Saturday, July 21, 2007

It always surprises that we are mostly stuck inside our ego.
Sagehood has nothing
To do with governing others
But is a matter of ordering oneself.
Nobility has nothing
To do with power and rank,
But is a matter of self realization;
Attain self-realization,
And the whole world
Is found in the self.
Happiness has nothing
To do with wealth and status,
But is a matter of harmony.

- Lao-tze
Self-realization is the end of ego.

Come to this end.

And disappear.

Friday, July 20, 2007


No claims one way or other.
If other people offer you advice, instead of thinking, What business is it of yours to be making suggestions? Respect what they have to say and consider yourself as the disciple of all beings.
--The Dalai Lama
No preface. No apology.

Just say it.

Then, quiet. Hollow reed.

Make no prison home.

Word open being.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

At the National Theater Workshop for the Handicapped in Belfast this evening wounded warriors read and performed dramatic monologues as rain fell on the streets.
Every thing,
Every place is real,
Each particle makes
Up the Original Person.
Still, the absolutely real
Is voiceless,
The true body’s
Majestically out of sight.

- Chosha (9th century)
Their bodies were there to see, hear, and remember.

We're their witnesses.

They, our conscience.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

She asked if we had any books on Shamanism. Just after she left, the UPS man brought a box containing Mircea Eliade's study of it. A lot of that happens.

The book she'd written was on wood stove in fire place when she came in. She'd put the Buddha statue from our cabin on front cover. She said the book was not selling as well as some thought it might, that she'd expected more people to be interested in the various expressions of faith. "Cookies," I said. "People like cookies."

I asked her if she thought there was a movement to seek the very source of the inspiration that influenced and guided original figures in religions and faith repositories. Or, are people more interested in the historical/contemporary expressions of the founders in established churches, temples, mosques, and rituals?

The beeper upstairs signaling the chocolate chip cookies were done. That, along with a few customers asking for some things, came between the question and her need to keep an appointment.
Only One Teacher
There is only one teacher. What is that teacher? Life itself. And of course each one of us is a manifestation of life; we couldn't be anything else. Now life happens to be both a severe and an endlessly kind teacher. It's the only authority that you need to trust. And this teacher, this authority, is everywhere. You don't have to go to some special place to find this incomparable teacher, you don't have to have some especially quiet or ideal situation; in fact, the messier it is, the better. The average office is a great place. The average home is perfect. Such places are pretty messy most of the time--we all know from firsthand experience! That is where authority, the teacher is.

--Charlotte Joko Beck
Gurus and gadgets don't guarantee holiness or skill. We need to practice both. There are enough (to too many) teachers and savants, celebrities and adepts. For the ordinary person, practice and life are two of the best resources.

And we must make room for skeptics and atheists. There's much to ponder here:
"All thinking men are atheists." -- Ernest Hemingway

When I think of all the harm [the bible] has done, I despair of ever writing anything to equal it. --Oscar Wilde

SAINT, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. --Ambrose Bierce

There ain't no answer. There ain't going to be any answer. There never has been an answer. That's the answer. --Gertrude Stein

Do not let yourself be deceived: great intellects are skeptical. --Friedrich Nietzsche

Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. --Susan Ertz

God is love, but get it in writing. --Gypsy Rose Lee

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own mind. --Ralph Waldo Emerson

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. --George Bernard Shaw
(--from The Atheist's Bible, By Joan Konner)
I burnt the chocolate chip cookies. Either the oven wasn't measuring right, or I left them in too long. Like religion and religions, cookies are at the mercy of human attention.
[Mircea] Eliade [1907-1986] was a Christian and Jungian - he met Carl Jung for the first time in 1950, and two years later he interviewed Jung at the Eranos Conference. "The modern world is desacralized," Jung said in the interview, "that is why it is in a crisis. Modern man must rediscover a deeper source of his own spiritual life."
The aesthetics, the mnemonics, and the periodic glimpses of inspiration would be missed if religions continue their spiral toward inconsequence and irrelevance. But these glimpses are insufficient yield to warrant grasping on to dissolving forms.

Life, in this regard, is source.

Practice, that is, attentive consciousness, is repetition and remembrance of our individual life in immediate engagement with Life Itself.

Inspiration, that life-affirming boost in the midst of the diminishing sacred, is a reintegrating experience of the source in one's life.

I like the notion that no one has ever seen God.

I like the zen statement that, "It's better to see the face than hear the name."

But I like even better the mysterious possibility that there is no face to see and no name to hear.

The paradox rivets.

No face -- to see.

No name -- to hear.

Spirit. Source. Life.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Man of no status

Fog and rain shaded beautifully the chapel/zendo.In the meditation cabin Sunday evening we sat in silence for 40 minutes. Then walked for 10. We chanted the Heart Sutra. Finally, a bell chant was invited from the brass bowl, followed by bow, then tidying zabuton and zafu, afterwards walking to farmhouse.It is all we can do to invite the world to consider peace and simplicity. We try to do each thing mindfully, attending each movement as it is being done. At table this time we read from Zen Keys by Thich Nhat Hanh, got up to get quiche from kitchen, poured water into glasses, then ate in silence for 10 minutes.A bell was rung, and slowly, quietly, we began to speak of what we heard, what we see, what is going on. When time for final circle comes, each around the table has one last chance to say one final thing. Then we offer the closing gatha: "May all beings be happy; May all beings be safe; And may all beings come to dwell in their true home." We depart in silence. Dishes are washed. The evening returns to itself after two hours of it belonging to itself.
Dharma Talk on One MindImagine a child sleeping next to its parents and dreaming it is being beaten or is painfully sick. The parents cannot help the child no matter how much it suffers, for no one can enter the dreaming mind of another. If the child could awaken itself, it could be freed of this suffering automatically. In the same way, one who realizes that his own Mind is Buddha frees himself instantly from the sufferings arising from [ignorance of the law of] ceaseless change of birth-and-death. If a Buddha could prevent it, do you think he would allow even one sentient being to fall into hell? Without Self-Realization one cannot understand such things as these.(--Bassui Tokusho Zenji, from Tricycle's Daily Dharma: July 17, 2007)
Of course there is upset with the world, the war, and the worrisome weaknesses of human ambition. Ceaseless change cuts both ways -- peace is knifed by war, and war is worn out by peaceful longings. The turnings and nods of both the reputable and the disreputable are part of the cycle of change. We grow dizzy with such fluctuation.Still, one must speak. Silence in the face of cruel imprisonment is too costly a virtue. We are not of the stuff that being shielded from the world be considered some spiritual accomplishment. Ours is an incarnational prayer -- our bodies are not enemies. Mind, severed from the wholeness of enlightenment, daggers the heart and ruptures the body. This is why ideologues are so dangerous. They disdain humanity while glorifying a perfection devoid of human experience. They want a God that doesn't exist. So, they create themselves in the image of that non-existent God as substitute for humankind and divinity. Only their ideas, their power, their control, and their distorted purity are worth anything in the world they continually try to manipulate.
Fairy TaleThe little elf is dressed in a floppy capand he has a big rosy nose and flaring white eyebrowswith short legs and a jaunty step, though sometimeshe glides across an invisible pond with a bonfire glow on his cheeks:it is northern Europe in the nineteenth century and peopleare strolling around Copenhagen in the late afternoon,mostly townspeople on their way somewhere,perhaps to an early collation of smoked fish, rye bread, and cheese,washed down with a dark beer: ha ha, I have eaten this excellent mealand now I will smoke a little bit and sit back and stare downat the golden gleam of my watch fob against the coarse dark wool of my vest,and I will smile with a hideous contentment, because I am an evil man,and tonight I will do something evil in this city!(--Poem: "Fairy Tale," by Ron Padgett, from You Never Know, Coffee House Press.)
Small self says: I am the only thing important; you will serve me.True Self says: Welcome home, everyone belongs here; let us be of service to one another!
In his 1936 essays on Hölderlin, Heidegger writes that “Poetry is the establishment of Being by means of the Word.” He clearly is thinking of this poem [Patmos] and particularly of its last lines, in which Hölderlin writes that God most wants that: “the established Word be/Caringly attended, and that/Which endures be construed well./German song must accord with this.”(--from The Tower Between Being and Time, by Scott Horton, Harpers Magazine,
We practice sitting, walking, chanting, listening, eating, speaking, and praying so that, every once in a while, we might remember who we are with one another.It is easy to forget. It happens all the time. When we forget, we busy making ideas and ideologies that try to fashion a fairy tale which holds that those who are evil must be eliminated, and that only a precious few really know which people and ideas are valuable and worthwhile. Once these fabrications are designed, they are administered and promulgated by means of smirks and sneers communicating triumphal disdain for anyone not imprisoned in airtight pronouncements.As an alternative, we try to remember the reciprocals of "Word" and "Being."We practice remembrance."Bodies belong," Dan Berrigan said, "where words lead."When we practice we do so in memory of the one who said "This, this is my body;" and This, this is my blood."This.All of this.Each of this.Is.Our.Community

Monday, July 16, 2007

All of time is a turn and nod.

Whenever we greet another, that greeting contains the tacit acknowledgment there was a before and there will be an after. It doesn't matter how much we pretend with civility and manners this encounter will expand and extend, unchanging, through eternity. It doesn't. Everything is a falling off into unknown departures and unknowing arrivals. We are as poet Richard Hugo suggests, "seldom better than weather."
Peace and disorder in the world,
The distinction between
Friend and foe,
Follow upon one another
As illusion begets delusion.
A person of spiritual insight
Will immediately recognize
What is wrong and
Before long be rid
Of such an illusion;
In such a case one’s true
Friend may seem a foe and
One’s implacable foe
May appear a friend.
Enmity and friendship
Have no permanent character;
Both of them are illusions.

- Muso (1275-1351)
Surprise is the awkward gift time takes from behind its back, extending to you what is not yours to choose. We like it, or don't -- but there it is.

Standing at bank teller's window, watching behind him the picture feed of Mr Bush without sound turned on, I get a chance to read his face, the visual braille of a person's disclosure without being distracted by substance and meaning. More is revealed by a face than by words. Like the poet I watched from my seat 30 years ago in Philadelphia whose "face was a better poem."
We must not play with his toys. Acceptance of the phrase "war on terror" is an implicit acceptance of endless war. Terror has been a component of this world from the start--along with sin and death, chaos and night. Terrorists who attack us must be fought, and must be stopped. But terrorists, like other people, act on motives; and one way of fighting them is to remove those motives. A war on terror conceived, as Cheney's experiment has been conceived, as a global war of extermination that ends with the killing of the last terrorist, in fact creates more terrorists than it destroys. A global war on terror means a war to the end of time. It is, in essence, a totalitarian idea.

The global war on terror is a pure product of the mind of Cheney working on the mind of Bush. On the one hand, the craving for secrecy, order, and acts of executive will that brook no opposition; on the other hand, the need for simplicity, the love of vicarious battles and intoxicating emotions, and a cause as irrefutable as a local team to lead the cheering for.

"Never wholly separate in your mind," wrote Edmund Burke, "the merits of any political question from the men who are concerned in it." We have seen the men, and we know them by their actions.

They are gathering the forces now for Iran. The carriers on patrol in the Persian Gulf, the series of accusations that hold Iran responsible for the violence in Iraq, the propaganda corps at the American Enterprise Institute turning up the heat--all the preparations are in place in the summer of 2007, just as they were in the summer of 2003. An administration with a modicum of prudence would not risk setting the Muslim world aflame by carving up a second theater of devastation in the Middle East. Yet these are men of wild imaginings.

(--by David Bromwich, "Character of G.W. Bush," Posted July 13, 2007 | 02:11 PM (EST)
Mr. Bush's face is a boy's unimagined viciousness. Perhaps that's why it is hard to separate any more the visages of Mr Bush and Mr. Cheney. They, like William Golding's Samneric, suffer from short-sheeted loyalty, betray the hiding place of holdouts for democracy, and set fire to our small island of liberty. They've turned us over to a deception more surprising than invading and ravaging a country whose leader belonged to their club but who was himself surprised by their substanceless and meaningless stare.

The new surprise is interesting. It is wrapped in pretty blue paper with red edging and topped by white bow. It is a new country with new rules and new fears, one no longer bothered with old documents with naive musings beginning "When in the Course of human events," and "We the People," or "The Conventions of a number of the States." These texts were for a time of idealism and ragged populism. Today we need a formulation fed by fear and run by men who are more than men, namely, protectors unfazed by an absolute certainty and an inability to be wrong.

Who needs laws and representatives when we have God-fearing pastors willing to be what God hesitates to be. Pastors Bush and Cheney have delivered us from civility and delivered us to something that requires a stained and glassy sneer and scowl -- themselves as models for the world.

The Dutch novelist Mulisch captures what we awaken to after shock and surprise:
On the terrace Max took a couple of deep breaths. What a night! But now it had hit them, and on other nights other people were the victims, and tonight countless other people were being struck too -- there had never been a day or a night or even a moment when something like this was not happening to someone, for as long as humanity had existed. Doom roamed the earth constantly, like a swallow through a swarm of gnats, with sharp twists and turns,its beak wide open.
(--p.269, in the novel, The Discovery of Heaven, by Harry Mulisch)
Something is turning in this country.

Someone is nodding.

What, in their soundless vacuum, comes next?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

If we look with love at the world. If we open our mouths and speak looking love. "I create as I speak." That's what "Abracadabra" means.

What we are creating as we speak?

No one knows why America has invaded and occupied Iraq. There is speculation it is to build and control a large embassy and many military bases in Iraq so that the end of the world might be more quickly accomplished. Moving the UN to Baghdad and encouraging the Apocalyptic End-time is a subset of the US interest in liberating Iraq for Democracy. That, and word has it, the Brooklyn Bridge is for sale again.
In the realm of True Purity
there is no such thing as
“I” or “he” or “she;”
nor can “friend” and “foe”
be found.
The slightest confusion of mind
and innumerable differences
and complications arise.

- Muso (1275-1351)
The Second Coming is surely at hand. That, and Barry Bonds' breaking out of his slump to inch toward Hank Aaron's home run record. With the Yankees ten games behind Boston there is not much concern that Roger Clemons will get the 4 million dollars for the 4 games he's lost as mercenary pitcher for the New York team. Receiving one million dollars for one or two hours throwing a round ball that others hit with a wooden stick makes as much sense as paying 2.5 billion dollars a week to shoot and bomb and kill men and women who only want to do their laundry, make bread, and talk about the weather. Oh yes, there are bad people in Iraq too. They want to kill Americans who walk and drive their streets with deadly force seeking to root out and destroy evil and evil-doers.

Who needs Christ. We've got a new embassy and plenty of ammunition. Money is no object. Besides, if Jesus were to show up, he'd probably be seen as an Al Qaida suspect, be hog-tied, beaten, executed, his body tossed in a back alley on the south side of Baghdad. We can't have some "old Christianity" interfering with our "new world righteousness." Pastors Bush and Cheney ask their flock to turn in their hymnal to page 76, intoning that reliable spiritual "Disgracing with no Amazement." The faithful lift their eyes toward the Dow Jones Average and have elevating thoughts.

It is truly a marvelous world when young men get shot in the face attempting to hold to the rule of law while other men who make the law, and who vow to uphold the law, distort, ignore, break and sneer at the law.

Being crazed on a new moon morning doesn't mean that the world isn't crazed on its own.

Back in a familiar neighborhood, even the death of one man is sorrowful. Let's not forget that each death is an individual loss with wide reach. Last night at the shop a woman and her husband were in to say hello. Their son was killed early on in this sad Iraq story. We continue to breathe.

How long does a soul stay behind after departing what we call their body and their life?
“Russel,” said Father Ivanov, “is in dire need of our prayers whether he stays with us or passes on.”

At the hospital, George Kallaur, an archpriest in the Russian Orthodox Church, conducted a 10-minute service after Officer Timoshenko was pronounced dead. Twenty people crammed into the officer’s hospital room while others stood in the doorway and halls. As part of Russian Orthodox tradition, Mr. Kallaur said, friends and family members kissed the officer’s hands and feet.

Mr. Kallaur said that on Friday he had brought Officer Timoshenko a large silver crucifix from Russia and placed it around the officer’s neck, hoping it would help him recover. The crucifix, which has a compartment inside, contained the bones of a third-century martyr.

Earlier this week, Mr. Kallaur performed Officer Timoshenko’s absolution, called a “dumb and blind” confession because the officer was unable to communicate. The Russian Orthodox church believes that a dead person’s soul remains present for three days near the deceased’s family members.

“The soul,” said Mr. Kallaur, “while it is still alive, can absolutely still hear.”

(-- Officer Dies Five Days After Shooting in Brooklyn, By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
Published: July 15, 2007, New York Times, "Police officers hung bunting outside the 71st Precinct station in memory of Officer Russel Timoshenko, who died Saturday from his injuries.")
I grieve the young police officer. His loss, like a country's loss of sanity and grace during an immoral time of terror, is grave and terrible.

No wonder so many pray for the end of the world. No wonder so many no longer care to hear the news.

There is no wonder left.

There's no philosophy.

Without wonder there's no philosophy, said Aristotle.

No wonder nothing is wonderful.

What a loss. Is this day one? Or two? Or three?

Abracadabra! The phrase is Aramaic, avda kedabra, which means "Creating as speaking."

It is always the first breath. Inhale. Add the deepest longing -- that which is truest, within and without us. Ok, exhale.

Speak now.

Only this.

With love.

Create the world.