Saturday, December 15, 2007

A hermit lady from another town sat by wood stove this morning. She was crotchety. Fuel costs are up. Midcoast is not rural enough. She's giving Christmas gifts in people's names to animal shelters. Dogs and cats, she says, are being given up. Too expensive to live and share costs with fuel companies.
Sitting in Meditation

Sitting in meditation does not primarily
Mean that the mind should be grasped,
That the idea of purity should be clung to,
Nor that it should be motionless.
When you talk of grasping the mind,
Remember that the mind is fundamentally
Unreal and is known to be illusory.
Therefore, there is nothing that can be grasped
When you talk of clinging to the idea
Of purity, remember that the self-nature
Is essentially pure. It is only due to false
Thoughts that the absolute is concealed.
If there is no thinking, the self-nature will
Appear pure and clean.

- Bodhisattvasila Sutra
Advent story from purple book today. About Johanna Marie, or Johnny. Misfit. We decide that 'normality' is the fiction clung to by those afraid of their oddity. Holding tight, they swing their fiction of normality like a cudgel at those whose fear has not paralyzed and imprisoned them
John in his prison had heard what Christ was doing and he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?’
(--Matthew 11:2)
There is no one else to wait for.

Oddly, the Christ you are is it.

No fiction.

No stick.

We do go to the desert to see.



Don't lose heart.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Their enthusiasm came only at his funeral, this John of the Cross. Before that, when he was alive, he was annoying to men set in their ways. They wanted him off their case. That Teresa; there were complicities in their desire to love, pray, and serve with integrity.
If you want to freely live or die, go or stay, to take off or put on your clothes, then right now recognize the person who is listening to this discourse. That one is without form, without characteristics, without root, without source, and without any dwelling place, yet is brisk and lively. As for all the manifold responsive activities, the place where they are carried on is, in fact, no place. Therefore, when you look for him, he retreats farther and farther; when you seek him, he turns more and more the other way: this is called the “Mystery.”
- Lin chi (d.866)
In prison today a young man went on about wishing to respect and learn from the different denominations and faiths of others -- doing it in a study group. In the room the newly clean shaven self proclaimed practicing atheist tried to help him sort through and wrestle with the "monkey on my back."
We must then dig deeply in Christ. He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures: however deep we dig we will never find their end or their limit. Indeed, in every pocket new seams of fresh riches are discovered on all sides.
For this reason the apostle Paul said of Christ: In him are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. The soul cannot enter into these treasures, nor attain them, unless it first crosses into and enters the thicket of suffering, enduring interior and exterior labours, and unless it first receives from God very many blessings in the intellect and in the senses, and has undergone long spiritual training.
All these are lesser things, disposing the soul for the lofty sanctuary of the knowledge of the mysteries of Christ: this is the highest wisdom attainable in this life.
Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.

(--from A Spiritual Canticle of St. John of the Cross)
The assisting voice posed these words: "What is the true nature of reality" -- a phrasing that might or might not be followed by a question mark or an exclamation point.

There's something just a few steps too far away from the reach of our consciousness that leads us up to the precipice then abandons us.

This aloneness is our solitude.

And our salvation.

With one another.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wind last week knocked slat from upstairs porch facing head of harbor. Eight remain on that side. There is an opening allowing me to see green pinky schooner and red boathouse.

Temperature reading is 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Wood stove labors to throw heat into room. The sky says something's coming. The air stretches across bay to Islesboro, North Haven, and Vinalhaven with aluminum stillness interspersed by Mark and Saddle Islands.

What did the Buddhist woman say on the radio the other day?

"Life is so difficult, how can we be anything but kind?" (—Unknown author, quoted by Sylvia Boornstein.)

Kindness is where we wish to put up our feet. Sip hot cocoa. Watch fishing boat turn to float to tie up. Megunticook mountain shrouded with dusk cloud of white transparency, new falling snow.


Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills—
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.
(--Poem by Czeslaw Milosz)
I have always wondered if love means being alive throughout birth, death, and the stages of consciousness traversing each aspect of travel here and there.

Five bells.

Dark outside window.

I am, it can be said, in love.

The look of it. The clear wonder of appearance.

We are in love as God is.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What is a miracle?
Students of today get nowhere because they base their understanding upon the acknowledgment of names. They inscribe words of some dead old guy in a great big notebook, wrap it up in four or five squares of cloth, and won’t let anyone look at it. “This is the Mysterious Principle,” they aver, and safeguard it with care. That’s all wrong. Blind idiots! What kind of juice are you looking for in such dried up bones!
- Rinzai (d 866)
Pictures inside cloaks?
Very early one Saturday morning at the beginning of December of 1531, a poor but respected Indian called Juan Diego (born, it is said, in Cuauhtitlan and under the pastoral care of the religious community of Tlatelolco) was on his way to Tlaltelolco on a holy errand. When he reached the hill called Tepeyac dawn was breaking and he heard singing coming from above the hill. The singing stopped and was not heard again, but he heard a voice calling to him from the top of the hill. “Beloved Juan Diego”, it said. He responded at once, bravely climbing the hill towards the place where the voice was coming from.
When he reached the top he saw a Lady standing there, who called him to herself. When he came close to her he was stunned with how beautiful she was: her clothes shone like the sun. Then the Virgin gave him her command: “Know, beloved son, that I am the immaculate ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who is the Origin of all life, who creates all things and keeps them in being, the Lord of Heaven and Earth. I greatly wish, I earnestly desire, that my house should be built in this very place. I will show him to you there and praise him as I show him, my Love and Compassion, my Help and Defence. For in truth I am your compassionate Mother, yours and of all who live together in this land and of any others who love me, seek me, and call on me with confidence and devotion. In that house I will listen to their weeping and their sadness, I will give them help in their troubles and a cure for their misfortunes.

(--The traditional narrative called "Nican Mopohua", Office of Readings)
Transmission of story is the miracle.

With confidence and devotion

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The one reality, as it is, has myriad expressions following experience, as it were, making so many perceptions looking to claim foothold to truth.
Bamboo Garden

The third one crooked
The second one leaning
Bamboos have grown
By the stone steps of the garden
Every year
There are more of them
Until now they are a forest
At the clack of a stone on a bamboo
Hsiang-yen shattered the
Uncountable worlds
But this garden continues

- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)
Argue vigorously, if you will, for no death or no birth, I will argue the unknown its unknowing elegance. There are times, such as now, when it matters not whether there is an afterlife or there is nothing. Either way, snow falls in dooryard.
The time for thinkers has come. Truth, independent of doctrines and time-honored systems, knocks at the portal of humanity. Contentment with the past and the cold conventionality of materialism are crumbling away. Ignorance of God is no longer the stepping-stone to faith. The only guarantee of obedience is a right apprehension of Him whom to know aright is Life eternal. Though empires fall, "the Lord shall reign forever."
(from Preface, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, 1875)
Some hint that empires totter again. It doesn't matter.

The core center has no extension. It reveals itself everywhere at once and nowhere in particular. We are grounded in no other place.

Filling bird feeders, climbing new wood step ladder, stray seed falls to white snow below.

Think it through.

With words.

Creating. And holding.



Monday, December 10, 2007

After Heart Sutra and before final bell chant in cabin at Sunday Evening Practice, Saskia and I read, renew, and affirm the three promises we hold and practice as meetingbrook monastics.
Gem Mountain

It towers from the beginning
Without a flaw
The rain beats upon it
The wind cuts it
It only shines brighter
Even fog and cloud
Cannot hide the path
To the summit

- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)
At table we read Catherine de Hueck Doherty's words on the kenotic nature of poustinia, especially that of the heart. It seemed fitting for today, the 10th, the 39th anniversary of Thomas Merton's death.
To summarise the plot of Seven Storey Mountain in a sentence, it is the story of how a rather wild young man settled down to become a Trappist monk. This sounds a little like St Augustine’s Confessions but although they are of the same literary genre, the books couldn't’ be more different. Augustine savours too much of Grand Opera to be readily assimilable. Thanks to an expensive rhetorical education, he spends half his time in bel canto arias to the Almighty and the other half beating his breast – starting with his confession of how wicked he was even in the cradle, where he used to yell when he wanted his parents to do things for him. Meanwhile, Merton, a poet rather than an orator, writes of himself that “Free by nature, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born... loving God and yet hating him, living instead in fear and hopeless self-contradictory hungers” – altogether more likely in the modern world!
Principally what makes the Mountain worth reading is that as he looks into his past Merton loves himself and forgives himself, and loves and forgives everyone else too. This doesn’t mean that he thinks that what he did was good, just that he looks on it dispassionately and sees its proper place in his life. He has drunk of Dante’s Lethe and Eunoë, and so remembers his sins “only as an historical fact and as the occasion of grace and blessedness” (Dorothy L. Sayers, introduction to the translation of Dante’s Purgatorio).
Merton starts his narrative by seeing himself in relation to God, and that’s how it continues. Everything is seen in terms of its true context within his life and its true significance in the course of it and there are a few surprises, as when we see William Blake and James Joyce leading him towards baptism. If this sounds rather ponderous, it isn’t. It isn’t ponderous precisely because it is orthodox. The new man that he has become is like the New Law given by Christ: not a rejection of the old but a fulfilment; and so he loves his old self, like all the rest of God’s creation, but with clear eyes, distinguishing the good from the bad; seeing good in unexpected places and assessing its nature and usefulness.

An artist from Thomaston attending practice gifted us with a wide cross with painted images of six birds. It graces middle room wall as you enter kitchen from round dining table.

We pray to Merton. He understands. We pray for all asking us to pray for them.

Especially today, this week, this holy month.

"Holy indifference" wrote Catherine.

Wholly in difference -- always the same. That's what this cold day seems to say.

One seed at a time.

We birds.

To and fro.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Pellucid is a good word.
1. Admitting the passage of light; transparent or translucent. See Synonyms at clear.
2. Transparently clear in style or meaning: pellucid prose.

They're only words. Most times they're all we have.
In a pellucid ocean,
Bubbles arise and dissolve again.
Just so, thoughts are no
Different from ultimate reality,
So don’t find fault; remain at ease.
Whatever arises, whatever occurs,
Don’t grasp—release it on the spot.
Appearances, sounds, and objects
Are all one’s own mind;
There’s nothing except mind.

- Buddha
Nothing is another good word
1. Something that has no existence.
2. Something that has no quantitative value; zero: a score of two to nothing.
3. One that has no substance or importance; a nonentity: “A nothing is a dreadful thing to hold onto” (Edna O'Brien).
Don't find fault

These are good words.

With salt, some butter, and when need arises -- I'll eat my words.