Saturday, January 15, 2005

Martin Luther King Jr. arrived this date. Happy Birthday, Martin! Our gratitude for who you were and what you changed.

Our change might be "mendicants of no other." Thus retaining the lettering "m.o.n.o."

In the dream the woman says, "Do you have a cliche'd schedule?" I answer yes. She shrugs. I ask what she has. She begins to say, "It is an extended..." I do not hear how she completes the response. The rest is left to my contemplation as I wake.

In the realm of True Purity, there is no such thing as "I" or "He" or "She," nor can "friend" or "foe" be found there. But the slightest confusion of mind brings innumerable differences and complications. Peace and disorder in the world, the distinction between friend and foe in human relationships, follow upon one another as illusion begets delusion. A person of spiritual insight will immediately recognize what is wrong and before long rid themselves of such an illusion.
- Muso Kokushi (1275-1351)

We change our third Saturday retreat to a 3rd weekend extended mindfulness weekend. We use is as a time of continual and constant reminder to do what we are doing, be what we are, hear what we are hearing, and speak what we are speaking. We end the formal 3rd Saturday 8 hours of retreat at the hermitage.

Rather, we take it to heart, and we take it on the road. We focus on attention, intention, mindfulness, deep listening, and loving speech with a more intense, expansive, and everyday practice of these qualities.

We embrace mendicancy. A mendicant is one depending on alms for a living; practicing begging. Mendicant derives from Latin mendicare, "to beg," from mendicus, "beggar."

Heidegger says that the question of philosophy is 'why are there things rather than nothing?', but surely there is an even prior question: why objectify the world after all? or, more simply, why do we want to know? It sounds like a psychological question, but it is only partly that. The moment we ask it we are involved in the whole process of what I have called recreation, the constructing of human culture and civilization, and the question turns into something more like: 'why is simple existence in the world not good enough for us?' Whatever the answer, the question itself seems to push us away from the biblical story of a beginning creation, and towards the vision of recreation as a future goal in which our own efforts are involved.
(p.54, in Creation and Recreation, by Northrop Frye, c.1980)

Simple existence in the world is good enough for us.

I don't know why there are things rather than nothing. Nor why some have more things than others. I don't know why some have very little, some do not have enough, and some have nothing.

A beggar, or mendicant, in this mythology, is someone following intuition of gift and gratefulness.

'Beggar' is a word and way of being that is seldom aspired to. [Middle English, from Old French begart, ultimately from Middle Dutch beggaert, "one who rattles off prayers."]

We ask for, we beg for, nothing other than what we have; no other than what we are.

Prayer is act of communion.

Prayer is gift, not obligation. Life is gift, not recompense. Mendicancy is gift, not disgrace.

We rattle on.

Without cliche.


There -- is no other way.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Solitude is a hermitage with no walls.

Hermits are who they are because What Is remains itself.

Follow the opportunity to seek out perception,
But you must travel the path alone.
If you have not found illumination,
Go where you may achieve completion.

- Ch'en Hsien (1634- 1654)

Even when with others, a hermit enters solitude. This is when each is allowed to be each and all allowed to be all. A hermit does not disconnect. Rather, a hermit allows root connection to be the heart of the hermitage of solitude. There is no cultivation of disconnection or strain to connect what is already of a piece.

Still, there's something to be said for being alone.

The house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace. Thought and experience are not the only things that sanction human values. The values that belong to daydreaming mark humanity in its depths.
( from The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Bachelard.

I daydream peace in the world. I daydream comfort for those suffering natural catastrophes. I daydream the foggy white mist of mountainside after snow. I daydream everyone resting in the presence of God -- everyone completely themselves.

The hermit is before God. His hut, therefore, is just the opposite of the monastery. And there radiates about this centralized solitude a universe of meditation and prayer, a universe outside the universe. The hut can receive none of the riches "of this world." It possesses the felicity of intense poverty; it is one of the glories of poverty; as destitution increases it gives access to absolute refuge. (Bachelard)

This week at hermitage is quiet stretch. I nightdream of my sister and husband greeting me in visit-- first since death placed them in dream garden together. I write to tell niece and nephew. We are orphans and children of orphans. There is a roundness to solitude.

In speaking of the "Dialectics of Outside and Inside," the author speaks of our modern obsession with circumscribing things, the modern's "geometrism" or "geometrical cancerization." We geometrize everything from property to national boundaries, from forests to green-spaces, from ideology to psychology of the individual -- all is cut up, divided, entrenched. But, says Bachelard, being is all around us, not circumscribed. We are not the center of being, nor is anything else, for that matter. Hence there is neither being-here nor being-there.
(from, "Hermit's Hut, Hermit's Dream" book reviews in Hermitary

I can no longer penetrate the fog of 'there' and 'here'. In the dream I know I am dreaming and caution myself to be aware it will soon enough fade. It does. Both in the dream and out of it are tears for the joyful visit.

Being is all around.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Truth is back from holiday.

"Knowledge of the Father," says Irenaeus, "consists in the self-revelation of the Son." The metaphor no longer hides what it carries within.

If revelation unfolds what has been hidden, and truth consists of the not-hidden, something important is constantly being revealed.

"Truth," a zen master said, "is just like this."

We ask: When is a lie a lie? Or, is a lie a convenience, something used to accomplish a greater end than merely being truthful? There is, I imagine, much to be said for 'convenience.' But for truth -- there is always, and only, 'this.'

The moon and the paper are the same white
The pupil of the eye and the ink, both black.
This mysterious meaning remains a circle,
Beyond the possibility of understanding.

- Sokuhi (1616-1671)

Just for a moment, we pause to consider this truth, this revelation:
U.S. Ends Fruitless Iraq Weapons Hunt. White House Says Iraq Weapons Search Over; Evidence That Bush Used in Argument for War Not Found.

WASHINGTON Jan 12, 2005 -- The search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has quietly concluded without any evidence of the banned weapons that President Bush cited as justification for going to war, the White House said Wednesday.
Democrats said Bush owes the country an explanation of why he was so wrong.

(The Associated Press)

What is this truth we are being told today?

No one can know the Father apart from God's Word, that is, unless the Son reveals him, and no one can know the Son unless the Father so wills. Now the Son fulfils the Father's good pleasure: the Father sends, the Son is sent, and he comes. The Father is beyond our sight and comprehension; but he is known by his Word, who tells us of him who surpasses all telling. In turn, the Father alone has knowledge of his Word. And the Lord has revealed both truths. Therefore, the Son reveals the knowledge of the Father by his revelation of himself. Knowledge of the Father consists in the self-revelation of the Son, for all is revealed through the Word.
The Father's purpose in revealing the Son was to make himself known to us all and so to welcome into eternal rest those who believe in him, establishing them in justice, preserving them from death. To believe in him means to do his will.

(From the treatise Against Heresies by Saint Irenaeus, bishop)

If Word and words are mere conveniences, we are lost.

We must find justice.

Death cannot continue.

See son, see father. Hear lie, hear death.

When one's word is no good, death clutches the heart.

We must retrieve and release truth.

Word truth now!

This, this, this...

In the open.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The bookshop and bakery will re-open Saturday, 15 January, Martin Luther King's birthday.


Spirituality is a way of traveling and arriving home.

Relief effort from tsunami continues in South Asia. In Iraq, more deaths from violence. Water drenches Southern California.

Dwelling at home requires dedicated practice.

The way to true spirituality
Cannot depend upon others;
One instant of enlightenment
And I go beyond body and self.
The myriad and profound virtues
Are complete;
Anywhere in the universe is now my home.

- Mokuan (1611-1684)

There is a weaving around knowledge to arrive at wisdom. Wisdom holds home with courage and strength.

Thomas Merton was constantly trying to find his way home.

Merton was able to distinguish quite clearly the difference between human learning - to which he may have perhaps arbitrarily confined the entire Socratic dialectical process - and wisdom, that is, between knowledge gained through hard thinking and knowledge that reveals itself through hard experience and inner solitude. In short, wisdom appears only after one has abandoned a life of hubris, and experiences, in depth, the hollowness of intellectual knowledge, and the painful sense of moral and spiritual depravity. Moreover, unlike most other artists and writers, what distinguished the monk was that he was a great mystic and contemplative. As it has been noted by many, the psychological and spiritual makeup and the modus operandi of mystics and contemplatives from different traditions tend to be very similar, though the roads and goals they take and reach may be quite divergent, even contradictory. (John Wu Jr.)

At this time in this country we are inquiring into what home is. In personal life there continues tension between university and monastery, head and heart, knowledge and wisdom.

Even as a young budding writer Merton was able to fathom the difference between the knowing of oneself in the Platonic Dialogues and the knowing (or, shall we say, more accurately, the "unknowing") of the true self one finds in all authentic traditions, mystical, Zen or otherwise. In this discrimination, you can see why he ultimately chose the monastery over the university and why he would have been constantly at sixes and sevens in an academic setting where high power intellects joust for the critical competitive edge that may end in great frustration. This choice of place itself comes, I think, from profound self-knowledge, for he most likely would have suffered badly in any other place except in a monastery. For, is it not true that part of life's wisdom is to know where we belong, where we would do the least damage to ourselves and others?
(John Wu Jr.)

What if home is dwelling well within oneself?

Although a very good intellectual, Merton knew that the Socratic kind of knowing could not possibly satiate his real desire for a fulfillment that would ultimately please and lead him back to his Maker. He had this enormously significant intuition that somehow wisdom and the search for the inmost self did not lie in the gaining of knowledge; it lay, rather, in the losing of it.
(from a revised version of the paper presented at the First General Meeting of the International Thomas Merton Society at Southampton, May 17-19, 1996. The original title was "Thomas Merton and the Spirit of Zen." by John Wu, Jr.)

I've been thinking about my dwelling place, about truth and deception.

This is the definition of sin: the misuse of powers given us by God for doing good, a use contrary to God's commands. On the other hand, the virtue that God asks of us is the use of the same powers based on a good conscience in accordance with God's command.
Since this is so, we can say the same about love. Since we received a command to love God, we possess from the first moment of our existence an innate power and ability to love. The proof of this is not to be sought outside ourselves, but each one can learn this from himself and in [her]self.

(From the Detailed Rules for Monks by St. Basil the Great, bishop, Office of Readings, 11Jan)

There is an innate home wherein we are invited to dwell.

Our journey encircles, widening to nearing, that place.

Our spirituality practices this journey home.

Travel well.

Arrive well.


Monday, January 10, 2005

Truth is not-hidden.

Open words, open acts, and open hearts reveal what we call truth. Clear sight through clear space helps clear the debris of troublesome and unfortunate deception.

In the mountains
Are many companions of the Way,
Sitting Zen, chanting,
Forming a natural community.
But if you gazed
Far off from city walls,
In this direction,
All you would see is white clouds.

- Wang Wei (701-761)

Let's remember something important -- the heart cannot be fooled. The mind can be fooled, but not the heart. In America today we know minds are easily fooled. Hearts, when faced with direct encounter, are more direct. The heart sorrows with sorrow. The heart grieves when broken, is torn when bereft of trust.

Despondency is a purse seine encircling both sides of simplistic distinctions cultivated as republican/democrat, red/blue, or conservative/liberal. These distinctions are a deception. Deception hurts both sides, deceiver and deceived.

Deception sometimes hides in belief. We are told to believe blind patriotism equals will of God for America, an America touted to be God's favorite country by dint of wealth, arms, and a faith-filled populace.

This belief is not true. The favor of God, or what we can know of it, is absence of deception. It is best thought of as heart's longing to reside with God in true union. That dwelling place is where each being -- each person, each thing, and each longing of the heart -- is most truly at home. We need more than belief. We need the actual presence, the felt reality, of our true home. Love and peace define that home.

All wisdom is from the Lord,
and it is his own for ever.
The sand of the sea and the raindrops,
and the days of eternity, who can assess them?
The height of the sky and the breadth of the earth,
and the depth of the abyss, who can probe them?
Before all other things wisdom was created,
shrewd understanding is everlasting.
For whom has the root of wisdom ever been uncovered?
Her resourceful ways, who knows them?
One only is wise, terrible indeed,
seated on his throne, the Lord.
He himself has created her, looked on her and assessed her,
and poured her out on all his works
to be with all mankind as his gift,
and he conveyed her to those who love him.

(from Ecclesiasticus 1)

By uncovering wisdom we begin to retrieve sanity. There's no sanity in lies. No health in false promises. Mind cannot sustain falsity. Mind requires real substance. Mind needs honest truth to remain sane. These times challenge sanity.

This new year we must find a new equilibrium. Nature frightens many with surfeit of water. America frightens many with overstated fear.

We cannot allow that fear to feed and grow. Fear breeds fear. Terror feeds on and feeds fear. We need balance. The fulcrum must be well balanced and centered between healthy fear and healthy trust. If trust is abandoned -- we topple into the arms and armaments of fear.

That balance, that fulcrum, is wisdom.

We pray for all...wisdom.


Holding us.


Sunday, January 09, 2005

President Bush is mistaken. He underestimates the American people. Once the whiff of failure overcomes the fragrance of partisan policy victory, he will have to leave his office and leave sorrowing hearts behind his departure.

Look up to heaven and down on earth, and they will remind you of their impermanency. Look about the world, and it will remind you of its impermanency. But when you gain spiritual enlightenment, you shall then find wisdom. The knowledge thus attained leads you to the Way.
- Sutra of Forty Two Chapters

This departure is not about politics. It is about the collective soul of many peoples who will not allow error or terror to wear a pressed suit and friendly smile.

Peter addressed them: 'The truth I have now come to realise' he said 'is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.'
(Acts 10:34)

It was an awful presidential campaign season last year. The insult to intelligent people worldwide will not be easily brushed aside with further arrogance and foolish posturing of invincible pretence. It is surprising that these false God controlling men do not fear the exact justice of the real God beyond their clutch. It is a curious hubris that believes safe passage through blasphemy and deceit is their privilege.

But Jesus replied, 'Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that righteousness demands'.
(Matthew 3:15)

There will be an inauguration in Washington. It will be a glitzy and triumphant celebration. They won. They will reward their faithful.

Alentejo Seen From The Train
Nothing with nothing around it
And a few trees in between
None of which very clearly green,
Where no river or flower pays a visit.
If there be a hell, I've found it,
For if ain't here, where the Devil it is?

(1907, poem by Fernando Pessoa)

We will suffer this display as we suffer the spectacle of Iraq.

We will pray for all who long for justice.

We will call for the just of the world to speak out.

We will ask the president to change his heart, to change his mind, and to change the course of mistaken decisions he has taken.

This is not a red/blue or republican/democrat child's game.

This is something far more serious.

Ask yourself. Go on, ask.

Do you hear what it is?