Friday, December 31, 2004

So ends 2004.

South Asia suffers the after-effects of land and water's sudden shudder.

A sober watch falls over everyone so recently content to point fingers and mock any difference of opinion.

Help the living. Bury the dead. Re-think the precarious impermanence of everything.

I join my hands and bow to the place in each of us compassion dwells.

Nothing is hidden. Everything is, and will be, revealed.

We must change our lives.

Happy New Year!
Meetingbrook Bookshop & Bakery is closed today. We will re-open Saturday, 8Jan.05

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Frank, brother-in-law, died yesterday, the 29th.

I knew he was placed on life support. I was writing the following piece to his son and step-daughter, to lighten their load. As it turned out, I was writing the ending of the piece at the very time he died. I sent it by email, but not before catching up with emotion at the last two phrases of the dialogue.

--- --- ---
Hello my favorite niece and nephew -- actually, my only ones (at that):

Your dad is in our prayer. At church this morning I mentioned his name specifically.

"Who?" came a voice.
"Frank Bonfiglio," I answered.
"Frank, Frank Bongiglio...?"
"No," I clarified, "Frank BonFiglio."

"Oh, Oh yes," the voice went on, a bit distracted. "We had him listed under the category 'You toucha my truck, I breaka your face.'" "Well, yes," I answered, "that was a phase of his past, but only a phase."

"Oh yes," said the voice, "here he is again, cross-referenced under the dialogue: 'Frank! Let's go shopping!' 'Okay, kid, get in the car.'" The voice paused. "There are innumerable entries under that dialogue."

"Look, forget about the folders you have on the guy, all I want is some acknowledgment he will be recognized in prayer. Will he?"

"Yes, yes," the voice said, "we'll forward the request to the proper attending angels who will swoop down to his side where he lays abed."

"Thank you," I said, "You're attention is appreciated. "And I also..."
... "Ah, Mr Halpin?"
"Just one thing."

"Do you want to cancel your complaint regarding some stolen hubcaps you registered aloud to an unheeding sky about ten years ago?"

[Pause. Rumination. Deep thought.]

"Yes, of course, yes. My comments were only a playful complaint. After all, they did have a 'B' on the hubcap, and he is from New York, and his name is 'Bonfiglio' -- so naturally he felt they were his hubcaps. And besides, it was only a rusted junker at the foot of a mountain in Maine. I didn't even notice them on the car. He did. End of story. Yes, cancel that complaint."

"Good," said the voice. "That relief from his immortal soul will make his remaining time on earth lighter and more carefree. I'll let the angels -- hmmm, they're already in his room, playing with the lights on the monitors and sampling the toast on the trays in the hallway -- I'll let them know to comfort his mind and soul that all is forgiven and soon to be forgotten. Right?"

"Forgotten...Of course, forgotten. Er...What were we just talking about?"
"Oh, nothing. Nothing at all."

[Remembering something, as from a while back]
"OK. Prayer. Oh yeah, prayer -- we send him our prayer."

"Done!" said the voice.
"OK," I concluded.

[Gazing out window to where light wisp of smoke rises from wood stove chimney]

"OK...Frank --"

[Longer pause]


--- --- ---
That's it. I finished, pressed "Send/Receive," and went back to reading student papers.

Lori Ann called 29 minutes later to tell me, "It's over, he died."

I sat a while in silence, and I acknowledged, recognized, and appreciated the prayer of what had just taken place.

Returning with dogs from brief ceremony in chapel and further up the path, I wrote the following:

(for Frank Bonfiglio)

One stick of incense
placed on old Buick near brook --
fresh deer track in snow


Sunday, December 26, 2004

I saw my family this morning.

Cesco and I walked the wide loop up from hermitage, across four runways of snow-making blow, through woods fresh with dusting through the night, down along ravine over towards Tom's place, and back to where brook returns to itself. I sat there on jerry-rigged bench watching tumbling water skirting ice-fingers reaching from stone frost.

At a private gate,
A light snow falls;
Here the quietist's "scheme"
Is perfectly achieved.
Meditation proceeds
Through the day;
Only lone peaks
Compare in purity.
I'm at ease
In this insignificant dream;
Fir and bamboo
Stir in the cold.
There's only one old man
On West Peak,
And when we meet,
His eyes shine clear.

- Kuan -Hsiu (832-912)

We met no one. Cesco was bright-eyed. He turned time to time to see if I was still with him. I was. I followed his prints etched in snow over root and leaf path through bare trees.

Bless the Lord, you heavens; all his angels, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, you waters above the heavens; all his powers, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, sun and moon; all stars of the sky, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, rain and dew; all you winds, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, fire and heat; cold and warmth, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, dew and frost; ice and cold, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, ice and snow; day and night, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, light and darkness; lightning and storm-clouds, bless the Lord.

(from Daniel 3)

This is my family. This, and all the people passing through heart and mind on morning walk. This is my prayer, this holy family of all existence.

Back at chapel/zendo, I bow to image of Mary, Joseph, Jesus leaning before statue of Buddha in silent adoring inclusion of one another.

In kitchen, Mu-ge licks lingering scent of skunk along his fur into the air. Cesco has his off-switch on shut-down laying stretched along grey rug. Wood-stove re-catches as English muffins defrost and coffee sits fresh-brewed.

(Hyphens hold together while proclaiming distinctiveness.)

Distinct is this family I see.


For seeing this, I am grateful!

Saturday, December 25, 2004

What is born today?

The wolf lives with the lamb,
the panther lies down with the kid,
calf and lion feed together,
with a little boy to lead them.
The cow and the bear make friends,
their young lie down together.
The lion eats straw like the ox.
The infant plays over the cobra’s hole;
into the viper’s lair
the young child puts his hand.
They do no hurt, no harm,
on all my holy mountain,
for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters swell the sea.

(From Isaiah 11)

For us – Nobis.

All of us.

Seeing whole.

What is – born, today.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas is nothing special made visible.

For some, it is a celebration of the divisible.

I lean to the quiet (in)side of it.

Stillness, stillness
In the flowering branches
At the thatched hut,
Swept strings of a zither.
Because you're now in mountains,
The way you see has changed;
When meeting visitors,
You do not speak your heart.
The moon rises
Over the quiet river road;
Cranes cry from trees
Deep in cloud.
If I could learn
The art of alchemy,
I, too, would settle
In an unknown wood.

- Chang Chi (776-829)

Alchemy, says the dictionary, is the medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy whose aims were the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for diseases, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life.
(Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary, © 2002)

I'm not so interested in gold, cures, or indefinite and prolonged life. Pizza, water, ice cream, and cookie suffice.

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.
(from A sermon of St Augustine, Office of Readings, 24Dec.04)

It is a welcome notion God became man. So, here we are. Male and female -- God became us. Mother and child -- God became us.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.
Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.
Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

(from A sermon of St Augustine)

Heaven is the dwelling place of God. And God became us. Hence we are God's dwelling place. Heaven is now here.

It is nice so many churches celebrate Christmas with abandon. They invite the collaboration of God with us to sing, and pray, and share the elements of earth as sign of wholeness.

Of indivisibility.

Light leaping into darkness.

Word impregnating silence.

Until -- there is only one step following another; one breath following another; one indivisible simple realization following an unending stretch of divisible complexity.

Word becomes flesh, dwells among us, and we see.

Don't we?

Nothing finer; nothing finite; nothing to it.

Each in itself seeing Itself.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Mary was indivisible. Forget the dissembling confusion over the shell of the story; the heart of the myth is wholeness and compassion. Mary broke open the shell; Jesus embodied the core.

What is sitting meditation?
To remove ourselves from
all external distractions and
quiet the mind is called “sitting.”
To observe the inner nature
in perfect calmness is called “meditation.”

- Hui-neng

We need quiet and meditation this Christmas. The noise and distressing infidelity to truth by makers of war and violence has hurt our souls and pained hearts.

But now, God, you have spurned us and confounded us,
so that we must go into battle without you.
You have put us to flight in the sight of our enemies,
and those who hate us plunder us at will.
You have handed us over like sheep sold for food,
you have scattered us among the nations.

(from Psalm 44)

The birth of Jesus and giving-birth by Mary is celebration of indivisibility.

Is that the mystery of Christ? Is that what Mary entered, what Jesus found?

What did Mary enter? What did Jesus find?

In this time of unnecessary war we desperately embody these questions.

To bring them home.

Ask them in.

One and one.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Dirk, just back from India, says compassion treats the other as oneself.

Far up this cold mountain,
A steep rocky trail
Leads to places men dwell
In white clouds.
I stop my horse-drawn cart,
Sit and enjoy sunset through the maples,
Whose frosted leaves are redder
Than early spring flowers.

- Tu Mu (803-852)

War-deaths continue to mount. A fragile seesaw tries to balance celebrating holiday cheer alongside screams of fear and explosives. We are encouraged to think positively -- as if wishing made so what wisher wishes.

For he knows how we are made,
he remembers we are nothing but dust.
Man -- his life is like grass,
he blossoms and withers like flowers of the field.
The wind blows and carries him away:
no trace of him remains.

(from Psalm 103)

At Wednesday Evening Laura Conversation, words such as "wholeness" and "compassion" were looked at. Is awareness of the one prerequisite for the other? Not seeing one or the other, are we blind to the mystery of life?

War is a lie.

Can spoil be snatched from heroes,
or captives escape from a soldier?
Yes, thus says the Lord:
The hero's captive will be snatched away,
the soldier's spoil escape.
I myself will fight with those who fight you,
and I myself will save your children.

(from Isaiah 49)

What is born whole is torn asunder by fragmenting minds unable to apprehend the whole.

Word looks out from itself.

Will it come to earth?

As antidote to lie?


Christmas nears.

Mystery pauses.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Winter tomorrow. Tonight, as prelude, freezing wind slices open any hope of moderation. Temperature bottoms.

An old friend who lives on Tung Mountain
Loves the beauty of valleys and hills.
In green spring, he rests in empty woods
And sleeps though the sun is high.
Pine wind rustles his collar and sleeve;
The deep, rocked pool cleanses heart and ear.
I envy this man who suffers no delusions,
His high pillow wreathed by green clouds.

- Li Po (701-762)

Delusions huddle in cold light. We face the prospect of falling colder and further into an ideological ice age where reactionary leadership and politics threaten fear and devolving smugness in place of compassionate kindness and warm humanity.

I pondered and tried to understand:
my eyes laboured to see –
until I entered God’s holy place
and heard how they would end.
For indeed you have put them on a slippery surface
and have thrown them down in ruin.

How they are laid waste!
How suddenly they fall and perish in terror!
You spurn the sight of them, Lord,
as a dream is abandoned when the sleeper awakes.

(--from Psalm 73)

I worry about this time in history; worry the men creating our world see something the rest of us do not see. These men see Jesus as a Republican. Jesus is a corporate executive winning expanded market-share exclusively for the deserving. Jesus is a white man using chosen men to represent the tenets of privilege, exclusive ownership, and noblesse oblige over the undeserving, the have-nots, and the unworthy.

Their eyes are the pain of winter without winter's beauty.

Recently a circular letter arrived from a musician who said that if he heard the name Jesus one more time in this first post-election Christmas, he'd crap in his shoe.

It's about compassion, he wrote. Always and only about compassion -- for everyone and everything.

It is a tricky thing to celebrate the birth of Christ among men who believe they own Jesus.

I am not fond of all the arrogant men who claim they own Jesus.

Mother Mary shows us another way.

She is compassionate presence.

A Bodhisattva.


Salve Maria!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Let's leave well enough alone.

The one we call God never leaves.

We're the only ones who try to disappear.

To find a buddha,
all you have to do is see your nature.
Your nature is the buddha.
And the buddha is the person who's free;
free of plans, free of cares.
If you don't see your nature
and run around all day looking
somewhere else, you'll never find a buddha.

- Bodhidharma (d. 533)

It is our nature to long to appear. It is God's nature to be appearance.

If I looked upon sin in the depths of my heart,
the Lord would not hear me;
but the Lord has listened,
he has heard the cry of my appeal.

(from Psalm 66)

Beyond sin -- that is, beyond the fear we might disappear -- there is this listening. There is this listening appearance that sees us through but cannot be seen.

There's no need to keep looking elsewhere. There is no somewhere else.

All appears well right where we are.

Right where you are.

Listening alone.

Well, well...


Saturday, December 18, 2004

Skunk hits. Cat walks desultorily up driveway. The reeking.

In the mountains,
A monk's robe hangs
In the meditation hall.
Outside the window,
No one's to be seen,
Only birds skimming over the creek.
As I descend,
Dusk meets me halfway
Down the mountain road.
Still hearing the creek fall,
I hesitate, reluctant
To leave these blue heights.

- Meng Hao-jan (689-740)

This cold night. Ice thickens on pond, Ice grows out from stones in brook.

I hesitate.

The seeking.

No one's to be seen.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Carrying ladder to cabin. Carrying wreath to place up near forepeak. Climbing. Wire-wrap on last year's headed nail. Coming down. Carrying ladder back to barn.

The simple fact of it.

To find a buddha,
you have to see your nature.
Whoever sees his or her nature is a buddha.
If you don't see your nature,
invoking buddhas,
reciting sutras,
making offerings
result in good karma.
Reciting sutras results in good memory.
Keeping precepts results in a good rebirth.
And making offerings results in future blessings.
But no buddha.

- Bodhidharma (d. 533)

The practice of everyday actions as a path to the seeing of everyday actions as the path of practice enlightening each thing being done, each face appearing, each sound shaping silence -- this is a fine learning.

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky! But Ahaz answered, "I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!" Then Isaiah said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.
(Isaiah 7:10-14)

The young girl, the ordinary maiden, will be pregnant, give birth, find name for the child -- and live day to day the ordinary reality of her life, his life, and the life of the people walking by.

Door opens -- Saskia, Cesco, and Sando come in door to kitchen where Mu-ge looks out from wicker basket and I listen to Dvorak's Romance in f-minor on Maine Public Radio's Morning Classical Music.

No Buddha? No Christ? Fluppidup!

(This is where "Mu" arises.) Un-ask the question. Instead, glance over at snoozing cat, snoozing dog -- and let addled border collie back out to sunshine embracing him in front of barn door.

Tall trees sway further up Ragged incline!

Offenbach's ballet of snowflakes ends as Snowbowl makes snow this cold morning

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Otherwise, blame and guilt emerge with the divisible.

Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.
(--St. John of the Cross)

The forest grows wood. Some will be shaped into a cross to hang the indivisible. Some wood hangs silently in a deep solitude where awareness wanders.

The trail enters
Pines, the sound of pines;
The farther one goes,
The rarer the sound.
Mountain's light
Colors the river water.
Among peaks,
A monk sits Zen,
Facing an old branch
Of a cassia tree,
Once a seedling in the Liang.

- Chiao-jan (730-799)

It is hard imagining any sense coming from explanation offered by men about the world of politics and society, much less thought and wisdom. Maybe -- poets. As it is, nature itself is truest expression of what is beyond comprehension. The wet leaves on mountain path will stiffen tonight in freezing plunge.

Ah, who has the power to heal me?
now wholly surrender yourself!
Do not send me
any more messengers,
they cannot tell me what I must hear.

(STANZA 6, Spiritual Canticle, John of the Cross)

No more messengers, poet says.

Pass quietly the pine tree.

Sapling grows beyond brook.

Across footbridge, just there.

Ragged indivisibility.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Cesco is better. As odd as ever. But better. He reminds me of so many I meet. Oddly themselves.

Don?t be concerned with
who is wise and who is stupid.
Do not discriminate the
sharp from the dull.
To practice whole-heartedly
is the true endeavor of the way.
Practice-realization is not
defiled with specialness;
it is a matter for every day.

- Dogen (1200-1253)

In cabin at dusk Cesco, Sando, and Mu-ge stretched on floor. I sat on one of Phil Root's benches. Just that. Saskia was still in Boothbay. The apple tree on Sally's land tilted on its broken arm.

Undoubtedly, what attracted [Jean]Gebser was the same clarity that he also appreciated in the Zen monasteries of Japan. According to him, clarity is an essential aspect of the arational structure of consciousness. He lived by this principle himself. Gebser stood for intensification, rather than mystical or psychedelic expansion, of consciousness. Clarity is both a means and a sign of such intensification. Gebser approvingly cited a remark by Paul Klee, one of the great pioneers of the aperspectival consciousness in art. "I begin more and more to see behind or, better, through things."
(-- from "JEAN GEBSER: Philosopher of the New Order" - By Georg Feuerstein)

Life is impermanent, they say. Still, it is nice to be gathered with one another.

Cesco looks up when I say that to Saskia.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

No names. Things are what they are. The attachment we have for names is similar to the attachment we have for ownership, privilege, and personal wealth.

To study the Way,
whether moving or still,
is nothing more or less
than becoming quite intimate
with our own nature,
resting quite easy in our natural state.

- Anon

The natural state is the thing itself.

(Ding an sich, i.e the thing itself, was defined by Immanuel Kant in his "Critique of Pure Reason" as the reality of the thing -- the essence beyond the knowledge of appearances. Or Zu die sache selbst (to the things themselves) -- Edmund Husserl's phrase in his phenomenology -- the attempt to describe the structures of experience as they present themselves to consciousness, without recourse to theory, deduction, or assumptions from other disciplines.)

Pointing to natural state -- unadorned and unmediated, unappropriated and uncovered -- seeks to see individuals (things or persons) in and of themselves.

What I envision is a rebuilding of monasticism without the need for monasteries, a recovery of sacred language without a church in which to use it, an education in the soul that takes place outside of school, the creation of an artful world accomplished by persons who are not artists, the emergence of a psychological sensibility once the discipline of psychology has been forgotten, a life of intense community with no organization to belong to, and achieving a life of soul without having made any progress toward it.
(p.40, in Meditations, On the Monk Who Dwells in Daily Life, by Thomas Moore)

The monastic life at dusk between Bald Mountain and Ragged Mountain lifts water by spoonful to the dog Cesco on his side between brother cat Mu-ge and sister dog Sando.

This enlivens and leavens the world -- spoonfuls of water -- or soup, taken in the presence of attentive and engaged community.

At least...for now.

We are being lead out.

Into the open -- that nameless place.

We are.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Cesco is ill.

In the Mountains
Common birds
Love to chatter
Where men live quiet lives.
Peaceful clouds
Seem jealous
When the moon is bright.
In the world,
The ten thousand affairs
Are not my affairs.
My only shame,
It’s autumn,
And I have no poem.

- Szu K’ung-t’u (837-908)

The athletic Border collie is unmoving on kitchen floor.
He is back from animal hospital. “Call me if you need to tonight,” the vet says.

Saskia keeps watch.

Friday, December 10, 2004

It is silence, after all, holds us.

Stop searching for phrases
and chasing after words.
Take the backward step
and turn the light inward.
Your body-mind of itself
will drop off,
and your original face will appear.
If you want to attain just this,
immediately practice just this.

(- Dogen 1227)

We pronounce promises at shop after conversation. Michael, Pia, Jean, Genevieve hear Saskia and I say yes to what and who we are.

In silence we face and admit that gap between the depths of our being, which we consistently ignore, and the surface which is so often untrue to our own reality. We recognize the need to be at home with ourselves in order that we may go out to meet others, not just with the mask of affability, but with real commitment and authentic love.
(--Thomas Merton, d.10Dec.1968))

Just this.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Time does somersaults. Anselm says, "The whole universe was created by God, and God was born of Mary."

This December, that which seeks Itself turns round and round in wobbly gyre, feet over head and hands with extended arms out from rotating shoulders. The season turns, and with its turning, we turn too.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we will not be ashamed,
To turn, to turn will be our delight,
'Til by turning, turning we come 'round right.

(from “Simple Gifts” -- a Shaker Hymn written by Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr. in 1848)

Time present and time past cartwheel when we try to figure and follow which comes first in the realm of the Spirit.

Reading: A sermon by St Anselm:
O Virgin, by whose blessing all nature is blessed!
Blessed Lady, sky and stars, earth and rivers, day and night -- everything that is subject to the power or use of man -- rejoice that through you they are in some sense restored to their lost beauty and are endowed with inexpressible new grace. All creatures were dead, as it were, useless for men or for the praise of God, who made them. The world, contrary to its true destiny, was corrupted and tainted by the acts of men who served idols. Now all creation has been restored to life and rejoices that it is controlled and given splendour by men who believe in God.

The universe rejoices with new and indefinable loveliness. Not only does it feel the unseen presence of God himself, its Creator, it sees him openly, working and making it holy. These great blessings spring from the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb.

Through the fullness of the grace that was given you, dead things rejoice in their freedom, and those in heaven are glad to be made new. Through the Son who was the glorious fruit of your virgin womb, just souls who died before his life-giving death rejoice as they are freed from captivity, and the angels are glad at the restoration of their shattered domain.

Lady, full and overflowing with grace, all creation receives new life from your abundance. Virgin, blessed above all creatures, through your blessing all creation is blessed, not only creation from its Creator, but the Creator himself has been blessed by creation.

To Mary God gave his only-begotten Son, whom he loved as himself. Through Mary God made himself a Son, not different but the same, by nature Son of God and Son of Mary. The whole universe was created by God, and God was born of Mary. God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God. The God who made all things gave himself form through Mary, and thus he made his own creation. He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.

God, then, is the Father of the created world and Mary the mother of the re-created world. God is the Father by whom all things were given life, and Mary the mother through whom all things were given new life. For God begot the Son, through whom all things were made, and Mary gave birth to him as the Saviour of the world. Without God’s Son, nothing could exist; without Mary’s Son, nothing could be redeemed.

Truly the Lord is with you, to whom the Lord granted that all nature should owe as much to you as to himself.

(from Office of Readings, Dec.8, Feast of the Immaculate Conception)

We re-dedicate hermitage to this wholeness of Mary.

At conversation last evening the artists named Clarity remind it is a round path, not a flat path, we each walk.

Listening this morning to Joseph Campbell. He says: God is a metaphor for a mystery that absolutely transcends all human categories of thought. Even the categories of 'being' and 'non-being.' Those are categories of thought. (from video, "The World of Joseph Campbell; The Hero's Journey")

Christianity is metaphor. As is Judaism, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etcetera. Those who hold metaphors as true are one category of seers. Those not holding them as true are another category of seers. We are invited to be seers. We speak at times and we remain silent at times in the presence of what is seen.

When we ask, "What is true?" we place ourselves in response to invitation. To ask is invitation into the open. The very question itself is invitation to contemplation, meditation, or prayer. Ask, and drop into the way of metaphor.

In language, a metaphor is a rhetorical trope where a comparison is made between two seemingly unrelated subjects. Typically, a first object is described as being a second object. In this way, the first object can be economically described because implicit and explicit attributes from the second object can be used to fill in the description of the first.

A trope is a play on words, a word used in something other than what is considered its literal or normal form. It comes from the Greek word, 'tropos,' which means a "turn", as in heliotrope, a flower which turns toward the sun. We can imagine a trope as a way of turning a word away from its normal meaning, or turning it into something else.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

There is a dance that occurs with words. The steps of the dance are idiorhythmic to the dancer and the word. Idiorhythmic, that is, where each person and word could follow their own rhythm and tempo.

The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learned from others; it is also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an eye for resemblance.
(-Aristotle, De Poetica, 322 B.C.)

"Una voce dicentis" (one voice saying) was the Latin phrase leading to "Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus" (holy, holy, holy) in the preface to the celebration of the Presence in Sacrament at Catholic Liturgy.

What is holy is the sound of seeing.

On the 10th of December, (what we hold as the feast of Thomas Merton), we pronounce again our 3 promises of Contemplation, Conversation, and Correspondence.

Contemplation is the promise of simplicity.
It is a gift of poverty inviting open waiting, receptive trust, attention, and watchful presence. It is a simple Being-With.
It is attentive presence.

is the promise of integrity.
It is a chaste and complete intention to listen and speak, lovingly and respectfully, with each and all made present to us. It is a wholeness of listening and speaking.
It is root silence.

Correspondence is the promise of faithful engagement.
It is responsible attention and intention offered obediently to the Source of all Being, to the Human Family, to Nature. It is a faithful engagement with all sentient beings, with this present world, with existence with all its needs & joys, sorrows & hope.
It is transparent service.

{Three promises: Contemplation, Conversation, Correspondence held by Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage “m.o.n.o.”(monastics of no other).}

We listen silently.

For that one voice.

Speaking as Itself.

Mother. Metaphor.

A blessed fruit.

Turning with love.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Mary is our sister. The present is our mother. What is here is What Is here.

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27, NIV)

“Here” is our only home. Jesus understood that “here” is our mother. When we are present we are mother. When we are in the presence of another we are in the presence of mother.

Mother is presence, and presence is always here.

Waking from sleep,
I can hear the dew in the trees.
I open my door
Overlooking the garden.
The winter moon
Clears the eastern cliffs;
Water murmurs
Through roots of bamboo.
The mountain stream’s
Beyond my hearing,
But a mountain bird cries once,
And then again.
Leaning in the doorway,
I follow night through to dawn.
What words can I summon
For such mystery and peace?

- Liu Tzung-yuan (773-819)

To be conceived and born whole is to be undifferentiated from presence itself. Mary, says the feast of the Immaculate Conception, was conceived and born whole. Thus it was that Presence Itself received permission to be let go through her. To be sent through here.

“Permission” comes from the Latin per = through, and mitto, mittere = to send, or, to let go.

Mary was sent through God. God was let go through Mary.

It is a wonderful feast. It is the feast of Letting Presence Through.

“Whole sight,” wrote John Fowles beginning his novel Daniel Martin, “Or all the rest is desolation.”

The world knows desolation and the ambition of the half-sighted.

Here it is time for whole sight. Mary whole is our permitted wholeness.

Mary, Spirit-Sophia. Mother of God. You and I. And each about us.


Monday, December 06, 2004

War is deception and lie.

Common Form (1918)
If any question why we died,
Tell them because our fathers lied.


War is now a permanent state for America. As long as there remains a single terrorist, America is at war. The next difficult question will be: Who is not a terrorist? Anyone opposing the ascendant reign of righteous warfare and crusade will be considered terrorist.

A Dead Statesman (1924)
I could not dig, I dared not rob,
And so I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue,
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale will serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

Young men face down and kill men, women, and children in Iraq. They will have to live with the screams and scents of carnage. These men will come home. They will haunt the homes and streets of our neighborhoods. We will have to face terror in our streets -- the terror of felt memory in men. These haunted men and memories -- men who've done their job well will look out from eyes and smiles -- these decent warriors gone to the bidding of their leaders.

Our streets and roads will be filled with memories drifting like ghosts in and out of family cars, shopping malls, and places of worship.

The real way circulates everywhere;
how could it require practice or enlightenment?
The essential teaching is fully available;
how could effort be necessary?
Furthermore, the entire mirror is free of dust;
why take steps to polish it?
Nothing is separate from this very place;
why journey away?

- Dogen 1227

We can pray. Soon we will have nothing remaining but prayer for these our brothers, fathers, and sons.

Pray, then, we will.

For the living.

And dead.

Among us.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

John was ahead of his time. He saw God in stones.
For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. (Matthew 3)

Paul was a theologian for our time. He saw 'welcome' as the glory of God.
Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for
the glory of God.
(Romans 15)

What is this for? What is that for?

For the glory of God.

Glory is defined, and defines us, as: Praise, honor, admiration, or distinction, accorded by common consent to a person or thing -- says Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary

Common -- i.e. -- belonging equally to or shared equally by two or more.

Each stone, each person, and everything between -- is the glory of God.

The voice of success and profit
May stir the vault of heaven,
But not this place.
In the rounds of the day,
You wear threadbare clothing
And eat simple fare.
When the mountain snow deepens,
Your thoughts
Are far from those of people.
Immortals pass your door
And knock.

- Kuan-hsiu (832-912)


Revise our theology.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

HIV/AIDS continues to do what no terrorist nor can military power do. It is a steady, unrelenting, and devastating threat of sickness and death. AIDS also has the curious potential to transform human understanding from small mind to big mind, bringing into view a compassion and understanding new and fresh.

Is there a “big mind” that can apprehend what has been and is the reality of the occurrence of this threat?

Too much knowledge leads to overactivity;
Better to calm the mind.
The more you consider, the greater the loss;
Better to unify the mind.

Water dripping ceaselessly
Will fill the four seas.
Specks of dust not wiped away
Will become the five mountains.

- Wang Ming (6th century)

At Wednesday Evening ‘Laura’ Conversation we read from comments on the life of a man, Buddhist and Gay, who lived with and died from AIDS:

What happened from there was AIDS. As the health crisis grew in San Francisco, Issan told a friend that, more and more, the epidemic was teaching him what Suzuki-roshi had meant when he talked about Big Mind.

Meditation practice, in the Zen tradition of Dogen at least, is about mind and body dropping away. Small, lively individual mind and grasping, needful individual body can recede, if only temporarily, into the background of experience. After twenty years of Zen practice, Issan had been able to experience life with Big Mind in the foreground of consciousness. He began to see and express the fact that an individual death, including his own, might not be such a big thing in the light of the steady blossoming of Big Mind experience.

To appreciate Big Mind in the midst of a plague is to know that the seemingly pressing concerns of individual personalities, identities, and cravings can fall away in an instant with mindful practice, the compassion which arises automatically with the experience of Big Mind makes working for the good of all much easier. Big Mind, Issan began to see, presumes that taking care of others is also taking care of self. As co-participants in Big Mind, sufferer and helper are mutually necessary - both help, both suffer.

Living and surviving, while someone nearby is dying, becomes like wave and trough on the surface of the sea --- each needs the other, yet both are fleeting.

(from "The Lone Mountain Path: AIDS in the Life and Death of Issan Dorsey Roshi," by Kobai Scott Whitney, 1997)

We are, each of us, fleeting.

Robert Lowell wrote:
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.

(from poem, Epilogue, by Robert Lowell, in Day By Day, c.1978)

Perhaps Lowell's use of the phrase "his living name" corresponds with the "Hashem" of Jewish mysticism -- "The Name" as the articulation of the "One Most True."

In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when the Christian right was describing AIDS as the wrath of God directed against homosexuals for their sins, Issan was asked to participate in a San Francisco Council of Churches symposium called "Is AIDS the Wrath of God?" He was the only Buddhist representative at the meeting and he was quite emphatic about removing the reality of AIDS from the dualistic good/bad, sin/salvation paradigm being dealt with at the conference. He ended his short presentation with the astonishing (to Christians, perhaps) statement that "AIDS is not the wrath of God. AIDS is God."
(in Whitney, re Issan)

Is it possible to consider everything that occurs with ‘big mind’ and not separate anything from our notion of ‘God?’

Is ‘the Lord’ what we call ‘presence and compassion’ in each occurrence?

(Thanksgiving) The Lord’s ways are pure; the words of the Lord are refined in the furnace; the Lord protects all who hope in him.
For what God is there, but our Lord? What help, but in the Lord our God?
God, who has wrapped me in his strength and set me on the perfect path,
who has made my feet like those of the deer, who has set me firm upon the heights,
who trains my hands for battle, teaches my arms to bend a bow of bronze.

Psalm 17 (18)

The “battle” is overcoming with gentleness the small mind that makes ‘other’ what it can not understand.

The “bow of bronze” is less a weapon, (i.e. that which launches arrows), as it is a sign of reverence (i.e. bowing with joined hands, bowing down in respect) toward each and every being and person – those with AIDS, those without AIDS, those in any state of existence or experience.

AIDS is not a homosexual scourge. AIDS mutates and changes, reappearing in more dangerous forms, and belongs to everyone. We as a society try to contain, cure, and eliminate AIDS. In addition, we try to break open small mind so as to tumble into the gathered whole Big Mind wherein we come to see and love one another as we are.

For what God there is, is there.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

We already know.

Socrates, Buddha, and Christ each claimed we already know.

In this dhyana one does not
accept selfish pleasures,
one does not seek any reward,
and one is not moved by karmic records.
One enters dhyana solely for the
purpose of establishing one’s mind.
And then, out of wisdom,
returns to life in the desire realm
for the purpose of helping all
sentient beings achieve liberation.
This dhyana is called the paramita of concentration.

- Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra

Sure, we already know.

But tell me again.

Who I am.


Monday, November 29, 2004

Canada hosts the American president tomorrow. Maybe he'll choose to emigrate to a hospitable, inclusive, non-bellicose country.

Just by listening with your eyes
you can fold back on yourself and
merge into that primal
stream of awareness like a river
is swallowed by the immensity of the ocean.
Only then will you know what point to live from.

- Journeys on Mind Mountain

Live from personal and universal truth.

If we are afraid of being alone, afraid of silence, it is perhaps because of our secret despair of inner reconciliation. If there is no hope of being at peace with ourselves in our own personal loneliness and silence, we will never be able to face ourselves at all: we will keep running and never stop. And this flight from the self is, as the Swiss philosopher Max Picard pointed out, a ?flight from God.? After all, it is in the depths of the conscience that God speaks, and if we refuse to open up inside and look into these depths, we also refuse to confront the invisible God who is present within us. This refusal is a partial admission that we do not want God to be God any more than we want ourselves to be our true selves.
(Thomas Merton, in "Creative Silence" published in Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, Bulletin 67, August 2001)

It is odd that some Americans on The National, the evening news on CBC, are so hostile to other Americans who wish to emigrate to Canada because they do not recognize their country any longer. It is the hostility and mocking severity on the part of the right-wing that makes so many feel strange in their own land.

Maybe incivility is a passing phase.

There's still time to go deeper.

Where the real can be reached.

Only with open hands.

Not clenched fists.

Fall into God.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

We want Isaiah's vision.

Nation will not lift sword against nation,
there will be no more training for war.

(Isaiah 2:4)

We want to move from numbing unawareness.

Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep.
(Romans 13:110

We want to watch, carefully.

Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
(Matt 24:41)

Advent says it is coming.

Of all good works, zazen comes first, for the merit of only one step into it surpasses that of erecting a thousand temples. Even a moment of sitting will enable you to free yourself from life and death, and your Buddha nature will appear of itself. Then all you do, perceive, think becomes part of the miraculous Tathagata-suchness.
- Meiho (1277-1350)

Zazen tells the truth.

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant --
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind --

(Emily Dickinson, #1129)

Dazzling lightning gradually approaching.

Christ seeing us through.

Sitting true.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Note: Bookshop and Bakery closed today, Friday.
Friday Evening's Conversation Interreligious Dialogue will take place at the hermitage, 5:30-6:30pm.
Be back tomorrow, Saturday, 10:30am.

The authentic interests us.

An Introduction to Some Poems

Look: no one ever promised for sure
that we would sing. We have decided
to moan. In a strange dance that
we don't understand till we do it, we
have to carry on.

Just as in sleep you have to dream
the exact dream to round out your life,
so we have to live that dream into stories
and hold them close at you, close at the
edge we share, to be right.

We find it an awful thing to meet people,
serious or not, who have turned into vacant
effective people, so far lost that they
won't believe their own feelings
enough to follow them out.

The authentic is a line from one thing
along to the next; it interests us.
strangely, it relates to what works,
but is not quite the same. It never
swerves for revenge,

Or profit, or fame: it holds
together something more than the world,
this line. And we are your wavery
efforts at following it. Are you coming?
Good: now it is time.

(Poem: "An Introduction To Some Poems" by William Stafford, from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems © Graywolf Press, 1998.)

It worries, still, we have swerved for revenge. A Zen Master used to say, 'Only go straight.' It worries we become "vacant effective people" intent on making the world and our society in the image of a few men who wield power.

And yet, it consoles that the inauthentic has a short span. Life, they say, is ephemeral and impermanent. The authentic transcends and includes any and all limitation placed on it.

That's why the authentic interests. It "is between" any attempt to divide and dualize us into snarling pairs of opposites maligning the other.

But, there is no other.


Thursday, November 25, 2004

In the corner of the meditation cabin is Janet's small wood box with a carved anchor on top. There is nothing in the box. The box is empty. At times it is open. There is never anything in it but empty, open, space. It is our tabernacle.

Writer James Carroll suggests:
What we love most is Thanksgiving's underlying idea: that existence itself is a gift. If the holiday ritual calls for the bounty of culinary excess -- four side dishes, three kinds of pie, two forms of cranberry -- it is not to celebrate affluence but to acknowledge the accidental richness of life itself. The multiple desserts are tribute to all that we don't deserve. In taking time away from work, we are remembering that the most precious things are those that we do nothing to earn.

At Mass this morning I looked at the tabernacle as the priest prepared the altar for communion. The door was open. The space was empty. The Eucharist, if you will, the Body of Christ, was out and about. The dwelling-place of the sacramental Jesus was open and empty. The whole process of remembering the true nature of what we call “God” resides in the empty open conveyance of one’s presence in the presence of one another.

An attitude of gratefulness defines us at our best. It does this by pointing away from the self toward others, or toward an Other. Conventionally religious people are quick to put the name "God" on the one being thanked, and prayers come quickly to lips this week. But the feeling of sublime indebtedness, defining what is expressly human about humanity, is larger than religion. On Thanksgiving, feast of the exuberant abundance of creation, all language about any conceivable Creator falls short because creation itself exceeds our capacity to account for it. No matter, because, in being buoyed by this most oceanic of emotions, one need not know toward whom, exactly, one feels it. Let each person be God, therefore, to every other. God enough for now.
(Published on Tuesday, November 23, 2004 by the Boston Globe "America's Heartfelt Holiday", by James Carroll

The day is foggy. Rain falls; darkness slowly lowers through shrouded trees. The road out front is quiet. Birds come to and leave feeder. Cat hopes for mis-flaps. Dogs snooze. Saskia fusses with kitchen scents. We bailed dinghy, walked Rockport Harbor, sipped tea on balcony of Hermitage Harbor Room after church. Myles was delivered a pumpkin cream cheese pie. The day is spacious with stillness.

No matter how hard Rabbi, Priest, or Minister tries to make ungrateful the nine who were healed but didn't return to Jesus to say thank you, they are misdirected. The one who returned is enough for now. In that one, all are represented. If it works for Jesus, it works for all of us – all who forget to say it, all who feel it but just keep on going, all who are surprised by sudden and unforeseen happiness – we are represented by any one among us who carries grace through our midst.

I agree with James Carroll. At our best, we are grateful.

For all of it.

Not excluding nothing.

Only you can resurrect the present. People
need your voice to come among them like nakedness,
to fuse them into one marching language in which the word
"peace" will be said for the last time.

(from Part 1 of "To American Poets" in The Naomi Poems Corpse And Beans, by Bill Knott, c.1968 in Introduction to Quickly Aging Here, Some Poets of the 1970's, edited by Geof Hewitt, c.1969)

I like the fact that Hewitt had faith there would be the 1970's in 1969.

Faith in gratefulness, accepting that nothingness reveals each as ‘Itself,’ affirming empty open space, and allowing happiness to return when it is ready -- this is my prayer, this Thanksgiving.

For all.


Monday, November 22, 2004

Music and St. Cecilia. Assassination and J.F. Kennedy. It is November 22nd.

Cecilia’s life inspires the creative spirit.
This saint, so often glorified in the fine arts and in poetry, is one of the most venerated martyrs of Christian antiquity. The oldest historical account of St. Cecilia is found in the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum"; from this it is evident that her feast was celebrated in the Roman Church in the fourth century. (

John F. Kennedy’s life inaugurates an uncertainty new to the mind.
Don DeLillo wrote, "What has become unraveled since that afternoon in Dallas is...the sense of a coherent reality most of us shared. We seem from that moment to have entered a world of randomness and ambiguity."

Today, creative spirit and uncertain mind are our odd companions.

If you want to understand that
All within the three realms
Is nothing but buddhamind,
Then contemplate that the Dharma realm
Is nothing but a product of mind.

- Avatamsaka Sutra

There is a spirit that is embodied when we learn love. There is a mind that is at peace when we allow the unhidden, when we suffer truth.

Teilhard de Chardin wrote; " If there were no real propensity to unite, even at a prodigiously rudimentary level, indeed, even in the molecule itself ~ it would be physically impossible for love to appear higher up in the ' hominized ' or human form."

(It is curious that the word 'unite' and the word 'untie' depend on where the "I" is placed.)

Becoming human is suffering love and loving truth.

He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury; and he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. And he said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had”. (Luke 21:1-4)

Today, we consider putting all we have into the now, all our living into the empty present.

The spirit is willing. The mind, watching, sees.

Song and sorrow chant early gray dawn-light.

Morning comes.

It is today.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Poetry, Tea, and Literature at the shop exceeded the hour limit, went for two hours Saturday afternoon, and seven out of nine of the attendees stayed for a third hour talking.

So much of human experience these days is about disapproval, trashing, belittling, bullying, eliminating, terrorizing and inciting fear. Does a healing solution to this human experience reside within the creativity of making, tasting, and intimately embodying the ontogenetic patterns of poetic intuition?

The superior students are unaware of the coming into the world of Buddhas or of the transmission of the non-transmittable by them: they eat when hungry, sleep when sleepy. Nor do they regard the world as themselves. Neither are they attached to enlightenment or illusion. Taking things as they come, they sit upright, making no idle distinctions.
- Meiho (1277-1350)

What is 'ontogenesis?' (Greek: 'onto'= being; 'genesis' = arising. Thus, arising [into, as, from, with] being.)
Ontogenesis refers to the sequence of events involved in the development of an individual organism from its birth to its death. This developmental history often involves a move from simplicity to higher complexity.
Complexity is one of those terms for which it is difficult to give a precise definition. Intuitively, it is thought of as a property or feature that implies the opposite of simplicity. Complexity is often used to describe single sytems made of multiple interacting parts.


What is arising in our midst? It is an important question.

Unless we are awake, unless we are aware, we might fail to see what is arising in our midst. This failure at this point of human and world history would be a serious failure.

This is why we gather. We read. We listen. We converse. We attend and we attend to what is arising in our midst.

What is it?

In our midst arising?

Ask. And listen.

Carefully. With creativity.

Please. Come caring into being.

Be what is, what God is, loving.

In our midst.

Friday, November 19, 2004

If it is true we dwell in the reality we see, much depends on perspective and willingness to see through what is there to be seen.

If what we call God, or "What's It's Name," is indeed Hashem Beyond All Comprehension, it is now, it is here, we must begin intimate and intense watchfulness.

Let others create categories of monster entities who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls -- I'll not look to create such symbols of misappropriation -- the taking unto oneself what belongs to all.

I prefer the whole of it.

Of which I am

No longer separate.

Light in love.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Being nobody is an authentic way of being. Doing nothing is a valuable active life. Going nowhere is a lovely journey.

There's a quaint tradition enacted in the Rose Garden at the White House today. It is the pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey. It is done with simplicity and good humor. It is a good ceremony. It reminds us of compassion and connection. Even though the turkey would ordinarily be slated to die for America's celebration of gift and abundance, it is allowed to live, it is pardoned.

There is no difference between
The mind,
The Buddha,
And all sentient beings.

- Lotus Sutra

As a nobody, doing nothing, going nowhere, I celebrate the fact of this day. Today a sentient being was allowed to live. Right now, I continue to live. The content-free appreciation of life -- where it is and as it is -- intertwines all who celebrate the fact of it.

I would like more than a symbolic turkey be pardoned -- among them, the innocent and those with unconscionable sentences in prison, and innocent civilians under bombardment in Fallujah, Mosul, and Najaf. I would like pardon be given to hostages, political prisoners, and the needless poor in societies capable of better generosity.

The poet says:

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you--Nobody--too?
Then there's a pair of us?
Don't tell! they'd advertise--you know!

How dreary--to be--Somebody!
How public--like a Frog--
To tell one's name--the livelong June--
To an admiring Bog!

(Poem by Emily Dickenson)

We'd do well to pair up nobodies, doing nothing, going nowhere. Together we'd be a force negating or neutralizing every somebody, wreaking havoc, enroute paradise.

We'd surround them with peace.

We'd stand back and retreat with prayer and love.

We'd incarnate and embody the antithesis of celebrity, greed for power, and inane quest for supremacy or control.

And when they say, "Move or die!" -- We’ll be ready to die. And when they do us harm, we'll let their harm pass through our middle -- and evaporate in futility.

And if we die in and for peace, we will die as we have lived.

Is there a moral? No. Is there a payoff? No. Is there a happy ending? (Now, why would that question even come up?)

There is no ending.

Just -- passing through.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The deer leg was on the second runway when Cesco found it and began to gnaw. Somewhere else by someone else a kill is made.

To train in the fullest sense of the word, one needs an awareness of the impermanence of all phenomena, including our own lives, and an eye that isn’t blind to cause and effect; emotionally speaking, great compassion and courage on behalf of all beings; practically speaking, a firm faith in the Way and a firm resolve to actualize the Way through practice. If there is even a speck of any one of these present when beginning to train, that is enough. All will then become manifest through practice.
- Anon

Our practice leads to the middle. While the country tilts right and righter, there is a need for a practice seeking center.

Overreach topples. It is best to watch out as the weight of purging enemies takes place at a distance. When the next fall begins there will be debris and vituperation.

This morning in the cabin -- a silence holding sacred space for those pained by the terrible turmoil in Iraq.

While real men and women are suffering destructive power and military might, it is hard to suffer gladly foolish creating of horrible retaliation in wars administered with arrogant and hidden purpose.

It is time to recount the votes.

Surely, some mistake has been made.

Surely some slouching toward bedlam makes way without notice.

A trap is set to ensnare the unaware. We must take shelter.

Somewhere a pack has carried away a deer carcass.

We are wary.

Cold night.


Monday, November 15, 2004

A classmate from forty years ago writes three of us. He asks a question. Like the end of an Iranian film, the answer is discontinuous.

Knowing that sentient beings
All have a thousand desires
Gripping the depths of their minds,
The Buddha teaches them
In accordance with their characters
And conditions.
With stories, words, and skillful means
He teaches them the truth.

- Lotus Sutra

Like two breaths of a passing sentient being – one inhales, one exhales – we pass, and touch each other in passing.

Dear "three wise(?) men",
I don't believe I am sending this email, but what the heck. I am interested in your definition/description/version of faith/believing. I am not inclined to consider it a "gift", although it has been presented to me that way at times. I lean toward a view of it as evolving/changing/developing, possibly in a variety of directions. It just occurred to me that this issue has been the subject of books, so a recommendation for a book about faith/believing is also requested.
I am tempted to also pose a question or two about "morality", but will refrain. I don't really expect too much of a response, but if any of you three are so inclined, I'd be interested in a response. I have a pretty clear memory of each of you - physical image as well as your "persona". By now each of you is probably only a vague hint of the physical image I remember. Life goes on. Anyway, take care of yourselves and pray for me and my family. Sincerely, Dave

Breathing in, breathing out, one response:
Hello David,
How are you?
I have few beliefs. Mostly, like this evening, I practice Zazen, I sit in silence. I end with, "May our evening prayer rise before you like incense, O Lord, and may your loving-kindness descend upon us.” Last night we ended with Compline.

I live by faith. Not as you might suppose. For me ‘faith’ is the mere trust that what is happening is actually happening.

Another way of saying it for me is: Not to know is to rely on faith. In as much as I don’t know much, actually hardly anything, in fact – I don’t know anything – and thus, not knowing and faith are inseparable.

I don’t understand the common understanding of ‘faith’ or ‘belief.’

Tonight, ‘faith’ is writing this to you, and sending it. Why do you write? I don’t know. Why do I respond? I don’t know. And yet, and yet, and yet – there is your writing, and here is my responding. Knowledge has little to do with it. ‘Faith’ – whether in supernatural or in natural things – is the air we breathe and the sounds we hear.

I actually breathe. I hear my dog barking in the front room. These are facts that surround me like a blanket, a blanket of faith. It is a mere seeing and hearing. No reason, no purpose, no explanation, and no understanding arrive. I am delightfully empty of anything but what is taking place.

‘What is,’ for some, is called God. This, I don’t know. Still, I attend what is taking place. It is enough.
Best, Bill

We finish watching Abbas Kiarostami’s “Taste of Cherry,” the Iranian director’s meditation on life and death.

At the end, he is taking a sound check.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The true form of the body is nothing we can see.

Contemplate the body until you see its true form,
then you will cease your grasping.
These contemplations will extinguish
the fires of desire
in the same way that torrential rains
extinguish wild fires.

- Perfection of Wisdom

At the "Many Faces of Death" conversation Saturday reading Who Dies by Steven Levine, the following:
As Achaan Chaa said, holding his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart, "All you have to understand is just this much, just this moment." If you can participate in this moment openly, then you'll more likely be present for the next. If that next moment turns out to be on your deathbed, then you'll be open to that too. There is no other preparation for death except opening to the present. If you are here now, you'll be there then. (p.33)

We make juice from pear, orange, and apple. A lovely sipping treat.

"...Karl Rahner, one of the great theologians of the twentieth century, assured me that no matter the depth of my doubts about God and Christianity, I could still pray. 'If you think your heart cannot pray,' he says, 'then pray with your mouth, kneel down, fold your hands, speak loudly, even if it all seems like a lie to you (it is only the desperate self-defense of your unbelief before its death, which is already sealed)....' Although I couldn't will my heart to have a stronger faith, I could certainly will my body to take a posture of prayer and my mouth to say some words of prayer. Rahner assured me that not only was there no hypocrisy in this, but it was vital that I express my half a mustard seed of faith in this way.

"My favorite definition of prayer also comes from Karl Rahner, who says that prayer is opening our hearts to God. In the most familiar type of prayer, verbal or discursive prayer, we open our hearts to God using words. We talk to God, either aloud or mentally. But that's not the only way to pray. Christianity also has a tradition of contemplative prayer, in which we open our hearts to God without words or with very few words. We heed God's call in Psalm 46: 'Be still, and know that I am God.'"

(excerpt from Kim Boykin's book, Zen for Christians: A Beginner's Guide, published by Jossey-Bass (A Wiley Imprint), 2003)

There's the phrase -- "I am."

It is nothing we can see.

The true form of the body.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Richard comes in saying he's going to die. The vet's hospital, this day after Veteran's Day, told him what he's got is irreversible. He and Pia are talking by the fire. I ask him what he's got, "Is it 'life'?" He say's it's something else and gives a name. Joanie comes in and quickly enters the conversation, and it shifts.

Come to say goodbye,
We sit for a while
By the sandy creek.
On far roads,
You hold out an empty bowl;
Deep in mountains,
Walk on fallen flowers.
Having no master, you
Puzzle out Zen on your own;
Observing strict prosody,
Your poems merit praise.
This going-away
Has no circumstantial cause;
A solitary cloud
Has no fixed home.

- Chia Tao (779-843)

Of course his words are serious. I know they are. And so is whatever conversation the three of them have by fireplace. They are talking about cows now. This is how we carry on with one another. One speaks, the rest listen. This listening shifts around the threesome. Like some modern trinity of origin, word, and spirit they attend as best they can each other and the fire.

And in the beginning was love. Love
made a sphere:
all things grew within it; the sphere
then encompassed
beginnings and endings, beginning
and end. Love
had a compass whose whirling dance
traced out a
sphere of love in the void: in the center
rose a fountain.

(excerpt from poem "Circus of the Sun" by Robert Lax, 1915-2000)

Joanie says the guy in California was given a guilty verdict for killing his wife. They debate guilt and innocence.

In the beginning of everything there is love.

What happens after that is anyone's guess.

If love has a compass, we have to glance at it from time to time.

Cesco and Sando arrive.

North by Northwest.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

I stand with the teachings of non-violence.

The Height of Heaven, the Thickness of Earth

The body of heaven is extremely high. Open, round, immeasurable, it is boundlessly vast. Covering everything, containing everything, it produces myriad beings without presuming on its virtue, it bestows blessings on myriad beings without expectation of reward. Whether people are respectful or insincere, supportive or antagonistic, is left up to them. Whether people are good or bad, attractive or repulsive, and whether creatures are violent and stubborn or docile and obedient, they are allowed to be so of themselves, without any contrivance.

- Lui I-Ming

War, even for the detached and dutiful, is a troublesome thing.

Real sacrifice is self-sacrifice, not sacrificing others.

We cannot be deceived -- not any longer.

Peace is no deception.

Embody peace.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Just because bombs are falling on Fallujah it doesn't mean we believe in the leaders who say --"We are the ones changing the world, listen to us, or you will be eliminated."

Ceasing is the same as samadhi,
and contemplation is the same as wisdom.
All good dharmas arise from cultivating these two.
And why is this so? This is so
because ceasing overcomes attachment
while contemplating disentangles one entirely from it.

(- from Treatise on Completion of Truth)

The bombing and killing must cease. We must disentangle from the destruction. We stipulate Saddam. He and his boys are better not strangling Iraq. But our grip is becoming tighter around Iraq's throat. Can we let go?

The Philosopher

A man rides a bicycle into town. He's forgotten his clothes,
or maybe this is what he means to do.
He rides carefully into the burning town.

Apartments of old stone list, iron balconies, awnings,
the window-grates blacken with heat. He rides by.

His lip perspires, his eyes intent.
In the hills behind him there is a glow that is not the burning.
The Acropolis maybe. The Dome of the Rock.

The man has a book under his arm. The pages are gilt-edged, the title
has worn away. He has a shoulder-wound also, an old crescent scar.
Now his chest sweats, now his abdomen.
He is more agile than laughter.

The road turns. A black sedan rounds the corner
behind him. They are leaving town or they're trailing him.
Either way it's too late.

The man is not cold without clothes. He sees whole worlds
wherever he looks, and this keeps him busy.
Maps and globes and civilizations not on fire.

Now when he stops and considers the spokes, the bicycle tires,
he sees ashes, nails, explosions of glass.

He does not believe in this. He believes in something else.

(Poem by Rebecca Wee)

We must find this man. We must ask him about something else.

My soul does not believe in the cruelty of either dictators or liberators.

There is something else to contemplate.

Change us, O Mystical Lord of Change, into food for one another!

We cannot swallow steel, nor drink fire, neither can we reconnect blown-away limbs or parts of our face fallen to dirty street.

As I go to bed, Fallujah is going to hell.

Change, O Lord, this world!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Zen is this moment speaking. Zen is this moment seeing.

Buddha is Sanskrit for what you call aware, miraculously aware. Responding, perceiving, arching your brows, blinking your eyes, moving your hands and feet, it?s all your miraculously aware nature. And this nature is the mind. And the mind is the buddha. And the buddha is the path. And the path is zen. But the word zen is one that remains a puzzle to both mortals an sages. Seeing your nature is zen. Unless you see your nature, it?s not zen.
- Bodhidharma (d. 533)

When we say what we see, and when we see what we say -- everything is revealed as what it is -- just this, nothing more.

"See. Either we are one with the Holy Spirit, or not. Eh? And if the incarnation, the 'Word Made Flesh', is a living reality - then the whole cosmos is sacred and redeemed....
"To appreciate this you've got to know that revelation is all around you, all the time. -Revelation expressing itself as beauty, truth, goodness, and especially love!...Creation is lit up with the numinous...
"And faith is the surrender to this great gift of love, Life! be alive in Creation....Submit to it - not in the sense of passive resignation, but in acceptance and participation in being!...
"In total inhalation, in the act of Eucharist, you eat the Mystical Body, the Cosmic Christ, by accepting, by participating, in joy, the total charity of your being in creation! -The I of you dies to One...You are, in the truest sense, what you eat.
"And in total exhalation you offer up, give back, go home in redemption....You do this by curing the inner split between you and God (the incarnate Creator) - this division, what we often-times call Original Sin in mystical theology.
"That's why you go to the monastery, the primary reason anyway. It's to do that - to heal the illusion of separation...the separation of you from your true person, from the world in creation, and especially from God.

(Thomas Merton,in Song For Nobody, by Ron Seitz)

We are not to disparage what is.

God is pure no-thing,
Concealed in now and here:
The less you reach for him,
The more he will appear.

~ Angelus Silesius

It is enough to see, say, and be what is here to see, say, and be.

This moment.

In passing.

Touch and go.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

When someone appropriates as one's own that which belongs to everyone -- that is what some call sin, others call abuse of power, some say capitalism, and (after the recent vote) what some are calling stolen votes.

Autumn’s colors dropping from branches
In masses of falling leaves,
Cold clouds bringing rain
Into the crannies of the mountains:
Everyone was born with the same sort of eyes –
Why do mine keep seeing things as Zen koans?

- Dogen

The Zen koan my eyes see this morning is: What have we lost that belongs to US?

Quickly! Can you find the response of your soul?

Friday, November 05, 2004

In prison Joe and I worked an Icelandic folktale. When it came to right or left in that instant Joe remembers, the pain said right, but the turn went left. After a million visits to that turn, Joe went back fresh.

Outside my window, plum blossoms,
Just on the verge of unfurling, contain the spring;
The clear moon is held in the cuplike petals
Of the beautiful flower I pick, and twirl.
- Dogen

At Interreligious Dialogue of a cold night at the shop Richard said the words, "What is the meaning of life?" Lloyd said the words, "I don't know what God is."

The first one spoke the purity of the meaning of life -- "What is." The second one spoke the enlightenment of "not knowing," the integration of "What is" with "God" in medio, the Thin Place revelation of life and existence.

I am honored to be in the presence of all three.

Chaplain brought sweetgrass for smudging.

And the merman smiled.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Chill bright morning.

Disentangling oneself
From desire and evil ways
Requires both vision and wisdom.
Disentangling oneself from the world
And discovering inner joy
Is the start of meditation.

- Perfection of Wisdom

Cesco stretches in sun by barn door. Sando rises and turns on mattress, wearing orange bandana. November hunting season. On C-Span the recently elected President outlines his agenda at his first press conference following the election.

In a Dark Time

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is--
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.
(Poem by Theodore Roethke)

There are facts and there are mythologies. There are personal opinions and there are strict interpretations of the law. We can deal with whatever is real.

Right now, the dogs snooze, the President fields question about America's image in the wider world, and the morning turns with November light.

"When the American President speaks..." -- the American President is saying -- "people had better listen... I mean what I say."

I turn off the television. The sound is gone. It is an odd time.

We are at odds with circumstance.

The recent wind tears apart.

Still, illusion lurks.

Silence speaks.


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

It's been a day of silences muted by odd opinions following concession of election.

With one who does not
Speak his every thought
I spend a pleasant evening.

- Hyakuchi (1748-1836)

There is a mess to clean up. Those who made it best should clean it. Simple parenting. Put the kids to work fixing what they busted. Smart country.

It's a new beginning. Breathe in, breathe out.

On balance, the world will right itself.

Delia Mae said we must remember to forget.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

All Saints Day wanders into All Souls Day, which in America this year is also Election Day.

Oh leaves,
Ask the wind which of you
Will be the first to fall.

- Soseki (1867-1916)

One will fall, and we will see, among the others, one with all.

To find release you must begin to regard life and death as identical to Nirvana, neither loathing the former nor coveting the latter. It is fallacious to think that you simply move from birth to death. Birth, from the Buddhist point of view, is a temporary point between the proceeding and succeeding; hence, it can be called 'birthlessness.' The same holds for death and deathlessness. In life there is nothing more than life, in death nothing more than death: we are being born and dying at every moment.
(Dogen Kigen Zenji, 1200-1253)

Today we pray for one in all.

One through all.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Tuesday is Election Day in the United States.

Everyone hopes that the American people are not stupid. They are not stupid. They will elect the right man for this time. That man might be George W. Bush. That man might be John F. Kerry.

The final days leading up to the election are filled with passionate, some say blind faith, positive endorsements of either man. You would think you’d have to be insane and a vile terrorist sympathizer to vote for the opposite man and not the partisan favorite.

It is what some call the messiness of democracy. Others call it a foundational patina of distortion, distraction, and dissembling.

Those who have strong passions are never able to perceive the Way; for it is like stirring up clear water with hands. People may come there wishing to find a reflection of their faces, which, however, they will never see. A mind troubled and vexed with the passions is never able to see the Way.
- Sutra of Forty-Two Chapters

Some of us drop out. Some leave for Waterville to canvas for their candidate. Some let the dogs out and prepare to take the soup and bread into the shop.

{There are two paths leading to oneness with the Tao.}

The first in the path of acceptance.
Affirm everyone and everything.
Freely extend your goodwill and virtue in every direction, regardless of circumstances.
Embrace all things as part of the Harmonious Oneness, and then you will begin to perceive it.

The second path is that of denial.
Recognize that everything you see and think is a falsehood, an illusion, a veil over the truth.
Peel all the veils away, and you will arrive at the Oneness.

Though these paths are entirely different, they will deliver you to the same place: spontaneous awareness of the Great Oneness.

(#48 from The Hua Hu Ching, by Lao Tzu)

As a political agnostic, I can only try not to resemble the unlovely. In the middle core of this swirling cacophony of frantic grasping for power there is a still and quiet loveliness dwelling in our hearts.

The lovely longs to be our home, our moveable dwelling place, capable of seeing us through whatever falls across our path.

I suddenly saw that all the time it was not I who had been seeking God, but God who had been seeking me. I had made myself the centre of my own existence and had my back turned to God. All the beauty and truth which I had discovered had come to me as a reflection of his beauty, but I had kept my eyes fixed on the reflection and was always looking at myself. But God had brought me to the point at which I was compelled to turn away from the reflection, both of myself and of the world which could only mirror my own image. During that night the mirror had been broken, and I had felt abandoned because I could no longer gaze upon the image of my own reason and the finite world which it knew. God had brought me to my knees and made me acknowledge my own nothingness, and out of that knowledge I had been reborn. I was no longer the centre of my life and therefore I could see God in everything.
(Bede Griffiths, writing on Feast of Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury)

The center seeing in every direction with love and compassion is the very being we seek by looking everywhere else but where seeing itself sees us through.

God bless no exception!

In every way we step.

Do not be fooled.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

This is no time to fall apart and throw away what holds us together

We’ve grown accustomed to explaining things away.

I wonder when we will near embodying what is true.

Good is to practice the Way and to follow truth.
Great is the heart that is in accord with the Way.

- Sutra of Forty Two Chapters

October will fall into November in two days. The light in Northeast New England will dim and shrink on the ground with curling leaves drying in night frost.

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough

(Poem, "In a Station of the Metro," by Ezra Pound, published in Poetry magazine in 1913J

We’ll think of saints and souls. We’ll continue to pray for Ed who sleeps deep in hospital.

We’ll look to the end of Election Day and hope for the spirit of a people to rise from its own dark slumber.

We will cease explaining when we embody truth. We will present ourselves. We’ll see through one another.

Let’s pray for that. Let’s elect this prospect.

We’ll be indistinguishable word/body/act.

The word of God will return in us.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Charlie feels acceptance is giving up.

Those who are pure in heart and single in purpose are able to understand the most supreme Way. It is like polishing a mirror, which becomes bright when the dust is removed. Remove your passions, and have no hankering, and all will be revealed to you.
(- Sutra of Forty Two Chapters)

Michael feels similar to Doug. As does Ryan, Greg, Les, Rusty, Vaughn, Eli, Saskia and I. As well as Lao Tzu and David Wagoner.

Stand still. We know where you are. You are not lost.

To see what is really there we need one another. The Sangha. The community.

The conversation in prison listens to the voice of the soul.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Today the way opens for New England baseball fans: The Boston Redsox have won the World Series!

If you endeavor to embrace the Way through much learning, the Way will not be understood. If you observe the Way with simplicity of heart, great indeed is this Way.
- Sutra of Forty Two Chapters

An email from Chicago:
From Peter Gammons, quoting someone else (I believe):
"Calvinism is finally dead in New England."

I can't help but think of the fellow who lived above the shop, listening to the games on his radio during summer evenings, that loyalty for all those decades without his team winning the Series. Imagine.

It's like we're free now. The Sox are just another team, its fans just another set of fans. The misery and negativity and fear and paranoia: all gone. It's just a game again, not a history of failure.

Red Sox Nation is no longer Preterite Nation. Amen to all that.

Dan comes into shop with guitar in its case. On the case a sticker: "Thank God I'm an agnostic."

Joanie sorts common-reading-box. Myles' bookcases have fit themselves throughout shop and hermitage harbor room. Tom the mailman says he's from Connecticut -- an ambivalent topography of baseball allegiance. Leonard demands I read, not return to him, Pete Hamill's Snow in August. The crisp air in Maine feels clear and full of sunlight.

It's only a game -- that's what they say.

And water is only wet.

Wash well today!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

I got irritable yesterday when a bevy of "Defeat Bush" passions found themselves gathered at the shop. It wasn't that I disagreed with their assessment. It was more that the negativity coming from the Bush-likes and Bush-dislikes is wearying and yet so vital as election nears.

To be free from the passions
And to be calm,
This is the most excellent Way.

- Sutra of Forty Two Chapters

Excellent way or not, there are innumerable voices claiming we are lost should Bush and cohorts be elected. It would be, they say, a confirmation for the first time by the people of the United States that we are, indeed, what George Bush says we are. This prospect of resembling what Bush and Co say we are -- empire, pre-emptive warriors, ignorer of human rights, ignorer of environmental sanity, ignorer of democracy and rights of citizens, global omnivores, and Christian fundamentalists intent on saving our sorry souls and ignoring the rest of the world -- this is what those who fear and feel helpless in the face of Bush are worried about, this is what their passionate desire to defeat bush is all about.

Are we lost?


Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

(Poem by David Wagoner)

The irony. Even this beautiful poem sounds calm and ready to carry on should our lostness and our Bushness coincide.

We'll have to find a new creativity to help see our way through.

I'd rather George Bush go back to Texas.

That's my feeling.

But for now, I'll be still.

And be found.


Monday, October 25, 2004

There is a light that goes beyond the muted faint shadows of our current world. We wander in dark confusion away from our true home.

Consider the world light,
And the spirit is not burdened;
Consider the myriad things slight,
And the mind is not confused.
Consider life and death equal,
And the intellect is not afraid;
Consider change as sameness,
And clarity is not obscured.

- Lao-tzu

Buddhist Zen and Christian Contemplation work together to let authentic light through.

"… For me the mu-experience, triggered by my working on the koan of Joshu’s dog, literally shook me inside out, and kept me laughing and even crying for about three days, as I remember. People around me must have thought I was going crazy then. I can only say at this point that the experience enabled me to see the truth, the forcefulness, the real reality of what Paul wanted to express in Galatians 2:20 - "It is no longer I that live, but Christ in me!" (Ruben Habito’s response to Koun Yamada’s Questions to Christians, "Christianity in the Crucible of East-West Dialogue"

When we get close to wisdom residing inward, we see the closeness of practice and faith from seemingly different views found in different religions.

"Hardly anyone today would question whether Zen enlightenment and similar experiences in other non-Christian religions are genuine experiences of the Absolute, even though they are impersonal in nature. Were they personal in nature, they would be the same as an experience of God in the Christian sense… Genuine mystical experience resists all attempts at conceptual expression. This means that anyone who attempts to do so will utilize the categories available, although this, by its very nature, can easily lead to misunderstandings.

"In enlightenment, the Buddhist experiences his deepest self as one with absolute existence, and is strengthened as a result in his faith in the nonduality of all existence. The Christian and anyone who believes in a personal God experiences the self not only in himself, but also in his relationship to an absolute personal reality."

(Hugo Enomiya Lassalle, Living in the New Consciousness. p. 121-122.)

We benefit from looking into the profound. Whether from a religious point of view, philosophy, poetry, nature, or ordinary open-hearted conversation -- we create the place where light begins to glow.

This is no time for short-sighted, bigoted, or petty statements that create fear, darkness, or loneliness.

Words must become lighted corridors through which we are heartened to search for the way home.

Do not accept sorry or cynical rhetoric.

Let's re-create a place of trust.

Let's come home.