Saturday, January 06, 2007

Who is wise? Who are Magi? What magic is sought? Why ask?

Above all, don’t wish to become a future Buddha;
Your only concern should be,
As thought follows thought,
To avoid clinging to any of them.

- Dogen (1200 – 1253)

I ask because I no longer wish to cling to any thought. I wish no longer to be tied to belief. What remains?

What remains is inquiry. We ask in order to enter the question, not to find answer. To be called into question is great reprieve from prison of certitude.

I no longer know "why". Still, I am invited into what "why" investigates. We read. We listen. We watch. We ask. Then, as if some magical portal manifests from nowhere, we are invited into the question itself.

The question itself!
The Magi

Now as at all times I can see in the mind's eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary's turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.

(poem The Magi, by W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

Most explanation is unsatisfactory.

T.S. Eliot contributes:
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for Birth or Death?
There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

(from poem, The Journey of The Magi, by T.S. Elliot )

Death might be the letting go of knowing and entering the question of Being.

For which, there is no answer.

Only (some say) Being Itself. Some say -- God. What do you say?

I don't know what to say, nor why I have nothing to say. But we have to say something.

I say -- Wisdom attends.


And here.


Each one of us.

Friday, January 05, 2007

"Time is eternity living dangerously." (p.xix, Anam Cara, John O'Donohue)

We live dangerously any time we appear in the world. The world is a dangerous place. That's one of the reasons we so seldom show up as who we really are. Instead, masks and roles, costume and persona cloak and front for us. So many of us become the thing we fear. Do we fear ourselves?

When people of the world
Look for this path amid the clouds,
It vanishes,
Without a trace.
The high peaks
Have many precipices;
On the widest gulleys
Hardly a gleam falls.
Green walls close
Behind and before;
White clouds gather
East and west.
Do you want to know
Where the cloud-path lies?
The cloud-path leads from sky to sky.

- Han Shan

Everything is already and always itself. Itself, understood with clear mind, is nothing other than our true self without fear. What exists without fear?

Love. And love is allowing what-is to be itself with compassionate attention.

Imagine a very poor man living in a decrepit little shanty, the only thing he owns in the world. What he does not know is that just beneath his shanty, but hidden in the dirt, is an inexhaustible vein of gold. As long as he remains ignorant of his hidden wealth, this pauper remains in poverty; but when he attends more closely to his own dwelling, he is bound to discover his own fathomless wealth. Similarly, all we need to do is unveil our own nature, and we will find an inexhaustible source of wisdom, compassion, and power. It is nothing we need to acquire, from anywhere or anything. It has always been there. Seen in this light, the Buddha-nature requires no additions. One does not have to memorize sutras, recite prayers or accumulate virtues to create it. All one needs to do is unveil it.
(--B. Alan Wallace, Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up, from Everyday Mind)

I think of some people I've spent time with. They are dangerous. Some are in prison for crimes. Some see their task as keeping them in prison. The thing about prison is that everyone connected with prison is in prison. Even those of us not in prison -- we, too, share the fate of prisoners. This is a troubling fact. It is a difficulty of our time. As Bo Lazoff writes, "We're All Doing Time."

Time, said O'Donohue, is eternity living dangerously. Do you have the time?

My ideas and thoughts about time or about you are mostly illusions. For this I apologize. It is difficult to live a truthful life without illusions.

We must forgive and be forgiven this difficulty and those of us who fail so noticeably at it.

We practice impermanence because impermanence is perfection and practice is enlightenment as is enlightenment practice.

This takes time.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

"Light is the secret presence of the divine. It keeps life awake." (p.25, Anam Cara, John O'Donohue)

A new earth comes with sunrise this morning. A clear light shines luminous from deep emptiness of space.

The demons, he said, will haunt us if we remain afraid. If you cannot be intimidated by those whose power is based on fear, you are not their victim. To live without fear has theological implication. Deity is not fearsome. Deity is natural. One's own mystery revealed in the simplicity step after step of this day.

Eye cannot see It,
Tongue cannot utter It,
Mind cannot grasp It.
There is no way to learn or to teach It.
It is different from the known,
Beyond the unknown.
In this all the ancient masters agree.

- Upanishads

It is possible to drop all belief and still experience that which belief pointed to. Belief is a direction to aim. Reality, especially sacred reality, is unadulterated point and that which is pointing.

The Long Boat

When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn't matter
which way was home;
as if he didn't know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.

(Poem by Stanley Kunitz)

It doesn't matter which way is home. Home is way itself. Enter way with open heart, arrive where you are at origin.

But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him"
(1 Cor 2:9)

Maria will have heart surgery early next week. She and Tom stay after Course in Miracles for Thai food. We hug in parking lot.

Just as the water flows under the ground so those who seek it find it, without thought, without end, its effective power all-pervasive, Buddha Knowledge is also like this, being in all creatures' minds; if any work on it with diligence, they will soon find the light of knowledge.
(--The Flower Ornament Scripture, trans. by Thomas Cleary, from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith,)

This light is the secret presence of the divine.

It's no secret.

Wake and see.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Some feel there is nothing to teach. Still, one must say something.

It is noteworthy... that the story of the Buddha's spiritual journey climaxes with his enlightenment but does not end there. Even as he was savoring the blissful state that followed his awakening, he was approached (in the traditional account) by a delegation of gods, who begged him to give up his private ecstasy so he could share his awakening with those who still suffered. This encounter and its outcome, however legendary, make the point that spiritual maturity includes the ability to actualize transcendent insight in daily life. The Buddha is said to have wandered across northern India for forty years, tirelessly teaching the dharma. His decision to arise from his seat under the Bo tree and go out into the world can be considered the first step of a socially engaged Buddhism. The Buddha's discourses, which had revolutionary force in the society of his time, include countless passages dealing with "this-worldly" topics such as politics, good government, poverty, crime, war, peace, and ecology.
(-Kenneth Kraft, Inner Peace, World Peace, from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith)

There comes a time when someone will talk us through the "in-between state" -- the bardo -- of our passing through this existence into and through another.

If we imagine history running back in time, we inevitably come to the epoch of the "big squeeze" with all the galaxies, stars, atoms and atomic nuclei squeezed, so to speak, to a pulp. During that early stage of evolution, matter must have been dissociated into its elementary components.... We call this primordial mixture ylem.

At this first point in the evolution of the present cycle, according to this first-rank physicist, there existed only the Unbecome, the Unborn, the Unformed. And this, according to astrophysicists, is the way it will end; the silent unity of the Unformed. The Tibetan Buddhists suggest that the uncluttered intellect can experience what astrophysics confirms.

(--from First Bardo: The Period of Ego-Loss or Non-Game Ecstasy (Chikhai Bardo)
Part I: The Primary Clear Light Seen At the Moment of Ego-Loss.Tibetan Book of the Dead)

We must keep going, no matter what the sense of loss or emptiness, uncertainty or disillusionment.

Luke Chapter 9
He summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases,
and he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal (the sick).
He said to them, "Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.
Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there.
And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them."

That "nothing" we are told to take, that empty handed openness we are asked to traverse with humility and courage -- that too must be left, that too is to be dropped.

If there is anything to say, then say it.

May it be one clear, authentic, word.


Or leave.




Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Zendo mates make noise. Mu-ge takes break from on-guard station by cellar door to lay on back by brown chair leg, stretching against it. Cesco, head on bell-striker alongside wheat hull zafu, gurgles like a pipe moving uncertain contents reluctantly elsewhere. I find my breath. Where has it been? We are sitting just before 3am. It is, otherwise, quiet.

Calming the Mind

Too much knowledge
Leads to overactivity;
Better to calm the mind.
The more you consider,
The greater the loss;
Better to unify the mind.
- Shih Wang Ming (6th century)

I no longer understand the fuss about night and day. I read about Basil and Gregory.Their fete is today.

The Emperor Valens (364-­378), who unsparingly dispatched bishops displeasing to him into exile, was a resolute supporter of the Arians. He planted Arianism in other provinces in Asia Minor and came to Cappadocia with the same aim. He sent the Prefect Modestus to Basil in order to convince the hierarch to join the Arians. Modestus threatened him with ruin, exile, tortures and even death. St. Gregory tells of Basil the Great's response: "Thou threatenest me with the confiscation of property, but it means nothing for the man who possesses nothing, unless thou desirest to receive this modest clothing and a few books which make up all my estate. Exile? - but I do not know it, since I am not limited by space. If this ground on which I stand right now does not belong to me, then the whole earth belongs to God, Whose temporary guest I am. Torments? - but they do not have power over one not having flesh, except perhaps for the first blow, which thou art free to make. Death? - but it will be deliverance for me, since it will quickly bring me to God, for Whom I live and to a greater extent have died, and to Whom I hasten to come...Tell the Emperor that neither violence nor persuasion will force me to accept a wrong teaching." Modestus was struck by these words. (

Words embody us. They make us solid and present. Basil appeared in his word. So do we. This is why it is frightening to use words. They cause us to appear. Some of us use silence to remain invisible. That could be a wonderful way of being. Then again, others of us use silence to render unreal someone for whom words would confirm their being. The power of words has never detached from magical consciousness. Say...and see. It worked for the Eternal Creating Being. It still works. We make someone appear or disappear with words. Saying: "I love you," births being and beings. Saying: "Be dead, hang, depart from me, I hate you," erases being and beings.

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
(-Matthew 23:8-12)

Humility is coming to earth. There are other words that send us into realms of power, security, control, dominance, fear, selfishness, or arrogance. But it is wording and embodying humility that brings us to earth -- deposits us feet first squarely in concert with the elements of this creation, this Gaia, this planet, this soil, this land, this breathing vision of integral incarnation with all living being and beings

Before the Sky Darkens
Sunsets, incipient storms, the tableaus
of melancholy—maybe these are
the Saturday night-events
to take your best girl to. At least then
there might be moments of vanishing beauty
before the sky darkens,
and the expectation of happiness
would hardly exist
and therefore might be possible.
More and more you learn to live
with the unacceptable.
You sense the ever-hidden God
retreating even farther,
terrified or embarrassed.
You might as well be a clown,
big silly clothes, no evidence of desire.
That's how you feel, say, on a Tuesday.
Then out of the daily wreckage
comes an invitation
with your name on it. Or more likely,
that best girl of yours offers you,
once again, a small local kindness.
You open your windows to good air
blowing in from who knows where,
which you gulp and deeply inhale
as if you have a death sentence. You have.
All your life, it seems, you've been appealing it.
Night sweats and useless stratagem. Reprieves.
(Poem by Stephen Dunn)
Given a reprieve, a man will stare into the deep of night and no longer crave the dawn. We learn to live with the unacceptable. We look under our feet. We are standing on the earth. Above our heads, at a distance beyond roof of barn, white specks of star sign darkness with signature presence silent earth wordlessly absorbs.

All is.



Morning practice.

Monday, January 01, 2007


I can barely see you.

Icy rain. Cat licks. Dog's head under couch. Fog at Bald. Creaks from upstairs hallway enter winter zendo. Everything sits meditation.

Time for clearer view of one's life presents itself.

There is a simple way to become a buddha: When you refrain from unwholesome action, are not attached to birth and death, and are compassionate toward all sentient beings, respectful to seniors and kind to juniors, not excluding or desiring anything, with no designing thoughts or worries, you will be called a buddha. Do not seek anything else.

--Zen Master Dogen, Moon in a Dewdrop, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi

Saddam has fallen through trap and is back under ground. Bush imagines the number 3000, divides it by 2006 over 2007, subtracts 24 months remaining to his office -- and worries what answer will compute.

The observant today think Theotokos and celebrate Mary's Solemnity and consider what it means to say she is the God-bearer, the one who gives birth to God, Mother of God Incarnate -- Mary as Mother of God.

If earth, then Mary. If God, then earth. If January 1st, then fire in wood stove, coffee on stove, and lute on radio.

Some say that everything happens for a reason. I'm uncertain of that belief. I think that everything happens because it happens. This belief is the mother of such children as "Shit Happens" as well as "Kindness Happens." We have a large family, as it happens. Some of our brothers and sisters, though hard to take, are still family.

What was born of Mary was therefore human by nature, in accordance with the inspired Scriptures, and the body of the Lord was a true body: It was a true body because it was the same as ours. Mary, you see, is our sister, for we are all born from Adam.
The words of St John, the Word was made flesh, bear the same meaning, as we may see from a similar turn of phrase in St Paul: Christ was made a curse for our sake. Man’s body has acquired something great through its communion and union with the Word. From being mortal it has been made immortal; though it was a living body it has become a spiritual one; though it was made from the earth it has passed through the gates of heaven.
Even when the Word takes a body from Mary, the Trinity remains a Trinity, with neither increase nor decrease. It is for ever perfect. In the Trinity we acknowledge one Godhead, and thus one God, the Father of the Word, is proclaimed in the Church.
(from A letter of St Athanasius, Office of Readings)

There will be a new understanding of what "church" is and is to become. It is time for a transformed consciousness that steps beyond into the open. What we've believed too long is that "God" fits within the box of our thoughts and concepts, that we own God, or, at least, we do God's bidding and therefore, by extension, are soldiers in his army carrying out his commands and wielding his power for him. It is a metaphor and belief that has been God-awful.

The Kernal of Free Inquiry
(It is said that Siddhartha Gautama, while with the Kalama people, was asked how to discern Truth. His words are reported as follows.)

"It is essential to doubt, to question all things deeply, to inquire, examine, inspect and experiment.”

“Do not rely on what another says, be they a friend, a monk, a respected teacher or even a sage.”

“Do not rely on what tradition implies, mainstream culture dictates or what scripture may state.”

“Do not rely on comforting beliefs born of favorable ideas, traditional views, logical reflection, careful analysis or deep pondering.”

“Only when you know directly - having put them to the practical test of free and active inquiry, of living, dynamic embodiment and experience - 'these things are destructive; when enacted they lead to harm', then abandon them. And - 'these things are liberating; when enacted they lead to emancipation', then abide in them.

“Come to know directly - through the crucible of your own individual life - the truth that certain actions, thoughts and feelings lead to suffering - your own and that of other beings - then your vision will become clear.“

“Awakened Beings, with purified minds and harmonious of thought, word and deed, are those through whom boundless, panoramic dynamic peace is manifest in every event, in every moment and in every place.”

“Awakened Beings are complete, in need of no hereafter, and their Awakening precipitates the Awakening of sentient beings all around them.”

(--from The Engaged Zen Foundation,

The path to freedom is paved with bare attention.

The Sudden Light And The Trees

My neighbor was a biker, a pusher, a dog
and wife beater.
In bad dreams I killed him

and once, in the consequential light of day,
I called the Humane Society
about Blue, his dog. They took her away

and I readied myself, a baseball bat
inside my door.
That night I hear his wife scream

and I couldn't help it, that pathetic
relief; her again, not me.
It would be years before I'd understand

why victims cling and forgive. I plugged in
the Sleep-Sound and it crashed
like the ocean all the way to sleep.

One afternoon I found him
on the stoop,
a pistol in his hand, waiting,

he said, for me. A sparrow had gotten in
to our common basement.
Could he have permission

to shoot it? The bullets, he explained,
might go through the floor.
I said I'd catch it, wait, give me

a few minutes and, clear-eyed, brilliantly
afraid, I trapped it
with a pillow. I remember how it felt

when I got my hand, and how it burst
that hand open
when I took it outside, a strength

that must have come out of hopelessness
and the sudden light
and the trees. And I remember

the way he slapped the gun against
his open palm,
kept slapping it, and wouldn't speak.

(-- Poem by Stephen Dunn)

Let's not shoot sparrows. Let's be wary of those with guns wanting to shoot sparrows -- they are really after us. They are afraid we will denude controlling anger and deposit them in an open vulnerability where violence cannot, nor will not, go.

Maybe that's another way of understanding "mother." Like the French word "mere" (for "mother"), there is the English word "mere"-- (adj 1: being nothing more than specified; "a mere child" 2: apart from anything else; without additions or modifications; "only the bare facts".)

We practice mere gaze when we practice meditation. "Mere gaze" can be envisioned as "mothering gaze" and/or "bare gaze." A bare gaze is one that looks without making additions or modifications. This would be akin to looking at one another without judgment or evaluative motives, but resting in the reality as it presents itself.

Mere gaze -- is mothering. Mere gaze -- is bare attention.

This is how we assist one another in times of icy rain and hopelessness. This is how we support one another through times of motherless isolation and nonspeaking abandonment. We present ourselves as nothing other than merely who and what we are -- attentive, listening, and engaging what is presenting itself before us.

This is how we mother God.

We present ourselves as nothing other than merely who and what we are -- attentive, listening, and engaging what is presenting itself before us.

We're meditating with that line. It can become, this new year of 2007, sudden light and trees.

We recall the words of Siddhartha Gautama:
"And 'these things are liberating; when enacted they lead to emancipation', then abide in them.
“Come to know directly - through the crucible of your own individual life."

Bearers of God, Mothers of God -- each and every one of you -- thank you for your crucial presence!

In this crucible, in this hollow place, we receive the melting form of our experience, and hold it with mere attention.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

No one cares. We have to see this through.

An ancient master said, “The mountains, the rivers, the whole earth, the entire array of phenomena are all oneself.” If you can absorb the essence of this message, there are no activities outside of meditation: you dress in meditation and eat in meditation; you walk, stand, sit, and lie down in meditation; you perceive and cognize in meditation; you experience joy, anger, sadness, and happiness in meditation.

- Muso (1275-1351)

One ends. One begins.

Now is the time to look. The time to see.

Are we alone with no one to care?


One cares.

This is joyful news.

This is our joyful and original new year.