Saturday, March 04, 2006

What is this? What is happening?

Is the question "Where am I?" helped by the words "Where I Am is!"?

Finding oneself gazing within the profound and open -- is originating. What happens next is anybody's guess. But, the gaze, originary.

Having fathomed Tao, you went to dwell
Among simple villages
Where bamboo grows thick,
Opening and closing your gate alone.
This isn't a mission or pilgrimage.
I've come for no real reason:
Just to sit out on your south terrace
And gaze at those mountains.

- Po Chu-I (772 -- 846)

There's no wiping out the past. There's no plotting accurately the future. We are continually asked to dwell in the present -- in the timeless, spaceless instantiating "This." What is this place? This? What is there we can do?

If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry,
and relief to the oppressed,

your light will rise in the darkness,
and your shadows become like noon.
The Lord will always guide you,
giving you relief in desert places.

He will give strength to your bones
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water
whose waters never run dry.

You will rebuild the ancient ruins,
build up on the old foundations.
You will be called "Breach-mender",
"Restorer of ruined houses".

(Isaiah 58:9 - 14)

The prospect of light rising in the darkness -- rising through darkness -- can only be preceded by the open gaze. Open gaze is willing act of presence, stillness, and silence in the face of what is taking place. What has taken place invites us to look. What will take place is beyond us, beyond our ability to presage or fathom.

Actually -- it is all beyond us. And yet, we are invited to pause, to gaze, and to pass through.
The power and mystery of sin remain occluded, as do the "satanic" machinations of conventional culture, until the seductive power that keeps them so is broken. It was at the very moment of his conversion, therefore, that Paul was first able to see the power of Satan. On the road to Damascus he is commissioned to be an instrument of the very conversion he himself experienced there, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins . . . (Acts 26:18).
(from, "The Mystery of Sin: Rene Girard's insights into Christianity - Part 2," {what exactly Christ did by dying on the Cross.} By Gil Bailie)

A haunting song ends a haunting film. The film is "Crash," and the song is "In the Deep: --
Thought you had
all the answers
to rest your heart upon.
But something happens,
don't see it coming, now
you can't stop yourself.
Now you're out there swimming...
In the deep.
In the deep.

Life keeps tumbling your heart in circles
till you... Let go.
Till you shed your pride, and you climb to heaven,
and you throw yourself off.
Now you're out there spinning...
In the deep.
In the deep.
In the deep.
In the deep.

And now you're out there spinning...
And now you're out there swimming...
In the deep.
In the deep.

In the silence,
all your secrets will
raise their weary heads.
Well, you can't pin yourself
back together, with who
you thought you were.

Now you're out there livin'...
In the deep.
In the deep.
In the deep.

In the deep...

Now you're out there spinning...
Now you're out there swimming...
Now you're out there spinning...
In the deep.
In the deep.
In the deep.
In the deep...

(Song: "In The Deep", by Bird York, from film "Crash")

It is there we find ourselves, or perhaps, it is there we find oneself beyond what we could ever imagine. It is daunting passage. There's fear and disillusionment. But it is a passage we are traveling through every day. We just don't recognize what is happening, where we are, or what we are going through.

We break apart and pass through the broken all the time. But now, something else is being asked for, something else is available to us. The invitation is to make the journey with open gaze -- with loving, unknowing, watchfulness. With this, this attentive watchfulness -- we become breach-mender. Without understanding how or why, there is mending action through which we are active agent restoring origin.

Loving, forgiving, awareness -- surrendering and remembering without bitterness -- participates in the healing, invites return to originary presence.

Respecting (i.e. looking again, at and as) --without end -- the mystery of wholeness.

It is Lent. We die to live. It is March.

We long to dwell together. Restoring.

House, home, deepest self.


Friday, March 03, 2006

The universe invests in each one of us in order to find out what it is it needs to know. That's what Pat said to Greg and I in prison today.

There is no such person as Buddha.
Buddha is simply a Sanskrit word meaning "initiate."
The Absolute is immanent in everyone's heart.
This "treasure of the heart" is the only
Buddha that exists.
It is no use seeking Buddha outside your own nature.
Contemplate the Absolute which is at the root
Of one's own nature.

- Bodhi-Dharma

We long to know, to be known. I like the phrase "ama nesciri," that is, love to be unknown.

The Lord is near to those who call on him,
to all those who call on him in truth.
For those that honour him,
he does what they ask,
he hears all their prayers,
and he keeps them safe.

(from Psalm 145)

We are safe when we give up trying to be safe. When there is nothing left but what is taking place in the moment unveiling and unconcealing.

Visiting prisons for conversation is like visiting monastery for solitude.

What universe needs to know is what we ask it to find out.

We are as we find out we are. No place else exists.

Like the hotdog joke: making one with everything.

If Pat is right, Jean said at Friday Evening Conversation, we are the eyes and ears of God.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

She tells me her father died last week outside Cape Town in a car crash after a heart attack on a roadway en route to pick up passport to get visa to visit her in Maine after a very long time since they'd not had the talk they might have been ready for when he would make the trip.

No dependence upon letters or words,
But direct pointing to the source of human mind!
No stepping up any ladders,
But mounting straight to the Buddha-land.
- Bodhidharma (d. 534 )

We word being home. Being, the very facticity of what is, comes to word, seeking home.

The king of Egypt then spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah, and the other Puah. "When you midwives attend Hebrew women," he said "watch the two stones carefully. If it is a boy, kill him; if a girl, let her live." But the midwives were God-fearing: they disobeyed the command of the king of Egypt and let the boys live.
--Exodus 1:1 -

It is a struggle to let live. Killing and dying seem easier than living through the difficult.

We think we know the truth; we don't know anything. We think we're nearly there; we are nowhere and going in the opposite direction. The absurdity of chaotic fact staggers and humbles. We are left to stare from empty understanding at joyful nescient reality shining through truth.


My father loved first light.
He would sit alone
at the yellow formica table
in the kitchen with his coffee cup
and sip and look out
over the strait. Now,
in what could be
the end of my life, or worse,
the life of someone I love, I too
am addicted to slow sweet beginnings.
First bird call. Wings
in silhouette. How the steeples
of the evergreens make a selvage
for the gaunt emerging sky.

My three loves are far away
in other countries,
and one is even under
this dew-bright ground
where the little herds
of jittery quail peck
and scurry for their lives.

My father picks up his
cup. Light is sifting in
like a gloam of certainty
over the water. He knows
something there in the half light
he can't know any other way.

And now I know it with him: so much
is joining us in the dawn
that no one can ever be parted.
It steals over us because we left
the warm beds of our dreams
to sit beside what rises.
I think he wants to stay there
forever, my captain, gazing but not
expecting, while the world
begins, and, in a stark silent calling,
won't tell anyone what it's for.

(Poem: "Comeback" by Tess Gallagher from Dear Ghosts, Graywolf Press.)

When my father died I imagined he'd gone deeply, profoundly, and irretrievable within, falling through radical core of what we consider center of all that is, and emerging no place -- but as, and in, itself.

It is a view of death which, for me, nearly approaches the mystery of the dissolution of duality, and an almost transcendence of here into now -- no other, with nothing behind nor ahead.

"What it's for" is beyond knowing, and way beyond telling.

Death is unusual tutorial.

There's no lesson to speak of.

We don't know...what it is -- we do; we are.

Let live.

And live.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Come, today, and listen to his voice: do not harden your hearts. (Antiphon to Invitatory Psalm, Ash Wednesday)

In the morning I walk into kitchen. Saskia puts ashes from woodstove on my forehead saying, "Remember man you are dust and to dust you shall return." I went, put finger in ashes, signed her, saying, "Remember you are the earth. Love the earth, and love yourself."

If you start concentrating the mind on stillness,
You will merely produce an unreal stillness.
What does the word "meditation" mean?
In this school it means no barriers, no obstacles;
It is beyond all objective situations whether good or bad.
The word "sitting" means not to stir up thoughts in the mind.

- Hui-neng, (d.713)

Because we have forgotten the earth, we have forgotten being. Because we have forgotten being, we have forgotten God.

Because we have forgotten God, we have forgotten what it means to be unborn.

The unborn is to be remembered. God is unborn.

Remember being. Remember earth. Remember yourself.

It is Lent.

Listen to the voice of today.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Where is home?

The response to this question indicates who we think we are, why we think we are in the place we are, and how we go about living our lives in the midst of others.

When the person of highest capacities hears Tao
He does his best to put it into practice.
When the person of middling capacity hears Tao
He is in two minds about it.
When the man of low capacity hears Tao
He laughs loudly at it.
If he did not laugh, it would not be worth the name of Tao

- Lao tzu

Woke this morning after falling asleep last night reading A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold, thinking about ethics and "home" -- how we've not yet come to see, or worse, just care not to know where it is we coincide with all-that-is. "Oikos" in Greek is "home." It's where comes "eco" as in "ecology" -- the study of home, the study of the relationships between humans, animals, plants and their physical environment. In addition, the study and practice of deep listening, loving speech, attentive presence, and graceful engagement with what is there -- what might be called eco-spirituality.

Is there a proper relationship to earth and sky, to land and environment, and to each person dwelling about us?

There is something keen in the words of Robert Frost, in his poem "The Death of the Hired Man" --
"Well, those days trouble Silas like a dream.
You wouldn't think they would. How some things linger! [75]
Harold's young college boy's assurance piqued him.
After so many years he still keeps finding
Good arguments he sees he might have used.
I sympathise. I know just how it feels
To think of the right thing to say too late. [80]
Harold's associated in his mind with Latin.
He asked me what I thought of Harold's saying
He studied Latin like the violin
Because he liked it -- that an argument!
He said he couldn't make the boy believe [85]
He could find water with a hazel prong --
Which showed how much good school had ever done him.
He wanted to go over that. But most of all
He thinks if he could have another chance
To teach him how to build a load of hay--" [90]

"I know, that's Silas' one accomplishment.
He bundles every forkful in its place,
And tags and numbers it for future reference,
So he can find and easily dislodge it
In the unloading. Silas does that well. [95]
He takes it out in bunches like big birds' nests.
You never see him standing on the hay
He's trying to lift, straining to lift himself."

"He thinks if he could teach him that, he'd be
Some good perhaps to someone in the world. [100]
He hates to see a boy the fool of books.
Poor Silas, so concerned for other folk,
And nothing to look backward to with pride,
And nothing to look forward to with hope,
So now and never any different."

(from poem, "The Death of the Hired Man," by Robert Frost, 1874-1963, North of Boston. 1915.)

I think we are at home when we come to experience what is near and far as who and what we are. The wind teasing windchimes, smoke from kitchen chimney, cat purring, dog sleeping, detainee in Abu Ghraib, chickadee on branch, ice coating brook, donut on tray, consecrated host in tabernacle, partners hand in yours, cabin open flag rolled on pole, broken open sunflower casing in rain gutter, zafu tilted on gray sock, former student in casket, his friend in jailcell, the day itself, stillness undergirding, the fact of every object scattered throughout, and the edges of each and every thing beckoning us enter, fall through, do not hold on, let journey take us home, home where we simply are (joyfully) what we are, doing (with awareness) what we do, included and engaged in lovely movement one with another, "now and never any different."

I submit we are at our threshold, our liminal space, portal -- our very (metaphoric) doorstep. What seems to be the problem is we fashion ourselves strangers at our own front doors.

We become strangers in a strange land. We hang fiddles on our doorposts. We seclude and segregate ourselves in a mental fabrication that concludes "my" and "mine" "we" and "us" does not include "they" and "them," "evildoers" and "sinners." No matter our ethnic, racial, religious, economic, or social jobsite-of-self, we make sure property boundaries and protective covenants are securely in place. We manipulate plywood and sawhorse in our minds believing we are walling out those not worthy of our artificial belief in what and who we are. It is a fool's construct. We are building awayness, otherness, and not-as-good-as-ness.

That is, until we come to understand we have wandered desperately far from home, comprehended the utter folly of the misery we've constructed in our lives, in our neighborhoods, in our country, and in our world. It is at that point we realize -- it is time to come home. Drop the stranger-making. Forget the grievances. Put aside the analysis and negative mental activities that alienate, foisting fraudulent and deceitful schemes dressed as good ideas and helpful intentions. The difficulty we face is that we have created powerful industries and wealthy institutions whose sole purpose is to lure us away from home by misdirected cooing that they are leading us home. We go far afield. We wage war against every threat to our interests, however insubstantial or inauthentic. We wander vast deserts and seas raping and plundering until we no longer remember why we are there. The Homeric odyssey of rerun or return is a scorching and parched time of assessment. "Come away," "follow me," "one more battle," "a final pillage," "one last stand" -- is what the voices of illusion call to us. We're uncertain what to do, where else to go.

Don't go.

We are already home. We need only open our eyes. Open our minds. Open our hearts.

We are all here -- waiting to enter where we are.

Pray for this. Sit and watch for this. Engage one another before this hearth.

No one can take you home, no matter how convincing their travelogue.

You are home.

Welcome yourself.

Where you are.

As you are.

Step in.

Monday, February 27, 2006

We must find God...alone.

Consider the example of Buddha Shakyamuni of the Jeta Grove, who practiced sitting up straight for six years even though he was gifted with intrinsic wisdom. Still celebrated is Master Bodhidharma of the Shaolin Temple, who sat facing the wall for nine years although he had already received the mind seal. Ancient sages were like this; who nowadays does not need to practice as they did?
- Dogen (1200-1253)

That the United States condones and encourages torture is disheartening. That prisons (known as black-op sites, "we're keeping them secret" places) are spread around the world, where military personnel, CIA and private contractors, hurt, humiliate, cause madness and death to people suspected of antipathy to the United States, is troubling.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) Published: February 26, 2006
Filed at 10:58 p.m. ET-- The U.S. military on Sunday defended its detention of about 500 inmates at its main base in Afghanistan, saying they are treated humanely and provided the ''best possible living conditions.''

Published: February 26, 2006
While an international debate rages over the future of the American detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the military has quietly expanded another, less-visible prison in Afghanistan, where it now holds some 500 terror suspects in more primitive conditions, indefinitely and without charges.

As at Guantánamo, the military has instituted procedures at Bagram intended to ensure that the detainees are in fact enemy combatants. Yet the review boards at Bagram give fewer rights to the prisoners than those used in Cuba, which have been criticized by human rights officials as kangaroo courts.

The two sets of panels that review the status of detainees at Guantánamo assign military advocates to work with detainees in preparing cases. Detainees are allowed to hear and respond to the allegations against them, call witnesses and request evidence. Only a small fraction of the hundreds of panels have concluded that the accused should be released.

The Bagram panels, called Enemy Combatant Review Boards, offer no such guarantees. Reviews are conducted after 90 days and at least annually thereafter, but detainees are not informed of the accusations against them, have no advocate and cannot appear before the board, officials said. "The detainee is not involved at all," one official familiar with the process said.

I propose an exchange program. I propose two thousand ordinary Americans volunteer to take the places of two thousand prisoners held incommunicado in foreign lands by our government. Call it respite, or recess. These prisoners would get some relief while their replacements would merely observe or serve as test subjects for physical and psychological experiments in torture for a period of three months.

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, "Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone." (from Mark 10:17 -- 27)

Jesus protested his being called good.

Our government doesn't qualify.

Nor do I.


Given our "see, hear, speak no evil" pantomime -- I'd say we've exhausted our recess time from human decency.

Let's agree to do something about this lack of interest in God, or humanity, (much less) our true inner reality.

Let's sit a while. Have a think. Maybe even feel. Take a look. Try to see.

Jesus went on:
You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother." And he said to him, "Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days." Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, "There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!"
(Mark 10)

It is a luxury for us to remain unaware and disengaged from the life of the world in our lives.

Never mind the distracting arguments, the posturing propaganda, the religious justifications of unspeakable behavior, and the calm reasonable and reassuring tone that attempts to make commonplace the horrible acts of torture and punishment.

It is time to go inside, deep beyond the mean, petty, anger and revenge that coats our psyches like oil-spill on fresh water. Down deeper through all exterior presentation into that unvisited interior emptiness wherein dwells (profoundly itself) the very core of grace and light for which we so desperately long.

Something at our source -- something whose sound is almost indiscernible -- something so diaphanous it suffuses everything, undetected. This -- this is to be our practice!

The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, "My children," he said to them "how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." They were more astonished than ever. "In that case" they said to one another "who can be saved?" Jesus gazed at them. "For men" he said "it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God."
(Mark 10)

Let's sit in silence facing the wall of truth. Look in so as to look out, unashamed, and ready to emerge. It is salvific emergence. We become safely present among newly realized family. There is no separation, nothing excluded, in communion. (The powerful and excessively rich among us prefer artificially segregated communities rather that the authentic diversity of communion.)

That inner dwelling place we might find ourselves visiting -- is empty. It is what some call a place of luminescent openness, a sacred poverty. It is where nothing substitutes for the love-without-barriers found there.

Let's find God.



Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sunday morning senses.

Sunlight does seem to be coming through window. The mountain does seem to be across the way. Bird song does seem to be heard in these ears.

Of course these things are seen and heard. What, then, is it to say that form is formless, emptiness is form, and form is emptiness?

Till now you seriously considered yourself to be the body and to have a form. That is the primal ignorance which is the root cause of all trouble.
- Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950)

Notes of chant wander through quiet room. Fragrence of chicken soup. Car passing house on Barnestown Road.

I will betroth you to myself for ever,
betroth you with integrity and justice,
with tenderness and love;
I will betroth you to myself with faithfulness,
and you will come to know the Lord.

Hosea 2: 20 --)

The marriage has been fact. The acknowledgement is slow. What is it the One-Called-God and the Ones-We-Are have been engaged with and involved in for so long a spell of existence?

We cannot help look at the absolute (the whole) and the relative (the related) and wonder about both theology and politics. Theology looks to see God. Politics is a different view. How settle the views?

The philosophy discussion on BBC mentioned that the current usage of the term "relativism" is an offputting word attempting to denigrate a position that actually is extremely respectable -- skepticism -- namely the consideration that whatever you think, you might be wrong. Skepticism is needed. To mask skepticism as relativism invites discarding underlying intellectual inquiry.

We might have to look again at what is whole and what is related. We have to think again.

There's a need for acuity in looking at contemporary political and cultural matters. Absent skepticism, blind belief becomes too easily soporific paralysis.

It is a time of doubt. As we go about personal responsibilities in our lives, some, who watch more carefully than most of us, are arriving at stark conclusions. Here's one:
Lewis Lapham has been the Editor of "Harper's" magazine for 30 years (retiring as Editor Emeritus this spring). In the March issue (not available online), Lapham calls for the impeachment of George W. Bush in that venerable publication. Have we got your attention yet?
Lapham concludes his impeachment call with these trenchant words: "It is the business of the Congress to prevent the President from doing more damage than he's already done to the people, interests, health, well-being, safety, good name, and reputation of the United States--to cauterize the wound and stem the flows of money, stupidity and blood."
"Gag Rule is a rousing and necessary call to action in defense of one of our most important liberties, the right to raise our voices in dissent and have those voices heard."
A review awhile back in "The Nation" notes of "Gag Rule": "One hundred years ago, in the wake of England's ruinous victory in the Boer War, a young Liberal politician excoriated the ruling Conservative Party and its imperial scam: 'A party of great vested interests, banded together in a formidable confederation, corruption at home, aggression to cover it up abroad ... sentiment by the bucketful, patriotism by the imperial pint, the open hand at the public exchequer, the open door at the public house, dear food for the millions, cheap labor for the millionaire.' As Lewis Lapham points out in Gag Rule, where this and a great many other nuggets of historically apposite and rhetorically scintillating prose are marshaled, these words of Winston Churchill fairly describe the Bush II Administration as well. (Substitute "church" for 'public house,' of course.) If only a few Democratic voices could find the young Churchill's register.
"...the Congress have joined the attack on democratic accountability and popular sovereignty. Executive-branch decision-making is increasingly insulated from public scrutiny and comment; more and more important documents are unavailable or unaffordable; the prerogatives of law-enforcement agencies are steadily expanded in the national-security area, though narrowed in respect of tax and securities fraud, air and water pollution, violations of labor law and occupational safety rules, and other constraints on profitability. Harper's has done stellar work in showing how the claims of the Reagan and Gingrich revolutions to "get government off the backs of the American people" merely camouflaged their sustained effort to keep the American people off the backs of the government and its corporate principals."

February 21, 2006, from review of "Gag Rule: On the Suppression of Dissent and Stifling of Democracy, by Lewis Lapham; from BUZZFLASH REVIEWS

It is time for coffee. There is sausage in freezer. We'll have eggs. A cold wind blows cedar trees.

We are whole only with one, another. There is no isolated union. Presence is the mystery we move through, without grasping.

We are related with each and every being. There is no other. There is only acknowledgement and incorporation, or, denial and division.

Let's consider a theology of whole existence as it is.
Let's consider a politics of related beings as we are.

Of course we sorrow over the chaos in the Middle East. I am skeptical.
Of course we sorrow the unseeing of the One-Called-God in our midst. I am blind.
Of course we sorrow the cruelty we inflict on our spouses, mates, brothers, sisters, all sentient beings, all who watch us with wonder. I am often unkind.

For now, this sorrow is prayer. This prayer is formless joy. This joy is in the form of someone about to transport soup to shop, carry wood for fireplace, pour cup of coffee for return trip.

This Sunday liturgy is performed in the faith of lovingkindness. Do we know what it is?

When you really want to know who you are or what the real significance of human life, human suffering is, very naturally you come back to silence, even though you don't want to, you return to an area of no-sound. It cannot be explained, but in this silence you can realize, even if only dimly, what the real point is that you want to know. Whatever kind of question you ask or whatever you think, finally you have to return to silence. This silence is vast; you don't know what it is. (from "Returning to Silence" by Katagiri Roshi)

Mo chao -- is Chinese for "serene reflection."

"Serene reflection is clear awareness in the tranquility of no-thought. This is what the Diamond Sutra meant by 'not dwelling on any object, yet the mind arises.'" (from "Practicing Zen Through Observing One's Mind in Tranquillity -- The Non-Koan Way in Zen," by Chang Chen-Chi, 1959)

Good sense.