realising Buddhistic enlightenment – as bodhisattva – for the All-encompassing One [5].

feiten en logica 12b[6]

Within Indra’s Net is not possible to see peace, because on the one hand an eye cannot fully see itself and because no peace and no war exists in Indra’s Net: Indra’s Net is empty of these concepts.

Shall I use this second comment as prelude to my introduction to Kṛṣṇa?”, says Narrator.

“Good explanation of both comments in words; a Zen master asks to show the answer directly and immediately within Indra’s net. I am looking forward to your introduction to Kṛṣṇa”, says Man.

“I will formulate the comment more precisely:

“Shānti [7] (peace, rest, calmness of mind, absence of passion, comfort, son of Indra, son of Kṛṣṇa and  kālindi) is originally the accomplishment of Īśvara [8] (or the general), but Īśvara is not allowed to see peace”.

In the course of my introduction it will become clear why this comment is so aptly for Kṛṣṇa.

The emergence of Kṛṣṇa is shrouded in mystery. According to Vedic tradition Kṛṣṇa is – after an immaculate conception [9] – born about 5000 years ago in Mathura – the former capital of the kingdom Shurasena (now Uttar Pradesh) – in Northern India [10].

feiten en logica 12c[11]

In the third book of the Mahābhārata [12] – composed more than 2500 years ago – Kṛṣṇa shouts:

“I am Nārāyaņa. I am creator and destroyer. I am Vişņu [13]. I am Brahman. I am Indra the master God.” [14]

In our contemporary ears, this exclamation sounds extremely overconfident. Within the metaphor of Indra’s Net, it is an open door, because every manifestation in Indra’s Net reflects and shapes the entire net as a creator and destroyer.

According to the Mahābhārata, Kṛṣṇa refuses to take sides at the beginning of the battle for the Kingdom between the five Pāṇḍavaḥ brothers – including Arjuna – and their many Kaurava cousins; he is only willing to enter the arena on the side of Pāṇḍavaḥ brothers as charioteer and leader of Arjuna.

At the beginning of the Bhagavad Gītā – a small and old part of the Mahābhārata – the army of the five Pāṇḍavaḥ brothers stands in battle order on the battlefield – with the place name Kurukshetra – opposite the army of their Kaurava cousins. In addition to a battle for a Kingdom, they stand on the battlefield in the tension between on one hand world order and duty (Dharmakshetra [15]) and on the other hand human action (Kurukshetra [16]). At the start of the battle, Arjuna – as leader of the five Pāṇḍavaḥ brothers – refuses to give the starting signal for the attack; in the opposite battle order he sees many family members, teachers, and loved ones. Kṛṣṇa – the leader and charioteer of Arjuna during this fight – encourages Arjuna to fulfil his duty within the world order. Kṛṣṇa only succeeds after he adopts his Godlike form during the dialogue with Arjuna.

In the Bhagavad Gītā Kṛṣṇa is called amongst others Parameshvara [17] or the Supreme God [18]. Some of the statements of Kṛṣṇa during the dialogue with Arjuna are:

“Although I am the Unborn and of immutable essence, although I am the Īśvara of the created beings, I enter my Godlike shape and come into finite existence from age to age” [19]

“I am equal to all created beings, there is no object of my particular favour or disfavour.”[20]

“Have your mind and life directed to Me, enlighten one another and talk about Me constantly.” [21]

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This last statement of Kṛṣṇa was applicable to my mask of an idol in the inverted world in Amsterdam [23].

Through this Godlike shape, Kṛṣṇa – in this part of the Mahābhārata – is a guardian and a leader of the world order and duty, and of human action. Within the world order of the Mahābhārata, Kṛṣṇa is not allowed to see peace – also this Godlike shape in the form of Kṛṣṇa is bound by the law of cause and effect.

The outcome of the battle for the Kingdom is disastrous for all concerned. The heroes had been slain in battle; the survivors were consumed with hate, anger and grief; and the women and children mourn miserably for the loss of the fallen. At the end of the Mahabharata, all are deceased.

May I come back on the death this afternoon?”, says Narrator.

“That will be a good transition to my introduction to the mind of the warrior; wars eventually see only losers. I will come back to this later”, says Carla.

“Narrator, what do you think might be the answers by Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa to the Buddhistic question  “Zhaozhou’s Wash your bowl””, asks Man to Narrator.

“Arjuna puts his hands to his mouth as battle horn and roars; Kṛṣṇa spurs the battle horses”, says Narrator.

“Would Zhaozhou approve these answers?”, asks Man to Narrator.

“Zhaozhou accepts the answer of Arjuna, and he gives Arjuna right away “Linji’s True Man” as next Buddhistic question. According to Hinduism, Arjuna has met “The true Man” within his possibilities and limitations [24]. Zhaozhou rejects the answer of Kṛṣṇa, after which Kṛṣṇa – in the incarnation as Bhikṣu – immediately makes the gestures of cleansing of the begging bowl”, says Narrator.

“So far I have mostly listened during your introductions to God in human shape. The “Deus ex homine” has for me characteristics of a “Deus ex machina””, says Carla

“Almost all religious movements have struggled with this problem. As we have seen before, Christ was only recognized as son of God within the Trinity after many altercations and struggle within the Catholic Church. The doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary – the mother of Christ – by the Holy Spirit has caused much discussion. In 1854 A.C. with the Papal Bull “Ineffabilis Deus” (the inexpressible God), Pope Pius IX proclaimed this dogma [25]”, says Man.

“During my life I have often renounced “Deus ex homine”, because in this manifestation I was not allowed to see peace”, says Narrator.

“Later on our Odyssey – during “Incarnatus est” at “Seven other realities “– I hope to learn more about the wonder of life within the void and the manifestations of Indra’s Net”, says Man.

“Shall we clean up our breakfast and visit the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella?”, says Carla.

[1] Both sentences are comments by the Zen master Xuedou on the koan ‘Zhaozhou’s “Wash your bowl’. See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 172

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

[3] In this human painting of peace, it is doubtful if peace also extends to the ox and the bay leaves. Mural of Peace by Gari Melchers. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C. Bron afbeelding: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace

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

[5] A bodhisattva is a human who – on the verge of personal Buddhistic enlightenment – decides to remain in the world to work on the enlightenment of the whole universe; a bodhisattva has made the vow to enter enlightenment together with all around us at the same. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhisattva

[6] Woodcut of Zhaozhou. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhaozhou_Congshen

[7] Shānti is comparable with Sanctus meaning in Dutch “Part of the Eucharist before the consecration” and “Holy praising”, and in Latin “holy, inviolable, untouchable” en “holy, honourable, exalted, godlike, pure and pious”. Sources: Dictionaries Dutch and Latin published by Wolters – Noordhoff

[8] Īśvara means in Sanskrit amongst others “being able to”, “Supreme being/soul”. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[9] Source: Bhagavata Purana according to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna

[10] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna_(god)

[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna

[12] See: Book 3, 188 (or 189), 5 from the Mahābhārata

[13] A Hindu supreme God, manifestation of Brahman, also named Nārāyaņa. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishnu

[14] Source: Radhakrishnan, S, Indian Philosophy – Centenary Edition. London: Unwin Hyman Limited, 1989, Vol. One, p. 485 – 486

[15] Dharmakshetra consists of “to place the continuous self/Self”, and “kshetra” – litterally: field.

[16] Kurukshetra consists of Kuru – a conjugation of “kr” meaning “to make, to do or act”, and “kshetra” – litterally: field.

[17] Parameshvara consists of para and Īśvara wherein “para” means “highest” in het Sanskrit.

[18] Source: Bhagavad Gītā (11.3-4). A word by word translation is available, see: Sargeant, Winthrop, The Bhagavad Gȋtâ. Albany: State New York University Press, 1994

[19] Source: Bhagavad Gītā IV.6

[20] Source: Bhagavad Gītā IX.29

[21] Source: Bhagavad Gītā X.9

[22] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurukshetra

[23] See:  Leben, Man, Narrator – One Way. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 93 – 98

[24] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arjuna

[25] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immaculate_Conception

Five common realities – facts en logic 11

Carla and Narrator are waiting for Man outside their guest house in Florence.

“This afternoon I forgot to say that objects, symbols, rituals, words, slogans, music, literature, philosophy and religion can direct – and take over – the behaviour and consiousness of people. Two extreme examples in negative sense are:

  • a political leader and followers influence each other in words and rituals so far-reaching that a part of society proceeds to genocide,
  • a religion sect degenerates by rituals, slogans, words and behavior in religious madness.

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In a positive sense, behaviour and consciousness of people are influenced – as exercises for the soul – by music, literature, religion (for basic trust), architecture, art, science. Via symbols and rituals, people feel security and belonging. An outspoken example is the hostia (sacramental bread) which – according to the Catholic Church – changes into the body of Christ after the epiklesis and the consecration during the Eucharist [2]. I think we should not delve into this further, because we use lightness and quickness as two guidelines during our Odyssey”, says Carla.

feiten en logica 112[3]

“Within the conceptional framework of Indra’s Net, every particle, every object and every living being reflects the body of Christ – as a historical person and as a Godlike being”, says Narrator.

“There is a small difference: Catholics believe that the hostia only after the epiklesis (or convocation of the Holy Spirit) and the consecration during a Catholic Eucharist changes in the body of Christ. The metaphor of Indra’s Net reflects the Catholic faith and at the same time, the disbelief in the hostia as a body of Christ in all its manifestations”, says Carla.

“You are right, we don’t have time to fully investigate the influences of symbols and slogans on the human behaviour next to our Odyssey to who are you. There is Man”, says Narrator.

“Do you like a real dinner tonight or shall we buy a simple supper in the supermarket and eat it in the park of the Piazza Massimo D’Azeglio, just like Dutch people?”, asks Man.

“Right then, just as people from Holland”, says Carla.

“I haven’t done otherwise for years, for me it’s all right”, says Narrator.

After a visit to the supermarket, they sit in the park and have the following conversation.

“Narrator, your last name Nārāyana is similar to the title of one of the older Upanishads that probably is created at the end of the Vedic period in India [4]. I refer to the following brief passage from the Nārāyana Upanishad [5] as stepping stone to my introduction to Kṛṣṇa as God in a human shape:

Nārāyana is the Supreme Reality designated as Brahman.

Nārāyana is the highest (Self).

Nārāyana is the supreme Light. Narayana is the infinite Self.

The supreme person Nārāyana willed to create beings.

Everything in this world is pervaded by Nārāyana within and without [6].

Did you know this similarity in name with your last name?”, asks Man to Narrator.

“My father had told me this in one of his stories when I was a young man. Later on in my life – during my incarnation as Bhikṣu – I have read the Nārāyana Upanishad via de University Library in Heidelberg.  In Sanskrit, Nārāyana means amongst others “son of the original Man”[7], whereby “Man” in Sanskrit means “to think, believe and perceive”. The book with Buddhistic questions that I had received from my American beloved, includes the question “True Man” about the meaning of “Man”. This beginning of this question is:

“There is a True Man with no ranks going out and in through the portals of Your face [8].

Beginners who have not witnessed it, Look, Look”

And the verse in this koan starts as follows:

“Delusion and (Buddhistic) enlightenment are opposite,

Subtly communicated, with simplicity;

Spring opens the hundred flowers [9], in one puff. [10]

Delusion and (Buddhistic) enlightenment also include symbols, rituals, words, slogans, literature, philosophy and religion that direct and even take over the behaviour and consiousness of humans in a positive and negative way. The “son of the original Man” in my last name Nārāyana is not only the human man, but also indicates the “True Man” in this Buddhistic question”, says Narrator.

feiten en logica 113[11]

“The difference between delusion and reality, crime and goodness are often paper thin and as a rule dependent on the framework wherein it is perceived. Your explanation about “thinking, believing and perceiving” show this. “Sein und Zeit[12] – the magnum opus by Martin Heidegger – also shows a glimp of this. Martin Heidegger has made a distinction between the “Improper Man” – or Delusion – and the “Own Self”. I am not sure if Martin Heidegger would equate the “Own Self” to the “True Man” in the Buddhistic question”, says Carla.

feiten en logica 114[13]

“I am deeply impressed by your introduction to Nārāyana and the “True Man”; you can express this far better than I can. Would you like to tell us who Kṛṣṇa is?”, says Man.

“May I do that tomorrow, let us first have our supper on this beautiful late summer evening in the park. Shall I break the bread and pour the wine?”, says Narrator.

“That is good”, say Carla and Man.

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

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

[3] Images of a traditional and modern monstrance. The monstrance is a holder in which the hostia (or sacramental bread) – that after the epiklesis (or the invocation of the Holy Spirit) and the consecration during the Eucharist, according to the Catholic Church changes into the body of Christ – is shown. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monstrance and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacramental_bread.  Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monstrance

[4] The Mahānārāyana Upanishad is, as chapter 10 of the Taittiriya Aranyaka, part of the dark – or inconceivable – Yajurveda (or Veda during sacrifices). See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taittiriya_Aranyaka#Taittiriya_Aranyaka

[5] The tekst in Sanskrit is available under the title “mahAnArAyaNa” at: http://sanskritdocuments.org/doc_upanishhat/

[6] Source: XIII-4 and XIII-5 from the English translation of the Mahānārāyana Upanishad via: http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/hinduism-forum/230825-maha-narayana-upanishad-translation-english.html

[7] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.

[8] Next to human face, “Your face” also refers to the “face of the world” and the “face of Indra’s Net”.

[9] See for an interpretation of flowers also “One – Blossom” in: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – A survey into our existence – 1. Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 50 – 53

[10] Abridged version of the Zen Koan “Linji’s True Man” from: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 167 – 170

[11] One of the unendless many manifestations of the “True Man”. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mann

[12] Heidegger, Martin, Sein und Zeit. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2006. See also: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sein_und_Zeit#Verfallenheit_und_Eigentlichkeit:_Das_Man

[13] Image of a tool to understand the main concepts in Heidegger’s “Sein und Zeit” – (Being and Time). Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sein_und_Zeit#Verfallenheit_und_Eigentlichkeit:_Das_Man

[14] Piazza Massimo D’Azeglio. Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piazza_d’Azeglio