Saturday, February 19, 2005

Mother? Father? Each being, as it is, is what is.

Thirty years ago my father died. Twenty four years ago so did my mother.

Zen enlightenment is as if you have been away from home for many years, when suddenly you see your father or mother in town. You know them right away, without a doubt. There is no need to ask whether they are your parents or not.
- Dogen

The deaths of my mother and father gave way to looking around at what now become my parents.

This is one of the gifts of zen, namely, all things are seen as mother and as father. In fact, it is the crux of contradiction in Christian/Zen investigation -- that each being, as it is, is what is.

Jesus said, ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’
(Matthew 5:43 - 48)

"And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother?"

Passing through -- making one's way through -- is the perfection of our heavenly Father/Mother. We don't get to choose our mother or father. They appear each moment in each person. They are revealed now and now and now as each being appearing in our way.

We come to being through our parents. This is the first stage.
We must leave our mother and father as they must leave us. That is only the second stage. Finally, we are invited into a new way of being -- where each encounter is father, each engagement is mother. At this stage we are quickened and resounded.

The very activity of coming into being, passing through our lives with attentive compassionate awareness, and then emerging beyond any barrier or boundary to quiet realization of interdependent origination -- this is the life of prayer, perfection, and practice.

Perfection is not the done deal or final state. Perfection, rather than being understood as a state of completion rid of imperfections or flaws, is the literal process of "making one's way through." [Per=through; facere=to make] In street jargon the word 'perfection' could mean 'keep on keeping on,' or 'see you on the flip side,' or ' you can make it through this.' Jesus is encouraging us to remain open through each encounter -- to allow each engagement to fill us and sound through us -- to come to see what is really and actually passing through us here and now.

Prayer originates; perfection is the middle passageway that leads to the final and unending activity; practice!

Hence, it is: "Thanks mom...Thanks dad."

With gratitude it might dawn on me that love is practicing each of us as we are.

Passing through.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The real war is between cowardice and contrition.

It is time to abandon 'coward.' Will we fall into 'contrite?'

If you have developed great capacity and cutting insight, you can undertake Zen right where you are. Without getting it from another, you understand it on your own. The penetrating spiritual light and vast open tranquility have never been interrupted since beginningless time. The pure, uncontrived, ineffable, complete true mind does not act as a partner to objects of material sense, and is not a companion of myriad things. When the mind is always as clear and bright as ten suns shining together, detached from views and beyond feelings, cutting through the ephemeral illusions of birth and death, this is what is meant by the saying “Mind itself is Buddha.” You do not have to abandon worldly activities in order to attain effortless unconcern. You should know that worldly activities and effortless unconcern are not two different things, but if you keep thinking about rejection and grasping, you make them two.
- Hui Neng

Sometimes we call cowardice by nicknames that seem easier to respond to -- such as 'realism', or 'caution', or a current favorite, 'patriotism.'

John Dear is a Jesuit priest working for peace. Recently, in a talk, he said:
“I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves,” Jesus tells us. Imagine a pathetic, vulnerable, fragile little lamb surrounded by a group of starving wolves. What are they thinking? “Get the mint jelly, fellas, it’s lamb chops for dinner!” If we’re going to follow Jesus, we’re going to be devoured. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to cost us.

But for some reason, we think subconsciously that since we are Americans and Catholics, we can work for peace and justice, we can be active in the church, we can even try to end war and change the world and the church--without getting into trouble. We think that we can do these things without causing problems or upsetting people or getting kicked around like Jesus did, that we don’t need to take up the cross or suffer or risk our lives, that somehow or other, we won’t end up as he did, that we will make everything work out alright with no discomfort at all. And the moment we face opposition, we get upset, we complain, we give up and we walk away. We want everything to be easy.

I’m here to tell you that if we want to follow Jesus, if we want to become his authentic church, if we want to put the Gospel into practice, if we want to help end war and disarm nuclear weapons and serve starving humanity, if we really want to change the church, we have got to expect that we will get into trouble. We have to expect a difficult lifelong struggle because the status quo of injustice is not going to cave in easily. We have to risk the cross and resurrection, we have to enter the Paschal mystery, and it’s going to be messy and we’re not going to like it and everyone’s going to be upset with us and we will feel like failures.

And when this happens, I submit, then we’we're finally getting somewhere. Dorothy Day once said that we measure our discipleship to Jesus by how much trouble we are in. So my message is: Become holy troublemakers for peace and justice just like Jesus.

(from A Talk by John Dear at the Call to Action Conference, November 6, 2004. "Getting Into Trouble for Peace and Justice: The Next Step on the Path of Discipleship to the Nonviolent Jesus", Milwaukee, Wisconsin )

The word coward sounds close to 'cowed' -- that is, as a transitive verb, "to frighten with threats or a show of force." As an adjective it means, "frightened into submission or compliance." (

John Dear is worried about our nation. He is more worried about the heart and soul of each of us. In an article published the 15th of February, yesterday, he writes:
We have become a culture of Pharisees. Instead of practicing an authentic spirituality of compassion, nonviolence, love and peace, we as a collective people have become self-righteous, arrogant, powerful, murderous hypocrites who dominate and kill others in the name of God. The Pharisees supported the brutal Roman rulers and soldiers, and lived off the comforts of the empire by running an elaborate banking system which charged an exorbitant fee for ordinary people just to worship God in the Temple. Since they taught that God was present only in the Temple, they were able to control the entire population. If anyone opposed their power or violated their law, the Pharisees could kill them on the spot, even in the holy sanctuary.

Most North American Christians are now becoming more and more like these hypocritical Pharisees. We side with the rulers, the bankers, and the corporate millionaires and billionaires. We run the Pentagon, bless the bombing raids, support executions, make nuclear weapons and seek global domination for America as if that was what the nonviolent Jesus wants. And we dismiss anyone who disagrees with us.

We have become a mean, vicious people, what the bible calls “stiff-necked people.” And we do it all with the mistaken belief that we have the blessing of God.


There is a wonderful teaching and admonition I remember from one of our Tuesday Evening Conversations on Buddhist Study and Practice: Do not call the unlovely lovely -- do not call the lovely unlovely. It is a strong reminder that, whatever our unwillingness to face publicly our cowardice or contrition, at least we must not fail to see the unlovely as unlovely, and the lovely as lovely. In other words, do not lie to ourselves, do not actively cultivate delusion. To pretend not to see, or pretend that what we see is not actually what we are seeing -- is a grave injustice, to ourselves and to others.

John Dear takes us to the doorstep of his metaphor and belief when he says:
There are many problems in the church, and many problems in the world, but there are no problems with Jesus. He remains wonderful, gentle, loving, inviting, and disarming, and he is busy at work transforming our world. My hope and prayer is that we can learn his story more and more, listen to his words, do what he says, become his friends, and get into trouble like him, that we can be nonviolent like him, compassionate like him, and dangerous like him.

So I wrote a little litany for you:
In a world of hate and fear, be holy troublemakers of all-inclusive, universal love.
In a world of merciless cruelty, be holy troublemakers of compassion and mercy.
In a world of lies, be holy troublemakers of truth.
In a world of injustice, racism and sexism, be holy troublemakers of justice and equality.
In a world of death, be holy troublemakers of life.
In a world of despair, be holy troublemakers of hope.
In a world of war, be holy troublemakers for peace.
In a world of violence, be holy troublemakers of Gospel nonviolence in the name of the troublemaking, nonviolent Jesus. Thank you and God bless you.

(from ending of John Dear's talk in Wisconsin)

It is a splash of cold water to read these words that follow in the tradition of Daniel and Phil Berrigan, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, Eddie Doherty and Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Thich Nhat Hanh and Thomas Merton.

Has Jesus been captured by 'believers' and delivered, again, to an undisclosed detention camp as an enemy combatant and detained without representation or contact with the outside world?

Surely the super power of liberty and freedom would not attempt to hijack and breakdown by torture and humiliation the mind and heart of Jesus -- would they? Surely the institution claiming to administrate his will on earth would not alter the words and will Jesus left for us -- would they?

Those questions are too big for me. I have a more personal, and more profound, obligation. Mine is to incarnate what Jesus incarnated. It is a task Christians fear the most; it is the invitation Christians in name only (CINO: See no?) step back from and will readily deny as heresy and scandal, and that is -- to reveal and become what Jesus revealed and became.

O my God! I am heartily sorry. For having offended...everyone -- by not seeing them as they are; by not seeing you where you are.

Teach me to fight, with nonviolence, my cowardice.

I am here to be contrite, to be worn away.

To return to earth.

War is not the way.

Your way is!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Don't talk about love.

If you fail to achieve freedom in this life, when do you expect to achieve it? While still alive, you should be tireless in practicing contemplation. The practice consists of abandonments. “The abandonment of what?” you may ask. You should abandon all the workings of your relative consciousness, which you have been cherishing since eternity; retire within your inner being and see the reason of it. As your self-reflection grows deeper and deeper, the moment will surely come upon you when the spiritual flower will suddenly burst into bloom, illuminating the entire universe.
- Wu-hsin

Be what the word signifies.

Silently, the action, with smile.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

We practice incarnation.

Sure, the Buddha dies. Who doesn't? Say what you want about what occurs afterwards, but let's acknowledge -- just as there is suffering, there is death.

The bodhisattva will not allow fear of death to interfere with ascending life.

This life, you must know as the tiny
splash of a raindrop,
A thing of beauty that disappears even
as it comes into being.

Therefore, set your goal.
Make use of every day and night
to achieve it.

-- Tsongkhapa

Saskia says she can read Thich Nhat Hanh's Living Buddha, Living Christ fifty, no, one hundred times. "It's my new bible," she glows. There's something in this Zen Master's being and writing that reveals his embodiment of bodhisattva compassion.

Nirvana Day, Buddha's death, occurred this week.
Mahayana Buddhists are one type of Buddhists. Many of them are Japanese. They celebrate February 13 as the anniversary of Buddha's death.
For Buddhists, this is not a sad day, but a time to remember that Buddha moved from one state of being to the next.


From one form to the formless; from one aspect to transforming vista.

Although Tibetan Buddhism holds that all beings are capable of enlightenment, enlightenment is not the end of the path, for the ultimate goal is to lead all beings to that attainment. For this reason the potential buddha renounces enlightenment for himself and returns to the world to teach until beings are liberated. This is known as the 'bodhisattva ideal." A bodhisattva is a "wisdom being;" of the many bodhisattvas who figure in Tibetan Buddhism, Chenrezik, the Lord of Compassion, is the most revered.
(-- p.xiii from Introduction, in Tibetan Folk Tales, Fredrick and Audrey Hyde-Chambers)

The underlying core of all creation, material or spiritual, is the intention to make manifest what is most real -- the longing of light for love, and the longing of love for light.

At the north window, icy drafts
Whistle through the cracks,
At the south pond, wild geese
Huddle in snowy reeds;
Above, the mountain moon
Is pinched thin with cold,
Freezing clouds threaten
To plunge from the sky.
Buddhas might descend to this world
By the thousands,
They couldn’t add or subtract one thing.

- Hakuin

Is there only one thing? And is that one thing longing light for love, longing love for light?

The six syllables perfect the Six Paramitas of the Bodhisattvas.
Gen Rinpoche, in his commentary on the Meaning of the mantra said:
"The mantra Om Mani Pädme Hum is easy to say yet quite powerful,
because it contains the essence of the entire teaching. When you say
the first syllable Om it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the
practice of generosity, Ma helps perfect the practice of pure ethics,
and Ni helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and
patience. Päd, the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance, Me helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration, and the final sixth syllable Hum helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom.

So in this way recitation of the mantra helps achieve perfection in the six practices from generosity to wisdom. The path of these six perfections is the path walked by all the Buddhas of the three times. What could then be more meaningful than to say the mantra and accomplish the six perfections?"

The six syllables purify the six realms of existence in suffering.

For example, the syllable Om purifies the neurotic attachment to bliss and pride, which afflict the beings in the realm of the gods.

Syllable...........Purifies..............................Samsaric Realm

Om.......... -- bliss / pride..................................... -- gods
Ma.......... -- jealousy /lust for entertainment............. -- jealous gods
Ni.......... -- passion / desire................................... -- human
Pe.......... -- stupidity / prejudice............................. -- animal
Me.......... -- poverty / possessiveness......................... -- hungry ghost
Hung........ -- aggression / hatred............................... -- hell

"Behold! The jewel in the lotus!"

As our consciousness deepens into awareness and dissolves into pure awareness, we come to see (and be seen as) that which longs for the core of being to be revealed and manifest in (and as) this world. The Christ and the Bodhisattva, in their respective traditions, are narration and engagement with us in the passage through all the diversions, distractions, and dispersions associated with our human journey.

Buddha Amitabha then further instructed him "If you want to relieve the suffering of the six realms, you must propagate the Six-Syllable Mantra "OM MA NI PAD ME HUNG" which will stop the rebirth and sufferings of the beings of the six realms. Each of the syllables will eliminate the cause and condition to be reborn in one of the respective six realms. "OM" will eliminate the cause and condition to be borne in the gods’ realm. "MA" will eliminate the cause and condition to be borne in the demi-gods realm. "NI" will eliminate the cause and condition to be borne in the human realm. "PAD" will eliminate the cause and condition to be borne in the animal realm, "ME" will eliminate the cause and condition to be borne in the hungry ghost realm. "HUNG" will eliminate the cause and condition to be borne in the hell realm. You must engage, keep, recite and absorb this. This will empty the six realms."

No birth, no death. "Life" perdures throughout -- a way of being that knows no beginning nor any end. This mysterious way of being -- this "life" -- is that which listens with our ears, looks with our eyes, smells with our nose, touches with our skin, and tastes with our tongue. Life hears, sees, scents, feels, and savours through us and all creation. If we attune to this mystery, this "life," we come to expression and incarnation as that one and same mystery.

"Buddha of great compassion, hold me fast in your compassion. From time without beginning, beings have wandered in samsara, Undergoing unendurable suffering. They have no other protector than you. Please bless them that they may achieve the omniscient state of buddhahood.

With the power of evil karma gathered from beginningless time, Sentient beings, through the force of anger, are born as hell beings and experience the suffering of heat and cold. May they all be born in your presence, perfect deity."

(--from "The Meditation and Recitation of Four-Armed Chenresig")

Recently a health inspector came into the bookshop/bakery. By visit's end she and three of us were in a conversation exploring anger, our own and in general. She was recommended Thich Nhat Hanh's book Anger, Wisdom for Cooling the Flames. As she left, her report indicated a minus one on our yearly evaluation, namely, we need to get a hanging thermometer for our cooler -- which registered 41.2 degrees on her digital device, and well within the regulations. The balance of it! Her visit was a worthwhile exchange of time and temperature.

As long as any living being
draws breath,
Wherever he shall be,
There, in compassion
Will the Buddha appear,

( -- Ngon tok gyen)

Today we practice this breath.

Throughout, and now, we incarnate life.

Life, our mutual longing for light with love.

May we behold this jewel in the lotus of practice with one another!