Today At Meetingbrook

Friday, April 02, 2004

One view at a time.

Observe the empty monarch of mind;
Mysterious, subtle, unfathomable,
It has no shape or form,
Yet it has great spiritual power,
Able to extinguish a thousand troubles
And perfect ten thousand virtues.
Although its essence is empty,
It can provide guidance.
When you look at it,
It has no form; call it,
And it has a voice.
It acts as a great spiritual leader;
Mental discipline transmits scripture.

- Fu Shan-hui (487-659)

Many views listened to and looked at, one at a time. Each time there is a conversation.

Denis Saleh, a contemporary poet and author writes: "I have been hard at work now longer than I like to remember, on a novel set in Ancient Egypt. I found out how the pyramids were built: slowly. Almost anything can be done, it seems, if one proceeds slowly enough, but we moderns simply cannot grasp this." (p.104. in One Dharma, The Emerging Western Buddhism, by Joseph Goldstein, c.2002)

Patience asks slowness. Readiness emerges only after we arrive at and accept who and where we are.

A variety of scriptures join the well-known ones. Christianity, says Marcus Borg, has two types of expression -- earlier and emerging. Sayings of Jesus not well-known become more familiar with publication of the Gospel of Thomas.

Now what is typical about these sayings is that in each instance, these sayings want to say that if you want to understand what Jesus said, you have to recognize yourself. You have to know yourself, know who you are. It begins with a saying about the Kingdom of God, "if you seek the Kingdom of God in the sky then the birds will precede you. And if you seek it in the sea, then the fish will precede you, but the Kingdom is in you. And if you know yourself then you know the Kingdom of God." (The Kingdom of the Father, in fact, it always says in the gospel of Thomas. Normally the Kingdom of the Father, not the Kingdom of God.) "But if you don't know yourself, you live in poverty." And poverty is understood as the ignorance of a life in its physical existence. Knowledge is understood to be the knowledge of one's divine origin, of the fact that one has come from the Kingdom. That we are on this earth only in a sojourn....
(Helmut Koester: John H. Morison Professor of New Testament Studies and Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History Harvard Divinity School; found in "From Jesus to Christ," Frontline, PBS, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/thomas.html)

What frustrates and discourages most about our world these days resonates in the Dan Berrigan line, "Bodies belong where words are." False transmission of scripture is disincarnating. Words that are disembodied are as empty as the nothing that follows comments beginning with the words "conservative" or "liberal." We no longer speak with each other. Instead we pontificate from fixed positions aiming to sound right and strong.

We need bodies that resonate the origin of words.

We practice with one another the art of being alone with no other. Meetingbrook calls this m.o.n.o. (monastics of no other) -- meant to encourage the heart of prayer, namely, sojourning through the intimate thin place absent othering.

Each view in its own time.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Whose name?

It is hard not to be sickened by cruelty, terrorism, and arrogance.

A deep practice is needed to pass through anger and political obfuscation and arrive at a profound personal peace -- one that does not ignore either the world as it is or what might be called heaven as yet uninhabited.

The world as it is appears very unkind at times. Heaven as yet uninhabited seems very hidden.

Just by listening with your eyes
you can fold back on yourself and
merge into that primal
stream of awareness
like a river is swallowed by the
immensity of the ocean.
Only then will you know
the point to live from.

- Ji Aoi Isshi

Have we forgotten "the point to live from"?
Have we forgotten the silence needed to hear the soundless word of life itself pointing to the point we are to live from?

1 Does not Wisdom call, and Understanding raise her voice?
2 On the top of the heights along the road, at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3 By the gates at the approaches of the city, in the entryways she cries aloud:
4 "To you, O men, I call; my appeal is to the children of men.
5 You simple ones, gain resource, you fools, gain sense.
6 "Give heed! for noble things I speak; honesty opens my lips.


22 "The LORD begot me, the first-born of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago;
23 From of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no fountains or springs of water;
25 Before the mountains were settled into place, before the hills, I was brought forth;
26 While as yet the earth and the fields were not made, nor the first clods of the world.
27 "When he established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
28 When he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth;

(- from Proverbs 8)

It is time to learn how to call things by their true names. Cruelty is cruelty, terrorism is terrorism, and arrogance is arrogance. It is no longer tolerable to spin and pretend false names change the false into the true. Nor can what is true be called false and thereby satisfy anyone with integrity.

Wisdom here has a pivotal role in the creation itself. But how? This passage suggests an answer in saying that God "set a compass on the face of the depth." This is more than a poetic utterance; it shows how consciousness creates a world around itself. This principle operates in us individually, in each moment, so you can catch a glimpse of it in ordinary cognition.

[Martin] Heidegger suggests that Heraclitus described this process of cognition as "picking out" and even used a term for it -- logos (from the Greek legein, "to gather" or "to pick out"). Logos is usually translated as "word." Although it has an enormous range of other meanings as well, it can accurately be described as the "word," because as consciousness goes through its experience and picks out some special feature of it -- an object, external or internal -- it instantly appends a name to it, a word. In this sense it is the "word" that brings the word into being. The ancient Hebrews made this fact the centerpiece of their worldview. They believed that the name for a thing was identical to the thing itself: as one Kabbalistic aphorism says, "God and his name are one."

(pp.139-40, in Inner Christianity, A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition, by Richard Smoley, c.2002)

We must be the one we are.

Lies make false two.

One is deeper truth.

And your name is?

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Nine Americans killed today in Iraq. Five Soldiers, four civilians -- says the news.

How can we ever lose interest in life?
Spring has come again
And cherry trees bloom in the mountains.

- Ryokan (1758-1831)

The political situation in America and Iraq is unsettling and, it seems, unraveling.

Right or wrong, you are still telling a lie if you tell someone the opposite of what you know is the right answer to the question, and do so with the intention to deceive. (p.132, in Truth In Religion, the Plurality of Religions and the Unity of Truth, by Mortimer J. Adler)

The airwaves have been filled with excoriating charges and allegations of misrepresentation and deception. The politics of the powerful holding tightly to power is unattractive and demeaning. It is always a question of who dares tell the truth -- and who survives the telling.

What makes one's opinions of beliefs true or false? The answer parallels the answer to the question about the difference between truthful and untruthful speech. Just as truthful speech consists in the agreement between what you say and what you think, and untruthful speech consists in saying the opposite of what you think, so truth in what one thinks consists in the agreement between what one thinks and the way things really are. Conversely, falsity in what one thinks consists in the disagreement between what one thinks and the way things really are.

Aristotle summed this up in the following impeccable statement: To have truth in one's mind -- in what one thinks, believes, or opines -- consists in thinking that that which is, is, or that which is not, is not. Conversely, to have falsity in one's mind consists in thinking that that which is, is not, or that which is not, is. Thomas Aquinas said the same thing even more succinctly. He defined truth in the human intellect as the agreement or conformity of the mind with reality, and falsity as the opposite of that.
(pp.132-133, Adler)

Clouds hang heavy. I wonder if it is me. No, says one of the two folks sitting by the fire, it's the pressure -- low and heavy.

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality
with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the
form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on
a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the
name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee
should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and
every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the
Father.

- Philippians 2:6-11

Who can grasp form, God, or equality? Who can grasp the change each is asked to embody as reality requests a new form, a new comprehension of what-is called God, a new appreciation of what it means to be of the same measure?

Underlying this definition of truth and falsity are two assumptions that Aristotle and Aquinas made , which in my judgment, are philosophically defensible and tenable.

The first is that there exists a reality that is independent of the human mind, to which the mind can either conform or fail to conform. In other words, what we think does not create or in any way affect what we are thinking about. It is what it is, whether we think about it or not and regardless of what we think about it.

The second assumption is that this independent reality is completely determinate. This is Aristotle's metaphysical principle of contradiction. Nothing can both be and not be at the same time. Anything which does exist cannot both have and not have a certain attitude at one and the same time.

( -p.133, Adler)

I recall a poem written forty years ago, the final lines I wrote then went something like:
Is truth to be discarded
when the mighty challenge the low?
Where does one go
To face a lie,
To shed one's skin?


The two men talk about aerial warfare as "Democracy Now" comes on the airwaves. Oddly enough, it is a show from two days ago that the local station airs.

"Good soup," one says, dunking bread. The other leaves -- he's heard it all before.

I go for a walk.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Saskia's bread goes flop. "I waited too long," she says. "It's not fair," she concludes.

All along the trail of moss,
I followed your wooden shoeprints.
White clouds hung around your little island
Where spring grass hid your unlocked door.
I enjoyed the colors of pines after rain
And reached the river's source
Along the mountain trail.
Facing the stream and the flowers
I came inside a sense of Zen,
Yet cannot find the words.

- Liu Chang Ching (709-780)

After reading two of her poems last evening, Eva told us about a recent experience -- the sudden car-fire that screamed up around her once she turned off engine in a parking garage in Bangor. There was an instant, she said, when the thought "I'm dead" was equally engulfing. Next instant the Rumanian picnic was on the ground and she was outside and away from the blaze. The car was consumed. She tells the story, she says, over and over -- the trauma, she says, brushes bit by bit from her in each telling.

The first poem was an ode to 'Yellow.' The second, about her visit to a garden show. Next time she'll bring one of the fire.

Whenever learners or those beyond learning awaken the mind, for the first time they plant one buddha-nature. Working with the four elements and five clusters, if they practice sincerely they attain enlightenment. Working with plants, trees, fences and walls, if they practice sincerely they will attain enlightenment. This is because the four elements and five clusters and plants, trees, fences and walls are fellow students; because they are of the same essence, because they are the same mind and the same life, because they are the same body and the same mechanism.-
(-- Dogen Zenji, Japanese Zen Buddhist Grand Master, 'Awakening the Unsurpassed Mind, #31,' Translated by Thomas Cleary, Rational Zen: The Mind of Dogen Zenji)

Tommy came in after Saturday Afternoon Tea and Literature, as did a couple from Dover-Foxcroft. A woman visiting from D.C. sat by remaining coals in fireplace talking with Saskia.

If trauma, as Ryan yesterday in prison put it, "shoots us into the landscape across the wilderness, stretched out," what is the recognizing and retrieval process of integration and re-integration that follows? The sudden experience that sends us places beyond preparedness or borders, the experience of any trauma -- whether soldier in battle, victim of crime, or shock mystical encounter -- is most often unsettling and displacing. And yet...

And yet, the unasked-for mutation of awareness which occurs affects us in several ways. We are thrown beyond the known, and we glimpse a relationality previously not contemplated. Hence, often, fear. There is a fear that shudders within us when we are asked to consider we are not just the contained image we cultivate about ourselves. We are a wider reality, one that invites us to look around and contemplate our very being with the question -- "Is this, too, who I am?"

Is this 'The fear of the Lord'? Is our ability and willingness to hold open the possibility of inclusive recognition -- is that awareness the regenerative mystery creating anew from those stretched and empty spaces between starting point and arrival-after-being-thrown, a displaced scattered body capable of refashioning and enfleshing a mystical body not excluding a thing, a place, or a person?

Dogen's "same essence, same mind, same life, same body, same mechanism?"

Francis' leper -- the one he kisses?

For behold, the kingdom of God is within you.- (Luke 17:21)

Are we within this awareness when we allow ourselves to reach though the expedient delusions we perform as habit -- and touch, embrace, and welcome home all that is there within us?

When we hear the phrase, "Wherever you go, there you are," are we willing to contemplate that what is there, what is anywhere, is who we are?

When we look there, we arrive here.

Well within.

Flopped bread is equally delicious!