Saturday, June 12, 2004

Pema Chodron wants us to consider the non-grasping mind. Open mind. The mind that finds its capacity to let go and relax into its true nature.

Inbreath and outbreath.

We habitually erect a barrier called blame that keeps us from communicating genuinely with others, and we fortify it with our concepts of who's right and who's wrong. We do that with the people who are closest to us and we do it with political systems, with all kinds of things that we don't like about our associates or our society. It is a very common, ancient, well-perfected device for trying to feel better. Blame others. Blaming is a way to protect your heart, trying to protect what is soft and open and tender in yourself. Rather than own that pain, we scramble to find some comfortable ground. - (from "In the Gap Between Right and Wrong" by Pema Chodron)

Two parents come into the shop worrying about the draft -- will it be re-instituted? They have two sons -- and two daughters -- of an age that would be affected.

Compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right and when you start to make yourself wrong. At that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live.

This place, if you can touch it, will help you train yourself throughout your life to open further to whatever you feel, to open further rather than shut down more. You'll find that as you begin to commit yourself to this practice, as you begin to have a sense of celebrating the parts of yourself that you found so impossible before, something will shift in you. Something will shift permanently in you. Your ancient habitual patterns will begin to soften and you'll being to see the faces and hear the words of people who are talking to you.

- (from "In the Gap Between Right and Wrong" by Pema Chodron)

Yesterday and today there has been much talk of Ronald Reagan's week of tribute and funeral. It occurs to me that the nation needed a time to mourn, and former President Reagan's death served to provide that time for mourning. The deaths we experience worldwide. The loss of trusted community. The country needed to mourn even if it didn't know why. It feels better today.

This morning our trusted community of two doggie companions allowed a visiting third, Britta, to wander Ragged. It is her first visit to the hermitage. This long-haired black German Shepherd, Britta, dwells with Saskia's mom, who visits her daughter on this her giving-birth day and her daughter's receiving-birth day.

So many at Meetingbrook sign a book to be given to Saskia on her birthday.

The book is by John O'Donohue and is called Beauty: The Invisible Embrace.

With which we have been graced by Saskia.

Friday, June 11, 2004

What do we see when we cease halving life?

"I can't see you with me." That's what Ben said in prison conversation today. "Me" has to diminish for any "you" to be seen.

What is between me and you?

Ben came in at end. Jason, Billy, Rusty, Ben, Saskia and I read some from John O'Donohue's book Beauty. He wrote about betweenness.
We wondered what was there between us.

White stones glow in Chaste Tree River.
With the cold sky, red leaves thin out.
No rain on the mountain path
Yet greenness drips on my clothes.

- Wang Wei (699-759)

The thing about prison is the attempt always to get something on or from someone else. More intense than life on the street, but similar in culture, what imprisons us is the constant attempt to drive wedges, set apart, set up debtor relationships, call in favors owed, establish top force, use whatever you've got on someone to your advantage.

The notion of "anam cara" or soul friend, someone to open heart, mind, and soul with, is a miraculous thing in prison. In talking of the miracle you could feel the longing.

As Bo Lozoff's book title says it -- "We're All Doing Time." As the six of us looked at today, so much depends on how we transform and are transformed by each now. A slight can become bright; pain can become gain. Doing time can become being just now. "Now" is beyond time. It is without half.

When we help one another see, say, feel, and think about the whole of it, the whole of life -- we are beginning to live now.

Unhalf yourself.

Be what we are in that shared reality between you and me, between each and all.

Unsay the narrative line that puts us away from what is wholly together.

Our own, one's own.

"What is" -- between you and me.


Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Five lobsters are sent from Maine to Ronkonkoma NY.

A man is dying. He said on phone he’d have some. They will give their lives for him and his family. He has lent his life to his family and the family of all beings. “The machine is breaking down,” he said. His body closes. We say goodbye on the phone.

No form, no sound.
Here I am;
White clouds fringing the peaks,
River cutting through the valley.

- Daito

The nature of everything in existence is to pass through.

We greet with love each one passing through.

From Maine, with love, Frank!

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Word is birdsong and baking fragrance.

If you understand the first word of Zen
You will know the last word.
The last word or the first word,
Is not a word.

- Wu-men

Two dogs snooze on mattress and floor. Earlier five of us (with cat in and out) took to stillness in chapel/zendo for 40 minutes. Candles before Buddha and Icon of Mother/Child move incense smoke through swirl of flame funnel.

Four did mindfulness walking beyond brook up Ragged Mtn stopping at tumbling falls, through wooded path, down runway to Snow Bowl parking lot, over to Hosmer Pond where two ducks nonchalance dog's arrival for brief swim.

We are mendicant monastics wandering hillside with begging souls. The mountain opens heart and drops sweet green bud, moist brown trail, birdsong, broken twig, last year's leaves, and stately quiet -- drops all this and more into our eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and hands. Fingers climb and fall beads. We are filled with gifts given wanderers.

Mu-ge is stretched in front of barn when we return. The three four-legged animals line up at kitchen door like livestock at feeding time, patter in together and go to respective flopping places.

Sun is warm. Birdsong strong. Silence surrounds. Prayer hides within everything.

There's no urgency to uncover prayer and make it speak -- not the way we've tried to torture out the secrets of nature, or torture out fragments of intelligence from so-called enemies. Prayer's hiding place must be left alone.

Where prayer hides is where God cannot be seen and never will be seen. Prayer is the place from which each sound springs and to which all noise falls. The ground of prayer is not to be found by any searching we can do or science we can know. Prayer is beyond us.

Prayer is the unseeable face of God.

God is wisdom itself. We cannot see wisdom. We might be able to hear the sound of wisdom. We might be able to touch the fruits of wisdom. We might be able to see the path leading to and emerging from the residing place of wisdom. But wisdom itself? Wisdom itself is hidden in its own home ground.

To our eyes the home ground of wisdom is groundless.

All we can do is pass -- pass by it and pass it by -- open and empty as the begging bowl of the soul.

We will not know what has been dropped in that bowl. We'll not be able to evaluate its worth, or count it, or bank it, or buy anything with it. What we are given will remain as unknown to us as green is to pine-tip bud.

It is not ours to see. As God's face has no specific and exclusive location, the grace we receive from openly passing through the dwelling place of God is meant only to pass through us and fall into others only when need is present, open, and unexpected.

Beggers, they say, can't be choosers. To walk the mendicant path near and through the hidden reality of God is to follow the laura footpath of no-choice. It is to wander, unknowing and unknown, the pathless path to and from, in and out this wondrous, incomprehensible moment, this place through which we pass.

Games with God

I played, a child both wild and meek,
with God at games of hide-and-seek.
I searched in vain the usual places
and found a thousand saddened faces.

"Your God is hidden in heaven," they said;
"You'll see him only when you're dead."
How could I make them understand
God often took me by the hand?
Then as my tears began to fall
I felt his touch and heard his call,
"I never hid from you at all."

I played with God a game of tag,
his mantle flying like a flag.
I gave my God a good head start
but caught him running in my heart.

I played with God the game "I Spy,"
but lost him with my fading eye,
till playmate God in his pure kindness,
printed his image on my blindness.

(poem "Games with God," by Virginia Hamilton Adair, from Beliefs and Blasphemies, as found in The Writer's Almanac, Sunday, 6 June, 2004, with Garrison Keillor)

Singing chorus from tree branches.

Saskia bakes in kitchen.

Calling in.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Some say God is not to be thought; but what is actually felt.

Do we think that if we penetrated the mystery of the Trinity in our theological history we would change our thinking about each other and change our behavior toward each other?

And if we actually felt that which is our very life on this earth -- would anything change?

Preserve both mind and objects
This means that when we are practicing, mind remains in its place and objects remain in their place. If there is a time when the mind and the objects come in contact with each other, then the mind does not grasp at the objects and the objects do not intrude upon the mind. If neither of them contacts the other, then, naturally, deluded thoughts will not arise and there will be no obstacles to the path.

- Chinul (1205)

The following excerpts from thinking on the Trinity in the Christian tradition and of Circumincessional Interpenetration in the Buddhist tradition are examples of the path thought takes attempting to enter into and through the curious existential intuition of three-and-one.

1. What is the Trinity?
It is a doctrine formulated in the 4th century to describe the view of some leading churchmen concerning the nature and relationship of God, Jesus and the holy Spirit. It was enunciated in a series of creeds: The Nicene Creed (325 ad), The Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed (381 ad), and the Athanasian Creed (ca. 5th century ad). It took various forms and used multitudes of words so complex and enigmatic it is incomprehensible. Some Christians consider "trinity" simply to imply belief in God, Jesus and the holy Spirit — a broad platform all Christians can endorse. Differently, but still quite simply, the first use of this word in early Christian writings referred merely to the existence of "God, his Word, and his Wisdom" (Theophilus of Antioch, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2, page 201). But as the doctrine evolved in the 4th-6th centuries, it became much more mysterious. It asserted that God is actually composed of three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all co-equal and co-eternal.
The Scriptural truth, on the other hand, is neither mysterious nor incomprehensible: God is one person, his son Jesus is a second person, and the holy Spirit is not a person at all. It is the spirit, power and influence of God. Jesus is subordinate to his Heavenly Father. God existed from eternity, but there was a time before the creation of his son Jesus when God was alone.

2. Keiji Nishitani on Circuminsessional Interpenetration

All things that are in the world are linked together, one way or the other. Not a single thing comes into being without some relationship to every other thing. Scientific intellect thinks here in terms of natural laws of necessary causality; mythico-poetic imagination perceives an organic, living connection; philosophic reason contemplates an absolute One. But on a more essential level, a system of circuminsession has to be seen here, according to which, on the field of shunyata, all things are in a process of becoming master and servant to one another. In this system, each thing is itself in not being itself, and is not itself in being itself. Its being is illusion in its truth and truth in its illusion. This may sound strange the first time one hears it, but in fact it enables us for the first time to conceive of a force by virtue of which all things are gathered together and brought into relationship with one another, a force which, since ancient times, has gone by the name of 'nature' (physis).
To say that a thing is not itself means that, while continuing to be itself, it is in the home-ground of everything else. Figuratively speaking, its roots reach across into the ground of all other things and helps to hold them up and keep them standing. It serves as a constitutive element of their being so that they can be what they are, and thus provides an ingredient of their being. That a thing is itself means that all other things, while continuing to be themselves, are in the home-ground of that thing; that precisely when a thing is on its own home-ground, everything else is there too; that the roots of every other thing spread across into its home-ground. This way that everything has of being on the home-ground of everything else, without ceasing to be on its own home-ground, means that the being of each thing is held up, kept standing, and made to be what it is by means of the being of all other things; or, put the other way around, that each thing holds up the being of every other thing, keeps it standing, and makes it what it is. In a word, it means that all things 'are' in the 'world'.
To imply that when a thing is 'on its own home-ground, it must at the same time be on the home-ground of all other things' sounds absurd; but in fact it constitutes the 'essence' of the existence of things. The being of things in themselves is essentially circuminsessional. This is what we mean by speaking of beings as 'being that is in unison with emptiness', and 'being on the field of emptiness'. For this circuminsessional system is only possible on the field of emptiness or shunyata.

(adapted from Religion and Nothingness, by Prof. Keiji Nishitani, translated with an introduction by Prof. Jan van Bragt, and with a foreword by Prof. Winston L. King, 1982, Berkeley 1983)

3. Teilhard DeChardin on the Trinity

The time comes, however, when God, speaking through the prophets or his Son, allows his influence to be openly apparent. He manifests himself as living and personal at once one and three. Faith comes by hearing. At that moment, if the soul holds to its faith, its hitherto vague desires embody themselves around the new truth. Accompanying faith in the revealed dogma, it feels coming down into it a clearly defined, conscious need for that dogma. All revealed truth, accordingly, including even the distant Trinity, is seen by the soul henceforth to be indispensable to its beatification. … …It is, therefore, a mistake to distinguish in man two different attractions that influence him: one, towards a hypothetical natural end of the cosmos, and the other towards the supernatural end that awaits us in the presence of God. There is only one single centre in the universe; it is at once natural and supernatural; it impels the whole of creation along one and the same line, first towards the fullest development of consciousness, and later toward the higher degree of holiness: In other words towards Christ Jesus, personal and cosmic.

(DeChardin Teilhard 1973. The Prayer of the Universe; In the Form of Christ pages 23 & 24. Paras. 3,4 & 5.)

4. Alan Watts on the Holy Trinity

Worship is the action in which man is drawn into the vortex of love which revolves eternally between the Persons of the Trinity. In the Mass, the congregation becomes God the Son speaking to the Father with the words of the Spirit, and therefore the saying and singing of these words should forbid the intrusion of personal idiosyncrasies. This is why the Gregorian chant has been the most perfect vehicle for the Western liturgy, since it is entirely free of military bombast and personalized sentimentality. It is pre-eminently the music of contemplation, and of a majestic serenity that has no need for pomp. Yet even in its most triumphant moods it is profoundly and marvelously sad, because it is the music of God in exile, and thus of the human ego possessed with a longing which is as deep as it is undefined.

(Watts Alan (1964). Beyond Theology; The Art of Godmanship. Page 164)

For as soon as religion begins to think about the one God existing prior to the universe, it begins to slip into monism. Here is the one God all by himself with no reality other than his own essence. Is not this the purest monism? If God becomes Love and Consciousness only by finding the necessary object for loving and knowing in his created universe, we are making the universe necessary to God, and is not this the purest pantheism? The idea of the Trinity saves Christianity from the monistic predicament. It gives God significance even prior to the universe, because he always contains both the subject and the object of his own love, the everlasting I-Thou relationship of the Father and the Son in the bond of the Holy Spirit of love. Thus the Trinity comes as close as the language of religion permits to the doctrine of non-duality, for the One is seen as including Three, the Unity as not opposed to diversity.
(Watts Alan (1973). The Supreme Identity. Pages 69 & 70)

This view of the function of evil in the finite order is, however, profoundly consistent with such truly fundamental Christian dogmas as the Incarnation and the Holy Trinity. The God-man Christ on the cross is without doubt our most eloquent religious analogy of the infinite as the experiencer of all human pain and evil. And if the universe is a finite image of the Trinity, it must express, in the successive order of time, both the union of the Son with the Father and the distinction of the Son from the Father—the latter as the fall of man from God in Adam, and the former as the union of man with God in Christ, the Second Adam. It throws light, too, on the great ‘dark saying’ of Jesus, ‘It needs be that offences must come, but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh’, a saying that calls to mind the problematic role of Judas, whose betrayal of his Master precipitated the Redemptive Sacrifice.
(Watts Alan (1973). The Supreme Identity. Page 116)

For Berdyaev, as for the Christian mind in general, there can be no significant relation between man and God which is not free on both sides, and where there is not an ontological distinction between the two. While he has seen that pure monotheism is substantially monism, and that the significance of God can only be vindicated by the doctrine of the Trinity, he does not apply the logic of the relations between the Persons of the trinity to the relation between God and man. If man and God cannot have a true relation without the ontological distinction, and without a freedom of man distinct from the freedom of God, it must follow that a true and significant relation is impossible between the persons of the Trinity. ‘The mystery of the unity between two persons finds its solution in the ......... The kingdom of Love in freedom is the kingdom of the Trinity. The experience of freedom and its inherent tragedy bring us to the Trinity. . . . Absolute monotheism is always despotic, for it regards God as an absolute monarch and leaves no place for freedom. Only the religion of God in Three Persons succeeds in definitely getting past this monarchist or imperialist conception of God by revealing the life of God as a divine Trinity and thus vindicating liberty." But if the idea of the Trinity vindicates liberty within God, if the fact that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all God does not deprive them of significance and freedom, there is likewise no deprivation if man’s Self and the infinite, atma and Brahma, are also distinct and yet one. For the same reason, as has been shown, there is also no monarchist or imperialist tyranny of God over the human puppet.
(Watts Alan (1973). The Supreme Identity. Page118)

That this process may be understandable to finite thought, the supreme Self must be regarded under two aspects. To one aspect, both phases are simultaneous because the eternal and omniscient viewpoint is never actually lost; the infinite remains infinite however much it may identify itself with the finite. To the other aspect the phases are successive, because, while remaining infinite, the Self becomes voluntarily subject to space and time. These two aspects are analogous to the Father and the Son in the doctrine of the Trinity. The first phase, involution, manifests in finite form the Son’s distinction from the Father; the second, evolution, manifests his union with the Father. The infinite, in the act of manifesting and identifying itself with the finite, is the formative logos, God the Son, whose image is the entire finite order considered simultaneously, 'sub specie aeternitalts'. Although we speak of the infinite as having two aspects, one in eternity and the other in time and space, one omniscient and the other taking finite viewpoints, this is simply a concession to the inherent dualism of human thought. In reality the infinite remains undivided, but the idea of the double aspect is a symbol for its non-duality, its ability to be at once infinite and finite, itself and another, one and many, without the slightest contradiction.’
(Watts Alan (1973). The Supreme Identity. Page 142)

It is for this reason that Catholic doctrine has always maintained that true prayer is not simply man relating himself to God, but rather something which God is performing in and through man. Prayer has its origin, not in the soul, but in the indwelling Holy Spirit, and thus prayer is man’s participation in the interior life of the Holy Trinity—even in its most stumbling and rudimentary form.
(Watts Alan (1973). The Supreme Identity. Page 173)

5. Thomas Merton on the Holy Trinity

Furthermore it is highly significant that a Japanese thinker schooled in Zen should be so open to what is basically the most obscure and difficult mystery of Christian theology: the dogma of the Trinity and the mission of the Divine Persons in the Christian and in the Church. This would seem to indicate that the real area for investigation of analogies and correspondences between Christianity and Zen might after all be theology rather than psychology or asceticism. At least theology is not excluded, but it must be theology as experienced in Christian contemplation, not the speculative theology of textbooks and disputations.

(Merton T. 1968 Zen and the Birds of Appetite. Page 58)

St. Paul compares this knowledge of God, in the Spirit, to the subjective knowledge that a man has of himself. Just as no one can know my inner self except my own "spirit," so no one can know God except God’s Spirit; yet this Holy Spirit is given to us, in such a way that God knows Himself in us, and this experience is utterly real, though it cannot be communicated in terms understandable to those who do not share it. (See I Cor. 2:7-15.) Consequently, St. Paul concludes, "we have the mind of Christ." (I Cor. 2:16)… …We cannot push our investigation further here, but it is significant that Suzuki, reading the following lines from Eckhart (which are perfectly orthodox and traditional Catholic theology), said they were "the same as Prajna intuition." (D.T. Suzuki, Mysticism: East and West, p.40; the quotation from C. de B. Evans’ translation of Eckhart, London, 1924, p. 147) "In giving us His love God has given us the Holy Ghost so that we can love Him with the love wherewith He loves Himself ." The Son Who, in us, loves the Father, in the Spirit, is translated thus by Suzuki into Zen terms: "one mirror reflecting another with no shadow between them." (Suzuki, Mysticism: East and West, p. 4!)
(Merton T. 1968. Zen and the Birds of Appetite. pages 56 & 57)

Beyond the barn, cooing of Mourning Dove. Fire in middle-room fireplace after mid-day brunch. Raw chill day. Sando on mattress in upstairs study. Mu-ge pulling stick-string toy in hallway. Cesco not far from hearth.

Saskia told the story last evening of sitting next to Methodist man at ordination of Catholic deacons. At time of eucherist she left to receive communion, the man stayed where he sat. Later he told her he was a Minister. that he'd been the last professor of the final course these candidates took prior to their special day. Yet, while he was there to honor them, he knew he was not invited to the table, he was not permitted to receive communion in the Catholic ceremony. He told the story with simple narrative, She heard the story with attentive presence.

What use the thought of communion if the feeling is exclusion?

The real ordination took place off to the side. It was the trinity of the man, Saskia, and the inside/outside story they shaed with each other.

God is not to be thought. God is what is felt.

Ordinary. Today. Here. And now.

Feeling and telling communion.

One with another.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Steady awareness helps.

Jory says he dreamt of Kapleau Roshi. Even in his fading from view with death, he assists a former student. Delia is a threaded needle moving through the many churches in the area, sewing gem of awareness to each Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist and Buddhist celebration. Saskia returns from Bob C's ordination to deaconate at Catholic cathedral in Portland.

What we call God is in attendance everywhere. Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) said, "God is like an infinite sphere, whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere,"

All day long people repeat the
Word prajna aloud,
But do not know their
Self-natured prajna.
They are like one who
Cannot satisfy their hunger
By only talking about eating.
Just talking of voidness
Will not enable one to
Perceive one's nature for
Myriads of eons, and there
Will be no advantage in the end.

- Altar Sutra

June 6 -- the anniversary of Bobby Kennedy's death by assassination at age 42 in 1968, feels more moving than the death at 93 of former president Ronald Reagan. We are often struck by what might have been. The 60th anniversary of D-Day Normandy Invasion is celebrated by world leaders and surviving civilian and military personnel. War is forever an open parenthesis, murder a sorrow without surcease, and dementia by alzheimer's a long irretrievable goodbye.

We think things should be other than they are. We want things to be other than they are. But if practice and steady awareness show us anything, it is that things are exactly what they are. Further -- about this "other" we want things and people to be? -- the paradoxically tough but tender realization is that there is no other. Everything is what it is -- and we are invited in particular to that embodying realization.

"The only field in which this [oneness] is possible is the field of sunyata [emptiness] which can have its circumference nowhere and its center everywhere. Only on the field of sunyata can the totality of things, each of which is absolutely unique and an absolute center of all things, at the same time be gathered into one."
(-- Keiji Nishitani, 1900-1990, in Religion and Nothingness, c.1983.)

Forms change. Old forms deteriorate. Surprising replacement forms arise. Some forms continue, reform, and endure. It is the emptiness that permeates and sustains form that seems ever unchanging. Emptiness centers the spinning world of changing forms on an axis of transparency.

In On Cause, Principle, and Unity, Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) wrote:
This entire globe, this star, not being subject to death, and dissolution and annihilation being impossible anywhere in Nature, from time to time renews itself by changing and altering all its parts. There is no absolute up or down, as Aristotle taught; no absolute position in space; but the position of a body is relative to that of other bodies. Everywhere there is incessant relative change in position throughout the universe, and the observer is always at the centre of things.

We are incessantly related.

One and one and one -- some say make three. Today is feast of Trinity in Christian metaphor.

But one and one and one really reveal the one that each is, incessantly relative each to each, unendingly between and center to the revelation of each and all.

Who can begin to grasp and embody this center without periphery?

Steady awareness helps.

Let service begin.

With us.