Tag Archives: void

Man Leben – Oriental wisdom 2

Alles gelebt was man leben kann?

Lived everything what you can live?

You continue with the story of your life:

“In the previous post I told how I explored Oriental wisdom. I have mentioned my preference for mavericks. The meaning of the mavericks “ya, ra, la, va and ha” in the Devanāgarī alphabet express my experiences at that stage of my life. In examining the meaning of “la” – meaning in Sanskrit “of Indra”– and consulting several sources, I encountered the meanings of Indra. Indra means “God of heaven” or “Svargaloka” [1]. Indra is often depicted seating on a multi-headed elephant.


Now I explain the underlying meanings of svargaloka, because this gives light on the developments in my life around the death of my aunt and my godmother.

Svargaloka is composed of the words “svarga” meaning in Sanskit amongst others: heaven, the residence of light and of the gods, heavenly bliss, Indra’s heaven (where the souls of virtuous mortals go before they return in earthly bodies) and “loka” which means: free or open space, the universe, of number 7 – which we encounter later on our Odyssey. The world has three loka’s: the sky/heaven, the earth and the underworld.

Svarga is composed of the parts:

  • Sva: meaning “own, one’s self/Self, the human soul”.
  • Ra: meaning “give, love, desire, motion, brightness, splendour”,
  • Ga: meaning “abiding in, staying” [16]

On the basis of these parts, “svarga” is the residence of our/your own being in all its splendour. The svargaloka is heaven, earth and underworld – all, everywhere and one – in all its manifestations. Here and now, it shows its splendor.

Around 1993, I studied Jalâl al-Din who is better known as Rumi. He has been given the name Rumi in the Arab world, because he lived in Konia, south of Ankara in Turkey while writing his great works. This part of the Arab world was identified with Rome from the Roman Empire. That is the reason why Jalâl al-Din is better known after the name under which his whereabouts is named in the Arab/Persian world [3]. In Chapter 7 we meet Rumi on our Odyssey.


In a book about the life of Rumi I read: “Love for the dead is not lasting. Keep your love (fixed) on the Living One who increases spiritual life [5] . At that time this way of seeing was for me one half of the mirror. I lived completely in our/Your own being in all its splendour. I was in the svarga one with the wind, the light, my parents and foreparents; the entire universe was omnipresent.

The other half of the mirror was formed by a passage from the Diamond Sutra: “The past is ungraspable, the present is ungraspable and the future is ungraspable [6]“. The past is fixed in solidified glass; of course, our view on the past changes continuously, but a carefree life in Amsterdam with my father and mother as a five year old boy is no longer possible. Occasionally in dreams or with a particular taste – think of the madeleine biscuits in À la recherche du temp perdue of Marcel Proust – or with a particular smell, as a miracle the images and experiences of that lost world emerge in me. “Only in the present I can live, nowhere else I found shelter” [7]; sailing on the wind over the waves we experience the present: try to grab the “here and now” and it is gone. The future is ungraspable as the flower in the bud: the flower manifests itself in all its glory once and for all when circumstances permit – not earlier and not later. The flower arises from the void, flourishes in the void and passes away into the void. This elusiveness reminds me of the text that we encountered earlier in our Odyssey [8]: “Mysterium est magnum, quod nos procul dubio transcendit” [9]  or in English: “The mystery is great, without doubt it transcends us.”

In that time I experienced life fully, overwhelming and transparent. Or shown by a metaphor, both these images in the mirrors – which were placed at a 90-degree angle – were a reflection of my experiences. The mirrors were empty [10].

In the past I thought that if people or things had a name, they also got a place or a destination. On our Odyssey we will encounter this way of seeing a number of times.

In that time I also studied the Hua-yan school of Buddhism [11] and read texts about Indra’s net [12], that is a metaphor for the emptiness of all things and living beings. This void has two sides: it is “emptiness from” and “emptiness to” [13]. Both these sides are similar to “freedom from” and “freedom to” as explained “ Escape from Freedom [14]” from Erich Fromm.


By these insights I was freed from the latent feelings of guilt about my existence, mainly because my immediate family – with the exception of my aunt – had not survived the other government in Germany. Until then, there was always the question: “How did I deserve to be still alive”. At the same time, I evaded the question for the meaning and reason of this dark, dark, dark history. The religion of my parents offered me no interpretation: I could not say with conviction the verses of Kaddish including “Thou art the glory” and “The world is created according to His will”. For saying these texts I had to identify “You/His” with  “the wind” and “the water”.

This insight helped me organizing my aunt’s funeral. Her funeral was attended by many old acquaintances – as far as still alive. Also some distant relatives were present. I was the only immediate family. For her I have said a whole year with conviction the daily prayers according to the Jewish remembrance of the dead. May her memory be a blessing for here and for there.

I also attended the funeral and mourning services for my godmother. May her memory be a blessing for here and for there. It was a beautiful Catholic funeral in the tradition of South Limburg.

After these funerals I went to Auschwitz”, you say.

“I can follow your view of Oriental wisdom, but for the time I let my mind in the middle if I can agree with this view”, I say.

“Buddhism is the Middle Way; consent with my view of Oriental wisdom is not asked for. I look forward to what the continuation of our Odyssey will bring. It will be a homecoming for me”, you say.

The next post is about your visit to Auschwitz.

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

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

[3] Source: Lewis, Franklin D., Rumi, Past and Present, East and West. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003 p. 9

[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumi

[5] Free rendering from: Iqbal, Afzal, The Life and Works of Jalaluddin – Rumi. London: The Octagon Press, 1983 p. 239.

[6] Free rendering from: Red Pine (Bill Porter), The Diamond Sutra. New York: Counterpoint, 2001 pag.308

[7] Free rendering from the first two lines from the poem “Woninglooze – Homeless” from Jan Jacob Slauerhoff. See for the text of the poem: http://4umi.com/slauerhoff/woninglooze

[8] See the posts: “Three – Object in the middle – The Word” from 11 Juni 2011; and “A day without yesterday –a day without tomorrow?” from 3 Juli 2011.

[9] Source: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/special_features/ encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_20030417_ecclesia_ eucharistia_lt .html:  Ionnis Pauli PP. II Summi Pontificis, Litterae Encyclicae Ecclesia de  Eucharistia, Rome, 2003

[10] See: Wetering, Janwillem van de, De Lege Spiegel. Amsterdam: De Driehoek p. 118 – 120

[11] Sources: Cleary, Thomas, The Flower Ornament Scripture, a Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Boston: Shambhala, 1993; Cleary, Thomas, Entry Into the Inconceivable: An Introduction to Hua-yen Buddhism. Boston:  Shambhala, 2002 and : Cook, Francis, Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977

[12] See also the posts “One – Pantheism – Indra’s net” from 8 April 2011 and “One – “Powers of Ten”” from 10 April 2011

[13] See for “empty to”: Thich Nhat Hahn, The Heart of Understanding. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1988 p. 8, 9

[14] See page 91 in the Dutch version of “Fromm, Erich, Escape from Freedom. New York: Rinehart & Co, 1941” published by Bijleveld in Utrecht, 1973.

[15] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra’s_net

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

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Intermezzo: Why Sanskrit?

Your Narrator has asked the second main character why he is studying Sanskrit. His answer is that it has happened naturally. In examining Buddhist texts he has noticed that a number of concepts are easy to follow in Sanskrit. For example the sound “âtman” is similar to our word “breath”. It also turns out that some writers on Buddhism [1], philosophy [2] and the origins of words [3] have studied Sanskrit.

The second main character is interested in the origins of our language as a form of archaeology to the origin of our consciousness or “man[4]-child”. At the start of the study it appeared that for lay people the origin of the Indo-European is not easy accessible: there are only a few standard studies available [5]. On the other hand, Sanskrit – one of our older sister languages – is already in a very early stage extensively documented and fixed. This fact has caused that Sanskrit first became an artificial language and later a dead language. On the other hand, by the artificiality Sanskrit received a high status. The comprehensive, logical and sophisticated grammar is documented by Pāṇini [6] and his contemporaries in the fourth century BC. Our alphabet has an incoherent order; the alphabet in Sanskrit is logically built up according to the way people express vowels and consonants from the inside out. There are also very comprehensive dictionaries Sanskrit – English available. An introduction to Sanskrit [7] can be studied with some perseverance. Sanskrit has provided a good opportunity for the second main character to study the origin of language and thus the interpretation/expression of our consciousness.


During the study of Sanskrit, the second main character has noticed that many names and places in Indian and Buddhist texts have a meaning. For example, Buddha [9] means “placing a bud of a flower” and Ānanda means “bliss and joy”. The Buddhist words and concepts get a larger depth with knowledge of Sanskrit.

During his recovery period, the second main character has read the book “Empires of the Word – A Language History of the World [10]“.


In Chapter 5 of this book, Sanskrit is addressed under the heading “Charming like a Creeper – the cultured Career of Sanskrit”. With surprise and recognition, the second main character has read how Sanskrit established itself in India and how it is spread with Buddhism across Southeast Asia, Tibet, China and Japan by trading caravans and via freight boats. In addition to the Chinese characters, the Japanese alphabet is modelled according to the alphabet in Sanskrit. A professor has said to the second main character that a language is the speech impediment of the ruler. Sanskrit is distributed in a large area in a relative nonviolent manner. By the religions that are linked to the Sanskrit – Hinduism and Buddhism – this language has had a great influence in this area. The easiness  and naturalness of this spread has surprised Nicholas Ostler [12]: he has discussed this fact with several friends from India. These friends have pointed out to Nicholas Ostler how little believers must give up for Buddhism and Hinduism: old religions do not have to be rejected. Other beliefs require far more from its believers. The second main character does not agree with these friends. By their nature, Hinduism and Mahāyāna Buddhism [13] require everything from its believers including their original religions.

Over time, Sanskrit is first expelled by Islam from parts of India and Indonesia and afterwards it is banished from China with Buddhism. But, the remains of Sanskrit – like Hebrew – can be seen everywhere for a specialist.

Also many words in German, English and Dutch have a richer meaning with knowledge of Sanskrit. During his recovery period, once the second main character strolled around. He overheard a small group of women talk to each other twittering like birds. When he walked along, one of the women said: “What that concerns [14], I say so, I say nothing”. Then the women continued their conversation. The second main character thought: “Tathāgata [15], evam [16], śūnya [17]” or “what the world of forms concerns, thus, void”. These three words summarize in one sentence the following stage during our Odyssey with the addition: “What comes from the power of the wind in the end becomes brooken and crumbled [18].

This additions reminds of a free rendering of a pop-song by Neil Young [18]:

“Life is like a flower.

It only grows on the vine.

Handful of thorns and you know you missed it.

And you lose it when you call it Mine, Mine, Mine”.

[1] For example: Sheng Yen, Footprints in the Snow – the Autobiography of a Chinese Buddhist Monk. New York: Doubleday, 2008

[2] For example: Pirsig, Robert M., Lila, an Inquiry in Morals. London: Bantam Press, 1991

[3] For example: Ayto, John, Word Origins – The hidden Histories of English Words from A to Z. London: A & C Black Publishers, 2008

[4] “man” means in Sanskrit “think/consider/observe”.

[5] For example: Fortson, Benjamin W., Indo-European Language and Culture – an Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004; Mallory, J.P. & Adams, D.Q., The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007; Mallory, J.P., In Search of the Indo-Europeans. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2005

[6] See as introduction: http://en.wikipedia.org/ under “Pāṇini”

[7] For example: Egenes, Thomas, Introduction to Sanskrit part 1 & 2. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2003 – 2005

[8] Source image: http://www.amazon.com

[9] In Sankrit the name Buddha consists of the noun “bud” meaning “bud or knop” as “bud” in rosebud in the film “Citizen Kane” directed by Orson Wells – and the root “dha” meaning “place, grant, bestow”. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[10] See: Ostler, Nicholas, Empires of the Word – A Language History of the World. New York: Harper Collins, 2005

[11] Source image: http://www.amazon.co.uk

[12] See:  Ostler, Nicholas, Empires of the Word – A Language History of the World. New York: Harper Collins, 2005 p. 217

[13] Mahāyāna literally means “big vessel”. All and everyone is present in this big vessel, no particle is excluded.

[14]The original in Dutch sounds “What Tathāgata” meaning “What that concerns”

[15] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tath%C4%81gata. The word “tathāgata” consist of “tathā” meaning “thus” and “gata” or “āgata” meaning going or coming. In Mahāyāna Buddhism the word “tathāgata” has two meanings: on the one hand “the complete arising and vanishing Self” or “Buddha or Self” and on the other hand “the myriad forms as they are”.

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

[17] In Sanskrit “śūnya” means zero of void. The word “śūnya” consists of “śūna” meaning “swollen state of empty” and “ya” meaning “mover, traveller or wind”.

[18] Source: Wick, Gerry Shishin, The Book of Equanimity – Illuminating Classic Zen Koans. Somerville MA: Wisdom Publications, 2005 p. 51 casus 16.

[19] See: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/neilyoung/loveisarose.html