Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Need a revolution? Today is teacher.

Look out. Look in. Look around. See the wind rushing through branches. See the questions mind holds up for you. See the man and woman pointing to something passing, the dream before waking this morning, the footsteps going up to post office, coffee shop, and corner bank. It is today. It has much to say.

Beyond the Self
The way we define and delimit the self is arbitrary. We can place it between our ears and have it looking out from our eyes, or we can widen it to include the air we breathe, or at other moments we can cast its boundaries farther to include the oxygen-giving trees and plankton, our external lungs, and beyond them the web of life in which they are sustained.

--Joanna Macy, World As Lover, World As Self

We've become accustomed to guru and preacher, professor and pundit -- all manner of expert and wannabe savants -- telling us the way it is, has been, will become. They are kind and generous souls. They intend to help. We listen to them with respect and necessary skepticism. Respect and skepticism are healthy friends.

In addition to time spent listening to these performers and entertainers, readers of news and spinners of meaning -- we also spend time attending to wordless revelation and soundless movements brushing across landscape of horizon and imagination. The world has often been described as product of mind, an idea held in common -- even though the vast majority of us are not aware that we are holding in common the idea of the world we hold. We need a new idea. The one we currently hold is not full of requisite respect and skepticism.

He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
--from Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Luke quotes Jesus quoting Isaiah. The living word must be embodied each day by each person hearing truly the dizzying sound of spaciousness swirling in and through and out from one's own being-in-the-world.

So many in the world honor Jesus. They hold an idea of Jesus. This idea, also, needs greater respect and skepticism.

Jesus said: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” I think Jesus meant what he said. "Today" and "this" is "fulfilled in your hearing.” His was a concrete and immediate vision. It is not about him as one set apart, not about him out-of-time as judge and jury, nor is it about him as object of worship and frantic ideological militancy intent on narrow fit for limited number of worthies.

Salvation in Hebrew had to do with spaciousness.
In the Hebrew roots, the word means literally, "to be roomy." Salvation is spaciousness. And it is out of that sense of spaciousness that we find the related meanings of freedom and deliverance. The classic story for this sense of salvation is, of course, the exodus. The Israelites were saved from the oppression of Egypt and were brought into a new land -- a "broad" land; one where they would have the space to live in freedom. (--from "Saved From What?" Rev. Laura J. Collins, http://www.takomaparkpc.org/Sermon2003March9.html#back1, March 9, 2003, referencing (1) Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985). pp. 1132ff.)

Today is spacious. So too is the Christ Reality spacious. Jesus pointed to both.

Christ. Today.

There's a revolution brewing in such understanding. This revolution would overthrow intentional ignorance and affectation of religiosity proffered as faith and loyalty. The revolution would let lay bare all that we have held as substitute and firewall to the constantly emerging reality of Christ today. So many for so long have boxed this living reality in lock-away vaults -- untouchable, ancient, and literal preservation -- fearing that if the original fire of sacred truth were to be felt by us, nothing would stand that was not the constant blaze of renewing, enlightening, realization of sacred spirit with us.

We'll have to carefully look to see what today this spirit longs to reveal.

“When we speak of education, we are proclaiming a revolution, one in which everything we know today will be transformed. I think of this revolution as the final revolution; not a revolution of violence but one from which violence is wholly excluded.” -- Dr. Maria Montessori

We need a revolution.

Dare we open to it?

We'll see.

Friday, January 19, 2007

We long for the original.

Great Art and Great Dharma
The artist's dilemma and the meditator's are, in a deep sense, equivalent. Both are repeatedly willing to confront an unknown and to risk a response that they cannot predict or control. Both are disciplined in skills that allow them to remain focused on their task and to express their response in a way that will illuminate the dilemma they share with others.
And both are liable to similar outcomes. The artist's work is prone to be derivative, a variation on the style of a great master or established school. The meditator's response might tend to be dogmatic, a variation on the words of a hallowed tradition or revered teacher. There is nothing wrong with such responses. But we recognize their secondary nature, their failure to reach the peaks of primary imaginative creation. Great Art and Great Dharma both give rise to something that has never quite been imagined before. Artist and meditator alike ultimately aspire to an original act.

--Stephen Batchelor, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. IV, #2

There are so many paths away from the original, away from primary creation.

Contemplate the mind;
This king of emptiness
Is subtle and abstruse.
Without shape or form,
It has great spiritual power.
It can eliminate all calamities
And accomplish all merits.
Though its essence is empty,
It is the measure of dharmas.

- Master Fu (497-569)

The way of the original is empty stillness journey.

Where to?

Breeze blows.

Brook flows.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wanting wants Itself.

An old friend stopped by last week "I'm looking for number five," he said while sipping coffee at bakery case. "Or maybe I'll join a monastery." I looked out window to harbour. He didn't tell me what he was looking for in a wife or a marriage. Nor did he say what a monastery would provide. This morning I speculate it doesn't really matter what we think we want. Wanting wants itself, and we don't know how that pericope fares under hermeneutic scrutiny.

Magnificent Peak

By its own nature
It towers above
The tangle of rivers
Don’t say it’s a lot of dirt
Piled high
Without end the mists of dawn,
The evening clouds
Draw their shadows across it
From the four directions
You can look up and see it
Green and steep and wild.

- Muso (1275-1351)

Itself, (née "Brahman" or "Lord" or "Adonai" or "God"), is green and steep and wild. This is why crazed men and women throughout the history of time have abandoned conventional sanity and surrendered to the profound longing maddening them. Some have gone to geographic wilderness, mountains and deserts. Some have given themselves to bodily ecstasies, sex and intoxicants of all manner. Some have enclosed themselves in ascetic inquiry, self-denial and mortification. Some prefer the emptying route of silence and mere gaze. And some have claimed "who gives a shit" and opted for power, wealth, and worldly rewards of their choices.

Wanting wants itself. We just don't know what-is-itself. That makes us endearing creatures intent on finding what Itself wants. [Writer's note: "Itself" with a capital "I" and "itself" with lower-case "i" both refer to unimaginable aseity within which we live and move and have our being. It is not only what we are but it is what "Is-Itself" is. Try not to fall into distinction here -- our true home is undifferentiated suchness. Keep up here.]
REPLY TO A FRIEND

In stubborn stupidity, I live on alone
befriended by trees and herbs.
Too lazy to learn right from wrong,
I laugh at myself, ignoring others.
Lifting my bony shanks, I cross the stream,
a sack in my hand, blessed by spring weather.
Living thus, I want for nothing,
at peace with all the world.

--Poem by Taigu Ryokan (1758-1831) (nicknamed Great Fool)
Tired wisps of morning snow, long fall inches from completion, pass window outside silent stillness of room.

It is a joy not-knowing what itself wants. So ignorant, each morning I greet Cesco, Mu-ge, and Saskia as each moves through the practice of ordinary tasks. Just now, coffee must be brewed. Just now, yogurt and Trappist Preserves dished into wheatina near kitchen wood stove. Just now, doing what is itself being done among us.

This -- if not anything else -- is morning prayer, morning practice, morning joy!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Monastics celebrate St Antony of the Desert. He is annoying. So was Jesus. Monastics are annoyed by Antony and Jesus.

St Antony, Abbot (251 - 356)
St Antony is the originator of the monastic life. He was born in Egypt: when his parents died, he listened to the words of the Gospel and gave all his belongings to the poor. He went out into the wilderness to begin a life of penitence, living in absolute poverty, praying, meditating, and supporting himself by manual work. He suffered many temptations, both physical and spiritual, but he overcame them. Disciples gathered round him, attracted by his wisdom, moderation, and holiness. He gave support to the victims of the persecutions of Diocletian, and helping St Athanasius in his fight against the Arians. He lived to be over a hundred years old, and died in 356.
The Gospels are full of wise sayings of Jesus that seem to be ignored, and one of the most poignant of these was in his meeting with that young man who asked over and over again, insistently, “What must I do to have eternal life?”. When, in the end, Jesus told him that if he wanted to be perfect he would have to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor, the young man went away, sorrowing; because he was very rich. What could be more of a waste than that? You tell someone what he has to do, and he is afraid to do it. And yet... 250 years later, St Antony hears the story, and does give away all that he has, and becomes the founder of monasticism. And then again, over 1,000 years later, St Francis of Assisi hears the story, and gives away his possessions (and some of his father’s) and revolutionises Christianity again.
Not all the words that we speak are forgotten, even though we cannot see their effects ourselves. Let us pray that those unknown effects may always be good ones.

http://www.universalis.com/

Monks and hermits, some say, should concentrate on prayer and God-related matters. It is felt by many that monastics should stay away from what goes on in the world -- especially in the halls of power, politics, and privilege. This point of view is a curious one, especially in the Buddhist and Christian traditions. Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph, was human. Siddhartha Gautama was human.

Spirituality is incarnational. Spirituality matters in this existence. However else our existence might be explained, we are the intermarriage of what we call matter and spirit, substance and energy, body and mind. It worries me when there is a tendency to surgically separate one from the other.
Whether you are going or staying
Sitting or lying down,
The whole world is your own self.
You must find out
Whether the mountains,
Rivers, grass, and forests
Exist in your own mind
Or exist outside it.
Analyze the ten thousand things,
And when you take
This to the limit,
You will come to the limitless;
When you search into it,
You come to the end of search,
Where thinking goes no
Further and distinctions vanish.
When you smash the citadel of doubt,
Then the Buddha is simply yourself.

- Daikaku (1213-1279)
And then:
And there was a man who came to him and asked, ‘Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is one alone who is good. But if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said, ‘Which?’ ‘These:’ Jesus replied ‘You must not kill. You must not commit adultery. You must not bring false witness. Honour your father and mother, and: you must love your neighbour as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these. What more do I need to do?’ Jesus said, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me’. But when the young man heard these words he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you solemnly, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.’ When the disciples heard this they were astonished. ‘Who can be saved, then?’ they said. Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he told them ‘this is impossible; for God everything is possible.’
--Matthew 19:16 - 26
How did Jesus present God? John 10:30 says: "I and the Father are one." Jesus presented God by being exactly who he was. Realizing our true nature presents whole the true nature of Being Itself. Jesus presented the kingdom of heaven with his very being. Nor are we separate from this presentation.
What's in My Journal

Odd things, like a button drawer. Mean
Things, fishhooks, barbs in your hand.
But marbles too. A genius for being agreeable.
Junkyard crucifixes, voluptuous
discards. Space for knickknacks, and for
Alaska. Evidence to hang me, or to beatify.
Clues that lead nowhere, that never connected
anyway. Deliberate obfuscation, the kind
that takes genius. Chasms in character.
Loud omissions. Mornings that yawn above
a new grave. Pages you know exist
but you can't find them. Someone's terribly
inevitable life story, maybe mine.

(Poem: "What's in My Journal" by William Stafford, from Crossing Unmarked Snow.)

Jesus, Antony, Francis, you, and me. What is it being revealed here?

I despair the men and women who try to remake the planet in their image of power, politics, and privilege. Today and throughout history they make suffering their most important product. What is it they do not see nor understand?

No more new graves.

Open the earth.

See God in one another.

Stop praying to an illusion of thought.

(Odium is where we stop and turn to see where we've arrived that is not truly home. Jesus turned. We are so invited. If we're not turning home and returning home to the exact singular reality of Sacred Wholeness, we are lost in the world of preference and patronizing partitions.)

Give it all away. Come here, now, and follow what is under your feet!

Antony, pray with us!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Comes cold.

It will fall to zero tonight. Footsteps in snow will resound. We walk in and on, with and through our self.

God would not be so unjust as to forget all you have done, the love that you have for his name or the services you have done, and are still doing, for the saints. Our one desire is that every one of you should go on showing the same earnestness to the end, to the perfect fulfilment of our hopes, never growing careless, but imitating those who have the faith and the perseverance to inherit the promises.
When God made the promise to Abraham, he swore by his own self, since it was impossible for him to swear by anyone greater: 'I will shower blessings on you and give you many descendants.' (--Hebrews 6:10 - 20)

Those who favor quantification, who study theory of "tipping point" and "critical mass," busily prosyletize those of other opinions, wanting to increase numbers holding their opinions. Those who do not, do not.

What is the 'grace of the teacher' (Guru-kripa)?
• Questioner. What is Guru-kripa ? How does it lead to Self-realization?

• Maharshi: Guru is the Self.... Sometimes in his life a man becomes dissatisfied with it, and, not content with what he has, he seeks the satisfaction of his desires, through prayer to God etc. His mind is gradually purified until he longs to know God, more to obtain His Grace than to satisfy his worldly desires. Then, God's Grace begins to manifest. God takes the form of a Guru and appears to the devotee, teaches him the Truth and, moreover, purifies his mind by association. The devotee's mind gains strength and is then able to turn inward. By meditation it is further purified and it remains still without the least ripple. That calm Expanse is the Self.The Guru is both 'external' and 'internal'. From the 'exterior' He gives a push to the mind to turn inward; from the 'interior' He pulls the mind towards the Self and helps in the quieting of the mind. That is Guru-kripa. There is no difference between God, Guru and the Self.
(Excerpt from "The Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharshi" http://www.plotinus.com/advaita_questions.htm)
Cesco is tired from his years -- so says woman Saskia asks. She recommends herbal remedy for his aches and journey. He is an old soul. Yesterday, crossing second brook, he leaps halfway across onto boulder covered with snow. He struggles to get footing back and completes walk to pond as though nothing unusual took place. Today we'll drag new beams up for safer bridge.
• Q. Are you conscious of a Brotherhood of invisible Rishis ?
• M. If invisible, how can you see them ?
• Q. In consciousness.
• M. There is nothing external in Consciousness.
• Q. Can I realize them ?
• M. If you realize your own Reality, then that of the Rishis and Masters will become clear to you. There is only one Master, and that is the Self.
• Q. Is reincarnation true ?
• M. Reincarnation exists only so long as there is ignorance. There is really no reincarnation at all, either now or before. Nor will there be any hereafter. This is the truth.
• Q. Can a Yogi know his past lives ?
• M. Do you know the present life that you wish to know the past? Find the present, then the rest will follow. Even with our present limited knowledge, you suffer so much; why should you burden yourself with more knowledge? Is it to suffer more?
• Q Does Bhagavan use occult powers to make others realize the Self, or is the mere fact of Bhagavan's Realization enough for that?
• M. The Spiritual force of Self-realization is far more powerful than the use of all the occult powers. Inasmuch as there is no ego in the Sage, there are no 'others' for Him. What is the highest benefit that can be conferred on you? It is Happiness, and Happiness is born of Peace. Peace can reign only where there is no disturbance, and disturbance is due to thoughts that arise in the mind. When the mind itself is absent, there will be perfect Peace. Unless a person has annihilated the mind, he cannot gain Peace and be Happy. And unless he himself be Happy, he cannot bestow Happiness on 'others'. Since however there are no 'others' for the Sage who has no mind, the mere fact of His Self-realization is itself enough to make the 'others' Happy. (--Ramana Maharshi)
Chickadee hops branches in cedar tree. Red squirrel tilts feeder outside kitchen. Mu-ge's paw-prints make arc in snow out front door. Winter comes to Maine.

Elsewhere, in Sikh tradition, these words:
"The Palace of the Lord God is so beautiful. Within it, there are gems, rubies, pearls and flawless diamonds. A fortress of gold surrounds this Source of Nectar. How can I climb up to the Fortress without a ladder? By meditating on the Lord, through the Guru, I am blessed and exalted. The Guru is the Ladder, the Guru is the Boat, and the Guru is the Raft to take me to the Lord's Name. The Guru is the Boat to carry me across the world-ocean; the Guru is the Sacred Shrine of Pilgrimage, the Guru is the Holy River. If it pleases Him, I bathe in the Pool of Truth, and become radiant and pure."(Guru Nanak, Sri Rag, pg. 17)
The word "Guru" is a Sanskrit word meaning teacher, honoured person, religious person or saint. Sikhism though has a very specific definition of the word Guru. It means the descent of divine guidance to mankind provided through ten Enlightened Masters. This honour of being called a Sikh Guru applies only to the ten Gurus who founded the religion starting with Guru Nanak in 1469 and ending with Guru Gobind Singh in 1708; thereafter it refers to the Sikh Holy Scriptures the Guru Granth Sahib. The divine spirit was passed from one Guru to the next as "The light of a lamp which lights another does not abate. Similarly a spiritual leader and his disciple become equal, Nanak says the truth."
"They distinguish and separate one Guru from the other. And rare is the one who knows that they, indeed, were one. They who realised this in their hearts, attained Realisation of God." (Guru Gobind Singh, Dohira, Vachitra Natak)
--The Sikh Gurus, http://www.sikhs.org/10gurus.htm

So, we look for light in one another. Perhaps there's no need to do anything other than look and see light. Maybe our looking -- (with, in, and through one another) -- is the practice of God. (The light-practice of God!)

Perhaps realization of God is unknowing presentation of light.

(Go on...)

Perhaps God is a joy that cannot be conveyed -- but conveys itself.

Be still. Taste and see.

The I Am.

Itself.

(Warmth.)

Monday, January 15, 2007

There is silence. I remember silence. I have no experience of God. Still, there is silence.

Silence tells me nothing about God.

Do not search for the truth;
Only cease to cherish opinions.
If there is even a trace
Of this and that,
Of right and wrong,
The mind will be lost
In confusion.
Although all dualities
Come from the One

- Seng-Tsan (d.606)

Silence tells me nothing about God.
Nothing is Lost

Deep in our sub-conscious, we are told
Lie all our memories, lie all the notes
Of all the music we have ever heard
And all the phrases those we loved have spoken,
Sorrows and losses time has since consoled,
Family jokes, out-moded anecdotes
Each sentimental souvenir and token
Everything seen, experienced, each word
Addressed to us in infancy, before
Before we could even know or understand
The implications of our wonderland.
There they all are, the legendary lies
The birthday treats, the sights, the sounds, the tears
Forgotten debris of forgotten years
Waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise
Before our world dissolves before our eyes
Waiting for some small, intimate reminder,
A word, a tune, a known familiar scent
An echo from the past when, innocent
We looked upon the present with delight
And doubted not the future would be kinder
And never knew the loneliness of night.

(Poem: "Nothing is Lost" by Noel Coward)
Silence tells me nothing about God.

When young I would sit in silence. I would sit in churches. I'd sit along riverfronts in city where ocean opened. Sit on grassy hilltops where cloistered walls held silence within -- an urgent listening sitting with me. Listening. To, or with, what?

Silence tells me nothing about God.

At night, when sleep wandered halls where monks relinquish analysis and thought, silence found its way through room door. When visiting woman whose eyes belonged to silence at juncture times, silence went out from her eyes until empty coffee cups, untouched, cool, marked departures quietly.

Today, silence is snow. Cedar branches outside window behind altar hold white on green. Colored lights from season ended will stay through winter cold. A monastery of ordinariness does not distinguish that which ends from what begins with any certainty. This open cloister -- these watching eyes -- reveal no-time.

Today we remember Martin Luther King Jr. on his birthday.
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:"Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."
~ (as quoted by Martin Luther King Jr., in "Beyond Vietnam" Address delivered to the Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam, at Riverside Church, 4 April 1967 New York City,)
Time seems to have dissolved between Vietnam and Iraq.

Wind rustles. Thin branch edges waver with direction while roots know movement has no destination. Duration entices; timelessness will not be tempted.

Silence tells me nothing about God.

I read scriptures with prophetic words. They promise terrible time followed by wonderful time, but only for those who are saved, who belong to phrases pronounced as the right phrases -- these will be brought in. There are so many left out in cold by believers.

I hear echoes of sounds from preachers that have been pronounced. Those that say: We speak for God; God speaks through us; Harken these words or be damned; These are the creeds that you must believe; Those are the tenets that will save you.

The echoes fade away. In the purring of the coon-cat no trace remains.

Silence tells me nothing about God.

Do you want to hear my opinion? I have none. Each one I've held sneaks out barn door and wanders up mountain to die.
Their graves are unmarked. I walk trails past where they must have gone to earth to burrow and be buried every day. One step. Another. One death. Another.

Each pilgrimage through these departures is gift. Gifts under trees. Seasonal Christmas trees brought indoors -- lives cut and dressed up -- have no such gifts under them. Outside, cedar tree holds silence touched with snow.

Silence tells me nothing about God.

Of which I cannot speak.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Snow and sleet.

To return to the root
Is to find the meaning,
To pursue appearances
Is to miss the source.
At the moment of inner enlightenment
There is a going beyond
Appearance and emptiness.
The changes that appear
To occur in the empty world
We call real only
Because of our ignorance.

- Seng-Ts’an (d.606)

Don't know; meet.