Saturday, April 30, 2005

Sometimes a review is necessary.

Back from sitting, lectio with Hua Hu Ching, walk at Snow Bowl along swelled Hosmer Pond, and back from chores picking up food for cat and provisions for hermitage -- I ask Saskia as she begins baking in kitchen whether she considers herself Buddhist. "Yes," she says. I ask if she considers herself Christian. "Yes," she says. Then she asks, "And you?" I answer, "Certainly."

A Buddhist Retreat Behind Broken Mountain Temple

In the pure morning, near the old temple
Where early sunlight lights the tree tops,
My path has wound, through a sheltered hollow
Of boughs and flowers, to a Buddhist retreat.
Here birds are alive with mountain light,
And the mind touches peace in a pool,
A thousand sounds are quieted
By the breathing of a temple bell.

- Ch'ang Chien

Sando and Cesco join us for silent sitting. Mu-ge went across Sally's land to the Spencer's to see if they, at least, had cat food out for their cat. The half-stick of Tibetan incense lasted 38 minutes. My knee thought the incense was malingering.

A superior person cares for the well-being of all things. She does this by accepting responsibility for the energy she manifests, both actively and in the subtle realm. Looking at a tree, she sees not an isolated event but root, leaves, trunk, water, soil and sun: each event related to the others, and "tree" arising out of their relatedness. Looking at herself or another, she sees the same thing. Trees and animals, humans and insects, flowers and birds: These are active images of the subtle energies that flow from the stars throughout the universe. Meeting and combining with each other and the elements of the earth, they give rise to all living things. The superior person understands this, and understands that her own energies play a part in it. Understanding these things, she respects the earth as her mother, the heavens as her father, and all living things as her brothers and sisters. Caring for them, she knows that she cares for herself. Giving to them, she knows that she gives to herself. At peace with them, she is always at peace with herself.
(# Thirty-Seven, in Hua Hu Ching, by Lao Tzu)

Woodchips are rippled on path to cabin from torrential rain. Tumbling brook's joyous sound fills inside of cabin with moving stillness.

"Guess what?" says Saskia as oven beeper tells end of baking time for croissants. "Ok, Ok I'm here, relax," says Saskia to oven.

The Unmanifest manifests.

There is a simplicity to practice.

Awareness transfoms each presentation. Each vibration is filtered and transformed by the presence of each one of us. That's what Rodney, KJ, Everett, and Greg thought about as we worked (ostensibly) in prison yesterday on punctuation by reading Rilke's "The Archaic Torso of Apollo."

In that practice, we must change our lives.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Rilke knew we must change our life. He knew there was no place that didn't see us. He was an artist. He was a poet. They know such things.

There is nothing that can be attained,
no form that can be sought.
Even good things are dispensed with,
so birth and death must be left far behind.

- Records of the Lanka

"Sez who?" asks the woman who peeled an orange during break in class. The woman who quoted that woman was outside. When everyone returned we read interview between Andrew Cohen and Eckhart Tolle:
The enlightened consciousness is rooted in the unmanifested, and ultimately is one with it. It knows itself to be that. One could almost say it is the unmanifested looking out. Even with a simple thing like visually perceiving a form -- a flower or a tree -- if you are perceiving it in a state of great alertness and deep stillness, free of past and future, then at that moment already it is the unmanifested. You are not a person anymore at that moment. The unmanifested is perceiving itself in form. And there is always a sense of goodness in that perception. So then all action arises out of that, and has a completely different quality from action that arises out of the unenlightened consciousness, which needs something and seeks to protect itself. That is really where those intangible and precious qualities come in that we call love, joy, and peace. They are all one with the unmanifested. They arise out of that. A human being who lives in connectedness with that and then acts and interacts becomes a blessing on the planet, whereas the unenlightened human is very heavy on the planet. There is a heaviness to the unenlightened. And the planet is suffering from millions of unenlightened humans. The burden on the planet is almost too much to bear. I can sometimes feel it as the planet saying, "Oh, no more, please."
(from "Ripples on the surface of Being" an interview with Eckhart Tolle by Andrew Cohen, in What Is Enlightenment? Magazine Fall/Winter 2000)

Living in connectedness is not bothered by the distinction made between life and death. It is a false distinction. Talk, if you will, about birth and death as a contrast; life surrounds birth and death. When we surrender to life, we surrender to surroundings.

She was deep within herself, like a woman heavy with child, and did not see the man in front or the path ascending steeply into life. Deep within herself. Being dead filled her beyond fulfillment. Like a fruit suffused with its own mystery and sweetness, she was filled with her vast death, which was so new, she could not understand that it had happened.

She had come into a new virginity and was untouchable; her sex had closed
like a young flower at nightfall, and her hands had grown so unused to marriage
that the god's infinitely gentle touch of guidance hurt her, like an undesired kiss.

(from "Orpheus, Eurydice, Hermes" -- Poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from the German by Stephen Mitchell)

The exquisite tenderness of the procession.

"Who?" asked Euridice when Hermes told her Orpheus had turned around.

Far away, dark before the shining exit-gates, someone or other stood, whose
features were unrecognizable. He stood and saw how, on the strip of road among
the meadows, with a mournful look, the god of messages silently turned to follow
the small figure already walking back along the path, her steps constricted by the
trailing graveclothes, uncertain, gentle, and without impatience.

(Rilke, final lines to poem)

This is a good way to end today -- uncertain, gentle, and without impatience.

It is good practice.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

After sitting still for a long time, any sane meditator will come to the question, "What the hell am I doing sitting still?"

When suddenly awakened, although you are the same as Buddha, the energy of many lifetimes of habits is deep seated. Though the wind stops, the waves still billow; though noumenon is manifest, thoughts still invade. How can we neglect subsequent cultivation because of a single awakening?
- Master Chinul (1158-1210)

That question is a heads-up to the mind that something is going to change. What will change? The mind is put on notice that stupid behavior like sitting still for long periods must be pointing to something, and painful knees, back, and psyche are damn interested in discovering just what it is.

Getting the Machine

It was good to hear
my own voice again
when I called, after
being gone for weeks.
I sounded the same.
I hadn't changed my name;
didn't have a foreign accent.
I just said I couldn't
come to the phone right then,
exactly the way I'd been
saying it for years,
and so I left myself
a little message
saying how sorry
I was I wasn't there,
and that I'd be
home soon. I tried to
think of what I'd want
to hear myself saying
and say it right.

(Poem: "Getting the Machine" by Joyce Sutphen from Naming the Stars. © Holy Cow! Press, 2004.)

Imagine a grand jury. They are attentively waiting for you to wade into the silence of the ripples following the echoes of the question just asked. "Why," asked the prosecutor, "did you and do you sit so long?"

Every inch of you, every joint and extra pound, every belief that sinew and dna have been foolishly hoodwinked into behaving like a stone perched atop a boulder -- all wait for you to open mouth to answer.

Yes, it is stupid, isn't it?

You might even say so.

Except for one thing.

You're not sure why you do it.

You don't know why, do you?

Why do you?

Say it right.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

People wait for the unsaid to be finally said. Then, they think, it will all come clear.

No it won't.

Overcome your uncertainties
And free yourself
From dwelling on sorrow.
If you delight in existence,
You will become a guide
To those who need you,
Revealing the path to many.

- Sutta Nipata

What we have in common is the unsaid. The common language is not explanation, apology, or enunciation of some secret teaching. There is no secret teaching.

Be calm and keep watch. The Devil, your enemy, is circling you like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, strong in faith. (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Our common language is deeper than circling and roaring. Our common language is silence; it is stillness.

Silence and stillness is where we go when called into intimacy with what is most real.

Sit a while. Breath naturally. Keep watch. Carefully.

Word is in conversation with the unsaid.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Rain falls through silence splashing roof and earth.

The skies tell the story of the glory of God,
the firmament proclaims the work of his hands;
day pours out the news to day,
night passes to night the knowledge.

Not a speech, not a word,
not a voice goes unheard.
Their sound is spread throughout the earth,
their message to all the corners of the world.

(from Psalm 19)

Mere loveliness of Sunday Evening Practice. Cabin under rain. Deceased elder Janet's table in middle room during rain. Trungpa's story of Buddha's (as Delia called it) Christmas story. There are times when hermitage feels like what it is.

Song of T'aego Hermitage

I've lived in this hermitage
How long I don't know
Deep and secret and
Without obstructions
Heaven and earth meet
Like box and cover:
There's no turning toward
Or turning away.
I do not stay in the east, west,
South or north
The jewel tower and the jade palace
Do not stand opposite me.
I do not take guidelines from
Bodhidharma as a model
As the light shines freely through
Eighty four thousand gates

- T'aego (1301-1382)

Rain is guideline. In middle-night, at least, it is teacher. You see -- community is teacher, teacher is learning, and learning is community. It rains now. I recall other 3:30am's in Trappist guest chapel under rain-chant roof just before entoning voice began night office -- "O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise." Invitation joining rain in plain-chant.


I wanted to walk without clothing
in the woods beside the creek,
and to come to the barn at night.

and sleep beside the horses, curled
in the smell and scratch of hay
with the bitch and pups.

The life of the house was flat,
filled with monotonous talking,
passing to and fro among the rooms,

and for what. My mother hated
animals, the way they ate the
food and dirtied the floor.

They were her enemies; she fought
their right to be there and
would have wiped them off the earth

if she could have. If a cat or a dog
came too close to the back door she
threw scalding water on it, and

was righteous in her anger, shouting
that they were not human and
didn't feel real pain.

If we must choose sides, I said
as a child, I take
the side of the animals.

(Poem: "Atavistic" by Irene McKinney from Vivid Companion. © Vandalia Press. )

at·a·vism n.
1. The reappearance of a characteristic in an organism after several generations of absence, usually caused by the chance recombination of genes.
2. An individual or a part that exhibits atavism. Also called throwback.
3. The return of a trait or recurrence of previous behavior after a period of absence.
[French atavisme, from Latin atavus, ancestor : atta, father + avus, grandfather; see awo- in Indo-European Roots.]

Mother Church sometimes sides with scalding water and not gentle healing rain. Thomas Cahill said on Meet the Press Sunday morning that Jesus communed with the divorced woman by the well in Gospel story, and did so with clarity and kindness. Why, he wondered, won't the Catholic Church do the same? It does not allow divorced people to receive communion -- to commune with Jesus.

Andrew Sullivan elsewhere warns that all this presentation of softer, kinder image of new pope will wear away and the former Joseph Ratzinger will throwback.

U.S. Prison Population Keeps Growing (From Times Wire Services)

Growing at a rate of about 900 inmates each week starting in mid-2003, by mid-2004 the nation's prisons and jails held 2.1 million people, or one in every 138 U.S. residents, the government reported.

By June 30, there were 48,000 more inmates, or 2.3%, more than the year before, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The total inmate population has hovered around 2 million for the last few years, reaching 2.1 million on June 30, 2002, and just below that mark a year later.

While the crime rate has fallen over the last decade, the number of people in prison and jail is outpacing the number of inmates released, the report said.

During his five years in the SuperMax, Steve said, he wrote some children's books and his life story. The children's books are for his own kids. The cleaned up autobiography -- he's not sure who that's for. K.J. took his social studies test Friday. He said his brain hurt. Joe will get a rest for 30 days away from ordinary duties. He said he did something stupid. We thought it might be a good chance to do some writing for the course. Chris, Greg, and I reviewed material that said comma is called for before conjunction.

We take pause as we connect. The act of joining, of binding together -- One resulting from or embodying a union -- this is the invitation to commune. Communion curls in the smell and scratch of hay; encounters the purrs and yelps as they spontaneously occur.

The Rain

All night the sound had
come back again,
and again falls
this quiet, persistent rain.

What am I to myself
that must be remembered,
insisted upon
so often? Is it

that never the ease,
even the hardness,
of rain falling
will have for me

something other than this,
something not so insistent --
am I to be locked in this
final uneasiness.

Love, if you love me,
lie next to me.
Be, for me, like rain,
the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
Be wet
with a decent happiness.

(Poem by Robert Creeley)

The rain remembers me. It falls. Cat stretches on my lap as words fall under rain -- as in dream where I am dancing with (who is it?) Nicole Kidman or my cousin Janet on gymnasium balcony of old grammar school. Diffidence surprised by grace.

Ah! Sound of first Mourning Dove!

Time has fallen to 5:07am.

The grace of it!

Faint light.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Thirty years ago Marge inscribed Fowles' The Magus, "Is anything ever what it seems to be?"

Blessed the one who does not follow the counsels of the wicked... (Psalm 1)

With all the banter and bravado surrounding moral and political issues -- such as America's invasion of Iraq -- there is a remarkable inability on the part of the vast majority of us to accurately and insightfully "read" what is taking place. The current president of the United States, the current pope of the Catholic Church, and the newest "individual" in power, namely, the chief executive officers, the hollywood celebrities, the athletic superstars -- all combine to preach a unified gospel. That gospel is that power, wealth, control, and privilege are what really count in this world -- my will, my belief, my talent, my influence, and my exposure.

The gospel teaching of Jesus is scarcely followed by the church founded in his name. Nor are the words "created equal" or "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for all people -- followed faithfully by those entrusted with their care. Add other wise and insightful views such as those by thinkers, mystics, and creative artists and poets throughout history -- these, too, scarcely attended to. We witness a pattern of dull inattentiveness and claim it to be our special freedom -- not seeing it as our sorry fate.

It's the anniversary of the Easter Uprising, in Dublin (1916). A band of Irish nationalists, led by poet Patrick Pearse, occupied the General Post Office and declared Irish independence from Great Britain. The English executed 15 rebels, including Pearse, who promptly became a great Irish martyr.(in The Writer's Almanac, 24April)

Tara Is Grass
The world hath conquered, the wind hath scattered like dust
Alexander, Cæsar, and all that shared their sway:
Tara is grass, and behold how Troy lieth low --
And even the English, perchance their hour will come!

(Poem by Padraic Pearse)

Pretender greats and overbearing weighty celebrants of special election or remittance package -- all go to grass and will be given sod as their paycheck. As will we all. It's just that it is difficult to ignore the element of waste and suffering that follows upon false gospel.

Today I long for something more original. I'd rather we saw something worth sharing life and body.

Tara, Goddess of Peace and Protection

The goddess Tara is worshipped in many forms, but the best known are the peaceful, compassionate White Tara, the goddess Tara who protects and brings health, long life and peace, and the more dynamic Green Tara, who is the goddess Tara that brings fertility to the earth, overcomes obstacles, and saves us from physical and spiritual danger.

In Buddhist tradition, Tara is much greater than a goddess -- she is a female Buddha, an enlightened one was has attained the highest wisdom, capability and compassion. The goddess Tara is "one who can take human form and remain in oneness with the universe".

Best known in her Chinese and Hindu incarnations, a version of the Goddess Tara exists in virtually every culture. Indeed, it is said that the Goddess Tara will assume as many forms on earth as there are needs for by the people.

The Celts called their "Great Goddess" Tara. Her name is thought to be the root of the word Tor, which is a mound of earth or hillock imbued with spiritual energy or connection to the spirit world. In Native American legends, the Tara goddess is known by the "Star Woman".

The ancient goddess Tara in her many incarnations has many gifts to share with contemporary women.

Tara embodies the feminine strengths of great caring and compassion, the ability to endure stressful and even terrifying moments, the acts of creation, and the source of sustenance and protection.


Maybe it's the full moon, or the damp raw rain in the middle of a depressing news cycle, but I'm ready to declare independence from the idea of nation and country, the idea of race and class, the idea of anyone telling how to become great and secure power and defeat enemies and eliminate threats to your way of acquisitional life.

Socrates, Lao Tzu, Jesus, Gandhi, Krishnamurti, and Robert Lax help with perspective.

And in the beginning was love.
Love made a sphere:
all things grew within it;
the sphere then encompassed
beginnings and endings,
beginning and end.
Love had a compass
whose whirling dance
traced out a sphere of love
in the void: in the center thereof
rose a fountain.

from Circus of the Sun, by Robert Lax)

When I forget sphere, compass, and center -- I forget love. It is a desolate forgetting.

It is during this desolation I attend words reminding what needs to be embodied, great caring and compassion, the ability to endure stressful and even terrifying moments, the acts of creation, and the source of sustenance and protection.

If these words are grass and earth, I miss the counsel of the old sod.