Tag Archives: zen master

Emptiness: to the end of the night


Night. A clear sky at new moon. Narrator drives the borrowed Skoda Superb [1] Combi from Amsterdam via the Noordoostpolder [2] to the marina at Lauwersoog near the departure of the ferry to Schiermonnikoog. Both headlights shine on the empty highway through the dark void land that over 50 years ago still was bottom of the Zuiderzee (Southernsea). Carla dozes in the back seat. Man sits as a passenger next Narrator; in the dim light of the dashboard they look to the exit at Emmeloord that in the far distance is lit by lantern light.

Skoda Superb Combi[3]

“Within the emptiness the headlights – with the lantern light in the distance – conjure a dark magic landscape wherein everything we now see emerges and immediately disappears like phantoms who are called to live in a flare in order to slip at once into the dark emptiness again.

As boy in South Limburg I have loved the dark nights with the infinite universe wherein I – included – was one with all the stars and galaxies in the firmament. Now I feel myself floating within a faint white glow on an infinite journey through the universe and thereby perfectly at home in this vessel. Tonight – before we were getting ready to depart – I have looked up a definition of Buddhist enlightenment [4] in a book: “Enlightenment is realising the oneness of life”[5].

I looked for this definition yesterday afternoon we have ended our survey of intensities and associations with the question: “One – what is that?”, that had been asked by a Buddhist sage to a wise woman. She was unable to answer this question. I wonder whether the inability – or the emptiness – of the wise woman to answer fits better with the question: “One – what is that?” than this definition of Buddhist enlightenment.

We now begin the survey of emptiness during our quest to “Who are you”. In Sanskrit the word for emptiness in the Heart Sutra is ” śūnyatā”. Do you know the meaning of this word in Sanskrit?”, asks Man.

The car is nearing the exit at Emmeloord. Narrator slows down and takes the exit to Lemmer; hereby Carla has awakened and she asks: “Where are we?”. “Near Emmeloord in the Noordoostpolder, now we are heading to Friesland. I have asked Narrator for the meaning of the word “śūnyatā””, says Man.

“The word ” śūnyatā” is usually translated with “emptiness” or “empty of self” [6], but this translation only reflects the core of the word just like within the core of the tropical cyclone there is usually a clear sky and no wind; the centre of the cyclone is sunny and “free” of wind.

Kern van een cycloon[7]

The word “śūnyatā” consists of the verb cores:
• “śvi” – with the weak form “śū” – meaning “swell”, “grow” and “increase”;
• “ya” meaning “mover” and “incentive”. My father was of the opinion that “ya” is closely related to “yaj” in the sense of “sacrifice”, “offering for a higher – Godlike/heavenly– purpose” (perhaps “God’s gift” in reciprocity”and,
• “tā” meaning “impassableness”, “inaccessibleness”, and also “unviolability” and “sacred” [8].

A contemporary Japanese Zen master in America had written in his explanation of “śūnyatā” that this word is not a negation of the concept of existence, but the word indicates that our entire existence in all its forms is completely dependent on the principle of cause and effect; we have read earlier that even the Gods are bound by the principle of cause and effect [9]. As the factors of cause and effect are changing constantly, there is no static – fixed – existence possible. The word “śūnyatā” categorically denies the possibility of the existence of static – fixed – manifestations. All appearances are relative and interdependent according to this contemporary Japanese Zen master.

In addition, he writes that “śūnyatā” also means “zero”, a concept that became known rather late in Europe, but has been in use for much longer in India. Zero has no numerical value in itself, but it represents the absence of numerical values and thus symbolises at the same time the possibility of all numerical values. Similarly “śūnyatā” – through the concept of “zero” or “no” – represents the possibility of the existence of all manifestations and it is also included in all forms, that themselves only exist in relation to their non-existence and by their interconnectedness [10]”, says Narrator.

vorm en leegte[11]

“The definition of zero is too limited: but I will not go into it now. If I understand it correctly, “śūnyatā” refers to “emptiness from” and “emptiness to” just as – in my opinion – Erich Fromm is referring to “freedom from” and “freedom to” in mutual dependency with the concept of “freedom” [12 ]. Here I am reminded of the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty who has argued that manifestations are caused by a creative process of giving meaning and taking meaning at once[13]. The Zen master adds to this argument the void – or space – for allowing the creation of manifestations”, says Carla.

“Quite interesting that you refer to a creative process for the creation of manifestations. The Japanese Zen master indicates that an intuitive and immediate understanding of ” śūnyatā” is the basis for all understanding. But before he states this, he first mentiones the ” śūnyatā” of the ego and then the “śūnyatā” of dharma [14] – the world order and duty [15] – and of the subjective and the objective. After this he concludes that everything – every manifestation and every being – only exists through the principle of interdependence bound by the law of impermanence. The intuitive and immediate understanding leads to knowledge and understanding of the four great truths to know: impermanence, interconnectedness, manifestations and essence; maybe it’s good to come back on these four values later. The Zen master goes further in his statement on the importance of impermanence – emptiness or vanity – and interconnectedness than Maurice Merleau-Ponty in the arising or creation of all manifestations and of every being

I have this explanation of “śūnyatā” from the introduction by this Zen master in his book on the Buddhistische Heart Sūtra.

This description of the Zen master has stayed with me because it fits so well my perception of the ghosts in the night. As a child soldier in Africa with our militia we had put the forest around a village on fire at the end of the night. We had shot everything and everyone that had come out of the forest and we had been happy [16]. I still carry the ghosts of these villagers with me; their breath – in emptiness and vanity – has become my breath. At night they are as real to me as people I meet during the day; these spirits are connected with me in interdependence within the law of impermanence: during daytime they have disappeared”, says Narrator.

“Are these spirits really present for you here and now in this car?”, asks Man.

“No, driving the car I have my attention on the road, but if I do not focus my attention any longer, the ghost come to life from the emptiness of darkness just as real as a dream during sleep. Or to cite a quote often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain: “I am an old man and have suffered a great many misfortunes, most of which never happened” [17]”, says Narrator.

“Fortunately, because otherwise I should have asked you to look for a parking place and we might continue our journey tomorrow during daylight. I have several versions of the Heart Sutra to study in my luggage. Would you like to help me with the interpretation of Sanskrit?”, asks Man.

“That is fine. I have a copy with the explanation by the Japanese Zen master with me. Do you have a waterproof compartment for books on your boat?”, asks Narrator.

“Your book easily fits within the waterproof ton. When we will lay dry at low tide, we will have time to read”, says Man.

“The definition of enlightenment that you have just mentioned, gives one aspect of enlightenment – in line with the interconnectedness within the metaphor of Indra’s Net – quite clearly. It is only one side of the coin, the other side is “śūnyatā”. In Buddhism, the term “nirvana” – literally absence of forest (or barriers) or the open plain [18] – is often used for enlightenment. In Hinduism one often addresses enlightenment with “moksha” [19] that comes from the verb core “muc” meaning amongst others “to loosen, or to liberate”. With both interpretations, I am not happy because in my opinion “śūnyatā” together with the metaphor of Indra’s Net gives a better interpretation of the term enlightenment. I think it is a good idea that we do not only survey emptiness in the sense of “empty from” at this part of our quest, but also in relation to the four great truths of Buddhism and in relation to Indra’s Net”, says Narrator.

“Good idea. When I had lain awake during my travels under the dark starry sky, I had felt myself fully included in space or in the infinite void. The boundaries between the space and myself had dissolved and I had become one with everything around me. In a book on Zen Buddhism I had read two poems mentioning an empty mirror as metaphor for life; in the second poem also the illusion of the empty mirror was removed just like during this journey by car through the dark polder the sight on the landscape is non-existing. Do you know the text of these poems?”, asks Carla.

“The two poems had been written during the appointment – or better the Dharma transmission – of Huineng [20] as the sixth Zen patriarch. In my own words: the fifth patriarch sensed that the obvious candidate was fit for the position. He asked each monk who would like to be candidate, to write a short poem on the core of Zen and to affix it on the monastery wall. Only obvious candidate anonymously published the following poem:

The body is a Bodhi tree;
The mind like an empty mirror stand.
Time and again brush it clean
And let no dust alight [21]

Bodhi – with a sound (and a meaning via “et incarnatus est” [22]) akin to the English word body – meaning in Sanskrit “a tree of wisdom, or a tree where under a human becomes a Buddha” [23].

The next morning a second poem was affixed alongside the first poem with the following text:

Originally bodhi has no tree;
The empty mirror has no stand.
Originally there is not a thing.
Where can dust alight?

In Sanskrit Bodhi has a second meaning: “perfect enlightenment” [24]. The Fifth Patriarch knew a humble firewood-gatherer – without any formal training as a monk – had written this second poem and he foresaw an uprising of the monastery to the appointment of this uneducated layman as Dharma heir. The following night, the Dharma transmission took place and at dawn the sixth Zen patriarch had to flee from the monastery. The monks have haunted him for a long time. Eventually after a long flight he had been fully accepted is as Dharma heir; every Zen master is in direct line associated with this sixth patriarch. And reciting the poem I also reflect him in the emptiness of this night”, says Man.

“Splendid explanation. Shall we continue tomorrow? I would like to continue dozing”, says Carla.
“Then I will also take a nap. Tomorrow we have to get up early”, says Man.

Narrator drives the car with Carla and Man sleeping via Friesland and Groningen to the parking place at Lauwersoog near the ferry departure to Schiermonnikoog. He parks the car facing east to see the dawn over a few hours. Upon seeing the first twilight he awakes Carla and Man.

“On this bright morning we have to see the sunrise before so we will start rigging the sailboat at the marina”, says Narrator.

“Upon seeing the emergence of the first sunrays trough this windshield, I think of the poem “The Windows” by Guido Gezelle, wherein he as a Catholic priest at the end of the nineteenth century has marginally repeated the iconoclasm:

THE WINDOWS

The windows are full of saints, mitred and staved,
martyrised, virgin crowned, duked and knighted;
that the burning from the oven fire glassed has in the shard,
that, glittering, speaks all the tongues from the heaven bows paints. [25]

Thou scare is again enkindled in the east the violence
Of sun flame, and does she touches the saints, so melted
The mitre from the mantle collar, the gold ware from the crone,
and all, even white now, shines and lightens even clean.

Disappeared art thou, dukes and counts then, so soft;
disappeared, virgins, martyrs and bishops: forever
no palms, staves, stolen anymore, ‘t is all gone, to
one clarity molten, in one sunlight – in God. [26]

– Guido Gezelle [27]

Kerkramen Noordzijde Keulen[28]

In my opinion Guido Gezelle advocates with this poem – despite the beauty of church windows as windows on the world – an empty mirror without stand in God’s face”, says Man.

 

[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%A0koda_Superb
[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noordoostpolder
[3] Source image: http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%A0koda_Superb
[4] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhi
[5] Source: Bridges, Jeff & Glassman, Bernie, The Dude and the Zen Master. New York: Plume, 2014, p. 95
[6] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunyata, see also the English Wikipedia-page on this subject
[7] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropische_cycloon
[8] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[9] See: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 2.1 – Facts and Logic. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2014, p. 85 and 122
[10] Source: Deshimaru, Taisen, Mushotoku Mind – The Heart of the Heart Sutra. Chino Valley: Hohm Press, p. 28, 29
[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9A%C5%ABnyat%C4%81
[12] Source: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 2.1 – Facts and Logic. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2014, p. 97
[13] See also for the “creative act of giving meaning to and taking meaning from”: Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, Phenomenology of Perception 1945
[14] Dharma means literally “placing of the self/Self continuously”.
[15] Source: Badrinath, Chaturvedi, The Mahābhārata – An Inquiry in the human Condition. New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2006, p. 68. See also chapter 4 for an introduction on Dharma.
[16] See the last part of book 1 of the Mahābhārata where at the fire in the Khandava forest, Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa shoot arrows with joy to all that leaves the forest. Sources: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/maha/index.htm boek 1 Section CCXXVII and further; Katz, Ruth Cecily, Arjuna in the Mahābhārata: Where Krishna is, there is victory. Delhi: Molital Banarsidass Publishers, 1990, p. 71 – 84
[17] See: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/10/04/never-happened/
[18] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[19] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moksha
[20] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huineng
[21] Source: The Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra. Burlingame: Buddhist text translation society, 2002, p. 67
[22] Literal translation from Latin: he/she/is becomes flesh
[23] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[24] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.
[25] “mitred and staved”: with signals of authority; “all the tongues from the heaven bows paints”: showing all the paintings on the ceilings of the churches.
[26] Free translation of this poem. Original: http://cf.hum.uva.nl/dsp/ljc/gezelle/rijmsnoer/ramen.htm This poem is date by Guido Gezelle on 14th of April 1895.
[27] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guido_Gezelle
[28] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stained_glass

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Review: Master Yunmen: From the Record of the Chan Master “Gate of the Clouds”



Master Yunmen: From the Record of the Chan Master “Gate of the Clouds” by Yunmen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Master Yunmen: From the Record of the Chan Master “Gate of the Clouds”” by Urs App includes – as introduction – a (very) brief history of Zen, and a description of the life and of the teaching of Zen Master Yunmen Wenyan (Ummon in Japanese), who lived between 864 and 949 AC.

The influence of Yunmen Wenyan is considerable, because one of the seven branches of Zen is named after him; and in all major koan collections – Gateless Gate, Blue Cliff Record, The Record of Serenity – Yunmen is included more often than other Zen Masters.

Next to the introduction, this book includes 285 talks and dialogues by Yunmen.

As example talk 243 (also included in Koan collections):
Addressing the assembly, Yunmen said:

“I’m not asking you about before the fifteenth day; try to say something about after the fifteenth day!”.

Yunmen himself answered on behalf of the listeners:

“Every day is a good day!”

Summary of the footnote to the fifteenth day: “after the fifteenth day” refers to “completely realising one’s (own) existence”.

Recommended for a further introduction/study of Yunmen.

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Review: Zen Words for the Heart: Hakuin’s Commentary on the Heart Sutra


Zen Words for the Heart: Hakuin's Commentary on the Heart Sutra
Zen Words for the Heart: Hakuin’s Commentary on the Heart Sutra by Norman Waddell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This tiny book “Zen Words for the Heart” includes a translation of the Heart Sutra with commentary by the 17th Century Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku in a Zen idiom, e.g. Hakuin’s commentary on the line “Form is no other than Emptiness, Emptiness is no other than Form” in the Heart Sutra:

“A nice hot kettle on a stew. He ruins it by dropping the couple of “Form and Emptiness” in . It’s no good pushing delicacies at a man with a full belly. Striking waves to look for water when waves are water”.

Recommended for readers interested in Hakuin’s commentary on the Heart Sutra.

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Five common realities – facts en logic 16


Carla and Man are waiting for Narrator to walk by the covered Vasari Corridor along the river Arno via the Pont Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti.

Feiten en logica 16a[1]

“After we had yesterday briefly looked into the role of a Bodhisattva in the mind of a warrior, I had to consider what active role a Bodhisattva can fulfil as warrior in a conflict or war. Do you have an idea?”, says Carla.

“I think that a Bodhisattva will try to take care within the possibilities and circumstances. During the Second World War, several Japanese Zen masters were – as young men – conscripted as young men in the Japanese army. In their brief biographies they mention among others meditating while standing guard [2] during their obligatory military service. I hope that they as Zen monks have fulfilled their role with compassion during battles and skirmishes; the concise biographies leaves this – perhaps wisely – unmentioned. The metaphor of Indra’s Net has within the brilliance of glass pearls also a deep darkness.

In the brilliant glare

Of the pearls in Indra’s net

Flashes the darkness

There is Narrator”, says Man.

“This covered walkway from the Palazzo degli Uffizi via de Vasari Corridor [3] and the Pont Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti shows the endeavor of the Medici family during the first half of the 16th century to the outside world.

Feiten en logica 16b[4]

By the acquired possession and wealth, the family could walk – sheltered against weather conditions – from their new residential palace outside the city to their Palazzo degli Uffizi (or their working palace) in the city. At the beginning of the 16th century, the de Medici family had come to power again in Florence around 1512 A.C., and Giovanni de Medici had been elected as pope in 1513 A.C.. Hereafter Giovanni – as Pope Leo X – to his brother written: “God has given us the Papacy, let us now enjoy it“. [5]. As a Pope, Leo X had been a disaster, as a renaissance Prince a success; he commissioned Michelangelo – coming from Florence – to redesign and finish the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and he ordered an extremely expensive carpets series for the Sistine Chapel [6]. To finance this luxurious lifestyle, he introduced indulgences within the Catholic Church: by donations to the Catholic Church, the giver could shorten the time in purgatory for the beneficiary – for example deceased family members. As a response, on 31 October 1517 Martin Luther distributed his “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” in Wittemberg in Germany [7] that became the start of the Reformation. After his death in 1521, Pope Leo X was succeeded by Pope Adrian VI – coming from Utrecht in the Netherlands – who inherited an empty Papal Treasury and was also not welcome in Rome: he died in 1523 [8]. In that year, Giulio de Medici was elected as Pope Clement VII; by his clumsy and undiplomatic actions he caused the spread of the Reformation in Northern Europe and  the excommunication of King Henry VIII in England. His attention was focussed to art and culture; he commissioned Michelangelo in to build the Medici Chapel of the San Lorenzo Basilica in Florence – that we had visited a few days ago.

I tell these historical facts during the construction of the Vasari Corridor and the Pont Vecchio, because the building style reflects the hope of a continuous bridge for the de Medici family to the riches of the world. We know that herewith also the voidness for the de Medici family – in the form of vanity – and the decline of the Papal pontificate had started [9]; herewith as well the Catholic Church had fallen in a deep crisis”, says Narrator while they walk to the middle of the bridge.

“The word bankrupt [10] has started around that time on this bridge. When a trader could no longer meet his obligations, the counter (or “bank” in Italian) whereon he traded, was broken”,  says Carla.

By the Via de Guicciardini they walk to Palazzo Pitte.

Feiten en logica 16c[11]

“This palace had been built in the 15th century as the residence of the merchant Luca Pitti. In 1549 the Palace had come in the possession of the de Medici family where after members of the family have lived here to the extinction of the family in 1737. The palace became a treasure house in which the different generations of the family collected many of their paintings, jewellery and luxury possessions [11]. In addition, the family wished to show with this palace the grandeur of a nobel family to the outside world. During our tour we will see that the design and interior especially aims at impression of the visitor. Here shows the warrior his conquests to – a select part of – the outside world. Let us go inside”, says Narrator.

Feiten en logica 16d[13]

After the visit to the Palace, Carla, Man and the Narrator are sitting on a terrace on the Via della Sprone.

“in my eyes, Palace Pitti is a transition from the Renaissance to a different time, and for us a connection between “Facts and Logic” within the emerging reason in the Renaissance to “Intensities and Associations” in the personal development by religion, art and science, that we will visit in Amsterdam as the next stage on our Odyssey to “Who are you””, says Man.

“During our visit to the Palace, I was reminded of a passage from the Icelandic Egils saga centered on the life of the 10th-century farmer, warrior and poet Egill Skallagrímsson [14].

‘Thus counselled my mother,
For me should they purchase
A galley and good oars
To go forth a-roving.
So may I high-standing,
A noble barque steering,
Hold course for the haven,
Hew down many foemen.’
[15]

Or adapted to Palazzo Pitti:

“Encouraged by my parents,

Who won for me

Capital and power

To go out robbing.

So may I stand high,

Above the earthly turmoil

To eternal heaven,

And crush all opposition”.

For the inhabitants of Palazzo Pitti, the tool in the form of “weapons and people” as extension of the Viking Warrior – who still stood at the front of the battle order himself – was already replaced by the tool “capital and power” of the modern distant Warrior. The modern Warrior has withdrawn himself from the turmoil of battle; he stands as a solitary ruler high above daily life. This lone fighter beats the opponents at a distance with a “clean kill” [16]; in reality of daily life this manslaughter is always very grubby with the stench of decay. In Amsterdam, I hope being able to show more hereof. Palazzo Pitti is for me deathly and stilled in the hang to – the classic pitfall of the Warrior – lasting exceptional glory”, says Carla.

“So true. At your view of the solitary ruler, I am reminded of the Almighty God in heaven. Does the Christian Divine Trinity also have this classic pitfall of the lone fighter? I read somewhere that even Gods are engaged in a struggle for survival. In Amsterdam we will investigate during “Intensities and Associations” inter alia the personal relationship with God – and its consequences – within Christianity after the Protestant Reformation. How may a Bodhisattva get around this classic pitfall? By humility? I do not know. Shall we – tonight during the last supper on this part of the quest – look back on our short visit to Florence? We can also make some plans for the continuation of our Odyssey”, says Narrator.

“That’s all right. I suggest that this afternoon we go our separate ways”, says Man.

“That is good”, says Carla.


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

[2] For example: Wetering, Janwillem van de, De Lege Spiegel. Amsterdam: De Driehoek, p. 40; in English: The empty mirror

[3] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corridoio_Vasariano

[4] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corridoio_Vasariano

[5] Source: Norwich, John Julius, The Popes, A History, London: Chatto & Windos, 2011, p. 279.

[6] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paus_Leo_X

[7] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maarten_Luther

[8] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paus_Adrianus_VI

[9] See also: Norwich, John Julius, The Popes, A History, London: Chatto & Windos, 2011, p. 279 – 298.

[10] Bankrupt is in Italian Bancarotta – derived from “banca” meaning counter, and via latin “rupta” that is a conjugation of the verb “rumpere” meaning “to break, to disrupt”.

[11] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_Pitti

[12] Source: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_Pitti

[13] Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_Pitti

[14] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egils_saga

[15] From chapter 40 of Egil’s Saga. Source: http://sagadb.org/egils_saga.en. See also:  Marlantes, Karl, What it is like to go to war. London: Corvus, 2012 p. 69 – 70

[16] In the mind of the warrior a “clean kill” – with an effortless blow of two knuckles of the fist – is aesthetically preferred above clubbing with a stone. Even more aesthetically is shooting with a fine shotgun from a distance in a duel, or in our modern times with a laser gun. In our century this led to a president who personally gives orders to kill opponents by computer-controlled  drones in other countries. See also:  Marlantes, Karl, What it is like to go to war. London: Corvus, 2012 p. 71 – 72

Man Leben – love


Liebe muß man leben, sie wächst und sie kann auch wieder vergehen

Love one must live, she grows and she may also perish again

You continue the story of your life:

“After my journey to Auschwitz in the beginning of the autumn in 1993, there are three surprises in my life. The first surprise is working in a design office to introduce a modular industrial way of building. This work is unexpectedly successful.

The second surprise is completely unexpected. I have previously told that I have suddenly fallen in love at the age of ten on a girl in the village in South Limburg. It seemed that lightning struck, so fierce and unexpected; I only saw a white glow. In grammar school I have fallen in love several times. Nobody has ever known of this love. After my studies I have met my wife through my work on the architectural office. The first time I saw her in a white charming glow. We have had a happy time until our roads slowly split. The divorce was not easy; I should have shown more wisdom and compassion. At the end of our marriage until the start of my trip to Auschwitz, there have ever been women in my life, but always at a certain distance.

After Auschwitz, love has adopted the form of compassion and sympathy in my life. These feelings are expressed in the poem “Bani Adam” or “Opening of all Gates“, which is composed about 700 years ago by Abū Muṣliḥ al-Dīn Muḥammad bin Abdallāh Shīrāzī-– better known by his pen name Saʿdī  (or Saadi):

“The children of Adam are limbs of one body

Having been created of one essence.

When the calamity of time afflicts one limb

The other limbs cannot remain at rest.

If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others

You are not worthy to be called by the name of “Man (or Woman) [1]

 This poem is addressed to me personally; I wear the name Man.

[2]

Not so long ago, I read that an old zen master once said: “If there would be no suffering and no sentient people, then there would be no finger, no eye, no ear, no hand. Everywhere and One would be empty and deep, deep. There would be no loss and no gain” [3]. These sentences also express my form of love at that time. Buddhism has the word “Karuṇa” which means in Sanskrit compassion. The word Karuṇa is associated with wisdom. [4]

In the summer of 2003 I turned my head and I saw her face full of furrows of life, bottomless eyes, wrinkled hands. As companions we have admired each wrinkle and scar of our life. Later I have written the following short poem:

Your eyes bottomless

Together in eternity

Tender little death

Two years later we met Her big death. The following message more about the third surprise – simplicity – in my life”, you say.

The following post is about the third surprise in your life


[1] See amongst others: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love en http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saadi_(poet)

[2] The tomb of Saʿdī in Shiraz, Iran. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saadi_(poet)

[3] Source: Wick, Gerry Shishin, The Book of Equanimity – Illuminating Classic Zen Koans. Somerville MA: Wisdom Publications, 2005 p. 170

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