Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Everything belongs to itself.

It is no longer possible to take sides and limit the appearance of anything. Categorization and claims of ownership are beginning to be seen not as the skill of intellect or wealth of proprietary economy. Rather, consciousness itself is beginning to grasp the startling realization that no one owns anything, everything belongs to itself.

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

- Huai-nan-tzu

Aseity and Tao -- for example.

[Aseity, (Latin: a, from; se, self) The property by which a being exists of and from self, a property belonging to God alone, who exists without other cause than Himself, who is independent and self-sufficient; regarded by many Fathers and theologians as the best way of expressing the very essence of God.
New Catholic Dictionary - Catholic Encyclopedia, God: His Knowability, Essence, and Attributes, Saint Louis, 1921 (ed.)]

Call God 'God', if we wish, but what is 'God' but that which is of itself. That which "of-itself-is" (Chinese, tzu-jan) is What-Is, happening.

Tao means basically "way", and so "course"; the course of nature. Lao-tzu said the way of the functioning of the tao is "so of itself"; that is to say it is spontaneous. Watch again what is going on. If you approach it with this wise ignorance, you will see that you are witnessing a happening. In other words, in this primal way of looking at things there is no difference between what you do, on the one hand, and what happens to you on the other. It is all the same process. Just as your thought happens, the car happens outside, and so the clouds and the stars.

When a Westerner hears that he thinks this is some sort of fatalism or determinism, but that is because he still preserves in the back of his mind two illusions. One is that what is happening is happening to him, and therefore he is the victim of circumstances. But when you are in primal ignorance there is no you different from what is happening, and therefore it is not happening to you. It is just happening. So is "you", or what you call you, or what you will later call you. It is part of the happening, and you are part of the universe, although strictly speaking the universe has no parts. We only call certain features of the universe parts. However you can't disconnect them from the rest without causing them to be not only non-existent, but to never to have existed at all.

When a one experiences oneself and the universe happening together, the other illusion one is liable to have is that it is determined in the sense that what is happening now follows necessarily from what happened in the past. But you don't know anything about that in your primal ignorance. Cause and effect? Why obviously not, because if you are really naive you see the past is the result of what is happening now. It goes backwards into the past, like a wake goes backwards from a ship. All the echoes are disappearing finally, they go away, and away, and away. And it is all starting now. What we call the future is nothing, the great void, and everything comes out of the great void. If you shut your eyes, and contemplate reality only with your ears, you will find there is a background of silence, and all sounds are coming out of it. They start out of silence. If you close your eyes, and just listen, you will observe the sounds came out of nothing, floated off, and off, stopped being a sonic echo, and became a memory, which is another kind of echo. It is very simple; it all begins now, and therefore it is spontaneous. It isn't determined; that is a philosophical notion. Nor is it capricious; that's another philosophical notion. We distinguish between what is orderly and what is random, but of course we don't really know what randomness is. What is 'so-of-itself,' sui generis in Latin, means coming into being spontaneously on its own accord, and that, incidentally, is the real meaning of virgin birth.

That is the world, that is the tao, but perhaps that makes us feel afraid. We may ask, "If all that is happening spontaneously, who's in charge? I am not in charge, that is pretty obvious, but I hope there is God or somebody looking after all this." But why should there be someone looking after it, because then there is a new worry that you may not of thought of, which is, "Who takes care of the caretaker's daughter while the caretaker is busy taking care?" Who guards the guards? Who supervises the police? Who looks after God? You may say "God doesn't need looking after" Oh? Well, nor does this.

(from Taoism, by Alan Watts)

What will happen if and when all things are allowed to be what they are?

Nature is tzu-jan, it of-itself-is.

In prison yesterday Jeff kept relating his life in prison to the plant Josh brought in and set at the center of the table. The soil, the roots, water, light, and relatedness to all else around it and him -- the need to be in harmony. Charlie quoted someone who wondered whether we have to see in order to believe, or believe in order to see. Duke, Ritchie, Nancy, Saskia, and I surrounded these observations and questions.

Each is of-itself-so.

Each is all. All in each.

Greet God!

Thursday, July 10, 2003

It was the combination of reflection about evil and asking how we practice through this thing called evil that was Wednesday Evening Conversation.

It was the curious question about self and no-self that made the column by James Carroll interesting.

It is the sadness felt by many for the current situation of death and disorder in Iraq that permeated the conversation.

Bush's war against evil
By James Carroll, 7/8/2003

IN THE GOTHIC splendor of the National Cathedral, that liturgy of trauma, George W. Bush made the most stirring - and ominous - declaration of his presidency. It was Sept. 14, 2001. ''Just three days removed from these events,'' he said, ''Americans do not yet have ''the distance of history.'' But our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.''

The statement fell on the ears of most Americans, perhaps, as mere rhetoric of the high pulpit, but as the distance of history lengthens, events show that in those few words the president redefined his raison d'etre and that of the nation - nothing less than to ''rid the world of evil.'' The unprecedented initiatives taken from Washington in the last two years are incomprehensible except in the context of this purpose.

President Bush, one sees now, meant exactly what he said. Something entirely new, for Americans, at least, is animating their government. The greatest power the earth has ever seen is now expressly mobilized against the world's most ancient mystery. What human beings have proven incapable of doing ever before, George W. Bush has taken on as his personal mission, aiming to accomplish it in one election cycle, two at most.

What the president may not know is that the worst manifestations of evil have been the blowback of efforts to be rid of it. If one can refer to the personification of evil, Satan's great trick consists in turning the fierce energy of such purification back upon itself. Across the distance of history, the most noble ambition has invariably led to the most ignoble deeds. This is because the certitude of nobility overrides the moral qualm that adheres to less transcendent enterprises. The record of this deadly paradox is written in the full range of literature, from Sophocles to Fyodor Dostoyevski to Ursula K. LeGuin, each of whom raises the perennial question: What is permitted to be done in the name of ''ridding the world of evil''?

Is lying allowed? Torture? The killing of children? Or, less drastic, the militarization of civil society? The launching of dubious wars? But wars are never dubious at their launchings. The recognition of complexity - moral as well as martial - comes only with ''the distance of history,'' and it is that perspective that has begun to press itself upon the American conscience now.

Having forthrightly set out to rid the world of evil, first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq, has the United States, willy-nilly, become an instrument of evil? Lying (weapons of mass deception). Torture (if only by US surrogates). The killing of children (''collaterally,'' but inevitably). The vulgarization of patriotism (last week's orgy of bunting). The imposition of chaos (and calling it freedom). The destruction of alliances (''First Iraq, then France''). The invitation to other nations to behave in like fashion (Goodbye, Chechnya). The inexorable escalation (''Bring 'em on!''). The made-in-Washington pantheon of mythologized enemies (first Osama, now Saddam). The transmutation of ordinary young Americans (into dead heroes). How does all of this, or any of it, ''rid the world of evil''?

Which brings us back to that Gothic cathedral of a question: What is evil anyway? Is it the impulse only of tyrants? Of enemies alone? Or is it tied to the personal entitlement onto which America, too, hangs its bunting? Is evil the thing, perhaps, that forever inclines human beings to believe that they are themselves untouched by it? Moral maturity, mellowed across the distance of history, begins in the acknowledgement that evil, whatever its primal source, resides, like a virus in its niche, in the human self. There is no ridding the world of evil for the simple fact that, shy of history's end, there is no ridding the self of it.

But there's the problem with President Bush. It is not the moral immaturity of the texts he reads. Like his callow statement in the National Cathedral, they are written by someone else. When the president speaks, unscripted, from his own moral center, what shows itself is a bottomless void.
To address concerns about the savage violence engulfing ''postwar'' Iraq with a cocksure ''Bring `em on!'' as he did last week, is to display an absence of imagination shocking in a man of such authority. It showed a lack of capacity to identify either with enraged Iraqis who must rise to such a taunt or with young GIs who must now answer for it. Even in relationship to his own soldiers, there is nothing at the core of this man but visceral meanness.

No human being with a minimal self-knowledge could speak of evil as he does, but there is no self-knowledge without a self. Even this short ''distance of history'' shows George W. Bush to be, in that sense, the selfless president, which is not a compliment. It's a warning.


James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.
This story ran on page A19 of the Boston Globe on 7/8/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

We have much to reflect on.

We have much to question.

We have much sorrow to move through.

Learned friends,
When you hear me speaking
Of the void, please do not
Grasp the void.
The first thing is not to grasp
The void.
If you sit in meditation
With an empty mind,
You will grasp the
Unrecordable voidness.

- Altar Sutra

I asked Annie what an alternative was to grasping the void.

She repeated the question, and then paused. She remained paused. She was looking through the windows toward Mt. Battie.

However stained, clouded and smoky the windows, she continued to look through without words.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Fog over coast all day.

Words and speech, fine concepts
If pursued, will lead us astray.
Let us leave these behind
And nothing is closed to us.
The moment we are illumined within
We bypass all barriers.

- Seng-ts-an (d.606)(dailyzen.com)

Tonight it rains.

The great thing is not things but God Himself Who is not things but ourselves, and the world, and everything, lost in Him Who so fully is that we come closer to Him by imagining He is not. (from letter to John Harris from Thomas Merton, May 5, 1959, in The Hidden Ground of Love, The Letters of Thomas Merton, c.1985)

The Buddhist teacher told Betty Ann even the Buddha spoke about the relative and the unconditioned world. That's how self and no-self were to be considered.

Sando lay stretched on dirt and gravel in parking lot at shop by harbor.

Imagine God not?

Joan has a new silver Toyota pickup. And a zafu. Dick helped tie rope around world war two surplus climbing rungs used as fence on patio. Brad watched quart of oil poured into van crankcase.

Pizza in harbor room while Jon's in Boston.

Ourselves.

Lost.

Monday, July 07, 2003

The war continues.

Man on aircraft carrier with grand statements how we won, people freed -- he's gone on to next agenda.

One by one soldiers are being killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their families ask why.

The next agenda keeps those who might be able to answer very busy. Money being raised. Political strategy being planned.

What's wrong with war is the way it goes on.

War is the belief someone else must die for our plans. Every war sets ideology and plans above ordinary life.

End war today.

No ideology.

No plans.

Just...

life.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

A hermit lives as-one-is.

Alone with others, there is no difference.

Merton's closet friend is now a friend of mine and lives on Patmos. Robert Lax is a hermit in society, perhaps pointing the way ahead for today's contemplative. He is a poet who lives alone and yet loves people. Everyday he walks in the streets and talks to many friends he has made in thirty years on the island and to any strangers he thinks may need help. He is concerned, compassionate and sensitive. He is a close and loyal friend and will say that friendships are an important part of his life, but every evening he returns to an empty house and centres himself within its silence as he has for over forty years. Out of that silence and solitude emerge the insights of his poems and the revelations of his conversation on being alone in the world today. (Pp.xv-xvi, in Hermits, The Insights of Solitude, by Peter French c.1996)

There’s a mistaken belief that hermits live cut off from other people away from human contact. It is an ingrained belief somehow connected to the point of view that God is separate from ordinary life, or, that there is something special about undergoing suffering in order to placate, and place oneself nearer, God.

Zazen is the practice of stilling body and mind. When body/mind is allowed to drop façade and frantic business and busyness a restful release occurs.

Set aside all involvements and let myriad things rest. Zazen is not thinking of good, not thinking of bad. It is not conscious endeavor. It is not introspection. Do not desire to become a Buddha; let sitting or lying down drop away. Be moderate in eating and drinking. Be mindful of the passing of time and engage your self in zazen as though saving your head from fire. On Mt. Huangmei the Fifth Ancestor practiced zazen to the exclusion of all other activities.
- Dogen (1200-1253)

We need not sit and face a wall for years. We need not sever parts of our bodies to prove dedication. And we need not slavishly follow the teachings of someone else even though they reached their goal.

When each person is himself or herself they are practicing as-one-is. When each thing is itself the Itself is found.

In Christian terms, when Jesus became fully who he really was, God was no other place.
We are ‘saved’ when all we think is not God dissolves into simple realization – as one might hear bird-call of a warm afternoon.
The very breath of that singing is in and through our own ears and nostrils.

Zazen is the no-mind breeze of which one is aware.
Without expectation, without explanation – each is itself – and the next thing that occurs, occurs of itself.

Engage your self in what you are aware of.

Forget your self.

What-you-are-aware-of, that is the practice of zazen.

A hermit lives as-one-is. What one is aware of -- that is where we are alone with others.

Poem
writes
itself --
every
single
one-of-them.

(wfh)

Unhiding.