Tag Archives: Vietnam

Narrator – gate in the north 2

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

A free rendering in English:

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

Form itself is empty and emptiness is form;

So also feeling, knowledge, formation and consciousness.

Thus Shariputra, all Dharmas are empty of characteristics.

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

And they neither increase nor diminish.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are four well known versions in English:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Narrator – Amsterdam: the inverted world 2

The first winter in Holland, life was a party. Everything was different than in my native country. The days were grey, bleak and cold, but the houses were hot inside with artificial light until well into the evening. There was food in abundance, but usually the hospitality did not allow sharing a meal. In the beginning I thought that people were embarrassed for their inability to prepare a tasty meal. Much later I found out that faith, thrift and money played an important role.

Via a detour I was often invited to the meal; as a guest I offered to prepare the meal. In Rome I had learned to cook. In this way we enjoyed an un-Dutch tasty meal in an un-Dutch manner. Also my lovers appreciated my cooking.


My first winter in Amsterdam I saw real gnomes with long hair and dishevelled clothes. They wished to be free of any tradition and to discover themselves in a new world; this is all history. I still love the pop music from that time. They wished to discover themselves in a known world; I discovered myself in an inverted world; this is all history now.

The first spring in Amsterdam my exotic love wafted through the city: I met the most beautiful lovers. All were different and all were the same. With one lover we drove by car through Holland. We saw the multi-coloured striped tulip fields in the endless plains. My loves were equally direct, intense, colourful, all-encompassing and temporary as this floral splendour. I was a strange novelty from another world and therefore attractive strange within the community where men love men.


One of my lovers came from America. He had fled to Sweden to evade his mandatory contribution to the war in Vietnam as American conscript. That spring and summer he lived illegally at friends in Amsterdam because in this inverted city the new world would begin with everlasting peace. For him, I was the complementary dark yin that with his light-coloured yang would shape a way for harmony and peace. This dream lasted a marvellous half year until he had to flee to Sweden again. Later, when I could travel freely in Europe, I visited him in Stockholm several times. He let me share in the wealth of his family. Through him I learned driving a car and after his flight I owned a large American car named “Thunder Bird” for one summer. Free floating I glided as a whispering Thunder Bird through Holland. In the autumn I sold the car to get through the second winter.


At the end of the summer – Arjan my friend and lover from Kenya – came for half a year back in Holland. Via Arjan and his parents I received a permanent residence permit and later I obtained Dutch citizenship. Also in this case an inverted reasoning was followed in Holland; the army of Kenya was looking for me for my temporary membership of a political militia. At my return in Kenya my life would be in danger. By this reasoning I was turned from a perpetrator of crimes into a victim. I told Arjan that now I lived with the ghosts of killed villagers at the hands of the militia; because of this I was indirectly a victim by my own share of this crime. Arjan convinced me that if I got a Dutch passport by a white lie, I could travel freely in the world – excluding Kenya. Also in this case Amsterdam was an inverted world with an abundance; the embarrassment followed after a feast that lasted for 10 years .

[1] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kookkunst

[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bollenstreek

[3] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Thunderbird