Saturday, August 20, 2005

Chaos and emptiness, says the once radical now neo-conservative man on C-Span. He is recovering from prostate cancer. He finds a new perspective on life. He thinks conspiracy theories are just attempts to impose order and control on the world. So too is the activist imposition of one's own ideology on matters. He's an agnostic. Others, he says, prayed him through.

I like it when one-sided thinkers fall over into the other side. They leap the middle as through there were none.

He said that a religious thinker told him: "Believer and non-believer stand together, neither see God."

Earlier the doctor who passionately warns against the real dangers of nuclear weapons and possible use of them said: "It is intrinsic in every soul -- that's where we know the right thing to do."

For these two, without postulating a God (separate or out there), there is that of God in everyone and everything.

She says we must not practice psychic numbing, rather, we ought to be psychologically uncomfortable with the way everything is endangered and all powers of destruction are on the table.

All sentient beings are essentially Buddhas.
As with water and ice, there is no ice without water;
apart from sentient beings, there are no Buddhas.
Not knowing how close the truth is,
we seek it far away

--what a pity!

(- Hakuin)

The heavy-headed sunflowers are held aloft by yellow cord around slats encircling birdfeeder.

What has been given, gives back.

What are we...


Friday, August 19, 2005

A light frost, he said in his call, covered his field, away in the county last night.

Becoming a buddha is easy
But ending illusions is hard
So many frosted moonlit nights
I've sat and felt the cold before dawn.

- Shih-wu (1272-1352)

Diversion. To divert is to turn aside.

Inversion. To invert, to turn inside out or upside down.

The current coldness in the world precedes what soon will dawn.

Conversation. It dawns on us during the turns we take and exchanges we make while in one another's company.

Real prayer whiles away, sits till bedtime, finally bows, closes eyes.

Falls into oneself.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

There's nothing romantic about being homeless. The tragedy is rife in cities everywhere. But some additional homeless consideration occurs when we allow the don't-know mind to wander unfamiliar roads.

And Jesus said to him,
"Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests,
But the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."

(Luke 9:58)

Belief is an unfamiliar road. We wander belief hoping it will lead us home. It is a road, only a road, and not to be confused with home itself. Once we pass through the doorway -- what happens then? Can we be home and on the road at the same time?

The substance of a sage
Is nameless and cannot be spoken of;
The empty door of truth as it really is
Cannot be tarried in.

- Pai-chang (720-814)

Home is a nameless place.

Yet, even when we imagine we are home, there is still work to do.

from "Album"

My son has built a tent-cabin
in the front room and invited the dog.

He has constructed an imaginary machine,
with an invisible lever, for catching the fog.

Fallen clouds drifting through the valley
along the river bottom, up and over the lines

and folds and contours of the hills, coulees
and benches, combed by cottonwoods and pines,

breaking softly against the windows
like thought or breath, then passing on,

flowing, opaque body of air, and we are both
caught up in this elemental conversation

of house and fog. The fog got in the house,
he says. I am catching it with this.

(Poem: from "Album" by Greg Pape, from American Flamingo. © Southern Illinois University Press.)

The empty door of truth is passed through and through.

For some, road is home.

For others, home is where we always are, enroute elsewhere

We need to welcome one another -- right where each is.

This hospitable welcoming is home itself.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Taize chant: Kyrie Eleison!

When and how is something itself?

News comes into the middle of that question:

Taize founder killed

Aug. 17 ( - Brother Roger, the founder and leader of the ecumenical Taize community, was killed by a knife-wielding attacker during a prayer service in France on August 16.

A Protestant theologian, Roger Schutz was 25 when he first set up an ecumenical house of prayer in Taize, a village near Cluny in eastern France, in 1940. At first the community was a haven for refugees-- particularly Jews escaping the Nazi regime-- during World War II. Over the years, the Taize community became established as an ecumenical monastery, with Brother Roger as its prior, and more than 100 members, including both Catholics and Protestants. The Taize community, dedicated to reconciliation among Christians, attracts thousands of visitors each year, and Brother Rogers' books of prayers and meditations have proved popular among Christians of many different denominations.

A man at the shop last evening was making the case that all these things that occur -- war, killings, disturbances -- don't matter. In his worldview too much is made of human activities. I'm sure he was trying to look from a detached viewpoint -- but I don't see it; I don't see from that kind of detachment. It is my sense that we are embodied, intimate, and, thereby, inseparate.

I listen to Taize chant. The simple tone and repetition! Perhaps Brother Roger has fallen into water of spirit, and is now spirit of water.

Dogen Zenji reflects on water, on mountain:
Long ago, when the Preceptor Decheng suddenly left Yueshan and went to live on the river, he got the sage of Huating River. Is this not hooking a fish? Is it not hooking a person? Is it not hooking water? Is it not hooking himself? That the person got to see Decheng is [because he was] Decheng; Decheng's accepting the person is his meeting the person.

It is not the case simply that there is water in the world; within the world of water there is a world. And this is true not only within water: within clouds as well there is world of sentient beings; within wind there is world of sentient beings; within fire there is world of sentient beings; within earth there is world of sentient beings. Within the dharma realm there is a world of sentient beings; within a single blade of grass there is world of sentient beings; within a single staff there is a world of sentient beings. And wherever there is a world of sentient beings, there, inevitably, is the world of buddhas and ancestors. The reason this so, we should study very carefully.

In this way, water is the palace of the "true dragon"; it is not flowing away. If we regard it only as flowing, the word "flowing" is an insult to water: it is like imposing "not flowing". Water is nothing but water's "real form just as it is". Water is the virtue of water; it is not flowing. In the thorough study of the flowing or the not-flowing of a single [drop of] water, the entirety of the ten thousand things is instantly realized. Among mountains as well, there are mountains hidden in jewels; there are mountains hidden in marshes, mountains hidden in the sky; there are mountains hidden in mountains. There is a study of mountains hidden in hiddenness.

An old buddha has said, "Mountains are mountains and waters are waters."

These words do not say that mountains are mountains; they say that mountains are mountains. Therefore, we should thoroughly study these mountains. When we thoroughly study the mountains, this is the mountain training. Such mountains and waters themselves become wise men and sages.

(Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma, Book 29, Dogen Zenji's The Mountains and Waters Sutra (Sansui kyo), Presented to the assembly, eighteenth day, tenth month, first year of Ninji (1240), at Kannon Dori Kosho Horinji)

"O Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom," repeats the chant on this summer afternoon.

Each person, each thing, is itself. When not, there is suffering. Anytime someone takes or abuses what is not theirs, absence prevails. Suffering is the absence of itself, that is, we cause suffering when we do not honor another's integrity. Most interference that is aimed at partializing another causes suffering. Each must be honored as itself.

"Monks, do not have deluded notions. Heaven is heaven, earth is earth; mountains are mountains, waters are waters; monks are monks, laymen are laymen."
(a saying of the early tenth-century figure Yunmen Wenyan)

The International Herald Tribune reports that, according to the accounts of some, a woman wielding a knife surged out of the crowd and attacked the 90 year old Brother Roger. People in the crowd grabbed the woman, described as a Romanian, and turned her over to police. Brother Roger's throat was cut and he bled profusely and died 15 minutes after the attack.

We share our sorrow for this death. We share our sorrow for the deaths yesterday and today in Iraq, and elsewhere.

Where and how is something itself? This question provides a place to look.

I take walk with the dogs, with the mountain, with the water.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Even if we have what we want, we still have to want what we have.


The simplest of bridges, a promise
that you will go forward,

that you can come back.
So you cross over.

It says you can come back.
So you go forward.

But even if you come back
then you must go forward.

I am always either going back
or coming forward. There is always

something I have to carry,
something I leave behind.

I am a figure in a logic problem,
standing on one shore

with the things I cannot leave,
looking across at what I cannot have.
Poem: "Girder" by Nan Cohen, from Rope Bridge. )

Of course everything is what it is.

I've been wondering -- if absence of time is presence, how is it someone who has no time for anyone is not there at all?

It is the time of summer the impulse to run away is strong. It is the feast of St Stephen of Hungary. I'd like to go east of St Stephens N.B. CA today. It's running away without going too far.

Not leaving; not having.

Perfectly (oddly put) poised.

Monday, August 15, 2005

"Bodies belong where words are" -- wrote poet Dan Berrigan.

This is a Feast of Assumption meditation.

Whatever happens to our bodies? In Christian tradition, Jesus' went missing. So did Mary's. Where does a body go when it simply disappears? Where will ours go?

My hut settled among neighbors,
I ignore the noise of horses and carts.
You ask how I get along --
My mind remains wide,
So my place is naturally remote.

- Tao Yuan Ming (365 -- 427)

August 15th celebrates, among other things, the Catholic Feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven, the birthday of Sri Aurobindo, the 5th anniversary of the death of our friend and elder Janet Rhodes, and one final salute on this day to Jo-Ann as she moves into new form of Assumption.

The belief in the corporeal assumption of Mary is founded on the apocryphal treatise "De Obitu S. Dominae," bearing the name of St. John, which belongs however to the fourth or fifth century. It is also found in the book "De Transitu Virginis," falsely ascribed to St. Melito of Sardis, and in a spurious letter attributed to St. Denis the Areopagite. If we consult genuine writings in the East, it is mentioned in the sermons of St. Andrew of Crete, St. John Damascene, St. Modestus of Jerusalem and others. In the West, St. Gregory of Tours (De gloria mart., I, iv) mentions it first. The sermons of St. Jerome and St. Augustine for this feast, however, are spurious. St. John of Damascus (P. G., I, 96) thus formulates the tradition of the Church of Jerusalem:

"St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven."

Today, the belief in the corporeal assumption of Mary is universal in the East and in the West; according to Benedict XIV (De Festis B.V.M., I, viii, 18) it is a probable opinion, which to deny were impious and blasphemous.
(Catholic Encyclopedia, The Feast of the Assumption,

The word "Blasphemy" (Greek "blaptein," "to injure", and "pheme," "reputation") signifies etymologically gross irreverence towards any person or thing worthy of exalted esteem. In this broad sense the term is used by Bacon when in his "Advancement of Learning" he speaks of "blasphemy against learning". St. Paul tells of being blasphemed (I Cor., iv, 13) and the Latin Vulgate employs the word blasphemare to designate abusive language directed either against a people at large (II Kings, xxi, 21; I Par., xx, 7) or against individuals (I Cor., x, 30; Tit., iii, 2). (Ibid)

Reputations are fragile and ephemeral things. More valuable than protecting or controlling the doctrine is allowing the insight and intuition to penetrate our minds and hearts. There is much to learn. We ought not injure the willingness to investigate and learn from what we cannot understand. No matter who brings the intuition or how the gift arrives before our consciousness, it is the gift itself that needs to be honored. We feast the gift of seeing things through.

Another saint, John of the Cross (1542-1591), had his own particular celebration of August 15th:
The friars of the house who deliberately came close to St. John's cell to torment him with their conversations hit upon a strategy that undoubtedly had a great effect on him. They said, "Let's throw him in a well and no one will ever see him again." While this, no doubt, had an initial depressive effect upon him, for it confirmed his fears about their wishes for his death, it also might have helped stimulate his desire for escape. He could not help but remember the incident in his childhood in which he had fallen into the pool and would have drowned save for the appearance of the beautiful lady. As the summer wore on, he received interior impulses urging him to escape. His first biographer states that this came in the form of a vision of the Blessed Virgin. Will the beautiful lady again play a role in extracting him from an impossible situation? On the Vespers of the feast of the Assumption he was praying in his cell with his head to the ground, and his back to the door, when the superior unexpectedly entered and kicked him since he had not immediately arisen. The prior asked what he had been thinking about, and John told him how much he would like to celebrate Mass on the Feast of the Assumption. The prior brusquely refused, and left. John was going to have to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption in his own way. After making careful preparations, one night during the octave of the Feast, he forced his door, carefully crept from his cell and lowered himself on a rope he had made from his torn-up blanket, and dropped into a courtyard. He had acted and made a definitive move, but his problems were not automatically solved. He discovered that the courtyard belonged to a neighboring convent of nuns, and he was filled with despair because he was afraid of the scandal that would be given to people if he were discovered there in the morning. He almost gave up and called to his captors to come and get him, but somehow he overrode this scrupulosity and hypersensitivity and managed to scramble up one of the walls. Ragged and dirty, he wandered through the streets of Toledo "at an hour when the life of all cities is mysterious and strange."(13) The vegetable women saw him passing through the plaza as they arranged their wares for the market, and thinking he was coming back from some revel, shouted out dirty words to him. Finally, he found refuge for the remainder of the night in the vestibule of a house, emerged in the morning and made his way to the Discalced Convent of sisters, and they hid him within the cloistered walls.

Finally his ordeal was over, and he made his way back to his own world. Almost literally the first thing he did, despite his weakness and the aftereffects of his physical and psychological trials was to recite his poems to the sisters. We have a moving picture of him barely able to stand, softly uttering for the first time to other human beings the essence of his prison experience.

(from St. John of the Cross and Dr. C.G. Jung, Mysticism in the Light of Jungian Psychology, Part III: A PSYCHOLOGICAL LIGHT ON JOHN OF THE CROSS AND THE LIFE OF PRAYER, CHAPTER 6: A TYPOLOGICAL PORTRAIT OF ST. JOHN) By James Arraj. 208pp, C.1986)

Thomas Merton writes about John of the Cross:
The last place in the world where one would imagine the Spiritual Canticle to have been written is a dungeon!

I will try to translate a little of it:

My Beloved is like the mountains.
Like the lonely valleys full of woods
The strange islands
The rivers with their sound
The whisper of the lovely air!

The night, appeased and hushed
About the rising of the dawn
The music stilled
The sounding solitude
The supper that rebuilds my life.
And brings me love.

Our bed of flowers
Surrounded by the lions' dens
Makes us a purple tent,
Is built of peace.
Our bed is crowned with a thousand shields of gold!

Fast-flying birds
Lions, harts and leaping does*
Mountains, banks and vales
Streams, breezes, heats of day
And terrors watching in the night:

By the sweet lyres and by the siren's song
I conjure you: let angers end!
And do not touch the wall
But let the bride be safe: let her sleep on!

* (Merton says, "I lift this line bodily from the translation of Professor E. Allison Peers.")

Only the saint and God can tell what distant echoes of an utterly alien everyday common life penetrated the darkness of the jail cell and the infinitely deep sleep of the peace in which his soul lay hidden in God. "Touch not the wall . . ." but the religious police could not disturb the ecstasy of one who had been carried so far that he was no longer troubled at the thought of being rejected even by the holy!

Wherever the body goes, and whatever proclaimations made about the disappearances, may not be as interesting as the question whether true freedom, and true God, is being born through these mysteries.

Sri Aurobindo, in his book-length poem, writes:
This earth is full of labour, packed with pain;
Throes of an endless birth coerce her still;
The centuries end, the ages vainly pass
And yet the Godhead in her is not born.
The ancient Mother faces all with joy,
Calls for the ardent pang, the grandiose thrill;
For with pain and labour all creation comes.
This earth is full of the anguish of the gods;
Ever they travail driven by Time's goad,
And strive to work out the eternal Will
And shape the life divine in mortal forms.
His will must be worked out in human breasts
Against the Evil that rises from the gulfs,
Against the world's Ignorance and its obstinate strength,
Against the stumblings of man's pervert will,
Against the deep folly of his human mind,
Against the blind reluctance of his heart.
The spirit is doomed to pain till man is free.
There is a clamour of battle, a tramp, a march:
A cry arises like a moaning sea,
A desperate laughter under the blows of death,
A doom of blood and sweat and toil and tears.
Men die that man may live and God be born. ..." '

(Savitri -- A Legend and a Symbol, Pages: 442-4 ff.)

Finally, this meditation on August 15th turns to Dogen Zenji, founder of the Soto School of Zen. When someone is capable of seeing clearly, whatever their insight and intuition looks on -- that itself -- is seen clearly.

Genjo Koan, (an excerpt)

Firewood turns to ash, and does not turn into firewood again,
But do not suppose that ash is after and the firewood is before.
We must realize that firewood is in the state of being firewood,
And it has its before and after.
Yet despite this past and future,
Its present is independent of them.
Ash is in the state of being ash,
And it has its before and after.
Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash,
So after one's death, one does not become life again.
Thus, that life does not become death
It is an unqualified fact of the Buddhadharma;
For this reason, life is called the non-born.
That death does not become life is the Buddha's
Revolving of the confirmed Dharma wheel;
Therefore, death is called the non-extinguished.
Life is a period of itself.
Death is a period of itself.
For example, they are like winter and spring.
We do not think that winter becomes spring,
Nor do we say that spring becomes summer.

(Written in mid-autumn of the first year of the Tempuku Era (1233 A.D. by Dogen Zenji)

Where do bodies go?

Watch carefully.

As we escape, revolve, long, belong, and become poetry through life -- we see ourselves through death and disappearance, entering the Invisible Itself, finally, with love.

Happy feast!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Time goes by.

A Camden woman's parents die within three months of each other. Elsewhere, a divorce is decided, but the kids haven't been told yet. A woman who's been a Catholic Sister for over forty years will marry a British chemist in a few weeks on the Connecticut shore. A younger couple from Bucksport have a baby shower at the shop today, they are expecting their first child. A couple in their fifties from Lincolnville return from China with a 10-month-old girl they've adopted. Hummingbird outside kitchen window browses buttercup.

Hidden birds sing as cool and clear
As a bamboo forest.
Between swinging willows sun beams glimmer
Like golden threads.
Clouds return to this calm valley.
The winds carry the fragrance of almonds.
By sitting alone all day long
I clear my mind of a thousand thoughts.
To speak of this is beyond our words;
Only by sitting under the quiet forest
Can we ever understand.

- Fa Yen (885-958)(

There's much I do not understand. Not the war. Not greed. Not love. Not even how electricity, x, or radio waves, much less micro waves, make their way into and through our homes and bodies. I don't understand the way most folks think about God. Nor do I understand why we place so much energy into time. Time is not nearly as interesting as the stillness that precedes tropical rain.

That odd statement -- "time is money" -- is incomprehensible to me.

The absence of time is presence. Presence has nothing to lose. Is that the vow of poverty? Is presence the promise of contemplation?

From Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac for Sunday, August 14, 2005:

Literary and Historical Notes:
Today is the 60th anniversary of the day on which President Harry Truman announced that the Second World War had come to an end. You might argue that more human beings were happy on this day in 1945 than on any other day in history.

It was the worst war in history. An estimated 60 million people died; about two-thirds of them were civilians. In the United States, the war had been going on for three years and eight months. About one in every eight Americans served in the war—more than 16 million American soldiers. Virtually every American family had at least one member overseas. With 400,000 Americans killed, most families knew somebody who had died in the war, and the most American casualties had come in the last year of the war.

Most Americans had believed that the war was far from over. The first few battles on Japanese islands had been some of the bloodiest battles of the war. Military analysts were projecting horrific losses, casualty estimates in the hundreds of thousands. But after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese suddenly accepted terms of complete surrender. And the announcement was made on this day at about 7:00 p.m. The newswires carried the headline, "Japan Surrenders."

There were spontaneous celebrations and parades in every major city in America. In New York City, more than a million people filled the street, overflowing Times Square, the crowd stretching from 40th all the way up to 52nd streets. Factories blew their whistles. Air raid sirens went off. Ships and trains and cars honked their horns. Churches tolled their bells.

Americans had been living under strict food and gas rationing, and once the news arrived, people went to the gas stations, filled up their cars and went riding around for the fun of it. Throughout the war, people had tried to keep their lights off after dark to save energy, but on this night, people turned on their lights and left them on all night. Some children who'd grown up during the war saw the streets lit up with lights for the first time.

And one thing that commentators noticed at the time was that nobody shouted, "We've won the war!" or anything about triumph. They simply shouted, "The war is over!"

My friend, soon to be married former sister, stopped running and darting as Paul appeared.
My friends, crossing old bridge and soon new bridge, come well to term.
My friends, back from China, nestle Ya Jia into her new home.
My friend, daughter without parents, sits on porch at sunset with their silence.
My friend, soon to move out of his home, holds open potentialities even as one actuality closes.

A melody floats without sound through the woodland.

"As Time Goes By"
(music and words by Herman Hupfeld)

[This day and age we're living in
Gives cause for apprehension
With speed and new invention
And things like fourth dimension.

Yet we get a trifle weary
With Mr. Einstein's theory.
So we must get down to earth at times
Relax relieve the tension

And no matter what the progress
Or what may yet be proved
The simple facts of life are such
They cannot be removed.]

You must remember this
A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by.

And when two lovers woo
They still say, "I love you."
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by.

Moonlight and love songs
Never out of date.
Hearts full of passion
Jealousy and hate.
Woman needs man
And man must have his mate
That no one can deny.

It's still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die.
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by.

Oh yes, the world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by.

(© 1931 Warner Bros. Music Corporation, ASCAP)

Welcome -- all of us!

As time goes.