Saturday, May 31, 2003

Peter spoke.

Judas was gone. Mathias was chosen. He'd been with them. Joseph Justus was not chosen. Joseph Justus led a life afterwards no words describe. This telling ends. Where did he go? What life is known outside its story told by another? Unchosen. Left to unnamed disappearence.

Woman at well wondered where the stranger would get a bucket. She had hers. The stranger said he had living water. She was asked about her husband. The conversation, as does the reading, stops. Isn't she enough? Why the husband? Sure, sure -- she'd had several. Make the point. Are you finished? Fine.

Revealing the name.

· "They have kept your word."
· "Now I am coming to you."
· "Keep them in your name that you have given me."

He'd given them the word but they no longer belong to the world. He prayed they be consecrated in truth.

"Your word is truth."
(John 17)

Then he shut up. His prayer finished.

He didn't want them to be taken out of the world. He wanted them to be protected from the evil one.

The realm of non-thinking
Can hardly be fathomed by cognition;
In the sphere of genuine suchness
There is neither “I” nor “other.”

- Yunmen (864-949)

A good prayer.

A good prayer is spoken of itself. Just that. Nothing else. Of itself.

God is of itself.

We pray to be of itself revealed in name, that is, in complete presence.

Let us forget absence. Absence is full of men's words manufacturing names that carry noise into the world making of absence deluded wealth. Man's idea of this world.

Pray, rather, with holy presence. Consecrated.

Holy presence of itself.

Arrive at no idea of oneness itself.

Friday, May 30, 2003

Return. Our koan.

Forty days and gone.

Ascension Thursday disappears into Friday. Birds at dawn convey their song. Monastics of morning chant laud into new light permeated with return.

The Main Case
A monk asked Zhaozhou, "The myriad things return to one. Where does the one return to?" Zhaozhou said "When I was in Jing Zhao, I made a cloth shirt. It weighed seven pounds."

In both Wednesday and Thursday Evening Conversation Ascension made its way into words. The Zen Buddhist deliberation questioning if ten thousand things returning to one, then, where does the one return to? This helps look into the Christian mystery of the Ascension.

The monk in this koan is asking a very important question. "When the myriad things return to one, where does the one return to?" When everything, all beings, creatures, actions, thoughts, memories, experiences, desires, objects — when every single thing has returned to its origin, its essence — where does that origin return to? (from Dharma Talk by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei)

Does the one return to the 10,000 things? To feed, nourish, guide, and share in their communion each with each. Does Jesus the Christ do the same? Is this Eucharist?

Beatrice Bruteau, in her essay Eucharistic Ecology and Ecological Spirituality writes:
A sense of the Eucharistic Planet, of the Real Presence of the Divine in the world, is something we need now for the protection of the planet. It may be that biblical religion has encouraged Western civilization to take unfair advantage of the natural environment under the belief that it was given to humanity by God for purposes of human exploitation and has no rights of its own. It may be that we need to tell ourselves a new story about how we fit into the general scene and what it's all about. I don't dispute that. But I would like to emphasize that on the basis of the Gospel we can say something quite constructive and very exciting that will give us the new story and a vision of the wholeness of the planet.

The core of the story, as I see it, is the communitarian life taught by and instituted by Jesus. It is based on a vision of being that differs from the one we usually assume. Instead of taking as the norm of Reality those things that are outside one another, he takes as standard and paradigm those who are in one another. His prayer, his vision, is "that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us . . . that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one" (John 17:21-22). This is the heart of what Jesus is about, I believe. And I don't think that we should regard it as something on an always receding horizon, a merely guiding ideal, something unreal to be striven for but never actually achieved. On the contrary, I think he meant that this is how Reality is fundamentally constructed: this is how it is, and we are to wake up and know it, realize it.

This basic insight, vision, revelation, was developed in the church in terms of two great dogmas, which, however, haven't perhaps been sufficiently appreciated as the structural models that they are. The two great dogmas, from which probably everything can be derived, are the Trinity and the Incarnation. And they are encapsulated in the single sacrament of Holy Communion, the Incarnation of the Trinity. I mean, of course, the mutually feeding, mutually indwelling, community, in which all members give themselves to one another as food, for the sake of life, abundant life.

It only remains to be said explicitly that this community is not limited to human beings but includes all life and the entire cosmos, and we have a religious view that not only enables but demands an ecological morality with regard to both the human community and the total cosmic community. The whole universe is structured and organized in such a way that all members depend on one another; they are all, in fact, dynamic processes constituted precisely by their relations to one another. It is exactly the Trinity that the universe images, which it, in fact, incarnates, embodies, phenomenalizes, shows forth, reveals, glorifies. The universe puts into flesh, into matter, the Trinitarian perichoretic Life--with its differentiation by relation, its self-sharing, its mutual indwelling--by which the nature of God is expressed.

(Bruteau, in Cross Currents)

Perichoretic (from the Greek perichoresis; translates as "reciprocal inter-penetration; being-in-one-another"). It is a different world if we see, honor, and behave according to we-are-in-one-another. The cycle of the story of creation, Christ, and circumincessional interpenetration

. . . the standpoint from which one sees oneself in others and loves one's neighbor as oneself means that the self is at the home-ground of every other in the "nothingness" of the self, and that every other is at the home-ground of the self in that same nothingness. Only when these two are one--in a relationship of circuminsessional interpenetration-does this standpoint come about. (Keiji Nishitani, Religion and Nothingness (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), p. 279.)

One bird sings outside window. In my ears and heart this singing is my dawning.

Wells and alleys lead me to the rocky hills.
From a traveler’s pavilion up in clouds and haze
I watch the sun full, far from the city
Up in the blue mountains mirrored by distant water.
On the shore a lonely boat is anchored.
Fishermen and evening birds go home.
Dusk comes to the silent expanse of heaven and earth,
And my heart is calm like this wide river.

- Wang Wei (699-759)

When not conditioned and overwhelmed by dualistic thinking and separative behavior, we experience unisonal resonance. Unisonal/resonance, this harmonious agreement or union of sound/continuing to sound, invites us to hear sparrow song and morning dove coo fresh and new. It is our own sound.

Arrival is departure, departure is return, and return is arrival. This appreciation allows us to hear Theodore Roethke’s first line of poem “The Manifestation” fresh and new, “Many arrivals make us live.”

I like the phrasing in Mark, “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”
When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” (Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11)

With, in, through, and as each other, we arrive where we’ve always unknowing been, and know it for the first time. Poets and mystics sense this and glimpse it in words for us. Until comes time, or, until dissolves time into now, where, and when, the word becomes flesh, becomes us, returning home through the movement with, in, through, and as each other – the very love of God. Nor is God other than the unisonal/resonance flowing through each and every being we dwell with in this creation and dimensions of being/heaven as yet unimagined by us.

Is this good news?

For some, perhaps many, it is frightening news, signaling the dissolution of everything we’ve believed or claimed to believe. We are now being invited to see for ourselves. “Don’t think; look” said Wittgenstein. “From now on you’re on your own,” said the Buddha.
"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel (the good news) to every creature'." (Mark 16:15-20)

To be “on your own” is not alienation and secluded loneliness. Rather with unisonal/resonance to be on your own is to see we are now one, we are alone with the Alone, none other than God within and through us, within and through each and every expression of love’s very being-in-the-world.

For Francis of Assisi all of nature was God’s breath forming and unforming, entering, leaving, and returning in a joyful song/dance of life. Like the Hindu stories of Brahma, Krishna, Vishnu, Shiva – a joyous and perplexing dance of creation, flourishing, destruction, re-creation on and on toward recognition of our common life, communal relational responsibility to everything that is – we arrive at every moment, now, now, and now.

And what of the seven pound cloth shirt and the ten thousand things?
Dogen is talking about the same issue we’re exploring here, what is the relationship between the one and the many, between unity and difference? Between you as an individual and the sangha? Dogen says the Buddhas always train themselves in the Way alone. Which is absolutely true, and isn’t it interesting that in training alone in sesshin, we’re never by ourselves. We’re always in the midst of sangha; sitting, eating, resting, sleeping, working, chanting. Every moment of the day. Yet, we train ourselves in the Way alone. But Dogen goes on to say that the Way is always identified with all things, in other words, the Way is all things. So we train in complete solitude, and in that solitude, everything is present, each and every thing, the whole sangha, the whole universe.

This aloneness is very different from loneliness. In this aloneness there is complete identification. In loneliness, there is no identification; there is separation and alienation. Where does that alienation originate? Within ourselves. What we feel inside is exactly what we find in the world. When we feel distant from other people, if we look closely, we’ll find that we’re distant from ourselves. How else could it be that we could be in an intimate relationship and be lonely, in the midst of family and be lonely, or in the midst of sangha and be lonely, all the while surrounded by people who care about us, and who love us? But we can’t feel it — something is in the way.

Dogen goes on to say that we must act in accord with each other. The thing we don’t realize is that when we’re not acting in harmony with each other, in that moment, we’re not in harmony with ourselves. That’s why it doesn’t feel good. It’s pretty simple. That’s why, even when we feel terrible, and we’re able to do something for someone else, suddenly we feel better. Something shifts. How could that be? It doesn’t make sense. Could it be the power of being in accord with the truth, with ourselves? How could it not have an affect that’s confirming?

(Zhaozhou’s Seven Pound Cloth Shirt, Dharma Talk by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei, M.R.O. Blue Cliff Record, Case 45)

Ascension, Christ’s and our, is an affirming affect of the power of being in accord with the truth. This affect, this influence, this touch – frees. It frees into the necessity of seeing and hearing things clearly, engaging things faithfully, and touching one another in passing with affirming confidence we are in this together.

Return? Our koan.

What a lovely shirt!

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

The banner on lectern at church this morning was a collage with scattered words "Come" "Holy Spirit" and "Jesus."

Wanting nothing,
With all your heart stop the stream.
When the world dissolves,
Everything becomes clear.
Go beyond this way or that way
To the farther shore where the world dissolves,
And everything becomes clear.
Beyond this shore and the farther shore,
Beyond the beyond,
Where there is no beginning, no end,
Without fear, go.

- Buddha in the Dhammapada

We decided "Come" was surrogate word for "Father" or "Origin."

What is God but invitation?

Beyond the beyond,
Where there is no beginning, no end,
Without fear, go

Like lyrics of song from years ago -- "Come go with me."

This eve of Ascension.



Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Three day rain pauses.

Perfumed springs ripple over skeletal outcrops
In the distance a hint of smoke rising
I hear perpetual stillness in these hills
Sense the rush of swirling waters
White plum blossoms blanket a dozen miles
Save for this single, tiny hut

Tigers, half-tame, loiter near the door
Chattering monkeys guard my gate
A wild mountain-man, white hair streaming
Tops the slate summit with a bamboo staff

Caught unawares, I laugh at the distant bell
Follow the twist and turn of an ancient stream.
Zen hearted, washed free of all desire
Never again will I wander the noisy dust.

- Shih-shu (17th century-early 18th)

Perhaps there are two worlds -- noisy dust and zen hearted. The noisy dust of the world covers so much. Perhaps the 'so much' is the Zen hearted.

We are one. We are interconnected. And yet we are also divided. We are fragmented.
Two worlds.

The resurrection of the body means that the Real Presence of the Absolute is realized in the world in all its ordinariness. The world of mountains and rivers, of bread and wine, of friends and enemies, is all held and displayed in the universal monstrance, the Showing, the phenomenalization of the Absolute. This is, as far as I can see, what the Mysteries, in their various mythic forms and traditions, are trying to tell us.

Can we recognize the presence of the Absolute in the ordinariness of the world? Do we know what is going on when bread is broken for supper? I want to see all our interconnectedness as expressions of the agape, the karuna, the hesed, the jen--of the Absolute. I want to perceive Earth as a Eucharistic Planet, a Good Gift planet, which is structured as mutual feeding, as intimate self-sharing. It is a great Process, a circulation of living energies, in which the Real Presence of the Absolute is descerned. Never holding still, continually passing away from moment to moment, it is the shining face of the Eternal. It is living as an integral Body, as the Glory Body of the Real.
(in EUCHARISTIC ECOLOGY AND ECOLOGICAL SPIRITUALITY, By Beatrice Bruteau, Cross Currents, Winter 90-91)

Walking Ragged with Sando and Cesco, fingering beads, one foot then the other, no words but fingers and beads as prayer.

So much noisy dust, clamoring soot of power and politics.

Zen heart and shining face of eternal, a stream bounding after rainfall.

Incense rises.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

We honor and pray for all dead and deadened by war.

Clouds release the hillsides
And wake the scene of spring
Where is the plum tree
That wafts that subtle scent
I grab my staff intending
To search secluded valleys
Then find a single branch
Against my eastern wall.

- Han-shan Te-ch’ing (1546-1623)

Even in absence of full field of blossoming peace and understanding, a single branch will do.

If we find ourselves a single expression of peace, then one other person might find us. We might find them. Each might find each.

In the aftermath of war it still applies that to the victor belong the spoils. It seems to be the truest statement about war. Further below that truism is another truth -- someone has to die, no, many have to die in war. War demands sacrifice only death satisfies.

In this vein it can be said that the victors and vanquished inherit the spoils of dead from wars. These dead linger watching those who’ve sent them to die. They wait to see if their deaths are honored, worthwhile, and beacon truth. Not with flags and flowers. Not with parades and scripted rhetoric. But deeper.

The dead from war wait for justice, truth, fairness, and in the case of the United States, proof that genuine democracy is the benefit of their sacrifice.

Memorial Day asks that we remember life as sacred. Life is not a poker chip in a game of chance played only by wealthy, powerful men. Life is our shared existence in this realm, on this planet, and in dimensions undetected but within which we all are interconnected. This is the surprise waiting those counting up the spoils of war. It doesn't belong to the counters. It belongs to everyone, living and dead.

Life is seamless. Right living, right action, and right intention are intimately integrated with wrong living, wrong action, and wrong intention. Wholeness is wholeness. No exclusion.

God is that integration. The dead are in God. We, the living, must face this. And those who order death will have a more profound awakening to face before them. Only God sees simultaneously within and without, those in form of living biology and those in emptiness of beyond this existence.

The so-called judgment of God at end will not be an accounting. It will be a recounting of each life’s story. We will tell our story in the face of God’s loving attention, and we will see everything we might not have seen before. It will astonish us. We will joy and sorrow simultaneously. The question is – will we be able to enter the wholeness after facing the parts of the story spoiled by our ignorance and deluded thinking?

We pray for those facing death. We pray for those in God. We pray for those seeking peace.

Be neither victor nor vanquished. Be unspoiling.

At Memorial Day we pray for all dead and deadened by war.

Life continues healing in all its forms and emptiness.

Be life. Be a single branch.