Saturday, February 26, 2005

If I give you my word, I have given you my life. When I break my word, my life is broken. Are we nearer to seeing that word and life are not separable? And when we have integrated word and life, will we then be worthy of silence?

As long as people are beguiled by words, they can never expect to penetrate to the heart of Zen. Why? Because words are merely a vehicle on which the truth is carried. Not understanding the meaning of the old masters and their koans, people try to find it in the words only, but they will find nothing there to lay their hands on. The truth itself is beyond all description, but it is by words that the truth is manifested. Let us, then, forget the words when we gain the truth itself. This is done only when we have an insight through experience into that which is indicated by the words.
Lu K'uan Yu

Here's the fear: the bond of trust between word and truth has become broken and beyond repair. That fear is what some call Orwellian, that is, there are people manipulating words so that they mean the opposite of what we've long held them to mean. Both political and street use of words might confuse us today: Is cool hot? Is bad good? Does war bring peace? Is torture the route to kindness? Are lies now presented as truth?

Listen, heavens to what I say;
earth, hear the words of my mouth!
Let my teaching fall like the rain,
my speech descend like the dew,
like a shower on the grass,
like rain on the wheat.

For I shall call on the name of the Lord:
give praise to the greatness of our God!
His works are like a rock: they are perfect,
for all his ways are just.
God is faithful, he can do no wrong:
he is just and upright.

Deuteronomy 32

Perhaps the reason so much seems contradictory is because any one event, word, or act transverses twelve to eighteen dimensions, which are, in themselves, separate worlds in which every experience has three dozen names.

You shall not utter the name of the Lord your God to misuse it, for the Lord will not leave unpunished the man who utters his name to misuse it.
(-- from Exodus 20)

To misuse the name of God is to try to invalidate the felt factual and actual reality of what is there. Sacred sanity is each within itself as it is.

Snowbanks North of the House
Those great sweeps of snow that stop suddenly six feet
from the house...
Thoughts that go so far.
The boy gets out of high school and reads no more books;
the son stops calling home.
The mother puts down her rolling pin and makes no more
And the wife looks at her husband one night at a party
and loves him no more.
The energy leaves the wine, and the minister falls leaving
the church.
It will not come closer --
the one inside moves back, and the hands touch nothing,
and are safe.

And the father grieves for his son, and will not leave the
room where the coffin stands;
he turns away from his wife, and she sleeps alone.
And the sea lifts and falls all night; the moon goes on
through the unattached heavens alone.

And the toe of the shoe pivots
in the dust...
The man in the black coat turns, and goes back down the
No one knows why he came, or why he turned away, and
did not climb the hill.

(Poem: "Snowbanks North of the House" by Robert Bly, from Selected Poems. )

I give you my word -- you and I are not separate -- and no one can fabricate a reality for you that does not move through me as well.

Our ignorance of this interpenetration is why we are so in need of forgiveness: we know not what we are...doing.

God moves through us.

And we, all of us, are the ways God experiences these myriad worlds.

Each way a world worthy and sacred.

All God's ways and each of us as word are just.

Word belongs to Itself.

As we do, to one another.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Justice doesn't descend from on high; justice emerges from within.

Dream first; then awaken what is necessary and real.

Enlightenment means seeing into
your own essential nature,
and this at the same time means
seeing through to the essential

- Yasutani

If human beings do not embody and manifest divine justice, no deus ex machina will intervene to impose it on us. Which, if you think about it, could be considered a shame -- especially if nobody shows through what could be shown through.

Even if justice begins as a dream, it must materialize through bodies with hands, feet and eyes that see.

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.
They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them they made a plot among themselves to put him to death. "Here comes the man of dreams" they said to one another. "Come on, let us kill him and throw him into some well; we can say that a wild beast devoured him. Then we shall see what becomes of his dreams."

(--from Genesis 37)

What will become of our dreams once we cease dreaming? What will become of us without the dream?

"I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit."
(from Matthew 21)

It is not the fault of our leaders that we have ceased dreaming the dream of justice and have begun to acquire a taste for delusion and omnipotence. Rabbi David Aaron says that we desecrate Hashem, (The Name...of God) when we fail to embody and reveal The Name into the world. That presence will emerge with humility. Humility is the fruit of authentic realization.

If we do what is right, the name, (the reality itself), of Hashem will shine through into the world. We will transcend barriers and transform boundaries following light's passage through a new transparency.

God is passing through. (Once we would have said, "God is perfect".)

But this is now.

Our begetting.


For real.


Thursday, February 24, 2005

No trace found of 1,100 WTC victims
(Headline, February 24, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

The counting and naming is over. Those gone are gone from view, some without trace. Our science cannot resurrect form nor catalogue spirit.

All this happened to us,
but not because we had forgotten you.
We were not disloyal to your covenant;
our hearts did not turn away;
our steps did not wander from your path;
and yet you brought us low,
with horrors all about us:
you overwhelmed us in the shadows of death.

If we had forgotten the name of our God,
if we had spread out our hands before an alien god --
would God not have known? He knows what is hidden in our hearts.
It is for your sake that we face death all the day,
that we are reckoned as sheep to be slaughtered.

--from Psalm 43 (44)

Nor have we ever pinpointed the reason or purpose of planes flying where they shouldn't, buildings collapsing when they ought not. The image of dusty disintegration is imprinted on our psyche in the same way Christians hold to the image of Jesus hanging from the cross. From that Latinate collapse arose a powerful impulse: When God is involved, what we see is not what we understand.

Awake, Lord, why do you sleep?
Rise up, do not always reject us.
Why do you turn away your face?
How can you forget our poverty and our tribulation?

Our souls are crushed into the dust,
our bodies dragged down to the earth.
Rise up, Lord, and help us.
In your mercy, redeem us.

-- from Psalm 43 (44)

Zen Master Dogen tells us that not leaving a trace is a gift we might not understand:
The geese do not wish to leave their reflection behind; The water has no mind to retain their image. {or} Coming, going, the waterfowl / Leaves not a trace, / Nor does it need a guide. (Dogen Zenji, 1200-1253)

Thomas Merton, after delivering a talk on Marxism and Monasticism in Bangkok, said, "Now I think I'll disappear." During the lunch break, reaching to adjust a standing electrical fan, he was electrocuted, and died.

Disappearance and leaving no trace -- what signs are these?

...And when it is time
for you to leave, they will follow you

to the top of the stairs, the door,
and stand there while you drive away,
their faces behind the wood, the glass--

looking like the faces that you've seen
in all the papers: the proud, pained soldiers torn
from their homes and sent out into the world
for a reason you must read on and on to understand.

(from Poem: "In the Apartments of the Divorced Men" by Sue Ellen Thompson, from The Leaving: New and Selected Poems. )

And so we went to war. Perhaps we went to war in an effort to make visible our anger, grief and desolation. Maybe we went to war for reasons in the minds of men that will some day come out in memos or unclassified secrets. War is very obvious. War is the reminder that destruction has its own solidity.

Today we salute the disappeared. We greet in spirit those gone with no trace. For these, there is no real need for granite memorial or hard emblem of what once was.

Our remembrance is spiritual. These disappeared still are. They pass us on the street. They linger on side of road as we zip past. They are in our minds and hearts everytime there is a pause, a hesitation in our blurry passage. They are our conscience.

What is there to understand?

Our path is see 'what is' and learn compassion with it.

What is hidden in our hearts -- reveal, O Lord!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A woman or man of prayer cannot fathom the depth of the call.

The waters saw you, O God,
the waters saw you and writhed,
stirred up even to their depths.
The clouds poured down water,
the clouds sounded their voice,
your arrows shot forth.
Your voice thundered in the whirlwind,
your lightnings lit up the world,
the earth trembled and shook.

Your way led through the sea,
your paths through the great waters,
your steps left no trace behind them.

-- from Psalm 76 (77)

Following the call necessitates passing through a traceless way.

We cannot know the way calling us; to claim to is mere fancy.

We cannot know God. We can only know the pause -- the stutter when we hear the call.

Practice is the pause.

No trace.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

We live with skunks. They've been spraying, probably each other. Tomorrow I'll begin a campaign to drive them away. It's only right.

Like the empty sky,
It has no boundaries,
Yet it is right in this place,
Ever profound and clear.
When you seek to know it,
You cannot see it.
You cannot take hold of it.
But you cannot lose it.
In not being able to get it,
You get it.
When you are silent, it speaks.
The great gate is wide open
To bestow alms,
And no crowd is blocking the way.

- Takuan

The trouble with skunks is their smell. It's hard to approach them without fear of being attacked. They engender fear.

Skunks are skunks.

Like war.

An intolerable stink.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Dorothy said, "There's no place like home."

Day and night the cold wind
Blows through my robe.
In the forest, only fallen leaves;
Wild chrysanthemums can no longer
Be seen. Next to my hermitage
There is an ancient bamboo grove;
Never changing, it awaits my return.

- Ryokan

Out in the cabin someone from away makes a private retreat. Smoke rises.

The Lord reveals his glory in the presence of chosen witnesses. His body is like that of the rest of mankind, but he makes it shine with such splendour that his face becomes like the sun in glory, and his garments as white as snow.
The great reason for this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed.
With no less forethought he was also providing a firm foundation for the hope of holy Church. The whole body of Christ was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his gift. The members of that body were to look forward to a share in that glory which first blazed out in Christ their head.

(From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope)

Each place serving as temporary residence is a place to pass through.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

(Poem by Derek Walcott )

Maybe there is no place like home.

Strangers passing through.

A temporary and concealed dwelling.

Changing form.