Saturday, March 26, 2005

I who am life itself am now one with you.

Saskia has placed a stone on center altar at window to mountain view in winter zendo. A vigil candle with single attending flame in front of stone. Silence, but for bird sound, surrounds the stone. The resident bronze cross -- one side body of Jesus, other side tree of life -- is gone. Gone from view. As is so much today.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God.
(From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday, in Office of Readings)

No special deal being God. Not any more. Hard to understand those who want to "play God." They think it is about power. It's not. It's about street talk, about "being played." Those wanting to play God want to play us -- just to get their way. Naive play has been stolen by cynics and become a spectacle of minds deteriorating in quest of fruitless power. Often they get their way -- causing so much suffering.

Holy Saturday invites us to look at the mind of God. When the cycle of this day completes itself, we will be compelled to look as the mind of God. This odd viewpoint, (it must be acknowledged), is nothing special, is no special deal. In fact, to tell the truth, we'd probably say it would be better if God kept God's own mind and left us alone.

Instead, God does not leave us alone. The mind of God is this moment revealing itself. If we dare enter this moment, we enter the mind of God and we are what is being revealed.

The Goose
Do you want to know why I am alive today?
I will tell you.
Early on, during the food-shortage,
Some of us were miraculously presented
Each with a goose that laid a golden egg.
Myself, I killed the cackling thing and I ate it.
Alas, many and many of the other recipients
Died of gold-dust poisoning.

(Poem: "The Goose" by Muriel Spark)

The poet reveals a mysterious liturgy. Eat body, drink blood -- do not seek the fruits. Become the reality; do not attempt to benefit from or manipulate the reality.

Another ancient writing said we should have in us the mind that was in Christ Jesus:
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

(from Philippians 2)

This is what went wrong with golden-egg-seeking politicians. As Terri Schiavo's life (sorrowfully, in our mind) approached death, they wanted the egg; they did not want to become one with the goose. They thought they could rob death, restore life, and benefit their coffers with golden rewards.

Paradoxically, they (we?) have left Terri Schiavo alone. We treat her as an object, a cause, an agenda -- she is not seen as who she is right now in the moment of her transformation. We keep our own minds, staying in the thought we could play God -- "give life/take life, condemn to death/punish others" -- this is what our thoughts say God is about.

Instead, as it is, this empty Holy Saturday, a greater, more mysterious reality is unfolding. Even as we long for life and cling to life, we are longing and clinging to life as we think it is. Meanwhile death, as it is, occurs.

We must become Terri Schiavo in her ambiguous unfolding reality. Seeing as God, we must see her through.

Seeing through means penetrating birth/death to what is beyond.

Those who wish to make judgmental comparison of Terri Schiavo with Jesus of Nazareth fail to see the comparative reality through. The judgmental mind wishes to condemn and punish those perceived as the enemy; those on both sides of the comparison considered to be doing something wrong. But what is this mind missing? Is there a place we are invited to go beyond dualistic thinking that operates along lines of judgment and comparison?

Is there a reality, a sacred reality, beyond comparison, beyond judgment? Is there a way of seeing and dwelling that transcends calculation, that does not negotiate the world into an either/or choice? If we consider this question for even a little while -- our minds go blank, we come up empty. We might mutter formulas and rote statements learned in religious education or during other intellectual inquiry -- but, mostly, we don't know. If we authentically investigate, this "don't know" is where we are likely to arrive.

Spending any time in this "don't know" we are likely to feel empty and unmoored. Some call this -- "emptiness." In our minds and in our culture we are uncomfortable with emptiness. We think it contradicts everything held valuable in our upbringing -- namely, certitude, security, positive comprehension, affirmative identification, and something material and solid that is there to hold us up.

Jesus emptied himself. Self-emptying is at the heart of the Sacred Triduum. Emptiness opens to the Itself; to no-other. This Kenosis (self-emptying) is what is between Friday and Saturday. There is no Sunday without this long, empty, unknowing Saturday.

We look and look for something to carry us beyond this awkward ambiguity. We look for something to see us through. Is emptiness that which we must get through? Or is emptiness that which sees us through?

This Holy Saturday is emptiness itself. It is a between of no mind, no moment. The death of Jesus, in this metaphor, is the revelation of Christ. Between Jesus and Christ is no moment. It is pause of emptiness.

Christ is now. There's no special deal here. Christ now is what is becoming of God.

This is the emptiness of today. Today is the between. Between Jesus and Christ. Between God and us. Between then and now. Between birth and death. Between death and birth. Between life and life-itself.

So empty -- this between!

Emptiness is what is now revealing itself as it is.

Gone is what we know. Gone is what once was. Gone is the convenience of something other to blame, someone other to cling to. Gone, gone, gone.



What is beyond emptiness?

I who am life itself am now one with you.

Friday, March 25, 2005

We are on retreat. Bookshop/Bakery closed til Tuesday. No conversations Friday nor Saturday.
Who will die today?

So many possibilities. Will Terri Schiavo's heart give out? Will an Iraqi woman wander too close to frightened soldiers or determined insurgents? Will a man in Palestine be falsely tried and condemned for insights neither state nor religious authorities wish to consider. Will it be an African child with AIDS? Will it be you? Will it be me?

In the stillness
A hawk cries
From the apricot trees.
In the deserted
Peach orchard,
A dog barks
I stroll
Among fragrant plants
And fallen flowers,
Then find, among ten thousand
Valleys and a thousand peaks,
Your closed door.

- Liu Chang-Ch’ing (710-787)

The death of Jesus is singled out this Friday. No one is sure why. Some think Jesus was the creator of all creation born in human form. Some hold he was God incarnate come to show humankind the way to live true life. Others contend he was some sort of willing hostage in a ransom drama exchanging sin and suffering for payoff forgiveness and escape to heaven for grateful unworthies.

Jesus is an inkblot test that every variety of perception draws interpretative conclusions based on either personal insight and experience or prejudiced unawareness and ideology.

There are few interpretations worth attention. Fewer still worth imitation. Hardly one worth killing for. None worth the hatred, intolerance, and ignorance associated with claiming to know the mind of God.

We do not know the mind of God. Jesus didn't. Something else is called for. Especially today. This Friday -- the first of a three day meditation.

The mind of God is this moment revealing itself. There is no knowing it. There is only attending the reality revealing itself in our presence and awareness. Attending with awareness and presence is the transfiguration of one and another into one and another.

I attend Terri, the soldier, the Iraqi woman, the insurgent, the African child, the Palestinian man standing silently before his executioners.

Their names, all their faces, deserve our attention. Sit, kneel, or stand as they pass through our awareness. Allow yourself unknowing reverential participation in the reality we are.

We are each one of them -- each one of one another.

People kill for ignorance of this. People go mad for absence of this awareness.

Today, Friday, let us practice together.

Practice together silently, without knowing, the mind of God.

With whole hearted gratefulness.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The form of a slave.

If you want to understand Zen,
Understand it right away without deliberation,
Without turning your head this way or that.
Zen teaches us to go beyond logic
And not to tarry even when we come
Up against the things which are not seen.

- D.T. Suzuki

I've never seen God.

So I serve human beings.

Do this, remember this, said Jesus. Don't hold on to what you think I am, he said.

Christians don't hold on to Jesus. Christians do what any authentic human being does -- serve one another.

Noli me tangere
-- Don't cling to me, said Jesus to the woman in the garden, I've not yet returned to the Father.

Wholeness longs for Itself. Jesus, coming through death, knows what he didn't know.

Form, emptiness -- not two.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Love the contemplative life?

David Whyte tells the story: “Why are you unhappy?” asks the ancient Chinese poet Wu Wei We. And he answers his own question: “Why are you unhappy? Because 98.98% of everything you do and all that you say is for yourself, and there isn’t one.”

At Wednesday Evening Laura Conversation at the bookshop tonight it was suggested that when we arrive at authentic question, it contains its own answer. When answer breaks through, question is abandoned.

Love -- the contemplative life.

So too, self. When self is authentically arrived at, it contains within itself everything it is. When this inner expanse is seen and realized, self disappears. It is as though what we call "self" never existed -- but to reveal all that is arising within.

When Jesus came to the end of his days -- comes to the end of his self -- Christ is revealed.

It is a long curiosity why Christians cling to Jesus. Is it similar to the act of clinging to self?

As the week follows itself day by day into Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday -- we step into metaphor and mystery so intimate we forget our own name.

It is the 1.2% invitation.

One's passion.

Inside out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

"I'm tired," Saskia says as she herds the dogs out door through barn to go for walk with Annie and her dog. She is tired; and the bag of birdseed has not been taken from back of car. The one-dog-too-many staying with us these three weeks creates dyadic crabbiness.

Sun arrives earlier, stays later, is warmer. On zafu during quiet this morning spectral light dots room through hanging glass sliced into triangular segments of globe at window.

David Steindl-Rast converses with Ken Wilber about Gratefulness as Great Fullness.
Belonging is established with gratitude and trust.

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.
(John 13:1)

There is often ambivalence about "this world." Stay or go? Good or bad? Save or let rot? Use up or respectfully preserve? In the text we are told Jesus knew his time in this world was at its end. The text says "to the Father."

Passing to the Father is passing through this world with gratefulness. "Father" -- however else we conceive that referential word -- is perfect equanimity.

Wilber says, "The mirror loves all of its objects equally."

Like the mirror mind -- we love equally what presents itself before us -- seeing each as is.

The worthies of old all had
means of emancipating people.
What I teach people just requires
you not to take on the confusion of others.
If you need to act, then act,
without any further hesitation or doubt.

- Lin Chi (d 867?)

Loving each as is -- equaling what is in our seeing.

Jesus is the mirror. Christ is the mind.

Mirror mind looks out through us.

Be nowhere to be found.

No confusion.


Monday, March 21, 2005

President Bush relents and repents. He begins to see beyond ego and beyond politics.

The Congress and President have passed legislation to keep a woman in Florida alive. "Culture of Life" is their way of saying that all life is sacred and should not be taken away.

I like this notion.

President Bush will soon announce that he was wrong to allow over one hundred executions of death-row inmates while he was governor of Texas. He will apologize for bombing and killing innocent men, women, and children in Afghanistan and Iraq. He will sign a letter of sorrow stipulating he did not know what he was doing when he authorized the taking of life from poor disabled persistive vegetative people in Texas; the taking of anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 civilian lives in the Middle East; and the taking of life in the name of interrogation at holding facilities during America's time of honoring the 9/11 victims.

He and his newly awakened political colleagues are a courageous flock. His remorse and their conversion come during a holy week in the Christian faith.

Kuei-shan was asked, "Is there any further cultivation for people who have suddenly awakened?" He replied, "If they awaken truly, realizing the fundamental, they know instinctively when it happens. The question of cultivation or not is two-sided. Suppose beginners have conditionally attained a moment of sudden awakening to inherent truth, but there are still longstanding habit energies that cannot as yet be cleared all at once? They must be taught to clear away streams of consciousness manifesting habitual activity. That is cultivation, but there cannot be a particular doctrine to have them practice or devote themselves to."
- Kuei-Shan (771-854)

By clearing away longstanding habit energies whose activitiy kills those who are alive, I am confident that President Bush, as witnessed by his signing of the Schiavo Law, is setting a long needed example for this country.

If abortion is wrong, so is capital punishment. If murder is wrong, so is collateral damage in warfare. No excuse given will be accepted -- not "I didn't know the gun was loaded;" not, "We didn't intend to kill civilians;" not, "We only do God's work when we judge and murder evil people." If 9/11 was wrong, so is blasting bodies to death and gunning down whole neighborhoods in Middle East countries.

Mr. Bush, with his new declaration proclaiming the sanctity of life, is happily admitting he wants to correct any wrong he has participated in perpetuating, especially the habit activity cultivating and enabling a culture of death that haunts his presidency.

Rather than lowering his head to remember Jesus' death during this yearly memorial, he will do well to look straight ahead at the faces and eyes of individuals demolished by policies of death. Rather than caving in to nominally religious political financial supporters, he would do well to climb out from the hole dug by behavior that denies sacred life. Rather than an insincere "Thank you, Jesus for helping me kill and eliminate evil-doers", Mr Bush would come to stand silently in the presence of Christ, experience authentic compassion, and see the face of forgiveness contemporary Christianity has hooded and forgotten.

Let's not worship history. Let's honor, love, and respect all life -- right here, right now, right away.

That would be a holy week!

That would be Terri Schiavo's gift.

Does Mr. Bush see this?

Do any of us?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

It's not whether Jesus dies or lives, goes away or comes back, resurrects or disappears in plain sight. The matter is whether he abandons his self to the consciousness of Christ.

Jesus is liturgically welcomed as messiah today. In a few days we will scripturally allow him to die again with full anticipation of a dawn resurrection three days hence. There's no need to tease the drama beyond formulations carried forward two thousand years. He will die. Emotions will relay sorrow. A day of emptiness will be followed by a retelling of mythic memories from creation's garden through sunrise narrative where new creation calls Mary by name generating revelation of transformed theology.

There will be a suitable period of awe followed by unaccountable materialization -- peripatetic pedagogy, bread breaking beholding, biological beckoning of finger and fist to unveil and prove that what could not possibly have happened did indeed take place. Death, it is asserted, has been penetrated and passed-through.

Then Jesus said to them, "You will all lose faith in me this night, for the scripture says: I shall strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered, but after my resurrection I shall go before you to Galilee." (from Matthew 26)

Of course we lose faith in Jesus. Why not. After palm fronds fall to the dirt, the man himself in a few days will be stepped on and abandoned. His Father in heaven has nothing to say. It is a script we know by heart.

You live beyond
The wards of Blue Gate;
Walking or sitting,
There's South Mountain view.
A safe distance
From the general hubbub,
I'm sure you're at peace
When day ends.
Below the fence
Frogs are calling;
Grass greens
The entrance to your door.
I'm fond of passing by your residence;
It's only sad I must return
At dusk alone.

- Chang Chi (776-829)

This is only Act One. Like most initial impressions and political immaturity there is enthusiasm for heady ideology that goodness triumphs over duplicity, awareness over unconsciousness. We like that prospect.

The week dashes hope that good intention yields good outcome.

The metaphor of a man forced to abandon his self to what itself resides between creation and return.

Jesus goes nowhere. Christ emerges from there alone.