Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, March 24, 2007

There is revelation in words that transcend the sentence they comprise.

Take Martin Luther's reputed words ending his argument with the Roman Church delivered at Diet of Worms in 1521. In German: "Hier stehe ich; ich kann nicht anders." Translated: "Here I stand; I can do no other."

The words reveal more than his unwillingness or inability to recant and alter his way of thinking grown contrary to the Roman Church. The words actually encapsulate a position of independence.

He says: "I can do no other."

"No other" is a point of view that is not dependent on "other" -- on a church, tradition, creed, or God "out there" or "above" or in a "heavenly afterlife." As it is, he might not have been aware of the insight the words themselves invited.

Does Luther realize that he can do "no other" -- that he is able to dwell in the undifferentiated suchness (as Buddhists say) which is the ground reality of existence?

"Here," he says, "I stand." Luther expresses the absolute near-side of presence -- he stands "here" where there is nowhere else. His words indicate an appreciation of the perception that "Here" is "no other." The sole reality is here, and he can do "no other" -- a non-dualistic activity that is not predicating, nor predicated on, anything else, other, or absent. (Far from being a solipsism, this is front porch to egolessness.)

I like this as a useful apperception of the reality of God passing through as well as dwelling within and around everything.

When we became monastics of no other we were not aware that Martin Luther's insight would take so long to reach us. (It is quite astonishing what the man Martin Luther, and his words, unleashed.)

Now it is here.

We, too, can do it.

(Almost.)

Apperceptive dwelling in itself.

Perceiving the inner meaning of no other.
Jump?

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

(There's something about that phrase -- "as it is.")

"Thy will" might refer to that which is true, lovely, and compassionate. The words need not refer to something other than what is deeply inherent within the core of each and every being. If grace is gift, if God is creating love, and if ego is the sometimes necessary but often deluded impression that it is in charge of what happens -- then the prayer "Thy will" is prelude to surrender to what is true, lovely, and compassionate.
Avoid Doing Harm
If you wonder whether evil karma can be neutralized or not, then know that it is neutralized by desire for goodness. But they who knowingly do evil deeds, exchange a mouthful of food for infamy. They who knowing not wither they themselves are bound, yet presume to pose as guides for others, do injury both to themselves and others. If pain and sorrow ye desire sincerely to avoid, avoid, then, doing harm to others.

(--from W.Y. Evans-Wentz, in Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa)
Caring and careful watchfulness is our constant meditation. We watch everything within and without us. We watch with attention; and we watch with an open and (prayerfully) wise awareness when to, and when not to, engage. There is often a mysterious gap between active engagement and active surrender. Many experience themselves in that gap, betwixt and between -- unsure whether to jump or to jump,(that is, jump headlong into the engagement, or jump out of the way and settle temporarily into stillness and non-engagement). (Ask Arjuna.)
Overnight At a Mountain Monastery
Massed peaks pierce
The sky’s cold colors;
Here, the trail junctions
With the temple path.
Shooting stars pass
Into sparse-branched trees;
The moon travels one way,
Clouds the other.
Few people come
To this mountaintop;
Cranes do not flock
In the tall pines.
One Buddhist monk,
Eighty years old,
Has never heard
Of the world’s affairs.

- Chia Tao (779-843)
I've heard of the world's affairs. They are complicated and dizzying. Engaged or non-engaged -- most of us are not neighbors of that monk on his mountain top. Only in our inner vastness can those of us in the world come close to what we might call 'loving non-engagement' with the affairs of the world. We ordinarily live very close to the necessities and consequences of proximate experience living with the difficult realities of this material/temporal existence. Suffering is observed and felt. If our eyes and heart are open, suffering is observed and felt.

Jung used the term individuation “to denote a process of becoming a psychological ‘individual,’ that is, a separate, indivisible unity or whole.” To individuate is to gradually actualize our innate capacity to live as a unique individual. Jung recognized that there would be times on this journey when we are challenged to surrender the central dominance of ego to the deeper significance of what he called the “Self.” For Jung, “Self ” refers to the center of our totality--a deeper seat of wisdom that holds a sense of our innate potential as we unfold in our lives. He was not implying that the Self had some kind of ultimate existence, but that it is nevertheless experienced as a center of wholeness, just as the ego is experienced as a center of consciousness. The Self individuates us--that is to say, its “intention” is that we evolve in such a way that the relationship between the ego and the Self matures. At certain times on our journey, the ego begins to realize that it is not the prime mover, that there are forces at work that have far greater influence. The Self asserts a kind of psychological pressure on us to change and become whole, a pressure that can be extremely disquieting as the ego loses its safe, familiar ground. A major aspect of this undercurrent of change is the need to shift our understanding of what is really at the center of our lives. The shift of emphasis from the ego to the Self has been described as the shift from “I will” to “Thy will be done.” While as a Buddhist I find the notion of a Thy somewhat untenable, I have always found the sentiment of letting go to some deeper sense of purpose profoundly meaningful.
(-- from The Solace of Surrender, February 6, 2007 , By Rob Preece, in Tricycle)

What is really at the center of our lives? What is experienced as a center of wholeness? What is the shift from ego to Self? How do we move from our experience of and belief in careless separateness, to the understanding and embodiment of a core caring oneness?
One of my favorite lines in the Course, which really is a perfect definition of a miracle even though it does not use the word, says that "the holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love" (T-26. IX.6:1). Someone whom we hate, hatred being the ego's way of looking, becomes someone whom we love, and that vision of love is given to us by the Holy Spirit. What we are talking about are two different ways of looking at the world and, more specifically, looking at the relationships in our lives. One is the ego's way of looking, which is a way of seeing more and more separation, anger and guilt, justifying our anger, and making sickness real here in the body. All these perceptions really reinforce the basic ego premise that we are separate from each other and from God. The correction for that is to go from the ego's way of looking to the Holy Spirit's way of looking, and it is that shift from the ego to the Holy Spirit that is the miracle. The identical word for that process of shifting from the ego's perceptions of someone else to the Holy Spirit's, is "forgiveness."
(--from pp.6-8, in The Fifty Miracle Principles of a Course in Miracles, by Kenneth Wapnick. C.1992.)
There's something here.

One way, or another, we are asked to leap.

Compelled to leap.

Any tasty berries at hand?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Word is our landlord at the harbour shop wants the building for his brother and other purposes.

A blustery wind blows through phone calls.

Is it time to become a mindless piece piece of wood? Or would a slingshot be handier? (Ask David.)
Like A Mindless Piece Of Wood
Shantideva... mentions specific instances when it is advisable to remain like a mindless piece of wood. We can do this when our mind is very distracted or when the thought arises to belittle, slander, or abuse others. If pride, haughtiness or the intention to find fault with others arises, we can also remain impassive until our deluded motivation fades. Feeling pretentious, thinking to deceive others and wishing to praise our own qualities, wealth, or possessions are all occasions when it is wise to pretend that we are made out of wood. Whenever we have the desire to blame others, speak harshly or cause disruption we should practice this technique of non-reaction.

(--Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Meaningful to Behold)
Eleven years has been a good run. It's always a wonder the way wind moves things around.

Time to think about packing up the odds and ends that accumulate over time. Endings are beginnings seen through back of mirror.

Our vocation is to let blustery winds blow themselves out, pick up fell wood, and stack for future warming stove fire.
Brethren, how fine a thing it is to move from festival to festival, from prayer to prayer, from holy day to holy day.
(--From an Easter letter by Saint Athanasius, bishop)
Day by day.

Holy way.

(I bow.)

(As best can be done.)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

How lost is lost?

Sitting in screened porch of meditation cabin for an hour last night in cold moonless silence of Ragged Mountain, nothing comes to mind. I sit in the emptiness of my life. Up path, across frozen footprints, pieces of bark from broken and fallen tree lay on icy indentations. Out behind barn, where white-lights circle on front red sliding door, ashes from once burning wood stove fire settle stiff in plastic bag by sawn harbor pilings under crusted snow. According to Hsuan-sha, that's where I might be found.
The way of buddhas is wide open, without any stages. The door of nothing is the door to liberation; having no intention is the will to help others. It is not within past, present, and future, so it cannot rise and sink; setups are counter to reality, because it is not in the realm of the created. Move, and you produce the root of birth and death; be still, and you get drunk in the village of oblivion. If movement and stillness are both erased, you fall into empty annihilation; if movement and stillness are both withdrawn, you presume upon buddha nature. You must be like a dead tree or cold ashes in the face of objects and situations while acting responsively according to time, without losing proper balance. A mirror reflects a multitude of images without their confusing its brilliance; birds fly through the air without mixing up the color of the sky.
- Hsuan-sha
Nothing makes sense. Wind blows through it. Bell-chime moves vibration through it without hindrance. Morning fragrance of something in kitchen oven downstairs comes through open door over wool socks without permission. Low rumble-groan of basement furnace says to no-one in particular that, although it is calendar spring, it is not time yet to stay unbidden and unmoving.

It is time of weakening spirit.
Come quickly and hear me, O Lord,
for my spirit is weakening.
Do not hide your face from me,
do not let me be like the dead,
who go down to the underworld.
Show me your mercy at daybreak,
because of my trust in you.
Tell me the way I should follow,
for I lift up my soul towards you.

(--from Psalm 143)
It has been a question since I first looked out over stair-shed in Bensonhurst backyard at white DeSoto near patch of grass bordered by hydrangeas. Will someone tell me the way? Or is the way looking out from the question over slanted shingled roof?

So many of my dear brothers and sisters offer, and want to tell us, the way. Some have wanted to beat it into us. Others shake their heads and say, "You are lost!" I've been grateful both for their caring and their conclusion.
Hsuan-sha's One Bright Pearl

(Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori, Roshi. See at http://www.mro.org/zmm/teachings/daido/teisho05.php
True Dharma Eye, Case 15, Featured in Mountain Record, Fall 1996.)

The Main Case

The great master Hsuan-sha was once asked by a monk, "The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl.1 How can I understand the meaning of this?"2 Hsuan-sha said, "The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl. Why is it necessary to understand the meaning of this?"3 On the following day Hsuan-sha said to the monk,4 "The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl. How do you understand the meaning of this?" 5 The monk replied, "The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl. Why is it necessary to understand the meaning of this?"6 Hsuan-sha said, "Now I know that you are living inside a cave of demons on the black mountain."7

The Commentary

When our lives are not free of fixed positions we drown in a sea of poison. Following after another's words and mimicking others' actions is the practice of monkeys and parrots. Zen practitioners should be able to show some fresh provisions of their own. Be that as it may, you should understand that even in the cave of demons on the black mountain the one bright pearl's radiance is not diminished.

The Capping Verse

The question came from the cave of demons--
The master answered with a mudball.
Beyond telling, absolutely beyond telling,
Ultimately we can only nod to ourselves.

(--True Dharma Eye: Master Dogen's Three Hundred Koans, is a complete, modern English translation of Master Dogen's Three Hundred Koan or Chinese Shobogenzo.)
I notice this practice of nodding. When walking aisles of grocery market, when passing individuals along town streets, when looking into zendo, chapel, or cemetery, I nod, or bow -- sometimes slightly, other times profoundly -- at my companions, visible or invisible. It is beyond telling, this companioning realization.
Dear Reader

Baudelaire considers you his brother,
and Fielding calls out to you every few paragraphs
as if to make sure you have not closed the book,
and now I am summoning you up again,
attentive ghost, dark silent figure standing
in the doorway of these words.

Pope welcomes you into the glow of his study,
takes down a leather-bound Ovid to show you.
Tennyson lifts the latch to a moated garden,
and with Yeats you lean against a broken pear tree,
the day hooded by low clouds.

But now you are here with me,
composed in the open field of this page,
no room or manicured garden to enclose us,
no Zeitgeist marching in the background,
no heavy ethos thrown over us like a cloak.

Instead, our meeting is so brief and accidental,
unnoticed by the monocled eye of History,
you could be the man I held the door for
this morning at the bank or post office
or the one who wrapped my speckled fish.
You could be someone I passed on the street
or the face behind the wheel of an oncoming car.

The sunlight flashes off your windshield,
and when I look up into the small, posted mirror,
I watch you diminish—my echo, my twin—
and vanish around a curve in this whip
of a road we can't help traveling together.

(--Billy Collins, The Art of Drowning, University of Pittsburgh Press)
We are composed in the open field of this...

This...what?

This lost...

(How lost?)

And...found --

Traveling together.

How lost is lost if there is only "Being!...Alone?" If nothing is between the statement and the question -- then we travel together, one by one, through this open field.

Nodding, affirming, what is here and there, in our midst.

Ultimately, (one bright rosary of circling light), we can only nod, to ourselves.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It grieves me that I have approved torture. It saddens me that my spirit is damaged by the torture I have encouraged.

"There is no such thing as a little bit of torture."(-from HBO Documentary, "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib")

We do not seem to understand how torture deteriorates and destroys the human spirit of both tortured and torturer. If anywhere in the world torture is used against other human beings, the torturers and tortured experience diminishment and horror. If America approves and condones torture, then the human spirit of Americans is deteriorating.

Our government does our bidding. And yet, by approving torture -- by allowing my representatives in the executive and legislative branches of American government to speak for me to legalize and employ torture -- I choose to abuse my spirit, doing so as the bodies of perceived enemies are abused. Is this self-abuse one of the byproducts of not recognizing my self -- not being aware of true self? If so, there is a great distance yet to traverse before coming to genuine self-knowledge and self-awareness.
Skillful Versus Unskillful
Rather than dividing thoughts into classes like "good" and "bad," Buddhist thinkers prefer to regard them as "skillful" versus "unskillful." An unskillful thought is one connected with greed, hatred, or delusion. These are thoughts that the mind most easily builds into obsessions. They are unskillful in the sense that they lead you away from the goal of Liberation. Skillful thoughts, on the other hand, are those connected with generosity, compassion, and wisdom. They are skillful in the sense that they may be used as specific remedies for unskillful thoughts, and thus can assist you toward Liberation.

(--Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English, from Everyday Mind)
We have been living in an age where private armies and mercenary forces acting with no oversight or accountability are used as substitute for US military to fight wars and carry out the wishes of powerful men often using means and tactics under deep cover and with no checks and balances. We are becoming what we fear -- lawless and unaccountable.
Return to me, says the Lord of Hosts, and I will return to you. Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the prophets in the past cried ‘Turn back from your evil ways and evil deeds’ but they would not listen.
(--Zechariah 1:3 - 4)
The morning in Maine is glowing. Today is the first day of spring. Sun shines brightly. Nature turns on its axis of retrieval.

We can, and must, retrieve our dignity. We the torturers and the tortured must work to retrieve the spirit of wholeness and compassion available to us by the grace of wholeness and the practice of compassion.
Write down how many things you want.
Meditate on how many things you need.
When you write them down
You will see
That you want millions of things.
When you meditate
You will notice
That you need only one thing
And that is God the Compassion,
God the eternal Compassion.

(- Sri Chinmoy)
Notice this need. Notice sunlight turning warmer, daylight turning brighter. Notice our spirits longing for return. Longing for a retrieving, renewing, wholeness.

I confess my unskillful acts.

I watch for -- and hope to notice -- the change.

I research antonyms of torture.

I need to practice antonymic connection with both tortured and torturer -- namely: alleviation, contentment, happiness, relief.

Let us.

Return.

And retrieve.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Wisdom attends when asked to. It demands we attend, first and foremost, in our passing through.
[1] Agaphsate dikaiosunhn oi krinonteV thn ghn fronhsate peri tou kuriou en agaqothti kai en aplothti kardiaV zhthsate auton (SOFIA SALWMWN, Wisdom of Solomon - Septuagint, 1:1)

(1: Love righteousness, ye that be judges of the earth: think of the Lord with a good (heart,) and in simplicity of heart seek him. (King James Version. Wisdom of Solomon, 1:1)
The news report says the former vice president of Iraq is hung to death from gallows for crimes committed against humanity during wartime footing, for his role in the 1982 killing of 148 Shiites. The vice president of the United States has legal protections should any future reversals or judicial inquiry implicate him in recriminations about Iraq invasion -- decisions, behaviors, and actions during that footing. America has a lot to reflect on.

An inquiry into wisdom might prove worthwhile. But wisdom, whether conventional or sacred, is itself asked to go beyond and deeper. Mystery -- radical and radiant visage of God-seeing, an openness to core and caring true reality -- is the profound longing of human heart and soul; a soul-friendship with the Lovely One with its Realization, and Engagement.
Don’t love sagehood; sagehood is an empty name. There is no special truth but this radiant spiritual openness, unobstructed and free. It is not attained by adornment and cultivated realization. From the buddhas to the Zen masters, all have transmitted this teaching, by which they attained liberation.
- Te-shan (d. 867)
What will make humanity safe from humanity is radiant spiritual openness. We listen for strains of this sound in our contemporary existence.
It still makes sense
to know the song after all.

My wiseness I wear
in despair of something better.

I am all beggar,
I am all ears.

(--from poem The Song, by Robert Creeley)
'Something better' is incarnate incorporation between/with and as what-is-revealing-itself in this world at this time with love and compassion.
I am lonely as a pelican in the wilderness,
as an owl in the ruins,
as a sparrow alone on a rooftop:
I do not sleep.
(-- from Psalm 102)
There are innumerable pilgrims walking unnoticed in the world -- praying, longing for, practicing, and encouraging one another quietly -- to come to realize, with wisdom, radiant spiritual openness.
Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.
“Each of you must respect his father and mother.

(--from Leviticus 19:1 - 3)
Father and mother here might be wisdom and compassion. Our biological parents tried in their own way to respect their father and mother. We must also.
Do not be put off giving by a lack of resources. A generous spirit is itself great wealth, and there can be no shortage of material for generosity where it is Christ who feeds and Christ who is fed. His hand is present in all this activity: his hand, which multiplies the bread by breaking it and increases it by giving it away.
(--From a sermon by Pope St Leo the Great, in Office of Readings, Tuesday of the 4th week of Lent)
Let's be bread for one another. Bread, not gallows. Let us feed, and be fed by, one another.

There is no shortage of material for generosity. The means of delivery is radiant spiritual openness.

We with grace can become pilgrims carrying through this lovely conveyance.

Durch und durch!

(Through and through!)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Nota Bene: We note with unpassing sorrow the 4th anniversary of armed conflict between the United States and Iraq. We pray for those killed and wounded during this terrible time, and for all the families of those killed and wounded -- Iraqi, American, (and others from away). If prayer has any force, we pray for sanity, sanctity, and safety. If peace has any cogency, we extend our hands for peace.
Soft blue gray dawn on snowfell hillside this feast day of Joseph and birthday of Patricia.
St Joseph
Nothing is known of St Joseph except what is said of him in the Gospels. He was a carpenter; he accepted the will of God; and he supported Mary and brought up Jesus. From the human character of his son we can see that he was a good and responsible father. Although he is not officially a patron saint, he is widely venerated as a patron of artisans who honourably do good work with the gifts God has given them, and of workers in general.
(-- from Universalis.com)
Patricia shared our mother and father. I miss asking her questions about the tucked away facts and stories of family she carried.
The learning of the sages
For a thousand years
Is just recognized in a moment
Of spiritual illumination.

- Wang Ji (1498-1583)
I pray their names today. Something about making home with hospitality and unknowing care of God-gift.
Making a Fist
by Naomi Shihab Nye

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

"How do you know if you are going to die?"
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
"When you can no longer make a fist.

Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.

(--From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye.)
At the end Patricia's hand lay open on white spread that hospital midnight. And Joseph? His hands we cannot see but for tools and wood, his likenesses in churches.

Light lays quietly on hill.

Recognize this moment.

As oneself.

Vorhanden.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

How we see.

Vision. Vision is how we see. Not what we see, but how. Without vision there is no seeing.

How do we see from the reality and place we are? It is an important question. Face it!
There is no other task but to know your own original face. This is called independence; the spirit is clear and free. If you say there is some particular doctrine or patriarchy, you’ll be totally cheated. Just look into your heart; there is a transcendental clarity. Just have no greed and no dependency and you will immediately attain certainty.
- Yen-t’ou (828-887)
I like the prospect that the only thing we can be certain of is our original face. This is an interesting thought -- so many of us are certain -- yet cannot face ourselves, do not see the faces of others, or...have no face.

To 'lose face', defined, is: lose face -- to do something which makes other people stop respecting you. 'He refused to admit he made a mistake because he didn't want to lose face.' (--in the Free Dictionary)

We can never lose our original face. We can only lose the face we pretend is ours, one crafted by conditioning, politics, fear, greed, lies, or dishonesty. And that face is not real, is artificial, does not really see, nor care to see the plaintive presence presenting itself before us.
To see God as He is in Himself, this is the essence of perfect happiness.
(--p. 159, from My Way of Life, Pocket Edition of Saint Thomas, The Summa Simplied for Everyone, by Walter Farrell O.P, and Martin Healy)
We get to see God by seeing what is in God's eye; we see what God is looking at by looking through our original face. God is what is looking through.

Original face is to be shown through and through moment to moment.
All that can be annihilated must be
annihilated...
the Reasoning Power in Man
This is a false Body; an Incrustation over my
immortal
Spirit; a Selfhood, which must be put off &
annihilated always
To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by
Self-examination.

(- William Blake, Complete Poetry and Prose, p. 142
Chan Buddhism and the Prophetic Poems of William Blake)
When we observe carefully or critically, when we inspect something that captivates our attention, we open eyes and mind to what is presenting itself.

So it is we face one another.

With itself in our midst.

Enlightening...how we see.