Tag Archives: zen

Narrator – from heaven to hell

In my youth I lived in heaven. At that time I had five obstacles in my life: my clothes got dirty, my body changed, my armpits sweated , my body smelled and life was sometimes uncomfortable [1]. My mother took care that my clothes, my armpits and my body were washed when we had enough water in the dry land. This was a feast. Changes of our body belong to human life; when the changes are over and the pains are forgotten, the situation is back to normal. And a sober, simple life does not always include comfort.


During my school time I sometimes adorned as warrior, more for fun and vanity than to prepare for battle. As student I was not interested in fighting.


At the end of my school time I moved from my motherland. I craved for the adventures as told in the stories of my ancestors and I felt an urge for comfort, money, fame and power. Or in the language of my ancestors: I wished to change from Nara [4] to Rājan [5].

While everyone was asleep, I left my mother; I left a note behind with the message that everything would be all right and that she could be proud of me.

After a few days wandering, I encountered a militia. I jointed them. I received an uniform with a weapon and I was trained to military just as the heroes from the Kṣhatriya [6] or warriors/rulers caste in the Mahābhārata.


I was not a strong soldier, but I was smart and fast and I immediately saw what was needed. The leaders of the militia saw this too: I was driver of the leader of the militia. Like Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad Gita [8] I was charioteer and advisor.

Similar to a charioteer on the chariot I was cook, I gave advise in battle, I encouraged, I offered protection in emergency, I rescued from difficult situations and afterwards I told the heroics of the fighters.

By the transition to the militia, I left heaven and I entered the world of hungry ghosts and the extremely painful world of hell. My life went from peace to war, from love and care to violence.

At the end of one night we set the forest surrounding a village on fire. The God of fire and the wind spread the flames. Our militia shot with joy at everyone and everything that came out of the forest and we were happy [9].

In daylight the disillusionment followed. We saw that we had killed everything and everyone from new-born to the elderly. Hereafter I left the world of hungry ghosts and hell.

[1] From: Cleary Thomas, The Undying Lamp of Zen – The testament of Zen Master Torei. Boston: Shambhala, 2010. Voetnoot 3 op p. 23

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

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

[4] In Sanskrit “nara” literally means “someone who does not rejoice”. This word is used for an ordinary man.

[5] “Rājan” means in Sanskrit “rejoice in birth/origin”. This word is used for someone from royal or military caste. Source: elektronische versie van het woordenboek Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.

[6] For the caste system in India see amongst others: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste_system_in_India

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

[8] For an introduction of the Bhagavad Gita that is a small part of the Mahābhārata: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagavad_Gita. A good introduction for a translation Sanskrit – English: Sargeant, Winthrop, The Bhagavad Gȋtâ. Albany: State New York University Press, 1994. An introduction of a religious – yoga – background: Yogananda, Paramahansa, The Bhagavad Gȋtâ. Los Angelas: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2001

[9] 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


Man Leben – on the way 3

Geschichte, mit denen man leben muβ

History, with which one must live.

You continue the brief report of your life with the arrival in Dachau after a pilgrimage of two months:

“In September 1983 I left the farm of my godmother in South Limburg. She had recommended me this pilgrimage in order to honour the wish of my aunt who had asked me after my 21st birthday to carry out the traditional Jewish remembrance of the dead for my parents, when I would be able to do so. My mother died in 1944 and was buried in Dachau. During All Souls’ Day on November 2, I hoped to visit the grave of my mother according to the Catholic habit in South Limburg.

On my journey by foot I got to know the wind [1] and the moon [2] and I started to identify the wind and the moon with the “He” and “his” in the Kaddish prayer [3]. Hereby I could say this prayer every day – for a full year – for my father, mother, aunt and Godfather.

As wanderer, but a luxurious wanderer, I arrived in Dachau at the end of October 1983; my health was still excellent and my equipment comfortably. Also with the early nightfall at the end of the afternoon I learned to life by making a small fire in a small used tin.

A day later – on a stormy day – I visited the camp. The images and impressions of these camps are well known. Sources report that the administration in the camps at Dachau recorded the intake of 206.000 prisoners and 31,951 deaths mainly caused by malnutrition, exhaustion and diseases [4]. In comparison, on the war cemeteries in Omaha Beach in Normandy, France  and in Henri Chapelle in the Ardennes, Belgium, 7000 and 8000 soldiers were buried: bottomless grief.

During my visit to the camp I noticed what my aunt could not mention and wished not to mention. I also understood why she added to her wish so explicitly: “When you are able to do so”. Later, much later, I could put into words my feeling during the visit.

Inside and outside

Stilled and turned to stone

The Wind played Her song.

At the fall of dusk I left the camp. Outside I sang the aria from Cantata 82 “Ich habe genug” composed by Johann Sebastian Bach:

Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen,
Fallet sanft und selig zu!
Welt, ich bleibe nicht mehr hier,
Hab ich doch kein Teil an dir,
Das der Seele könnte taugen.
Hier muss ich das Elend bauen,
Aber dort, dort werd ich schauen
Süßen Friede, stille Ruh.

This Cantata was written by Johann Sebastian Bach for February 2nd or “Purificatio Mariae” [5] – the purification of Maria – 40 days after Christmas. Appropriate: I sang the cleaning of and for my mother, her memory be a blessing to our world and for the hereafter [6]. For me, these two worlds of Her have always been one and the same.

The next day I came back to see if my mother’s grave was well taken care for. I had a round pebble with me: this pebble I put on her grave.


Then I walked along the Catholic Chapel, the Christian Church of Reconciliation and the Jewish Memorial. For me, none of these rooms were inviting to enter.





In Ulm, I had seen the study model for the continuum that includes the entire universe in all its simplicity and limitation. Inside and outside change continuously. At the same time this reconciliation room gives shelter, and breathable includes everything from the universe in security and responsiveness. My mother, her memory be a blessing for here and for there.


On November 2 – All Souls Day – in the afternoon I visited my mother’s grave. The stone was gone. I could understand this, otherwise there might arise a mountain of stones. At her grave, I have said the prayer of Kaddish.

Near the fall of darkness I moved on. My feelings during this departure I read many years later in the Zen koan: “Each of you have Your own light. If you want to see, then it is not possible. The darkness is dark, dark. Now, what is your/Your light? …… The answer is: the room of the universe, the road.” [13]

Country walkers are not welcome in Dachau. I moved on. Winter began. It took 10 years before I visited the grave of my father in 1993. First I lived in monasteries for several years”, you say.

The following post is about your monastery years.

[1] See post “Man Leben – op weg” van 14 oktober 2011.

[2] See post “Man Leben – op weg 2” van 17 oktober 2011.

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

[4] Sources give different numbers. The numbers in this post come from: http://www.dachau.nl/het_kamp/historisch/index.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dachau_concentration_camp

[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presentation_of_Jesus_at_the_Temple

[6] See also: Wieseltier, Leon, Kaddisj. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 1999, p. 11

[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dachau-015.jpg

[8] Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KZ_Dachau_Todesangst-Christi-Kapelle.jpg

[9] Source image: Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:16JUN2005_Munich_054.jpg

[10] Source image: http://hu.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=F%C3%A1jl:2500_-_KZ_Dachau_-_Protestant_Monument.JPG&filetimestamp=20071012014216

[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:16JUN2005_Munich_064.jpg

[12] Model for the continuous design by Ulrich Burandt as study during the workshop of Tomas Maldonado at the Ulm School of Design. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulm_School_of_Design

[13] Free rendering of Yunmen’s light – case 86 from the Hekiganroku. See also: Aitken, Robert, The Mind of Clover – Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. New York: North Point Press, 2000⁸. pag. 62. Remark: According to the sources the answer to this koan is: “Storeroom/kitchenstorage, gate/gateway”. In this post “Storeroom” is rendered as “the room of the Universe” referring to “Deine Seele ist die ganze Welt” or “Your soul is the whole world” – see also: Hesse Herman, Siddhartha. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag: 1989 p. 10. In Sanskrit “Gate” means amongst others “going, and the locativus for the verb to go”.

Man Leben – on the way 2

Wie kan man leben?

How can one live?

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

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

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

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

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


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

First he cited Unto Tähtinen:

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

He subsequently cited Mahatma Gandhi:

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

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


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


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















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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The following post is about your visit to Dachau.

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

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

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

[4] See: Book of Ecclesiastes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction: One



Dust[2] ascended in the trunk[3]

To the beginning of a bud

Emerging in the spring light

The bud[4] shows a blossom fan[5]

Her beauty in full glory

In one sigh elapsed

Confident the blossom petal falls

From the bud downwards

Whirling in a cloud with the wind[6]

A blanket of fingerprints on the ground

Footed by the world

Gone to dust[7]


This poem may also be read as retrograde. In the paragraph “No time, no Change” in chapter 7 you and I will meet the mystics including amongst others the role of a flower [5].

[1] Source of image: JvL

[2] See also: Genesis 3:19: “For dust you are, and to dust you shall”. Before the separation of air and earth (see also the second stage during our Odyssey), the transgression of void to dust and dust to dust reflect the different manifestations of the complete oneness. At our homecoming (see the last stage “zero”) you and I hope to return within the complete oneness. Have we ever been away?

[3] “When dust is lifted, the land flourishes. When dust is taken, void arises”. This is a free rendering of koan 61 from the Hekiganroku. See:Yamada Kôun Roshi, Hekiganroku, Die Niederschrift vom blauen Fels. München: Kösel-Verlag, 2002.

[4] 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

[5] According to the tradition the second zen master is recognized by Buddha when only he noticed with a smile the flower raised by the hands of Buddha. Is this recognition of the complete oneness? We do not know. The following zen masters are according to the Denkōroku directly linked with each other. Have these masters ever been away from the budding of the flower? We do not know.

[6] Here you and I notice a manifestation of the word “thus” or “evam”, meaning in Sanskrit amongst others “going with the wind”. See also the last but one paragraph of the post dated 1st April 2011.

[7] See also: the Old Testament, book Ecclesia 12:7: “When the dust returns to the earth, it returns to itself”. Is this the complete oneness or a manifestation hereof? We do not know.

[8] Source of image: JvL