Friday, December 29, 2006

Before Saddam Hussein hangs until dead, I wish to protest.

Murdering him serves no purpose. Of course he's guilty of crimes, guilty of power lust, guilty of associating with countries like the United States in their attempt to shore up oil resources and safety for shared interests in the Middle East. But then things turned sour, the alliance was spoiled. Bedfellows turned their backs. But if crime and guilt in international power lust were the measure of who hangs or who merely is assassinated, I fear many nooses would be in the ready both here and abroad.

The field of boundless emptiness
Is what exists from the very beginning.
You must purify, cure, grind down,
Or brush away all the tendencies
You have fabricated into apparent habits.
--- Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091–1157)

Hussein's habits were excessive. It seems a common malady with people whose power is unchecked and whose sycophants are happy to bolster illegality and inanity as long as they are recipients of largess and payoff. We suffer this at home here too. And as for the fundamentalist belief that whoever is in power is by the will of God -- I care neither for the belief nor the mind perpetrating that thought.

Still, I'd rather he live. I'd rather those he murdered would also be alive, as well as those the United States has murdered in Iraq. Murdering people is a sad and mindless action taken in the absence of authentic compassionate justice. That kind of justice would strive to recognize a hidden truth much too often kept covered by those who know it is there.

What is that hidden truth? It is that when anyone is murdered I am murdered. When Saddam Hussein hangs, George Bush hangs. When an enemy combatant is tortured, you are tortured. When men and women in Afghanistan or Iraq are bombed, your mother and father, brothers and sisters are killed and mutilated. When someone is sexually molested, enslaved, or abused anywhere, so too is a member of your family. Whatever befalls one of us, befalls each of us.

How is it we do not feel what is happening to us as it is happening?

Whenever and whatever kindness is shown, that kindness is received everywhere by everyone.
When I have seen by time's fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age,
When sometime lofty towers I see down razed,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage,
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss, and loss with store,
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay,
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose. 
(Poem: "64" by William Shakespeare, from William Shakespeare: The Sonnets. Little, Brown and Company.)
To feel what is happening as it is happening would necessitate a more profound spiritual awareness than is currently practiced by the vast majority of us. It would call for a spiritual awareness that is willing to feel what is taking place and recognize the isomorphic nature of existence in this world.

(Greek: isos "equal", and morphe "shape"). We are in the presence of an unsettling reality: equivalent form, equivalent structure. Something "equivalent" is corresponding or virtually identical especially in effect or function. Perhaps we don't feel our equivalence with other beings because we have never understood the invitation to be that which we actually are. We hear "Be who you are" and assume the ego, or some collective definition, will give us the right information about how to be.
According to Douglas Hofstadter: "The word "isomorphism" applies when two complex structures can be mapped onto each other, in such a way that to each part of one structure there is a corresponding part in the other structure, where "corresponding" means that the two parts play similar roles in their respective structures." (Godel, Escher, Bach, p. 49)
What we do not feel, what we do not understand, is the vital interest of being alive.

Being, alive, is hidden from us. Why? I don't know. Could it be revealed and unveiled? Yes, I think so. How? Watch carefully.

Watch carefully and see what is taking place. Watch carefully and feel what is taking place. Watch carefully and be what is taking place.

To be what is taking place is to integrate the reality of this existence.

For my Christian friends, it is what the Christ Reality (incarnationalized in Jesus) is about.
For my Buddhist friends, it is what Prajna/Karuna (the Knowing/Loving, or, Insight/Resolve) is about.
For my Muslim, Jewish, Hindu friends, it is the deepest revelation of Surrender, Nameless Presence, and Truth.

We are frightened by wholeness. To integrate is to be what we are -- whole. It is sad to see that so many of us do not see what is our true reality. So much of human existence is diverted and distracted from experiencing our true nature in union with one another. We seem unwilling or unable to be who we profoundly are.

In our delusion, we murder one another. We hang Saddam Hussein. We like the name we give this action - we call it "justice." It is not justice. It is blindness.
The Vedas tell us this about God - "OM Poornamadah Poornamidam Poornaad Poornamudachyate; Poornasya Poornamaadaaya Poornamevaavashisyate". Translated in English, this verse means "What is Whole - This is Whole - What has come out of the Whole is also Whole; When the Whole is taken out of the Whole, the Whole still remains Whole". 
(- from Hinduism, the World's Oldest Religion, A Simple Introduction To A Complex Religion, c. 1997, by Sunil Balasubramaniam,  cf.

I don't yet find tears for Saddam Hussein. That's because I do not yet feel the profound sorrow of personal loss. His death is someone's death far away from what I consider to be the boundary of my personal self. And yet, is it? Am I able to recognize my face in the mirror of Saddam Hussein? Am I able to recognize my face in the mirror of George Bush? These two dangerous men reveal to me my own pernicious aspect.

Not realizing our true nature we remain dangerous creatures. In our ignorance and delusion, (Sanskrit: Avidya), we create and cultivate misery and suffering.

Today is a remembrance of Thomas Becket, also murdered, also caught in the squeeze of power.

Murder in the Cathedral, is a poetic drama in two parts, with a prose sermon interlude, the most successful play of T.S. Eliot. The play was performed at Canterbury Cathedral in 1935 and published the same year. Set in December 1170, it is a modern miracle play on the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury. 
The play's most striking feature is the use of a chorus in the classical Greek manner. The poor women of Canterbury who make up the chorus nervously await Thomas' return from his seven-year exile, fretting over his volatile relationship with King Henry II. Thomas arrives and must resist four temptations: worldly pleasures, lasting power as chancellor, recognition as a leader of the barons against the king, and eternal glory as a martyr. To the final and most subtle tempter, Thomas replies: 
"Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain:
Temptation shall not come in this kind again.
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason." 
After Thomas delivers his Christmas morning sermon, four knights in the service of the king accost him and order him to leave the kingdom. When he refuses, they return to slay him in the cathedral. Each justifies his actions to the audience, claiming that Thomas suffered from the sin of pride. The drama ends with the priests and chorus mourning Thomas' heroic death. (--1997 Encyclopædia Britannica)

The right deed is to mourn the dead. The wrong reason is thinking we have eliminated someone or something not-us.

The temptation to treason is strong, very strong.

Our ignorance and misery are not permanent. Yet our mind attempts to hold them fast and furious where they are. They can and will fade. They, too, are impermanent. We must not hold tight that which, of itself, will pass. When we murder by hanging, when we murder by bullet or bomb, or when we murder by neglect and unawareness, we are holding fast to delusion and misery.

Saddam Hussein is condemned to hang until dead.

Between the fall and the snap, between the in-breath and the out-breath, remains a fraction of time for us to come to see who we are. Such seeing, such feeling, is our corresponding connection with one another, with the Whole wherein we dwell. When we come to this realization, there will be a sudden flash of understanding that will initially sink us into profound despair at all the misery we have countenanced in ignorance. That too will pass. We'll have to quickly learn to let it pass with gentleness.

In conclusion, let me share with you a short prayer which gives me great inspiration and determination: For as long as space endures, and for as long as living beings remain, until then may I, too, abide to dispel the misery of the world.
(--The Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, in The Dalai Lama: A Policy of Kindness, edited by Sidney Piburn)

It is the end of a year.

Let's say goodbye with gentleness.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Practice comes round here!

Dawn into orange sunrise walking with Cesco Ragged Mountain path I stop a few times saying 'good morning' to trees. The need for sangha is deep thirst.

I’ve always loved friends of the Way

Always held them dear
Meeting a stranger with silent springs
Greeting a guest talking Zen
Talking about mysteries on a moonlit night
Searching for truth until dawn
When the tracks of our inventions disappear
And we see who we really are
- Cold Mountain

Trees talk Zen. I ask them to share their view. I do not hear voice response, only felt presence. It says (if 'saying' is it) "Stay where you are rooted."

The Holy Innocents, Martyrs
There is nothing to be said about the Holy Innocents. They were no-one because they never had the chance to become anyone: they just died.
They may stand for the unimportant and unnecessary pawns that permeate the whole of human history, the ones who can be sacrificed for some greater cause because they don’t really matter; the eggs that were broken to make an omelette... or to make nothing.
--Universalis, Thursday 28 December 2006

Many pawns are sacrificed today. In war. In sex slave trade. In economic self-interest. In abusive relationships. When ideologies of all stripe -- political, religious, cultural, or personal -- infest and freeze human creativity, there is much suffering.

Coffee, toasted English muffins with peanut butter and Trappist cherry jam, Slavic choral music, slumbering cat and dog, and the good advice of mountain tree -- this is the morning hermitage. I think of the holy innocents. Everywhere they are burdened by selfish minds and chilly hearts.

Yesterday I caught red squirrel in hav-a-heart under feeder out back of kitchen. He darted back and forth in cage. I thought -- aha! now he won't monopolize feeder! I had meant to move him up Barnestown Road. Instead, I went out, lifted trap door, and he scurried up hill over fell branches. Half hour later he was back on feeder. There's enough seed.

An old debate returns -- about forgiveness. There's a man I am angry with. He infuriates me. Worse, he claims God is partner to his actions. (God does seem to partner the oddest of ventures -- from war to lottery tickets, from sexual abuse to foul shots, from being invited to damn almost anything to being considered the holy torturer for eternity of unworthy wretches like you or me.)

About forgiveness -- like the trees, nothing overt can be or need be said. Comes a time, after a bit of space extends itself, that we sit and accept that what happened did indeed happen. And there we are. Just that. With all the pain and sorrow, disappointment and anger -- it happened. Then slowly, and sometimes slower still, the memory remains but you notice no lingering bitterness.

It always appears too blithe to claim a certain forgiveness going or coming.

Our religious friends claim they're forgiven and that's that. No need to remember (as they say) their transgression or sin. God doesn't. Therefore, having accepted the Lord, they are saved and untouchable. I imagine there is some comfort in such an idea. No such comfort appeals to me. We're a remembering people. I don't trust forgetting.

I'll be content to stay rooted where I am. Let the day take care of day, and night take care of night. The actions of men are sometimes awful. Yet, often enough, they are kind and sweet. Curiously, both varieties are part and parcel of the same person -- each of us. It's a hard equation to prove, a calculus mystery too dense to lay straight.

Woodrow Wilson said, "If you want to make enemies, try to change something." He wasn't successful -- not with keeping out of WWI, not with his 1917 notion of a League of Nations.

Today, at end of year, political players toss hats into speculative gambling -- the presidential hopeful lottery. They all want to replace the man who currently occupies the seat of power and often foolish ideology. From where I sit, the world need not be safe for democracy; rather the world might wish to be true with selfless service, with kindness based on awareness, and with an insightful wisdom. We've had enough of pious platitude and spiritual hypocrisy. Enough of institutional callousness masquerading as will-of-society, will-of-law, or will-of-God. We've had quite enough (eh?) of arrogant force and cruel acts masked behind the words 'security' and 'Jesus Christ.'

Maybe we should do what a Native American folk singer suggested a while back: move out of town, head for the hills, grow some food, and stay with people you can talk with. There seems too much cultivating of ugly. We are desperate people pretending we aren't hiding under cable wires, modems, and antennas; pretending to be merely well-informed and au-courant. We're not that. We're hurting. Bleeding. Smiling for the cameras. Frightened at the picture that is emerging.

We're told to go shopping. We're told to go to church. We're told to love the surveillance videos. We're told to be very afraid of the terrorists who want to take away our credit cards and our Savior. We're told to be found in approved places, to be saved in arms loaded with ammunition.

A Robert Frost character named 'Keeper' says the following in a verse play:
I say I'd rather be lost in the woods
Than found in church.

(-- line 514, in A Masque of Mercy; in The Poetry of Robert Frost, Holt Paperback Edition 1979, p. 513.)

I'm frequently a visitor in church; seldom belong there. I'm often wandering in woods; always at home there, even when lost.

Those with a particular angle, those with a corner on God, are best diverted away from hereabouts.

Sitting on bench by brook just alongside cemetery as first sunlight slants across branches with dusting of snow -- the roundness of here.

I'll listen to roots of trees and try to see what each branch sees.

I prefer wandering round here.

Each way.

All alone.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Reading students' papers. We each try to word the life we experience.

Waxing moon ringed with moving cloud. Woodstove stacked.

No one escapes nature -- not their own, not itself.

Mist bordered pine woods,

A Buddhist temple,
At water’s edge, willow trees, fishermen’s huts;
Zen monk with empty bowl after noon,
Old fisherman drying nets in the setting sun.
- Gido Shushin (1325–1388)

I used to think there was a reason to living.

Now I live not knowing why.

Feels better that way.




Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Each is doing this with us.

Walking Ragged Mountain yesterday with Cesco. One step after another. We climb. Slant. Look out over town to Penobscot Bay. Wander switchback home.

Christmas was Monday. So it should be.

This morning rain on rooftop.

Renunciation does not have to be regarded as negative. I was taught that it has to do with letting go of holding back. What one is renouncing is closing down and shutting off from life. You could say that renunciation is the same thing as opening to the teachings of the present moment....

Renunciation is realizing that our nostalgia for wanting to stay in a protected, limited, petty world is insane. Once you begin to get the feeling of how big the world is and how vast our potential for experiencing life is, then you really begin to understand renunciation. When we sit in meditation, we feel our breath as it goes out, and we have some sense of willingness just to be open to the present moment. Then our minds wander off into all kinds of stories and fabrications and manufactured realities, and we say to ourselves, "It's thinking." We say that with a lot of gentleness and a lot of precision. Every time we are willing to let the story line go, and every time we are willing to let go at the end of the outbreath, thats fundamental renunciation: learning how to let go of holding on and holding back.
--Pema Chodron, Tricycle, The Buddhist Review, Vol. I, #1

Christmas was the mountain this year. Frost-pockets preached. Stones held foot in crossing melt. Trees whittled sky lovely shape. Long view opened to Battie, Megunticook, Maiden Cliff, Bald, and over bay islands to Isle a Haut.

I thought of writing something about my view of Christ. But only the view emerged. I thought to say something of Christology this theologically ambiguous time, but rain falls in its place. I thought to wonder aloud of how odd the way we hold on to religion and enwrap divinity in tight coils of our opinions and personalities, but instead sat in quiet as silence let nothing go on.

Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.
You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it."
When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him.
But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them"; and when he said this, he fell asleep.
(-Acts 7)
If we hold separation against one another, there will be separation. But if we let dissolve that which cannot be held back, then comes true what is our ungrasping wholeness.

"Impermanence is, in fact, just another name for perfection." That's what Charlotte Joko Beck wrote in Everyday Zen.

Just passing through. So it is. Our father and our mother, our brothers and our sisters -- each is doing this with us.

And now it is Tuesday.

So it should be.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Sun climbs down from tops of trees.

At dawn, as light arises east of Hosmer Pond, Cesco, Mu-Ge and I walk up to brook. Only sound of steps on frozen leaves.

Water down mountain turns where Mini, Kotoba, Jitai, and Sando ground memory with resting remains.

For while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course,

Thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne, as a fierce conqueror into the midst of the land of destruction.
(- Wisdom 18: 14-15, Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition.)

Single flame in kitchen window over sink below "Peace" stained glass.

What is different about Christmas morning?

Every sentient being is ready
To be enlightened at every moment.
The only hindrance is not
Recognizing the purity and limitlessness
Of buddha nature.
We may have inklings of our limitless quality,
But we don’t fully recognize it,
So we become focused on the relative I, the self.
- The Twelfth Tai Situpa

Here is what is different about Christmas morning.

We are here.

Saskia comes down stairs.

We'll walk Ragged Mountain.

Earth is here. Sun is here. Dog, cat -- here. House and barn are both here. So too chapel/zendo.

Coffee and tea also here. Rye bread for toast. Shimmering leaves on Beech branch in morning light.

Christ, as well, is here.

Wisdom wants us to see through destruction, through fierce conquering -- Wisdom wants us to see something more interesting.

If we come to see from the midst -- if we, today, quietly turn in any direction, we will come to see the revelation of Christmas.

Wisdom says we must look into the word "midst."

Middle of, centered with, or, between us.

Is Christ...

(!) (?)

Welcome !

Sunday, December 24, 2006

And so, it nears Christmas -- the revelation of what is here -- seen through, with clear light.

seeker of truth
follow no path
all paths lead where
truth is here
(Poem by e.e. cummings)

We rub eyes still sleepy. We want ritual to say it for us. We're unsure we are the correct expression of the word. We think we're not, or might not be, adequately pronounced. We fear we've been mumbled incoherently. We're afraid we will miss something. We're nervous that we have not really understood the unchanging story told us about who we are, what God is, and how sacred history has unveiled itself through time and existence.

There is no unchanging story.

The story is what is just now and still not yet revealing itself.

Suzuki Roshi said, Renunciation is not giving up the things of this world, but accepting that they go away. Everything is impermanent; sooner or later everything goes away. Renunciation is a state of non-attachment, acceptance of this going away. Impermanence is, in fact, just another name for perfection. Leaves fall; debris and garbage accumulate; out of the debris come flowers, greenery, things that we think are lovely. Destruction is necessary. A good forest fire is necessary. The way we interfere with forest fires may not be a good thing. Without destruction, there could be no new life and the wonder of life, the constant change could not be. We must live and die. And this process is perfection itself. All this change is not, however, what we had in mind. Our drive is not to appreciate the perfection of the universe. Our personal drive is to find a way to endure in our unchanging glory forever....Who hasn't noticed the first gray hair and thought, Uh-oh.
--Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen

Wir mussen sich entsinnen.
We must recall, recollect, remember.

We must transcend, yet, include.

The story is being written -- even as we attend right here, right now.

Word. Being. Now. Here. Through. And. Through.

In the beginning was the Word:
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.
The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.

John appears as his witness. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me ranks before me
because he existed before me’.

Indeed, from his fulness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.
(--John 1:1-18)

Soon we shall come to see the light that shines in the world through us by way of Christ being born in our sleepy consciousness.

It takes -- so it seems -- a long, long time to wake up.

The dawn will come. The present moment will reveal itself.

We have yet to get through the current darkness of tenacious unawareness.

It is the night before.