Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Mythos, from muthos, "tale," has as much to do with silence as it does with telling.

Even if "You Have to Say Something," as Dainin Katagiri Roshi's book is titled, we sometimes have to look beyond the usual choices for a response.

Robert Pirsig suggests a way to think outside ordinary duality:
Yes and no ... this or that ... one or zero. On the basis of this elementary two-term discrimination, all human knowledge is built up. The demonstration of this is computer memory which stores all its knowledge in the form of binary information. It contains ones and zeros, that's all.

Because we're unaccustomed to it, we don't usually see that there's a third possible logical term equal to yes and no which is capable of expanding our understanding in an unrecognized direction. We don't even have a term for it, so I'll have to use the Japanese mu.

Mu means "no thing.'' Like "Quality'' it points outside the process of dualistic discrimination. Mu simply says, "No class; not one, not zero, not yes, not no.'' It states that the context of the question is such that a yes or no answer is in error and should not be given. "Unask the question'' is what it says.

Mu becomes appropriate when the context of the question becomes too small for the truth of the answer. When the Zen monk Joshu was asked whether a dog had a Buddha nature he said "Mu,'' meaning that if he answered either way he was answering incorrectly. The Buddha nature cannot be captured by yes or no questions.

That mu exists in the natural world investigated by science is evident. It's just that, as usual, we're trained not to see it by our heritage.

(- p.320, Robert Pirsig, in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

If Pirsig suggests 'heritage' trains us 'not to see' -- perhaps 'hermitage' invites us to see.

This hermitage was here first
Only then, the world.
When the world crumbles,
This hermitage will not be destroyed.
The host inside the hermitage
Is present everywhere.
The moon shines on the eternal void;
The wind whistles through
Ten thousand openings.

- Shiwu (1347)

Hermitage, for this view, might be seeing what is core and care of what is. That anything is at all, is itself invitation to look into it. It is the inner view that helps develop vision for how to respond to outer necessities -- like food, clothing, shelter, human interaction with one another, with created matter, and with the unknown which surrounds and interpenetrates this existence.

Hermitage is practicing seeing, saying, and serving. This in a silence that permeates both wordless and wording presence.

Jesus found he had to say something.
And he said, "Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away. (from Luke 4:21-30)

There's something both musical and mythical about "passing through the midst of them" and disappearing.

The best place to find and lose oneself is in the midst of where we are. To be there, wherever we are, is to learn telling silence.

We are only passing visitors here.

This hermitage was here first.

As each with each in silence.

Friday, January 30, 2004

This is the nature of conversation.

"The tension between solitude and communion has existed at nearly every stage of the history of spirituality." (p.43, in article "Mending Broken Connections: A Process Spirituality," by Kathleen R. Fischer, in Chicago Studies, April 1987).

This morning at prison Joe comes in half way through the conversation. In one hand crumpled paper, stapler in the other. He sits down. After 5 minutes he nods, says "That's what I needed, to calm in this environment. I just put 40 staples into one paper while putting up with annoying interruptions." There's laughter. He's smiling as he leaves.

We talked of the Latin "Hoc" in the Christian rite of consecration. Ryan asked at end, "You know what the answer is?" Then he answered, "Faith in this."

One who gives rise to the awakened mind should know that what is called a self or person, a living being or a life span, is not so in essence but only in concept. That names self, person, living being, or life span are names only. Subhuti, you should know that all things of the world are like this, and you should have confidence in their essence without names.
- Diamond Sutra

Around fireplace Peter, Tommy, and Gale are trying to decide whether female energy would change the imbalance of power and violence in today's militaristic approach to problems. Their words approach stalemate.

When any part of the whole appropriates to itself what belongs to the whole, that's when trouble shows its face, that's when difficulty arises. Whether male/female, patriarchal/matriarchal, liberal/conservative, left/right, right/wrong -- or any myriad either/or opinion -- when we fragment the whole for purposes of determining superiority/inferiority, we lose the sense of whatever grace resides at origin.

"Religion is only man telling God what God ought to be," says Tommy before he launches into his song "Treebird" accompanying himself on small acoustical guitar that hangs out by the dog's water bowl. He sings, "The bird may find that flying is a good thing to know." (The bird didn't want to fly, he explains.)

We sit for Friday Evening Interreligious Dialogue with Nasr's book on the Heart of Islam.

Saskia says the piece about Islam's encompassing and taking in all the other religions -- is something for her to think about. Gale, Tommy, Lloyd, Patricia, Dick, Saskia and I encircled the text with open listening. We wondered what is actually asked of us by surrender?

After everyone leaves and departure nears, Saskia rubs lotion on her hands. Bakery is closed. Lights all out but for remaining one over refrigerator. Car warms in frigid parking lot.

She says when asked, "The nature of conversation is listening deeply and speaking from one's heart."

This practice of conversation is a lovely one.

This (Hoc) is the body we recognize in the pronouncing words celebrating the solitude and communion of gratefulness. No matter how it is ritualized, one thing does not become something else -- rather, each thing or person is recognized as itself.

"This," Nancy said as we drove from prison, "is Meetingbrook's presenting practice."

This is the nature of conversation.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Sometimes we each feel like an orphan.

Susan liked what Will said. The connection between matter and mater (L. 'mother'). We wondered whether 'mother consciousness' would make our attention to matter more loving and caring.

Subhuti, do not think that when one gives rise to the highest, most fulfilled, awakened mind one needs to see all objects of mind as nonexistent, cut off from life. Please do not think in that way. One who gives rise to the awakened mind does not deny objects or say that they are nonexistent.
- Diamond Sutra

It is more the task of losing the limiting liabilities of matter -- not eliminating matter itself. Many have held that a descent into matter is a degradation of spirit. Many long only for spirit, to be rid of body, to step away from matter with the accompanying belief in its inferiority, sinfulness, and crass barriers and boundaries.

Redeeming creation is not shunting away what is created. It is more about returning creation and matter to original state -- that which it is at origin -- its center fullness. The original 'what-is-ness' of matter resides within everything in creation.

Perhaps to redeem is to remind a thing of its original wholeness.

Will spoke of Integral Yoga, Sri Aurabindo, as his path. He spoke of the path of knowing (jnana), of devotion (bhatki), and of works (karma) -- each of which flows into the other as they find fullness.

What did the words of that song say? -- "When we awake we will remember everything."

We think we are what is holding together all that is. But if we let go, 'what-is itself' will hold us all together in divine embrace upholding.

Mother of God -- mothering God!

No orphan.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Maybe it isn't.

Is each fact true? Each fact is itself alongside others. Yet, one thing is not the other. Or is it?

Cream of Wheat with banana, blueberries, and vanilla Stonyfield yogurt.

Arvo Part's 'Magnificat' plays. It serves this morning as a prelude to surrendering interest in politics, presidential race, and postscripts to deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as report issued in England following investigation of former arms inspector's suicide last year. Each fact stands alone.

Jen said last evening it is best to let the low level, dark resonances of others' negative thoughts pass by noting, 'these are not mine.' Richard retells story of rescuing dog while thin ice held him aloft. Shunryu Suzuki's Not Always So suggests when breathing and activity are in harmony, when mind and body are clear and still together -- we are free, liberated, to engage everything and everyone without fear. Lloyd, John, and Saskia bravely step over threshold engaging question of inseparable experience.

Purifying our self direction,
Our emotions, and behaviors
In all endeavors, one grows
In understanding of the Way.
But our individual abilities vary
And the exalted Way has many
Different rules.
To students of Tao,
This sincere forewarning:
Only with a clear, honest spirit
Can we begin meaningful learning.
With an unsullied heart we may
Even move the immortals.
Debasing the Way,
Not even a heaven forgives us.

- Loy Ching-Yuen (1873-1960)

The Way opens before us. Each true step -- and we traverse infinite time and space in each instant and inch of geography. Each false step -- and we fall into the morass of deception imprisoned in the very space encircling us. Who can tell which step we have just taken? Who foretells the next step we take?

Sitting in cabin just before sunrise this morning, glancing out along fallen stone wall below floor level windows, gray squirrel steps across stones, right to left, on way to ground seed under bird feeders near overturned dinghy.

Chanting through expanding billows of worded breath, we sing:
Blessed be the name of the Lord, from this day hence, and forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Ah-ah-ah-amen.

If we want truth, a Zen Master said, only drop opinions.

Even Thomas Aquinas found straw the equivalent to his Summa Theologica. It was his final opinion on his life's work.

Practicing no opinion -- Wednesday opens.

Standing alone.

Maybe it is.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Coast Guard cutter Tackle breaks harbor ice. Floes, 8 to 10 inches thick and yards long, drift with outgoing tide down channels.

Priscilla said her husband seemed to be able to hear an individual's spirit speaking when he talked with that person. He'd write a poem or story. She brings in his writings and some of her artwork. Do we ever understand what we are seeing or saying? These writings will visit to see if they find their own context, even context in another's view.

Isn't that our prayer?

Prayer
Whatever happens. Whatever

what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that

(Poem: "Prayer," by Galway Kinnell, from A New Selected Poems, c.2001)

A woman from France and man with either Middle Eastern or Middle European accent speak by fireplace over lemon tea bread, apfel kuchen, and pain chocolat.

Today -- longing for a hermit's solitude.

The shade of noble trees
Spreads in all directions
Below the trees a tiny
Hut is perfectly secluded
Beyond the sound of cart
Or horse or sign of human tracks
All day behind my door
I sit alone cross-legged.

- Han-shan Te-ch'ing (1546-1623)

Talk of Turkey, India, Greece, France, and England.

Ice is gone to open bay. I am gone to the sound intersecting mute origination and silent attentiveness.

Whatever 'what is' is, only and but, that.

Light at end of day climbs over Wayfarer roof. Remaining large floes inch slowly through water as stillness ebbs. The man's healing shoulder and wrapped arm rests under red sweater.

...This is, I think,
what holiness is:
the natural world,
where every moment is full

of the passion to keep moving.
Inside every mind
there's a hermit's cave
full of light,

full of snow,
full of concentration.
I've knelt there,
and so have you,

Hanging on
to what you love,
to what is lovely. ...

-- (from poem, "At the Lake," by Mary Oliver)

Prayer drifts alongside whatever happens.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Dawn light creates silhouette limbs in dooryard east.

Living alone
In the shade
Of a remote mountain,
I have you for my companion
Now the storm has passed,
Moon of the winter night.

- Saigyo

Stitching cuffs on flannel pants as water steams under frost-lined kitchen window.

Joy in waking in darkness watching daybreak yawn through below zero temperature.

Bald and Ragged Mountains hold themselves still and inseparate from cold.

We will bow to their fidelity, turning onto Barnestown, driving Downeast.

Grateful to be doing so.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

What is it humans fear?

"This is what the prophets discovered. History is a nightmare. There are more scandals, more acts of corruption, than are dreamed of in philosophy." (p.181, Heschel.)

Is it form we fear? Or emptiness?
Don't make two, don't make one. That's that.

And when That is seen in its
Immanence and transcendence
Then the ties that have bound the
Heart are loosened, the doubts
Of the mind vanish, and the law
Of karma works no more.

- Mundaka Upanishad

Then there is three.

For Hegel, it was not a mere fancy or a game with the number three when his circling thought advanced in both small things and great in triplesteps (or a triangular movement). Behind it lay the basic insight -- which has never been forgotten since that time -- that I cannot state the truth absolutely clearly and distinctly merely in one sentence, but really need three, dialectically affirming, denying, surpassing: this is how it is, and yet not so, in fact there is more to it. And so on. In this sense truth lies in the totality, not in the individual steps, theses, propositions or elements of which it is made up. (pp.30-31, in Does God Exist? An Answer for today, by Hans Kung, c.1978)

Not one country, not one religion -- is truer or better than another. Forms fall apart. And out of emptiness emerge new ways of seeing.

At Sunday Evening Practice, reading from The Prophets An Invitation, by Abraham Heschel. He ends chapter nine saying, "The enmity between the nations will turn to friendship. They will live together when they worship together."

Jory said when we sit in the cold zendo and walk on the cold floor we are following the vision of the prophets.
We worship in spirit and truth. Each one, and the other, and the whole of us.

This is how it is. And yet, not so. In fact there is more to it.

There is no need to fear. We have only to engage, transform, and re-emerge through each event as who we are in the presence of one another.

Each is what is true. In that spirit, the best of life goes on.

Worshipful.