Saturday, November 22, 2003

Word opens world with watchful awareness.

In rowing skiff with photographer aboard I circle dock float where nine Tibetan Buddhist monks blow horns, beat drum, chant multi-tonal song while pouring sand and milk into harbor. The lovely artwork of sand mandala has dissolved in salt sea.

The mystical consciousness of St. Theresa implies a certain basic attitude toward the self. The thinking and feeling and willing self is not the starting point of all verifiable reality and of all experience. The primal truth, the ground of all being and truth, is in God the Creator of all that is. The starting point of all Christian belief and experience (in this context) is the primal reality of God as Pure Actuality. The "existence of God" is not something seen as deducible from our conscious awareness of our own existence. On the contrary, the experience of the classic Christian mystics is rooted in a meta-physic of being, in which God is intuited as "He Who Is," as the supreme reality, pure Being. The self-centered awareness of the ego is of course a pragmatic psychological reality, but once there has been an inner illumination of pure reality, an awareness of the Divine, the empirical self is seen by comparison to be "nothing," that is to say contingent, evanescent, relatively unreal, real only in relation to its source and end in God, considered not as object but as free ontological source of one's own existence and subjectivity. To understand this attitude, we have to remember that in this view of things Being is not an abstract objective idea but a fundamental concrete intuition directly apprehended in a personal experience that is incontrovertible and inexpressible. (from Zen and the Birds of Appetite by Thomas Merton, 1968, New York: New Directions Books.)

Marti's mother is dying. She travels north to see her. We keep Joanne in prayer. Death is a personal experience that is hard to share.

D.T. Suzuki says: "Tasting, seeing, experiencing, living - all these demonstrate that there is something common to enlightenment experience and our sense-experience; the one takes place in our innermost being, the other on the periphery of our consciousness. Personal experience thus seems to be the foundation of Buddhist philosophy. In this sense Buddhism is a radical empiricism or experientialism, whatever dialectic later developed to probe the meaning of the enlightenment experience." (D.T. Suzuki, Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist, N.Y., 1957, p. 48)

We walk through local Inn with its owner. We note its loveliness. We wonder whether the innermost being of Meetingbrook -- community cafe, retreat house, hospice rooms, place of intimate conversation -- would find itself in such a radical experience.

We notice we are not in control.

When, and as, light shines itself through -- we pray for grace not to be hindrances.

If happiness is hosting openness, we are happy to consider the open as host.

Receiving communion, we walk back to the shop with silent awareness of the Divine.

Say the word.

Friday, November 21, 2003

In prison this morning, Charlie had it this way: "There's so much crap that gets talked about here [in prison], I get tired of it. It's why I took a break even from these conversations. But I came back because these Meetingbrook conversations are a better quality of crap than the rest of it."

Steeply Mt. Yunmen rises
Leaving the white clouds way below
Its streams rush so swiftly
That no fish dares to linger

- Yunmen (864-949)

We can't linger too long in the heady rush of considerations about things beyond our comprehension. From reincarnation in our current existence, to "mere I" in Dalai Lama's talk in Salzberg, from Henri Nouwen's twofold poverty of heart and poverty of mind, to Philip Levine's poem about some things you know all your life -- we can glance and taste but seldom see and devour what passes quickly by us.

The Simple Truth

I bought a dollar and a half's worth of small red potatoes,
took them home, boiled them in their jackets
and ate them for dinner with a little butter and salt.
Then I walked through the dried fields
on the edge of town. In middle June the light
hung on in the dark furrows at my feet,
and in the mountain oaks overhead the birds
were gathering for the night, the jays and mockers
squawking back and forth, the finches still darting
into the dusty light. The woman who sold me
the potatoes was from Poland; she was someone
out of my childhood in a pink spangled sweater and sunglasses
praising the perfection of all her fruits and vegetables
at the road-side stand and urging me to taste
even the pale, raw sweet corn trucked all the way,
she swore, from New Jersey. "Eat, eat" she said,
"Even if you don't I'll say you did."
Some things
you know all your life. They are so simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,
the glass of water, the absence of light gathering
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.
My friend Henri and I arrived at this together in 1965
before I went away, before he began to kill himself,
and the two of us to betray our love. Can you taste
what I'm saying? It is onions or potatoes, a pinch
of simple salt, the wealth of melting butter, it is obvious,
it stays in the back of your throat like a truth
you never uttered because the time was always wrong,
it stays there for the rest of your life, unspoken,
made of that dirt we call earth, the metal we call salt,
in a form we have no words for, and you live on it.

(Poem by Philip Levine)

Once in a while, and then maybe again, we come to reside in our body whole and entire, aware of the incarnation briefly grasped then forgotten until next incarnation awareness. All in one lifetime.

Saskia said, "Happiness is hosting openness."

At end of prison conversation we say goodbye for this brief time until next time. Josh and Bob, Ryan and Charlie, Dick, Saskia, and I -- share the necessities and pleasantries of passage.

Maybe the raft is not the shore. Maybe there is no other shore. Maybe we are the flowing waters.

The very between of interconnectedness.

Hosting the open.


Wednesday, November 19, 2003

"Each of us has the same right to pursue happiness and avoid suffering." (Dalai Lama)

Walking Ragged Mountain trails with Sando and Cesco in quiet moistness remaining from night. From stream where dogs drink the ocean four miles east can be seen through leafless trees. The taste of mountain stream is cool and plain.

The mighty ocean has but one taste,
The taste of salt.
Even so, the true way has
But one savor,
The savor of freedom.

- Majjhima Nikaya

There is reason to worry about freedom. Many people do not care for freedom. They care about ideas and control. In countries locked into repression, freedom is sacrilege. In countries that claim to be sole arbiters of freedom, dissent is treachery. It is becoming confusing which countries are most worrisome -- those who fear freedom and torture the infidel, or those whose freedom evokes fear and unleashes fear of freedom. In America there are many who fear freedom. This is worrisome.

The Most Famous Buddhist in the World
By Lama Surya Das

Q. How did the Dalai Lama become the most famous Buddhist in the world?

A: Spiritually speaking, many people assume that the Dalai Lama is like the pope of Buddhism. This is not true. For one thing, the Dalai Lama is the highest-ranking lama in Tibetan Buddhism, but he is not officially recognized as a leader among the other schools of Buddhism.
For example, although Tibetan Buddhism is the state religion of Bhutan, the last independent Buddhist kingdom in the world, Bhutan has its own head lama. Other schools of Buddhism have their own chief monks or sangha leaders. The Sangha Raja (Sovereign Monk) is the supreme patriarch of Buddhists in Thailand. There are also other heads of large Buddhist sects, such as Fuji-san, head of Japan's Nichirin, or Pure Land, sect of so-called "chanting" Buddhists, who are known for building "peace pagodas" around the world.

The Dalai Lama's role differs from the pope's in other ways, too. Buddhism is not arranged in so hierarchical a fashion as is the Catholic Church, and there is no single head or ascendant ruling school. In fact, in Tibetan Buddhism, there are four sects or schools, and the Dalai Lama is head of only one of them, the Gelugpa school.

The dramatic escape in January from Tibet of the 17th Karmapa Lama underscores the interrelationship of the various sects and their high lamas: the Karmapa (which literally means "man of Buddha activity"), is the third-highest ranking lama in Tibet and the head of another large sect, the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism, founded 900 years ago.

The Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, meanwhile, is the second-highest ranking Gelugpa Tibetan lama after the Dalai Lama. Human rights groups call the young Panchen Lama, who would now be 10 or 11, the world's youngest political prisoner. After the Dalai Lama officially proclaimed him Panchen Lama in 1995, the boy was almost immediately abducted and imprisoned by the Chinese government and has not been seen in public since. It is feared that he is dead. All three of these lamas--the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa, and the Panchen Lama--are revered spiritual leaders and vital symbols of Tibetan independence both within and outside their homeland.

The Dalai Lama is also Tibet's political leader. He remains the head of the Tibetan government-in-exile, which he established in the Indian hill station of Dharamsala 40 years ago, through the grace of Pandit Nehru and the Indian government, after escaping into exile himself in 1959. From there, he leads the fight for Tibetan cultural preservation and autonomy, if not complete political freedom and independence from Chinese rule. In each of the last 10 years, he has visited 50 or more countries on his mission of peace, nonviolence, and human rights. For his humanitarian work and peaceful resistance to Chinese Communist rule in formerly independent Tibet, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.


Freedom must be considered in the light of birth, life, and death. We're born, live, and die. Or so it seems. If birth fades, if death fades, there is only life. Right here. Right now.

When mortals are alive, they worry about death. When they're full, they worry about hunger. Theirs is the Great Uncertainty. But sages don't consider the past. And they don't worry about the future. Nor do they cling to the present. And from moment to moment they follow the Way. (Bodhidharma)

The two dogs lay in kitchen under fragrance of lentil soup, with and without sausage.

Here is where life resides.

And here,

And each here you are.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Michael talked awhile before going to pick up Pia. Three years in Sweden. Now in New Hampshire.

Overcome your uncertainties
And free yourself
From dwelling on sorrow.
If you delight in existence,
You will become a guide
To those who need you,
Revealing the path to many.

- Sutta Nipata

Dana asks what my philosophy of life is. It seems I can't remember being asked this in a very long time.

Life is love. Surrender to life, surrender to love. The Dalai Lama says his religion is kindness. I’m not always religious.

What I think is helped by Dogen – one continuous mistake. What we do next, (as God tells Joan of Arcadia), is what’s important. It’s the ‘next thing’ that differentiates God from ‘the other side.’

Tibetan monks are in Camden for a week. Nine of them will take soup and bread at the shop tomorrow, Wednesday, at noon. They’re creating a mandala.

To delight in existence reveals the path to many.

Studded snow tires are on Caravan. Oil change.

Hospice Memorial Service tonight.

Simple kindness; simple delight.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Christy says she swims every morning. She wants a zabuton and zafu. And information about pre-Christian Brigid of Celtic lore.

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)

Lea says script of film being made nearby of book by Richard Russo starring Paul Newman was sold at local auction to benefit school for dropouts.

Fire crackles. Skiff is readied at dock for final row from floats on harbor in back of shop. Floats will be taken out for winter tomorrow.

It is an odd shop we have. It makes no profit. It seems like a new phylum, a peduncle. According to Teilhard, nature will suppress us.

In 'The Phenomenon of Man' Teilhard de Chardin discusses, in
some detail, the severe paucity of traces left behind by
beginnings, particularly the beginnings of branches on the
tree of life. In regard to commencements of all kinds he makes
reference to a 'fundamental condition to which experience is
subject, by virtue of which the beginnings of all things tend to
be materially out of our grasp.' (1) Applied to the evolution of
life, this condition can be designated as 'the "automatic
suppression of evolutionary peduncles".' (2) The context of
Teilhard's use of the term "peduncle" here gives it a purport
that is more or less equivalent to the term "bud". Indeed, he
says as much when he notes that the expression 'the
peduncle' has for him a meaning that 'comes to the same
thing [as] the bud'. (3) By the suppression of an evolutionary
peduncle on the tree of life, Teilhard simply means the
disappearance from view, of the bud, the incipient sprout,
by which a phylum began its life as a branch on that tree.

(Subject: Beginnings Leave Few Traces, Regards, Brian Cowan;

Perhaps November sets thought to diminishment. Impoverishment seems appropos in emptiness. We've neither the benefit of financial security nor the gift of inheritance. Like the seasonal cycle we try not to cling to what we do not possess.

It's the season of surrender.

There's nothing to relinquish.

The color she wants is violet.

Len, John, Peter, Sam set to play banjo, mandolin, guitar, and harmonica as Joanie comes through door with cane.
Saskia sets up flute stand.

It is time. Out back door, to skiff, away from crowd, oars in salt water, sun and sea stillness, slipping into traceless glide.