Saturday, June 10, 2006

Holy Scripture has fallen from the pages of Sacred Books onto pieces of poems and dreams crumpled in corners of pockets and bags of contemporary prophets unrecognized, even by themselves, during a time of changing sanctity.

The illusion we are most fond of is that we are safely tucked under the protection of something other -- call that State, Nation, God, or Belief.

If you think that you have cut off illusory mind,
Instead of simply clarifying how illusory mind melts,
Illusory mind will come up again,
As though you had cut the stem of a blade of grass
And left the root alive.

- Menzen Zuiho (1682--1769)

The blade of grass growing with weeds in our minds is untroubled by our belief we control by cutting.

Hamas, Israel, Al Qaeda, United States, Muslims, Christians, Conservatives, Liberals, Cynics, Optimists, Believers, Doubters -- cut, cut, cut.

Now you are so old that you are free to hope.
Nothing needs to be considered except the root
of your desire, which has become that
crystal sliver of pain that all the doctors told you
was a chronic headache but you suspect might be
the original nerve still pulsing, the ache
that has been with you, always.

(Stanza from poem, "There is a Woman Standing on a Terrace" by Eleanor Lerman from Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds. Sarabande Books.)

To be free to hope is to have seen the desolate end of all the plans and schemes we've constructed to save, to be safe, and to salvifically anoint a particular way of thinking, point of view, a particular person, or a set of beliefs -- that is the, or only, or truth that appertains to everyone, by hook or by crook.

We become free to hope only after these deaths.

In the novel I'm reading, the monk out from his monastery prays for a woman critical after stroke. He ends the "Hail Mary" with "...pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our deaths. Amen." It is the adding of that "s" onto the word "death" that catches my attention. The "s" is not usually in the recitation of the prayer to Mary. And yet, it seems to belong.

We do not die once. We die over and over. Whether or not there is life after life, or whether we have multiple lives (seriatim, or simultaneous -- either of which is as mysterious as a singular one-time event) -- still, deaths are our passage through life.

The loving melt of attention helps dissolve illusion. The longing to see and be what is real and true -- the desire to evaporate and disappear into the loving attention of life itself -- this is what falls with rain this Saturday morning.

As poet Eleanor Lerman wrote:
Nothing needs to be considered except the root
of your desire,...
...the original nerve still pulsing, the ache
that has been with you, always.

This consideration is holy scripture.

Writing root desire is prophetic utterance.

Worded by men and women with no office, no platform, no pulpit.

Just their expression in communion with one another.

Root hope.

Friday, June 09, 2006

He had written "loose" in the text of his recurrent dream -- but he spoke and read it as "lose." When I told him of the switch he was making, he was a bit dazed. Was he losing (as he thought), or was he loosing (as he might actually be doing?)

There is a reality even prior to heaven and earth;
Eyes fail to see it;
It has no voice for ears to detect;
To call it Mind or Buddha violates its nature,
For it then becomes like a visionary flower in the air;
It is not Mind, nor Buddha;
Absolutely quiet, and yet
Illuminating in a mysterious way,
It allows itself to be perceived only by the clear-eyed.
It is Dharma truly beyond form and sound;
It is Tao having nothing to do with words.

- Dai-o Kokushi

We can't be trusted to comprehend what we tell ourselves. We need the listening of community.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

(Poem: selection from "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood," by William Wordsworth.)

Not yet being able to speak (to be an infant) is a curious privilege.

We can not afford such a privilege.

We must speak.

Beyond form and sound.

Our selves.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Jon arrives from Chicago. Red Sox beat Yankees. A murderer in Iraq is murdered by American bomb. Rain swells streams and ponds in Maine.

By day the sun shines,
And the warrior in his armor shines.
By night the moon shines,
And the master shines in meditation.
But day and night
The one who is awake
Shines in the radiance of the spirit.

- Buddha in the Dhammapada

History, that science of facts and figures, is coming indoors. The chaos of the world resembles the chaos of the individual mind. Soon it will be unnecessary to calculate any external data; only interior imagination will reveal the world to be what it is imagined to be. Bullets and baseballs, airplanes and flood points -- will not be needed. Unconcealed concern and human heart filled with joy will be telltale signs of where we are headed.

The killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi boosted the confidence of U.S. officials and the new Iraqi government as they moved into the fourth year of warfare. (By JOHN F. BURNS, New York Times, 8June06)

Presidents used to announce great moments for the people of the country. To be the source of announcing another murder in an ugly war says a lot about where you hope the down card might fit in your draw to an inside straight.

For the rest of us -- in a world torn between insanity and sanctity, we are surprised by the similarities.

"...the truest revelation of the endless fall through the self toward God is a sense of genuine nothingness. This "humility" is no affectation; it is no false modesty calculated to ease the usual traffic of egos; it is simply realism. I am nothing. I have looked within, long and hard, for the soul that would hasten into God, and in the end I was not there. What is left when we get to the bottom of the self, when we have exhausted all our tricks? Real prayer is a disappearance, a surrender to the embrace of deepening mystery, in darkness. In that darkness, finally, God alone is. And God is infinite surprise."
(Michael, writing to Brother James, pp.192-3, in novel "The Monk Downstairs," by Tim Farrington, c.2002)

Life, as we know it, just might be a dream.

It will be quite a surprise to wake up.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Zen koan says old monk with bowls still does not know the last word. He is nescient because there is no last word in impermanence. There's only the doing and saying the very next thing to do and say as each moment appears and presents itself.

Climbing Green Cliff Mountain in Yung Chia

Taking a little food, a light walking stick,
I wander up to my home in quiet mystery,
The path along streams winding far away
Onto ridge-tops, no end to this wonder at
Slow waters silent in their froze beauty
And bamboo glistening at heart with frost,
Cascades scattering a confusion of spray
And broad forests crowding distant cliffs.

- Hsieh Ling-yun (385-433 C.E.)

Jesus knew Jujitsu. The weaponless style of Jujitsu, the gentle art of self-defense, where the self is no longer there to be defended, was perfect for Jesus. Everyone, it seems, tried to throw him, trick him, lure him into their party.

Next they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to catch him out in what he said. These came and said to him, "Master, we know you are an honest man, that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man's rank means nothing to you, and that you teach the way of God in all honesty."...
(from Mark 12:13 - 17)

Jesus must have thought them naive. The way of God is an impossible teaching. Jesus must have thought himself a fool those times when profound teachings appeared through his eyes, hands, or mouth.

Games with God

I played, a child both wild and meek,
with God at games of hide-and-seek.
I searched in vain the usual places
and found a thousand saddened faces.

"Your God is hidden in heaven," they said;
"You'll see him only when you're dead."
How could I make them understand
God often took me by the hand?
Then as my tears began to fall
I felt his touch and heard his call,
"I never hid from you at all."

I played with God a game of tag,
his mantle flying like a flag.
I gave my God a good head start
but caught him running in my heart.
I played with God the game "I Spy,"
but lost him with my fading eye,
till playmate God in his pure kindness,
printed his image on my blindness.

(Poem: "Games with God," by Virginia Hamilton Adair, from Beliefs and Blasphemies. Random House.)

Maybe Jesus embodied that blind image -- no reflection coming back to him to distract him with narcissism. He went straight ahead saying yes as his mother had gone ahead saying yes to the foolish invitation to be the image of the unseen in the visible world.

The difficulty with life is that it makes little sense without saying "yes" to what could easily be "no." What we perceive is partly determined by our willingness to perceive and transform, like a somersault -- all of a single movement twisting an impossible contortion while airborne to land squarely on the ground of assent. We are made for affirmation.

Now will saying "yes" get you in trouble at times? Will saying "yes" lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes it will. But don't be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don't learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying "yes" begins things. Saying "yes" is how things grow. Saying "yes" leads to knowledge. "Yes" is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say "yes."
(from 2006 Commencement Address, Stephen Colbert, June 3, 2006, Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois)

At church this morning in Belfast, exiting after mass, the prayer arises: "Thank you for bringing us here!"

"Here" is a wonderful place. "Here" is a wonderful person.

Gratitude, compassion, and suchness -- this is what it means to be here.

At conversation tonight Saskia said, "Nowness is the nearness."



Monday, June 05, 2006

His dog lived. He died. His red truck hit utility pole before the sun rose above Melvin Heights, about 400 yards down the road, where hill ends and pond begins. It was early. Still asleep, I must not have heard it.

Since sky and earth are mindless,
They last forever.
What has mind has limits.
A person who has attained
The Path is like this too.
In the midst of no activity,
She carries out her activities,
Accepting all unfavorable
And favorable circumstances
With a compassionate heart.

- Yunmen (864-949)

Maybe that's why everything felt flat and deflated all day. It puts thoughts and worries about money in a perspective barely important. However it works, I hope his spirit got to rest a while in chapel/zendo as new journey begins.

We didn't know of his death until arriving home a few minutes ago. All we knew was we had to drive around Bald Mountain to get to town this morning. That, and no electricity when we awoke. Tonight coming home -- the brokenness of Molyneaux and Barnestown Rd/Hosmer Pond Rd when we passed.

I write this to honor the fact of it. This man, once alive, now dead, passing through our neighborhood. From this quietness, a quiet prayer. For him.

The mercy of God.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Looking and listening are two doors into church. Church is the practice of seeing and hearing. To the question: "Are you a church-goer?" Comes the response: "I look; I listen." It is the birthing of community.

Cold Cliff’s remoteness is what I love
No one travels this way
Clouds lie around on the peaks
A lone gibbon howls on the ridge
What else do I cherish
It’s good to grow old content
Cold and heat change my appearance
The pearl of my mind stays safe

- Han shan

Maybe all we can be for another is a door through which to pass on the way home. To the man whose daughter is depressed, to the woman whose marriage is in doubt; to the elder whose brain is invaded by some growth without usefulness, to the inmate whose crime replays every night -- a window is needed to see through, a definition of home is called for that excludes nowhere. Each must feel their way through.

since feeling is first

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

(Poem: "since feeling is first" by e. e. cummings from 100 selected poems. © Grove Weidenfeld.)

At the Opera House in Camden a man spoke of his near-death experience. Something was missing. For me, death is not a going home. Nor is God that from which we come and to whom we return. For me, God is home and home is God -- and we've never left, thus, no return.

This morning began the Sunday Quaker Meeting at Vesper Hill Children's Chapel in Rockport. The wind blew hard. Rain fell strong. Out on the bay a sailboat tacked hard to port. In the sound of foghorn and sight of swaying trees the arrival of Holy Spirit seemed scripted. Afterwards Arnie said in this country we cultivate illness and ignore causes. He gives us Pema Chodron tapes on Living With Uncertainty.

I am never not in church. Even if I do not frequent the buildings as much as once I did -- what I found there once has traveled well through the doors and windows of being with one another.

For this, I concur with Charlotte's postcard -- it is gratitude, and compassion, and suchness we serve.

Happy birthday to us!