Today At Meetingbrook

Wednesday, February 06, 2002

Meetingbrook riddle:
Question --"How do you know that you're a fool, a dimwit, and don't know anything?"
Answer -- "I don't know. Try not to think about it. What was the question again?"

There was this silly exercise done in workshops -- you ask one half the room to think of a question, any question, and write it down. The other half is told to think of an answer, any answer about anything that comes to mind, and write it down. Then by choosing willy-nilly one from each side to read their question and answer -- there occurs a sometimes hilarious, sometimes serious, but most times absurd connection between random questions and random answers. It nearly always served as a curious reminder that, while all questions find answers, the direct relationship between question and answer resides in the wit and intelligence of the occurrence, and not in the intentional logical conclusion reached for by the questioner or responder. The general result of the exercise is laughter.

So what? Well you might ask!
Once you enter the path of prayer and unknowing -- a curious sensation occurs -- nothing makes sense, and, everything seems absurd. Absurdity isn't a condition one reaches for in order to cultivate, propagate, and disseminate -- rather, absurdity arises from the everyday occurence of being, life, loss, and emptiness. Absurdity, according to the New World Dictionary, is from the Latin absurdus= not to be heard and is defined as "so clearly untrue or unreasonable as to be laughable or ridiculous; laughably inconsistent with what is judged as true or reasonable; laughable from incongruity; foolishness; nonsense."

Erazim Kohak's book Idea & Experience -- Edmund Husserl's Project of Phenomenology in IDEAS 1 (c.1978), begins with Kohak's Preface:
This study is predicated on the Heraclitean conviction that wisdom is "to know the gnome, the thought by which all things are guided through all." In the case of Husserl's project of phenomenology, that one thought, profound in its simplicity, is that, primordially and ultimately, to know means to see, or, as Husserl presents it in Ideas 1 # 19c,
Direct "seeing" ([Gk]: noein), not merely experiential sense perception, but seeing in general as the primordial presentive consciousness of whatever kind, is the ultimate source of the validity of all rational assertions. ((p.xi)

Kohak continues, The primordial starting point, as well as the ultimate aim of all knowledge, is not speculation but that clear, evident insight which humans acknowledge with the startled exclamation, "Oh, now I see!"

The devout wish such a consummation!

A Zen Master writes:
He who truly attains awakening knows that deliverance is to be found right where he is. There is no need to retire to the mountain cave. If he is a fisherman he becomes a real fisherman. If he is a butcher he becomes a real butcher. The farmer becomes a real farmer and the merchant a real merchant. He lives his daily life in awakened awareness. His every act from morning to night is his religion. (Sokei-an)

Place that alongside the Dalai Lama's words when he said, "My religion is simple. My religion is kindness..." and there is a generous invitation to open one's eyes and see.

Human nature is developed
By profound serenity and lightness;
Virtue is developed
By harmonious joy
And open selflessness.
When externals do not
Confuse you inwardly,
Your nature finds the condition
That suits it;
When your nature does not
Disturb harmony,
Virtue rests in its place.

- Huai-nan-tzu (dailyzen.com)

These days the externals confuse me inwardly. While my only refuge is kindness -- this I trust -- the storm of closed self pounds absurdly against the place virtue rests in profound serenity and lightness. I feel Queeg's steel round clinking balls rolling around my hand as I realize the absurdity of my foolishness, dim wit, and ignorance.
What was the question, again?

The morning is brilliant. Bright sun on white snow, startling blue sky, elongated white cloud, bracing cold breeze. Outside the window everything seems in place. On bed, Sando stands, stretches, turns and returns to blanket, licks left paw while looking at me.

She sees me sitting right where I am!

Tuesday, February 05, 2002

Enfold. That's the word. The word had been 'consolidate.' Enfold seems more like it. 'Enfold' in the dictionary has two parts: 1. to wrap in folds; wrap up; envelop; 2. to embrace. We need to enfold.

Don’t be surprised,
Don’t be startled;
All things will arrange
Themselves.
Don’t cause a disturbance,
Don’t exert pressure;
All things will clarify
Themselves.

- Huai-nan-tzu (dailyzen.com)

In Meetingbrook's case, the two separate instances need to enfold one in the other. The bookshop/bakery in town and the hermitage on Barnestown Rd. at Ragged Mountain can no longer be sustained as two places. This emerging fact is unsettling. Perhaps Huai-nan-tzu is right, all things will clarify themselves, all things will arrange themselves.
Right now it looks like our 6 years at Bayview Street might come to an end and we will enfold at Barnestown.

A hermit by temperament longs for the simplicity of nature being nature. A solitary by inclination longs for silence and solitude to experience what is alone. A monastic by surrender longs to move through the appreciation that there is no movement to or from anything -- only the nondual appreciation of what is moving in stillness.

In the forward to Frederick Franck's book To Be Human Against All Odds, James W. Heisig writes of Franck:
He is equally attracted to the Zen view that dichotomized thinking is ultimately a betrayal of religious experience. Life/art, subject/object, I/Thou, persons/things are all modes of thought and need to be broken through in order to make what sense they can make.
By the same token, and in true Zen fashion, he does not see Zen itself as something to be clung to in exclusion of other religious ways. The sacredness of any tradition is that it opens our eyes to see what there is to see. By becoming dogmatic and self-sufficient, a tradition may have a better chance of surviving shifts of time and place, but it forfeits the basic task of opening our eyes to the sacred.
(p.9)

The sacred is enfolded in the secular. Prayer is enfolded in politics. Work is enfolded in worship. If there is a thin place, that thin place is not between one and the other, not a membrane however transparent that separates one and the other, not a free zone that runs contiguous to one and the other. The thin place is the aspect of enfolding.

The aspect of enfolding is the looking at and as what is enfolding. It is not a matter of foresight nor of hindsight. Rather, what the aspect of enfolding is -- is seeing itself, now -- and here. Here we speak about seeing the reality of Meetingbrook move from two locations to one while retaining the monastic tension inherent in living -- alone-with-others, or solitude-in-community, or embodying the thin place of rooting-sprouting as the same instance differing directions.

The whole consideration of Meetingbrook is practicing between traditions. We are coming to see that this doesn't mean going from one to the other and back. Nor does it mean throwing them both into a single pot to stir together. Perhaps we will come to see that the meaning for us is to watch and see the unfolding and enfolding of what longs to present itself in the midst of creation itself. Some might call that God. Or, Ultimate Reality, Truly Human, Risen Christ, Buddha of Compassion, The Way with its Power, Truth, What Is, or even -- Hello my name is...!
Something is emerging in, with, and through creation and those awake to the emergence. Exactly what that is to look like is unknown to all but a few of our species. And it terrifies us.
Terra est! Terra's I Am! What is the error? It is the earth! I am the earth. And the error? It seems the error is we've separated ourselves from the earth, from creation -- and are intent on objectifying it, thereby eliminating it.

Frederick Franck writes:
Raimon Panikkar coined the term cosmotheandric for the trinitarian relationship referred to by Samartha. I understood him to agree that in our present situation no single religion, culture, or tradition can pretend to present a universally valid solution for either our theoretical or practical human problems. Alone and isolated, Hinduism is threatened, Christianity is impotent, Islam is in ferment, Buddhism is dissolving, Marxism is bankrupt, secularism is self-destructing. It is not unthinkable that cross-fertilization among the traditions could reconcile the original insights of the various cultures and make the stilled voices of the sages audible once more over the abysses of time.

A new innocence, perhaps even a new naivete, is needed. This is not something that can be willed or concocted intellectually, but must be born from "grace." What we need is a holistic view of reality, a post-modern view in which all our fragmentary modern knowledge would be evaluated as mere preparation of its insights on a higher level. This does not imply facile assumptions about some undifferentiated reality, but a restoration of a view of the human in its dignity as a spark of the infinite fire
(agni), a microcosm, an image of the whole, a constituent of the entirety of the real: cosmically, environmentally, communally integrated.

Science is powerless when it comes to understanding what it might mean to be human, for this is not a scientific question. It is precisely this human mystery that is the questioner. An anthropocentric answer would be as deficient as a theocentric one, for being human is a coexistence with the Divine and the Cosmos. The Divine is not "pure transcendence," not free from all relationship. The Ultimately Real is not "Wholly Other," not an exclusively 'divine" kingdom. The human has its place in it.

In every human being, Panikkar noted, the entirety of the cosmotheandric real is centered. This does not make us the center of reality. It means that reality is centered in itself and at once the center of that "circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference nowhere."

As creatures we may be nothingness, but as constituents of the real, we are integral participants in the Trinitarian Mystery, and not merely passively but as fully sharing in the destiny of being.
(Franck, pp.97-98)

The cosmotheandric, the enfolding aspect of Earthly/Divine/Human, is a longing that is felt everywhere. And yet, there are those who intentionally rape, pollute and expropriate for personal greed what does not belong to them, but belongs to a grace and a power beyond the understanding of the separators, takers, and criminals -- both petty and lawyerly corporate. (This last sentiment after viewing Bill Moyers Report: NAFTA'S Powerful Little Secret).

Elsewhere Panikkar describes his Cosmotheandric Principle as that in which what is divine, what is human and what is earthly (let everyone find their own terminology) are the three irreducible dimensions which constitute what is real. These three parts are not juxtaposed simply by chance, but they are essentially related and together constitute the Whole. They are parts because they are not the whole, but they are not parts which can be separated from the whole. (In 'The new innocence -- Interview with Raimon Panikkar,' by Carmen Font, from the October 1996 issue of "Share International.")

Something dies. Something falls away. As we participate in our small instance of this change, we try to see the enfolding aspect of the cosmotheandric; we try to see the grace of it.

Hui-neng, 7th century, said, "The Meaning of Life is to SEE."

The poet Ikkyu (1394-1481) wrote:
I shall not die
I shall not go away
Just don't ask me any questions
I shall not answer.


I enfold my hands. They assume the posture of prayer, departure, and arrival. These enfolded hands set to greet what is to be. This is done as the unnecessary disappears.

Sunday, February 03, 2002

What is it we think about when killing people?

Read papers, listen to news, and the reasons heap upon each other. The explanations, the defenses, the invocation to national pride, satisfaction of justice, or elimination of evil -- all have a compelling soundness that nods heads and mulls minds sipping coffee in strategy rooms, cafes, and penal committee rooms.

"A mind," an advertisement went years ago, "is a terrible thing to waste!"
It is also a troublesome thing to taste. At best it makes clear what is clouded. At worst it clouds what is presented to it.

"Pay no mind," -- my grandmother would say. "Don't give it any currency," -- David would say at a Wednesday Evening Conversation. It is costly to use the mind in ways that are useless. It is costly to allow the mind to use us in ways often beyond our recognition.

"No mind," the Zen people say. "Dropping off mind and body," enlightened Dogen Zenji. "Don't mind me," takes on a different ring when spoken to another.

Coming, I don't enter by the gate,
Going, I don't leave by the door.
This very body
Is the land of tranquil light.

(--Gyokko, 1315-95)

Perhaps it is the body that refracts the light of understanding we normally attribute to mind.

The perfect way out:
There's no past/present/future.
Dawn after dawn, the sun!
Night after night, the moon!

(--Getsudo, 1285-1361)

Perhaps it is Nature itself that calls to us -- as mother, lover, friend, and child -- inviting us to simply see what is there, who we are, how life endures.

What is it we think about when killing people? Mind this -- reason justifies, but no reason satisfies. I don't sense we understand, not yet. Perhaps we're not ready yet.
Don't mind me.

God's breath exhales: "I Am Everywhere!" God's sight pleads: "Don't kill me!" God's compassion wonders: "What are you thinking of?"

Every thing, every place is real,
Each particle makes up Original Man.
Still, the absolutely real is voiceless,
The true body's majestically out of sight.

(--Chosa, 9c)

See?