Friday, August 15, 2003

Charlie and Sonny wondered warily if one were being diss'd by the other.

If I simply say what I see, without making it a dart at the other, then the other is invited to say what they see -- unpunctured.

Constantly be aware, without stopping.
When the aware mind is present,
It senses the formlessness of things.
Constantly see your body as empty and quiet,
Inside and outside communing in sameness.
Plunge the body into the realm of reality,
Where there has never been any obstruction.

- Tao-hsin (580-651)

Life in prison is testy. Like outside life in the world, only more so, everyone is doing time, and hardly anything said or seen is what it seems to be.

We were talking about the Christian feast of the Assumption of Mary -- reading Jean Guitton. Something about the obscure distance or mysterious space that occurs at death but before completion of movement to another dimension. Ryan wondered about standing in the river with Heraclitus. Charlie about the middle of extremes -- as when an immovable object is met with an unstoppable force. Michael said he gravitated to extremes. Sonny described at his near-death experience looking down and realizing he had no body -- but was there.

Where it went testy was the way Sonny and Dick sounded to Charlie and Ryan -- like they ...knew...and the others didn't. That's always a difficult presentation to sit through. Charlie balked. Sonny cut short. Vaughn was silent.

Saskia had the final word as trumpet sounded retreat to cell at end of rec and work period. She told of how we often hear everything through the conditioning we carry with us -- that she does -- gets defensive and reactive, and forgets that the other is just saying what and how they see what is there for them.

Conditioning is a volume knob on the sounds coming through our psyche.

Later Dick thought he might have said aloud what he 'd been thinking -- that his life is fact, like a book you read. The book has it there and down as it is. The reader takes it in, agrees or disagrees, sees or doesn't, tosses it away or keeps on going. That's how he talks his life.

Sometimes, we say, it feels testy.

It all seems testy these days.

We've got to say what we see.

The task is to take the testy and go on.

Go on, and go on, until we are gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond. Awake.

Awake from the nightmare of antagonism, through the dream of recombination, into the reality Assumption invites – One’s Body – undifferentiate, indistributive, and resolute.

Finally become Yes!

Thursday, August 14, 2003

We are home.

Even so, we ask again and again, 'Where is home?"

My home is a cave, without a thing in it.
Pure and marvelously empty,
As bright and clear as the sun.
A dish of mountain vegetables is sufficient,
And a patched cloak is plenty of cover for me.
Let a thousand wizards show up to grant me any wish!
I already have the Supreme Buddha
In my possession!

- Ryokan Taigu (1758-1831)

Some 1400 miles whirlwind driving, winding through New Brunswick -- St Stephen and St. Andrews, through St. John and Moncton -- to Nova Scotia.
To Cape Breton Island. To Cape North. To a screened porch on North Harbour. Looking around. Wondering, "Is this retreat home?"

Vespers at St. Joseph's after crossing Mackenzie Mountain from Gampo Abbey. The openness of an unlocked church. Stained glass narrative of the sea through life, death, and resurrection.

When we arrive home we find there is no other place than home.

All there is -- is home.

Welcome home.


Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Interview Questions for Buddhists in Maine:
(sent by Holly N. of Windhorse Project)

Do you consider yourself a Buddhist?

Yes – In the way I consider myself human and alive for now.

Have you formally taken refuge?

There are two of us – Saskia and I – that I here refer to.

Yes – We have pronounced the 3 Refuges aloud and in public hearing.

If yes, when and with whom?

After studying and practicing for nearly 30 years I spoke aloud the refuges in mid-nineties with Saskia in the presence of several people at Meetingbrook.

In addition, Saskia pronounced them at a retreat with monks of the Order of Interbeing.

So too, we have formulated and pronounced in public our own Meetingbrook promises. These are promises of Contemplation, Conversation, and Correspondence.

Is this person still one of your teachers? How often do you see them?

Thich Nhat Hanh is a wonderful teacher for us. We see him through his writings as well as those who trust him. We passed each other 20 years ago, bowed in silence, alone together in an alley between buildings at Smith College where he sat on steps in solitude before his talk. Not since.

In addition, each person we listen to or speak with is for us the person of the teacher, the Buddha. In our Christian monastic tradition and metaphor this would be similar to receiving each as Christ.

Do you have other teachers? Are they from different lineages?

Yes. Many teachers, many lineages.

Who are your favorite Buddhist teachers/authors?

Shunryu Suzuki, Thich Nhat Hanh, Denys Rackley, Jack Kornfield, Larry Rosenberg, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein, D.T.Suzuki, Pema Chodron, Chogyam Trungpa, Joko Beck, Sokei An, Keiji Nishitani, Maseo Abe, Seung Sahn, Dalai Lama, Barbara Rhodes, Dogen Zenji, Bankai, Toni Packer, Ryokan, Basho, Ikkyu, Issa, Siddhartha Gautama, and many others.

Do you feel that mingling Buddhist traditions can strengthen practitioners or become an obstacle to serious practice?


Would you recount your interest in Buddhism chronologically?

In 1966, while in a contemplative year of prayer and study with the Franciscans, I picked up and read the book “Beyond East and West,” by John Wu. That was my beginning. Thomas Merton was my bridge and D.T. Suzuki was the stepping-stone from the bridge. In 1974/75 I began attending retreats, public lectures, Dharma talks in the city. I sat zazen with Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn and associates in Cambridge, Providence, and New York. While caring for a friend after surgery in the mid-eighties I sat with Eido Roshi and experienced the Japanese tradition.

As a solitary I practiced zazen alone for 20 years following.

Two 10-day Buddhist/Christian retreats, in 1980 and 1990, led by a Catholic Carthusian monk, knit nicely the common silence of Buddhist Meditation Practice and Christian Contemplative Prayer. This monk, Denys Rackley, is someone to whom my gratitude continues to flow. He died in 1998 at age 76.

From 1990 we intentionally began to consider what emerges as Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage.

Now we silently sit and converse with practitioners from various traditions -- inter-religious and non-religious -- whoever longs to practice what is true and loving.

We practice between traditions, not only Buddhist, but also Christian. We consider ourselves Catholic/ Buddhists open to all authentic expressions of faith, knowledge, practice, & inquiry. (With regard to the “Buddhist/Catholic” designation, we find ourselves most often in the “/” – the slash/place, the between/connection place.)

Saskia’s introduction to Buddhism came in 1984. In 1990 her first 10 day retreat was done with Denys Rackley, (a Carthusian Monk) whose practice was Catholic /Vipassana. Her Buddhist/Christian practice continues as such.

Would you recount your interest in Buddhism geographically?

Every place I am. Every place there is. Every place we are.

Where do you live now?

Camden, Maine.

Are you part of a study group or a Sangha? How many people are in it?

We belong to Meetingbrook Hermitage with its bookshop/bakery.

There is a core group of several dozen people who, in lesser groups of 3 to 15 attend one or the other of the evening conversations at the bookshop. There are a few who attend once in a while the daily practice times held at the hermitage.

There is no fixed residential community aside from the two dogs, a cat, and us. There is no pledge of affiliation to Meetingbrook encouraged, nor any pledged affiliation with any other or outside organizations. We are independent. When our practice deepens, we'll fall into interdependence.

As in our initial description, so we remain -- “Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage intends to serve a loosely knit association of individuals who travel the meditative & contemplative road from dependence to independence to interdependence in their spiritual lives. Providing a forum and place for solitaries, hermits, seekers & contemplatives, the hermitage invites anyone interested in silence, simplicity, stillness, or times of solitude to deepen their spiritual life in their own locations, and, by day visits, writing, overnight stays, individual and group sitting, listening & learning -- to experience Meetingbrook.” {}

Do you feel there are adequate resources for your practice here in Maine? Please explain.

Yes. Everywhere is Buddha-nature. Everyone is Buddha-nature. Practice is everywhere available.

We have only to open our eyes, ears, mouth, mind, and heart. When we engage with compassion each and every being, each and every situation – we are practicing.

There is much to practice!

It is, in my view, important to locate practice in the ordinary, everyday, non-scripted realities right in front of us – the ones life presents itself through, and in, and as.

It is lovely to have formal practice centers and retreats. It is equally lovely to realize that each one of us is the practice itself.

My prayer is that when we meet each other we come to see there is no other.

Practice, in this view, is the process of enlightening that prayer and experience with one another. From this emerge simplicity, integrity, and faithful engagement.

We’ll know we are practitioners when there is seen attentive presence, root silence, and faithful engagement.


Holly asks:
Please pass this survey onto to any Buddhists you know in Maine.

Please send it to

Or the Windhorse Project, 226 Ludwig Road, Hope, Maine, 04847. Many thanks!


Thanks Holly,

Bill Halpin & Saskia Huising