Saturday, March 20, 2004

Note: We are closed today, Saturday. No conversations at shop.

The older brother is distraught.

He is agitated with doubt or mental conflict. If one has never left home, and is not certain they are at home, it is not easy to convince them they are truly welcome, or they'd be welcome back if they wandered away.

Deep green needles glow
against a cobalt sky.
They radiate something only
a few can sense.
Snow white peaks,
summits shrouded in clouds,
shine and echo...
shine and echo
through both sides of the skin line.
In all this lies some deep
implication, yet when I try to
say more, I become silent, mute.

- Ji Aoi Isshi

Morning sun melts dooryard snow into brown earth. Smoke from cabin chimney. The women and dogs sit. Wisp of smoke from kitchen chimney, like quiet murmur of aspiration, faintly acknowledged prayer muttered in mind at far edge of belief unsure it goes anywhere.

Brothers and sisters: Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old
things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is
from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the
ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to
himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and
entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for
Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of
Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did
not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

(2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

We go about the morning, each their own way. I am irresolute. Like smoke urged by breeze north-northwest, once its breath emerges up length out from generative origin -- no longer knowing anything but dispersion, the scattering of values of a frequency distribution from an average -- I find this morning I am wood-smoke meeting sun-breeze proximate to bird-song. Showing itself, morning practice disorganizes -- breaks up, moves and scatters in different directions.

"As if God were appealing through us." As if God were making an earnest plea. As if we feel emitted the power of arousing a sympathetic response. As if an attraction arises for rehearing. As if something might be sensed through soundless sunlight, something not uttered aloud -- seeking to be worded and enfleshed again.

"My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and
has come to life again; he was lost and has been found."

(Luke 15:31-32)

The older brother's confusion is understandable. The father has not told him everything. The father has not explained water and fire, air and earth -- nor has he revealed at length what home is, nor the notions of here and there, arrive and depart, lost and found. There is a gap between this and that no amount of glue nor reassurance solidifies. Into that empty holding place we fall.

Scholars of symbol and consciousness say the going away is the coming back, the falling down is the lifting up, being born is dying, death is new life.

Today is the first day of spring. In morning stillness my solitude seeks no relief.

I glance at what Paul offers into view:
"Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old
things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.
And all this is from God...".

Shine and echo.

All this.

Is that.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Sawing firewood, I watch sawdust fall on snow.

Log gives itself to half.

Across driveway from kitchen chimney white smoke.

On Freedom Mountain
There are many white clouds
That accompany the moon
On Freedom Mountain
Sometimes pure winds and many
Good things come to report
That another mountain is even
More special.
Mindless, the white clouds
Spread over the great void
Of the sky.
They are like snowflakes on a
Red hot stove
They send rain to the four quarters
Without discriminating between
This or that.
Here all things are happy.

- T'aego (1301-1382)

It is feast of Joseph, saint and husband of Mary. Sister's anniversary of birth. One year since war on Iraq by American administration. We do work with numbers while keeping doors of shop closed. Mass this morning in Rockland. Vespers in cabin this evening.

We pray for all hurt and killed in Iraq. We mourn the destruction and look forward to the reformation of two countries in rekindled hope and replacement of wrong done with what is right.

Joseph, it is said, did what is right.

He rises up in the darkness, a light for the upright,
compassionate, generous, and just.
Happy the man who takes pity and lends, who directs his affairs with wisdom --
he will never be shaken.

-- from Psalm 111 (112)

Joseph, husband of Mary, in Catholic tradition is Protector of the Universal Church and Patron Saint of Fathers, Workers, and the Dying

Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and he will save his people to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet. When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.

(- Matthew 1: 16, 18-21, 24a)

When we fail to protect truth, the innocent, or common decency, we fail to allow what is conceived of the Holy Spirit to come into our midst. It is a dangerous time and more dangerous practice to send away truth, innocence, or community wisdom. The consolation of community transcends the arrogance of power. It is a troubling set of revelations Americans are faced with -- misinformation and intentional deception about the war, medical benefits, corporate malfeasance, and matters pertaining to political ideology taking precedence over democratic and constitutional governance.

Hardly the meditation for the Feast of Joseph!
Joseph, rather, was a just man -- that's what Christian scripture said of him. He protected what was of the Holy Spirit, the gift of God through Mary in Jesus.

Joseph quietly prevailed.

Like sawdust mingling with snow on ground, we fall to earth our mother, invited to give ourselves in benefit to all who rise there-from.

Fire in woodstove warms.

Note: Closed today, Friday. No evening conversation

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Note: Closed today, Thursday. No evening conversation.

One year ago we went to war. We invaded Iraq. Saddam Hussein is under arrest. We remain at war.

If you memorize slogans,
you are unable to make
subtle adaptations according
to the situation.
It is not that there is no
way to teach insight to learners,
but once you have learned a way,
it is essential that you get
it to work completely.
If you just stick to your
teacher's school and memorize slogans,
this is not enlightenment,
it is a part of intellectual knowledge.

- Fayan

One year later we have heard the slogans of war ad nauseam. These days we hear the slap-and-slight rhetoric, pre-mature election slurs-and-slander that threaten to sicken airwaves the next eight months. When truth is a commodity bought and sold the only voices we hear are salesmen pitching their wares.

Do not trust in princes to save you, they are only sons of men.
One day their breath will leave them, they will return to the ground; on that day perish all their plans.

-- from Psalm 145 (146)

Until we understand what "save" means, we are enslaved ears to men with money telling us what their handlers tell them will sway us to choose their brand of liberation.

Philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote:
To free really means to spare. The sparing itself consists not only in the fact that we do not harm the one whom we spare. Real sparing is something positive and takes place when we leave something beforehand in its own nature, when we return it specifically to its being, when we "free" it in the real sense of the word into a preserve of peace. To dwell, to be set at peace, means to remain at peace within the free sphere that safeguards each thing in its nature. The fundamental character of dwelling is this sparing and preserving. It pervades dwelling in its whole range. That range reveals itself to us as soon as we reflect that human being consists in dwelling and, indeed, dwelling in the sense of the stay of mortals on the earth.

But "on the earth" already means "under the sky." Both of these also mean, "remaining before the divinities" and include a "belonging to men's being with one another." By a primal oneness the four -- earth and sky, divinities and mortals -- belong together in one.

( from "Building Dwelling Thinking," by Martin Heidegger, in Poetry, Language, Thought, translated by Albert Hofstadter, Harper Colophon Books, New York, 1971.)

We get lost in war. Fog shrouds rationale, intention, and motivation. War is its own monstrous and devouring act of destruction. Once released, war slaps aside its keepers and takes its own direction. It travels from town to town, continent to continent, and face to face -- and in its travels spreads unleashed hostility and deception on every side.

The sacraments of "save" and "free" are waiting to be administered -- they wait for truthful, wise, and humble hands. We look at our hands. We turn them this way and that. We close them, and we open them. We know they are alive as we are alive. We know they can effect death.

Mortals dwell in that they save the earth -- taking the word in the old sense still known to Lessing. Saving does not only snatch something from a danger. To save really means to set something free into its own presencing. To save the earth is more than to exploit it or even wear it out. Saving the earth does not master the earth and does not subjugate it, which is merely one step from spoliation. (Heidegger)

When we subjugate, we spoil. War spoils, and then takes the spoils of war back home. Spoliation, contact by contact, infects each and every place it reaches -- word-by-word, pretense-by-pretense -- plundering.

We are led to believe there is a choice:
-- Support the war and the troops or condemn both;
-- Love the political policies of current leaders or pursue traitorous dissenting opinions;
-- Live in terrified fear and readiness to retaliate or embrace cowardly appeasement by seeking peaceful resolution.
These are false choices framed by cynical thinking. Spoilt thought creates words to further disturb minds already inebriated and confused by war.

The Lord frees prisoners, he gives light to the blind, he raises the fallen.
The Lord loves the upright, cares for strangers, sustains orphans and widows; but the wicked he sends astray.

--from Psalm 145 (146)

Faith is sorely disheveled. So much has been sent astray. We don't know who or what to believe. Crisis unsettles our spirit.

On this anniversary, hermitage enfolds. Solitude and stillness, muted understanding below attentive listening, brittle prayer with sensitive skepticism -- these uncertainties encircle as silence seeps deeper within.

What the contemplative hermit nun wrote last week echoes, "I have a great distrust of words these days."

In this sad marking of war's year, I wonder -- how set something free into its own presencing?

How dwell this world safe and free?



Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Note: Closed today, Wednesday. No evening conversation.

Irish wear green while ground in Maine wears white following snow.

It is less and less desirable to leave home, I am content to listen to the words -- "The greatest revelation is stillness." (Lao-Tzu)
(These words are helpful now that Cesco takes to wrapping himself around rollers of chair under desk. One unmindful move and he will yelp,)

It is no longer a matter of telling about some practice or insight grasped with delight. If one is not it, words become mere list and sightseeing guide in tourist glossy magazine. There is too much of what is not here.

Now and then
You must long for the
Freedom of the deep woods
I, too, cherish
Such thoughts.

- Ryokan Taigu (1758-1831)

What is seen in silence, in deep woods, is the mere sight and nodded greeting of one another passing en route elsewhere.

Moses said to the Lord: "Show me thy glory". The Lord answered: "I will shew thee all good, and I will proclaim in the name of the Lord before thee: and I will have mercy on whom I will, and I will be merciful to whom it shall please me". And he added: "Thou canst not see my face: for man shall not see me, and live. Behold there is a place with me, and thou shalt stand upon the rock. And when my glory shall pass, I will set thee in a hole of the rock, and protect thee with my right hand till I pass. I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see me from behind; but my face thou canst not see".
(Exodus 33:7 - 34:35)

Heisenberg, if not Moses, understood -- that which looks cannot see what is not there, but here, and here, and here in the looking. "From behind" seems to be the vantage view of retrospect -- twin ocular conjecture looking through suppose and surmise.

What has been seen -- moving away -- is what we talk about. What is seeing -- undifferentiated presence -- is revealed in silence and stillness.

We speak so much, perhaps too much, because the rush-away impulse to tell where we've been is strong conditioning. Stillness and silence as a way of being in the moment seeing is unusual prayer.

M: The real enables the unreal to appear and causes it to disappear. The succession of transient moments creates the illusion of time, but the timeless reality of pure being is not in movement, for all movement requires a motionless background. It is itself the background. Once you have found it in yourself, you know that you had never lost that independent being, independent of all divisions and separations. But don't look for it in consciousness, you will not find it there. Don't look for it anywhere, for nothing contains it. On the contrary it contains everything and manifests everything. It is like the daylight that makes everything visible while itself remaining invisible.

Q: Sir, of what use to me is your telling me that reality cannot be found in consciousness? Where else am I to look for it? How do you apprehend it?

M: It is quite simple. I ask you what is the taste in your mouth, all you can do is say: It is neither sweet nor bitter, nor sour nor astringent; it is what remains when all these tastes are not. Similarly, when all distinctions and reactions are no more, what remains is reality, simple and solid.

(pp.409-410, in I Am That, Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, c.1973)

What remains when all else is gone?

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God
If you say, "Show me your God", I will say to you, "Show me what kind of person you are, and I will show you my God". Show me then whether the eyes of your mind can see, and the ears of your heart hear.

(From the book addressed to Autolycus by Saint Theophilus of Antioch, bishop) (

Snow falls again through brighter light.

Two dogs snooze underfoot.

I greet my Irish family and ancestors.

They're gone here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Note: Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. No evening conversations


Feeders full of seed.

If you want to be free,
Get to know your real self.
It has no form, no appearance,
No root, no basis, no abode,
But is lively and buoyant.
It responds with versatile facility,
But its function cannot be located.
Therefore when you look for it,
You become further from it;
When you seek it
You turn away from it all the more.

- Linji (d. 867)

Cat dismantles house.

No turning away.

Monday, March 15, 2004

It is a practice seeing.

Two brass candle tops and one glass cap three candles in chapel/zendo cabin. Glass atop single candle lighting MoGLIAD, (Mother and Child icon with words "Mother of God, Light In All Darkness.") Brass on two candles inserted in wrought iron wall mount retrieved from pile for dump across from my sister's house during vigil her final days.

The mute glow!

Following sitting at Sunday Evening Practice we chant Vespers/Evening Prayer. More than the words of psalms, more than the descending chant tones, is the fact of it. Stepping into the stream, becoming prayer tumbling innumerable furrows of faith, we join voices from our solitude longing to praise and ponder the Sacred One welling up from each and all.

Waking me up
To the spring that's come
Water trickles down
The valley, and long crag-bound ice
Now cracks open, slides free.

- Saigyo (1118-1190)

Two of us -- 40 minutes sitting, 7 minutes mindfully walking the small space, then chanting Vespers (a change in routine from Heart Sutra or Compline -- it's only us.) Extinguishing candles following bell-toll at end -- we bow, close door, don shoes, walk path to barn, retrieve lanterns en route, pass through mud room with its faint smell of last week's skunk, and are greeted by two dogs and cat in kitchen where soup simmers.

Holy is his name, and much to be feared.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
To those who fear him comes true understanding,
and his praise endures for ever and ever.

(-- from Vespers, Psalm 110 (111),

At 4am I step over Cesco and accompany Mu-ge to kitchen. I thought it was 5. Now blue-gray light widens over dusting of snow fallen through night.

Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, to follow in his path.

He committed no sin, in his speech there was no deceit;
when they cursed him, he did not curse them;
when he suffered, he did not threaten retribution, but committed them to the one just judge.

He endured our sins in the sufferings of his body on the tree,
so that we would die to our sins and live for righteousness --
and by his bruises you have been healed.

(Sunday Vespers, Canticle 1 Peter 2)

We must allow all things to speak for themselves -- each thing to speak itself.

God is Itself speaking. We sound what is sounding through.

Breath, instrument and sound are not three things.

Comes dawn -- morning prayer from within everything raises seeing God.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Love is itself as no-other is itself.

Awareness makes this so.

When water is pure and sparkling clear
You see straight to the bottom
When your mind holds no concern
No circumstance can turn you
And once your mind doesn't stray
A kalpa has no changes
From such awareness nothing hides.

- Cold Mountain

The notion that "nothing hides" leads me to ask -- "Where does nothing hide?"

Nothing hides at the center of each place we look, each time we look for something. So many times we say when asked what we are looking for, --"Nothing."

Nothing is not something. Nothing is where something leaves off and we are left with merely what is there, with what is itself.

God is what is itself, no other. Love is awareness. Love is itself.

A sleepy-eyed grandam
Encounters herself in an old mirror.
Clearly she sees a face
But it doesn't resemble hers at all.
Too bad, with a muddled head,
She tries to recognize her reflection.

( -- Tozan Ryokai, 807-869)

The implication of Tozan's verse is that the grandlady does see her "self" in God, but the "self" she sees is not the true "Self." And the reason she does not see the true "Self" is that her head (or her mind) is "muddled," that is to say, too preoccupied with many things.
(p. 70, in The Contemplative Experience, erotic love and spiritual union, by Joseph Chu-Cong O.C.S.O.)

What then are we to do? What then are we to be?

In a time when institutions, both church and state, experience fore-shocks of deconstruction, nothing might help. If nations and churches are shaken and collapse, there will be nothing left to ponder.

What is nothing?

We like the word 'spirit.' We're uncomfortable with the word 'nothing.'

If we try not to be attached to words, the underlying reality they only point to remains as it is, not reliant on what it has been called. These words (forms) are also emptiness (no-thing). And emptiness is form. This underpinning experience of 'here/gone' or 'seen/unseen' is common to us.

Do we genuinely love life?

Is each one of us (herself, himself) itself?

Love is itself as no-other is itself.

I'll have to ponder this.