Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Will there be a time of truce and peace?

Is Islam, is Judaism, is Christianity capable of abiding in peace?
Impermanence, aging, and illness
Do not give people a set time.
One may be alive in the morning,
Then dead at night,
Changing worlds in an instant.
We are like the spring frost,
Like the morning dew
Suddenly gone.

- Kuei-Shan (771-854)
If religions and cultures want conflict and strife, there will be conflict and strife.

Count me out. I've no faith in egoistic destructive exclusivity divinity triumphalistic servitude to deathknell diatribe and dark certitude's wilful obsession with murderous false righteousness.

Call me Infidel.

The simplemindedness of dualistic contending exhausts the heart and mind that seeks understanding and compassion.

I hope to deepen that longing and plead nolo contendere.

Friday, September 04, 2009

September is lovely.

So far.

We hold our first conversation at Quarry Hill, an extended care facility in Camden. It is called "Poetry, Tea, and Thee." We read three Billy Collins poems. Gertrude will be 92 tomorrow. Marjorie, Catherine, Veronica, and Suzanne were also in the circle with Saskia and I.
The First Night
by Billy Collins
The worst thing about death must be
the first night.
—Juan Ramón Jiménez
Before I opened you, Jiménez,
it never occurred to me that day and night
would continue to circle each other in the ring of death,

but now you have me wondering
if there will also be a sun and a moon
and will the dead gather to watch them rise and set

then repair, each soul alone,
to some ghastly equivalent of a bed.
Or will the first night be the only night,

a darkness for which we have no other name?
How feeble our vocabulary in the face of death,
How impossible to write it down.

This is where language will stop,
the horse we have ridden all our lives
rearing up at the edge of a dizzying cliff.

The word that was in the beginning
and the word that was made flesh—
those and all the other words will cease.

Even now, reading you on this trellised porch,
how can I describe a sun that will shine after death?
But it is enough to frighten me

into paying more attention to the world’s day-moon,
to sunlight bright on water
or fragmented in a grove of trees,

and to look more closely here at these small leaves,
these sentinel thorns,
whose employment it is to guard the rose.

(Poem by Billy Collins)
Poetry invites things out of hiding. Only for a while. A brief hello. Then go.

Like our lives.

Gertrude recited Robert Burns.

In the midst of such lovely faces and the Scottish lines we remember Sylvia who died three years ago this date. A candle burned in the cabin for her after morning sitting.

It is good to miss someone loved.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A single holy ground. A single principle. All in each. Each in all.
Sisters and Brothers of America,
It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions, and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects
My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration. I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: "As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee."
The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me." Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.
(--from Swami Vivekananda's Speech, The World Parliament of Religions, Chicago, WELCOME ADDRESS - Chicago, Sept 11, 1893)
There's a talk and a date to ponder.

Still -- we seem to struggle: What to do with what is true?

I'll sit with the question.
There's not much to live for.

Beside love.
You ask why I stay in the mountains
I smile without speaking, my heart content
Peach blossoms in the stream float into the distance
There's another realm beyond the world of man.

- Li Pai
The wind blows clear the night.

Not for a minute am I fooled.

I am the night clearing.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

We've shown up. Some say we've been born. Some say we'll die. We'll disappear.

Temporarily.

In the meantime we'll try to realize the imaginative infinity of what it means to become human, to actually be human, in this world.
East Mountain Temple

I looked all around me and up to the bluest heaven
The moon shone alone through a veil of white clouds
In this boundless world and infinity of people
How many people are worthy of their stature?

- Pai chu-yi (772-846)
We're all worthy of our stature.

We're all Buddhas, or Buddhas to be.

We just don't know it yet.

Soon we will. Someone among us will help. A Bodhisattva who has taken a vow to help all beings become enlightened and to be happy.

I look around every day. Who is it? When will they appear?

When you come into view, I look at you.

Is it you?

Monday, August 31, 2009

It's a nightmare. Your house catches fire. Your three daughters die. You are accused of setting the fire. Convicted. Imprisoned. Executed.

And you are innocent. Proven so years later by science, an intelligent researcher, a friend. And so what
Dozens of studies have shown that witnesses’ memories of events often change when they are supplied with new contextual information. Itiel Dror, a cognitive psychologist who has done extensive research on eyewitness and expert testimony in criminal investigations, told me, “The mind is not a passive machine. Once you believe in something—once you expect something—it changes the way you perceive information and the way your memory recalls it.”
(--fromTRIAL BY FIRE, Did Texas execute an innocent man?, by David Grann, The New Yorker, 31Aug2009, re Cameron Todd Willingham, accused of arson that killed his 3 daughters in 1991. He was executed on Feb 17,2004.)
We watch film on the destruction of the Great Buddhas in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Both the man killed by state sanctioned lethal injection and the thousand plus year old carved into stone statues were destroyed. By what?

By certainty. By a belief that has failed to question. By an unwillingness to open to uncertainty.
Just before Willingham received the lethal injection, he was asked if he had any last words. He said, “The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for twelve years for something I did not do. From God’s dust I came and to dust I will return, so the Earth shall become my throne.”
(--final lines, Grann, TRIAL BY FIRE article)
Certainty must not be our goal.

Curiosity and compassion come first.

I mourn the death of the Texas man. And the destruction of the Buddhas.

I celebrate the birthday of the lad who walks the mile each day to his job at the state offices in Vermont. If he wasn't born I would not be a father.

We must continue to grow more comfortable with uncertainty.
To think of nothing is to think of the Buddha. So what does to think of nothing mean? What thinks of nothing is the mind that thinks of the Buddha. Apart from the mind, there is no Buddha somewhere else. And apart from the Buddha, there is no mind somewhere else. To think of the Buddha is to think of the mind. To search for the mind is to search for the Buddha.
- Tao-hsin
We are safe.

A quiet night.

A perfect end.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I'm skeptical.

I don't know.

Hardly anything.
Are you really ready to let go?

Working intimately with a teacher is the same as learning to stop shielding ourselves from the completely uncertain nature of reality. All the ways that we hold back and shut down, all the ways that we cling and grasp, all our habitual ways of limiting and solidifying our world become very clear to us, and it's unnerving. At that painful point, we usually want to make the teacher wrong or make ourselves wrong or do anything that is habitual and comforting to get ground back under our feet. But when we make an unconditional commitment to hang in there, we do not run away from the pain of seeing ourselves—and this is a revolutionary thing to do and it transforms us. But how many of us are ready for this? One has to gradually develop the trust that it is ultimately liberating to let go of strongly held assumptions about reality.
Pema Chodron, from "Unconditionally Steadfast: An Interview with Pema Chodron," Tricycle, Fall 1999
I might never believe anything that happened during the Bush/Cheney years -- from 9/11 to WMD's to torture to wiretapping to two elections decided by awkward incongruities to a war started under false pretenses to the use of fear fear fear in order to keep the American people afraid afraid afraid to deregulation and incompetence at every level of governmental undertaking.

This distress is bilateral. Many today doubt and revile the current Obama/Biden administration for their policies and plans for health care, resolving the economic crises, and international negotiations for stability and peace.

We're generally ambivalent about those in authority, the precariousness of finances, and the underlying fuming of those inclined toward aggressive or violent response.

A man tonight worried about his anger. It is so much with him.

Yes, there is anger. At a right-wing threatening more violence and harm to an elected president and to legislation geared to equalize health care; to a policy of negation negation negation. At a left-wing threatening more governmental control, more benefits to more people, and perhaps more than can be expressed, the changing ethnography of race and religion accelerating across borders and traditional comfort zones.

I told the angry man it was good he came to meditation practice.

I'm glad I was there.

Skepticism.

And all.

(Since Dick died, I no longer receive notes from him chiding such foolish references to ersatz political matters.)