Today At Meetingbrook

Thursday, December 02, 2004

HIV/AIDS continues to do what no terrorist nor can military power do. It is a steady, unrelenting, and devastating threat of sickness and death. AIDS also has the curious potential to transform human understanding from small mind to big mind, bringing into view a compassion and understanding new and fresh.

Is there a “big mind” that can apprehend what has been and is the reality of the occurrence of this threat?

Too much knowledge leads to overactivity;
Better to calm the mind.
The more you consider, the greater the loss;
Better to unify the mind.

Water dripping ceaselessly
Will fill the four seas.
Specks of dust not wiped away
Will become the five mountains.

- Wang Ming (6th century)

At Wednesday Evening ‘Laura’ Conversation we read from comments on the life of a man, Buddhist and Gay, who lived with and died from AIDS:

What happened from there was AIDS. As the health crisis grew in San Francisco, Issan told a friend that, more and more, the epidemic was teaching him what Suzuki-roshi had meant when he talked about Big Mind.

Meditation practice, in the Zen tradition of Dogen at least, is about mind and body dropping away. Small, lively individual mind and grasping, needful individual body can recede, if only temporarily, into the background of experience. After twenty years of Zen practice, Issan had been able to experience life with Big Mind in the foreground of consciousness. He began to see and express the fact that an individual death, including his own, might not be such a big thing in the light of the steady blossoming of Big Mind experience.

To appreciate Big Mind in the midst of a plague is to know that the seemingly pressing concerns of individual personalities, identities, and cravings can fall away in an instant with mindful practice, the compassion which arises automatically with the experience of Big Mind makes working for the good of all much easier. Big Mind, Issan began to see, presumes that taking care of others is also taking care of self. As co-participants in Big Mind, sufferer and helper are mutually necessary - both help, both suffer.

Living and surviving, while someone nearby is dying, becomes like wave and trough on the surface of the sea --- each needs the other, yet both are fleeting.

(from "The Lone Mountain Path: AIDS in the Life and Death of Issan Dorsey Roshi," by Kobai Scott Whitney, 1997)

We are, each of us, fleeting.

Robert Lowell wrote:
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.

(from poem, Epilogue, by Robert Lowell, in Day By Day, c.1978)

Perhaps Lowell's use of the phrase "his living name" corresponds with the "Hashem" of Jewish mysticism -- "The Name" as the articulation of the "One Most True."

In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when the Christian right was describing AIDS as the wrath of God directed against homosexuals for their sins, Issan was asked to participate in a San Francisco Council of Churches symposium called "Is AIDS the Wrath of God?" He was the only Buddhist representative at the meeting and he was quite emphatic about removing the reality of AIDS from the dualistic good/bad, sin/salvation paradigm being dealt with at the conference. He ended his short presentation with the astonishing (to Christians, perhaps) statement that "AIDS is not the wrath of God. AIDS is God."
(in Whitney, re Issan)

Is it possible to consider everything that occurs with ‘big mind’ and not separate anything from our notion of ‘God?’

Is ‘the Lord’ what we call ‘presence and compassion’ in each occurrence?

(Thanksgiving) The Lord’s ways are pure; the words of the Lord are refined in the furnace; the Lord protects all who hope in him.
For what God is there, but our Lord? What help, but in the Lord our God?
God, who has wrapped me in his strength and set me on the perfect path,
who has made my feet like those of the deer, who has set me firm upon the heights,
who trains my hands for battle, teaches my arms to bend a bow of bronze.

Psalm 17 (18)

The “battle” is overcoming with gentleness the small mind that makes ‘other’ what it can not understand.

The “bow of bronze” is less a weapon, (i.e. that which launches arrows), as it is a sign of reverence (i.e. bowing with joined hands, bowing down in respect) toward each and every being and person – those with AIDS, those without AIDS, those in any state of existence or experience.

AIDS is not a homosexual scourge. AIDS mutates and changes, reappearing in more dangerous forms, and belongs to everyone. We as a society try to contain, cure, and eliminate AIDS. In addition, we try to break open small mind so as to tumble into the gathered whole Big Mind wherein we come to see and love one another as we are.

For what God there is, is there.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

We already know.

Socrates, Buddha, and Christ each claimed we already know.

In this dhyana one does not
accept selfish pleasures,
one does not seek any reward,
and one is not moved by karmic records.
One enters dhyana solely for the
purpose of establishing one’s mind.
And then, out of wisdom,
returns to life in the desire realm
for the purpose of helping all
sentient beings achieve liberation.
This dhyana is called the paramita of concentration.

- Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra

Sure, we already know.

But tell me again.

Who I am.

You?

Monday, November 29, 2004

Canada hosts the American president tomorrow. Maybe he'll choose to emigrate to a hospitable, inclusive, non-bellicose country.

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 what point to live from.

- Journeys on Mind Mountain

Live from personal and universal truth.

If we are afraid of being alone, afraid of silence, it is perhaps because of our secret despair of inner reconciliation. If there is no hope of being at peace with ourselves in our own personal loneliness and silence, we will never be able to face ourselves at all: we will keep running and never stop. And this flight from the self is, as the Swiss philosopher Max Picard pointed out, a ?flight from God.? After all, it is in the depths of the conscience that God speaks, and if we refuse to open up inside and look into these depths, we also refuse to confront the invisible God who is present within us. This refusal is a partial admission that we do not want God to be God any more than we want ourselves to be our true selves.
(Thomas Merton, in "Creative Silence" published in Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, Bulletin 67, August 2001)

It is odd that some Americans on The National, the evening news on CBC, are so hostile to other Americans who wish to emigrate to Canada because they do not recognize their country any longer. It is the hostility and mocking severity on the part of the right-wing that makes so many feel strange in their own land.

Maybe incivility is a passing phase.

There's still time to go deeper.

Where the real can be reached.

Only with open hands.

Not clenched fists.

Fall into God.