Saturday, August 31, 2002

Early sun over Melvin Heights wades Hosmer Pond to Ragged Mountain coming through prismatic sphere hanging from thread at window of meditation room releasing angelic plumes of color dispersed to wall where Meetingbrook Promises hang over Phil Root's sitting bench.

If people are quiet,
They can be quiet anywhere.
If people aren’t quiet
They won’t be quiet in the mountains.
Everything depends on you.
Life is transient,
Like a flash of lightning in a dream.
Before we receive this form,
We had another face,
Our original face.
We can’t see it with our eyes.
We can only know it with wisdom.

- Chi-ch’eng (dailyzen)

Readings today scratch with irritation.

I said: “Thou hast deceived me, O Lord, and I am deceived. Thou hast been stronger than I, and thou hast prevailed. I am become a laughing-stock all the day, all scoff at me. For I am speaking now this long time, crying out against iniquity, and I often proclaim devastation: and the word of the Lord is made a reproach to me, and a derision all the day”. Then I said: “I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name”: and there came in my heart as a burning fire, shut up in my bones, and I was wearied, not being able to bear it. (Jeremiah 20:7 - 9)

Who wants to hear "The Lord said so"? Whose God wishes to smoke Iraq? Whose Lord wants to kill America? What deity has consulted her stockbroker and decided the poor suck and don't deserve but crumbs off the table? When will the Great One, the Lord Adonai, the Savior of the World -- when will he, she, or they win a seat on the UN Security Council and bang their shoe on tabletop to protest the scurrilous phantoms wielding unyielding power in the world?
Jeremiah is ready to shut up, go home, and cultivate his garden. But for that burning fire in his heart.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1 - 2)

The writer of Romans bears fire from Jeremiah. "Your bodies," he says, "a living sacrifice." Forget your ideas; forget cool constructs of complacent rationalization about why things are the way they are; forget being awed by mystery sidelining understanding; and forget the illusion you are chosen, separate, one of the few who have to suffer the pangs of others' antagonism to your privileged standing.
"Transform, renew, by the mercies of God -- change your mind."

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you”. But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men”.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done”.
(Matthew 16:21 - 27 )

Peter is an obstacle. He says, in effect, "No, no, not you -- you're above all this, you don't have to do that." Not Jesus, he's exempt, chosen, not like 'them' -- and Peter wonders -- maybe we too? He has to be set straight with the crooked, spherical lines of God's mind.
In the prior chapter, the Canaanite woman who told him about dogs -- a lesson pivotal to his coming to reverse and transform his mind to God’s -- has just straightened out Jesus. He had it wrong. He thought it was just "my people" he was about. Not any more.

"Save and lose, profit and forfeit, return and repay" -- Matthew's wording of Jesus' sayings sounds like the financials page of the Wall Street Journal. Is this a coded insider-trading alert to heads up investors?

I prefer to see something to do with bodies. Poet Dan Berrigan wrote, "Bodies belong where words are." I think it is a matter of bodies, not of belief, nor of besting antagonists.

Be quiet. We can only know our original face with wisdom. Everything depends on you. Life is transient.

So much suffering in the world caused by making obstacles to God's mind. What have we done?
What are we doing?

Are we attempting to recognize and make holy the body of what is alive in this existence? One body recognizing Itself is all bodies being seen as truly sacred.

All living beings, wherever they are, whatever they are called, no matter what their diverse appearance - this is our prismatic light. "Prismatic," that is, "having such symmetry that a general form with faces cutting all axes at unspecified intercepts is a prism." (Webster’s Seventh)

Seeing with wisdom is seeing all faces intersecting sacred compassion at unspecified intercepts.

Present your bodies as a living sacrifice -- holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Here's looking at you, kid!

Friday, August 30, 2002

Windjammer Weekend floods Camden Harbor with schooners, people, and events.

On a peak standing still
Only clouds coming and going.
A thousand misty mountains below me.
In the open sitting straight
Nothing false, nothing real
Shapes of light and dark before me.

- Ch’and-hui

Strange notion "nothing false, nothing real."

Deck fills with waiting crowd for 9pm fireworks. Bursts of light, multi-colored flowering falling fading sighs of surprise.
Gordon Bok's voice and music from cd player inside the bookshop. Clouds high over masts will not dull the display readying on barge by Curtis Island.

This final weekend of summer vacationers. Coming and going, clouds giving shape to night sky. We are fortunate to see the many shapes before us.

Charles dulcets "Topfen Kuchen" and is served some. Jim readies himself to step outdoors and step into his fortieth birthday in two days. Jonathan listens to Red Sox game on radio in Harbor Room and prepares for 30th birthday tomorrow.

Dogs are frightened by loud noise. Cesco and Sando huddle by my feet behind counter. Proximity is no problem. Necessary solace. What others celebrate, they shy from.
Every second begs for compassion.

Afterwards, Sando walks home with Charlotte. In shop a woman walking by steps on Cesco's paw. He cries out.

Some joy, some sorrow.

A thousand misty mountains encircle us.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

When beeper beeps, cake comes out from oven. When Cesco barks once, door is opened for him to come in. When story is told, always look both ways before crossing into it.

To practice Zen, you need deep roots.
People with deep roots are rare.
In the past anyone could practice Zen.
But not now.
Zen depends completely on yourself.
It’s much harder, especially now.

- Sheng-hi

Why harder now? Are the barriers erected by thought-patterns of contemporary culture that much thicker and impenetrable? Or is a more subtle explanation -- one that says the barriers are down, it is all revealed, no need to break through anything -- causing us to throw away practices and disciplines once used to root us to see and be with each other without barriers?

Take the story told in Matthew:
Jesus said, “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him’. Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out’. But the wise replied, ‘Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves’. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us’. But he replied, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you’. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour”. Matthew 25:1 - 13

In the story, wise prepare, foolish despair. Hip hip hooray the wise! Nah nah na na nah the foolish!
Remember -- look both ways.

Jesus relates the story, then adds postscript: "‘Lord, lord, open to us’. But he replied, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you’. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour”.

The bridegroom in the story says, "‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you’."
Jesus says "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day or the hour."
Which saying is the compassionate saying? Is the Boy Scout motto invoked, "Be prepared"? Or is the Zen saying suggested, "Zen depends completely on yourself.”

Watch therefore, become therefore, practice therefore. You are therefore.
"Therefore," in Webster's Seventh is defined, "consequently, for that reason, because of that, to that end."

So, what follows that story? How are we to follow that story? Perhaps we are to look both ways, even look twice, before crossing.
Are our roots deep enough to remain who, what, and where we are? Are they deep enough to be wherever we are?

Maybe Jesus quoted that story to usher the wise behind the door, into the room with the bridegroom -- these 5 unwilling to share what they had with the other 5 -- they get what they've prepared for, what they've known would happen if they were wise.

But the other 5 -- the so-called foolish ones, those who beg, "Lord, lord, open to us," -- these are given a greater teaching than the reward reaped by the wise. They are given the teaching to practice, to "Watch therefore." To let roots deepen into the ground of one's being, the very soil of this earth, the loam of longing for what is revealing and opening itself in their midst.

To allow oneself deep roots is foolish these days. We are not "on" the earth for anything we can prepare for. We are "in" the earth for Itself. We are the earth. Came from there, returning there, are it here. Roots reside best where they've found their own depth.
People with deep roots are rare.

Practice doesn't follow anyone else disappearing behind a door. Practice watches What-Is-Itself right where one is -- open, here, and now.

These watchful rooting foolish ones! Open. Here. And now.

Watch well. Sit well. Cross well.
Especially now.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Wednesday afternoon brought two boats into the harbor. One a large green ferry-like three-decker named "Who Cares." The other a big marlin fishing sports rig with the name "So What." It seems some of our wealthier watercraft owners are taking a stand on matters economic and political.

It might be serendipitous that many across the country went today to speak to their congressional representatives about war-making talk by the administration. These large craft broadcast a response several expect from the exercise of public opposition to government's terrifying polemic to increase war.

Some see peace right where it is. Looking within, there is seen a self-emptying humility. Seeing -- no wanting, no needing -- only God Alone. These visionaries are neither pro-war nor anti-war. They are in the sight of God. They are seen as what they see.

The entire universe is one bright pearl.
When the right time comes,
The essence of the bright pearl can be grasped;
It is suspended in emptiness,
Hidden in the lining of clothes,
Found under the chin of dragons
And in the headdresses of kings.
This pearl is always inside our clothing,
That is, inside us, our real nature.
Do not think about putting it on the surface;
Is should be kept in headdresses and under jaws.
Never attempt to wear it on the surface.

- Dogen (1200-1253)

To be what you see and are seen as -- this is what is longed for by anyone longing to live life within God's sight.

Who can wear the sight of God on the surface?
No one -- at least, it seems -- not yet.

We'll have to wait for wiser boats to enter our harbor.
We'll have to wait for This and That to sail beside Here and Now.

We'll stand on edge of yacht club lawn as turn is made around head of harbor buoy. They’re gliding slowly mid-tide. Names come within view.

We Care.
Because This is, That is.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Brad said a woman he knew, when dying, spoke aloud the words "donut hole" while her daughters, keeping watch with her, sat around bed eating donuts. All these years the donut koan has been right there in my hand, and I've missed it.

I’m twenty seven years
And always sought the Way.
Well, this morning we passed
Like strangers on the road.

- Kokuin (10th century)

Question: Why do we eat the donut?
Answer: To free the donut hole becoming wide as the universe.

She died, as we each shall. In the end she understood the mystery of the donut.

Our lives, too, exist to be held, eaten up and away, then let go -- so as to free the inner emptiness becoming wide as the universe. In Buddhist readings about the death of enlightened beings there is ordinariness, a simple moving to what is falling in our midst. No big deal. One more bite, then...

Brad smiles at the story and it’s telling.

My love of donuts is coming into practice. Everywhere is expanding whole the donut hole.

This bite and that bite, some crumbs, and here it is.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Root and stone along mountain path. Two dogs sleuth the past night's forest visitors side to side up and down hike. Their scripture is fragrance. Their eyes look back at me as if to say, "Do you know what was here?" I don't. Sometimes they come quickly back to my side to mull the seriousness, proximity, and timeline of their investigations.

Every day priests minutely
examine the Dharma
and endlessly chant
complicated sutras.
They should learn
how to read the love letters
sent by the wind and rain,
the snow and moon.

- Ikkyu (1394-1491)

In the small Catholic church in our Midcoast town Sunday morning the visiting priest, after finishing his sermon about being somewhere between heaven and hell, is telling the congregation that he'd taken down some decoration he doesn't describe, something someone had placed in the church because: 1) it wasn't done together with him or other folks in charge, and, 2) because he is the priest, and he could.

In the backset of chairs, the local corporation's multi-millionaire and wife exchange glance and smile. I imaging she is telling him "Just like you, dear." Ahead of them one set of chairs, a local carpenter-builder and his wife. I imagine they are saying to themselves, "We've come to pray, can we please." Most folks I see by back of head possibly respond with patient acknowledgement that something is being said, the context and lesson of which they have not measured yet. From the place on the wall where I am about to exit through kitchen where Tommy offers me a coffee, I am thinking, "Priested again!"

The Quaker Meeting in Rockport is an inviting contrast. Trees, water, birds, breeze, small animals in underbrush -- and God in silence. The open-air chapel allows "the love letters sent by the wind and rain" to be read by bare attention. The sounds of nature and expressions of one's heart are exegetical scholarship and homiletic inspiration that change with each movement of attention or shift of breeze. We listen in prayer-shrouded recognition that only God reveals either nature or heart. Then, when unknowing presence finishes its rounds, Diane says "Good Morning!" We are invited to say aloud our names, one by one, to be recorded only by the passing stylus of silence.

It's not that authority and priestly order are not important. It's just that in prayerful and worshipful stillness -- they are not interesting.
What is interesting is appreciative presence -- sensitive awareness. To what? To what is asking/responding within -- what is inviting and accompanying us -- what is offering coffee, mentioning their name, and returning to our sides.

The solitary path, with root and stone along path. These are good reminders.
That, and the willingness to trust what is sniffed.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Quaker Meeting at Vesper Hill Children's Chapel is quiet. Arnie praised the silence then read two lines -- about seeds readying in soil.

Dogs in Rockport bark into each other's hearing during sitting.
Sando barks as two folks arrive tonight. Cesco twice asserts his boundary in meditation room.

A man of the Way comes
rapping at my brushwood gate
and wants to discuss the
essentials of Zen experience.
Don’t take it wrong
if this mountain monk’s
too lazy to open his mouth:
late spring warblers are
singing their hearts out,
a village of drifting petals.

- Jakushitsu (1290 –1367)

Music on deck at harbor shop was rich and fully attended. Sam and Virginia, Hugh and Tom, Gale along with voices of several passers by marked the clear sunny pleasant day.
Tonight's practice at hermitage is also rich. Sokei-an's writing about soul and mindlessness.

"Be kind," says the High Lama, Father Perrault, to Robert Conway in Lost Horizon.

Dog barks across road.

We are drifting petals in a waterless brook.