Saturday, December 29, 2007

I'd let religion go. I'd choose humanity. And nature. There's no explaining the ignorance with which we treat others. The political maneuvers. The lust for possession. The intrigue.
For all these years, my certain Zen:
Neither I nor the world exist.
The sutras neat within the box,
My staff hooked upon the wall,
I lie at peace in moonlight
Or, hearing water plashing on the rock,
Sit up. None can purchase pleasure such as this:
Spangled across the step-moss, a million coins!

- Ryushu Shutaku (1308–1388)
The intuition was good. Surely there is a God, it said, who knows, loves, and serves. So should we.

But the institutions of religion -- they tend to get a little too full of themselves. Much like the institutions of government. Even clubs which have to do the hard work of deciding who's in and who's to be kept out. There's an ossification that forms at the edges of institutions and structures. It happens to individuals too.
Plot Summary, Part One

The action of Murder in the Cathedral occurs in and around Canterbury Cathedral; Part One takes place on December 2,1170, the day that Archbishop Thomas Becket returned to England and twenty-seven days before his murder by four knights of King Henry II.

When the play begins, a Chorus comprised of the Women of Canterbury huddle outside the cathedral, certain that something is about to happen but unable to articulate any details: "Some presage of an act Which our eyes are compelled to witness, has forced our feet Towards the cathedral." They then describe their lives to the audience and these descriptions mark them as common people who fear any threat of change:"We try to keep our households in order," they explain, but "Some malady is coming upon us." Ultimately, they decide that"For us, the poor, there is no action,But only to wait and witness."

(--from Murder in the Cathedral Study Guide, by T. S. Eliot,
In the end, Thomas Becket is murdered.

The individual is easy to betray. So are countries. Betrayal is easy. It requires a hard exterior.

A professional football team in New England wins 16 games without a loss this season. This news pleases many. Crowds cheer and celebrate.

It doesn't matter, really, who dominates and who is defeated in sports.

It doesn't matter which denomination or religion claims upper hand and victory in possessing truth at the one yard line.

I'd rather hear a poem to its end or listen to a good short story come to thought provoking period.

Humanity, yes, humanity over religion.

You take belief. I'll stay with the stumbling path of longing and inquiry. Answers seldom satisfy.

But questions -- they interest.

Eh? N'est-pas? Do you think?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Whenever Holy Innocents (or the wholly innocent) are harmed we are reminded how cruel power can be when wielded in sole or self interest.

A woman said: "We are in God; God is in everything; everything is in God."

Without religion -- the woman's words are true.

With religion -- accompanied by the current ethos of intolerance, extreme views of proprietary truth, torture, bullets, and war -- we are faced with the opposite of the woman's words.

In prison conversation today someone asked: If you had to say goodbye to humanity or to religion, which would you?

A genuine innocence does not know separation. Not knowing, innocence (without overlay of romantic idealism), is virginal.

Perennial original simple encounter.

Innocence is willing to see the itself.

As itself.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto's death by assassination in Pakistan saddens and infuriates.

In the shop today two other deaths are told. Two deaths by hanging. Young men.

Suicide and assassination are terrible facts.
They dropped like flakes, they dropped like stars,
Like petals from a rose,
When suddenly across the lune
A wind with fingers goes.

They perished in the seamless grass,--
No eye could find the place;
But God on his repealless list
Can summon every face.

(Poem by Emily Dickinson)
We cannot nor will we attempt to explain or intellectualize the pain and disappointment on the faces of those that knew the two different men and their separate deaths six days apart..

What will come of Pakistan and this country's marriage of convenience will have to wait to be seen.

We remain unfinished.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The open vulnerability of two oars in groaning oarlocks celebrating early solitude on Christmas morning.

From the distant shore as I rowed the Cape Dory 10 pulling boat into the outer route toward Curtis Island at sunrise yesterday, the sounding voice of someone invisible called, "Merry Christmas!" I placed right oar under left hand and raised arm twice arcing orange and yellow reflecting glove toward direction of unseen land-voice, then continued long strokes in rowboat. My smile at this greeting was deep joy. Swells tightened as the open bay caught growing breeze swirling from southwest.

Alone. But for that calling human voice, loons calling, ducks quacking, pipers chanting, other black and whites whistling, and crashing waves on rocky island coast -- it is an aloneness replete with enchanting company. A few minutes earlier, rowing empty channel past bookshop neighbors, the couple from San Diego in 3rd condo along harbor waved from bay window, her arm appearing from red bathrobe, from his a lifted coffee cup. Greeting the waterborne is a sacred act!
Midwinter, the eleventh month.
Wet snow falls unceasingly,
All the mountains have
Become the same color;
On the myriad paths
Human tracks are few.
My past journeys now
All seem like dreams,
The door to my grass hut
Is deeply covered.
All night long I burn small
Chunks of wood and
Silently read poems
By masters of the past.

- Ryokan (1758-1851)
Everything is subsequent to quietness and vulnerability of contemplation.

Certainly the solitude of a small rowboat in Camden harbor fitted well between dawn zazen in winter zendo at Ragged Mountain hermitage and mid-morning mass up to Belfast.

The day belongs to itself!

At dusk, walking up to grave sites alongside brook, lighting candle put inside hanging lantern on Cesco's grave, bowing to all beloved neighboring snow covered silences -- Sando, Koto, Tai, Mini. Back in meditation cabin, lighting candles for all the day's presences -- living and dead -- sitting a spell with their names and memories, bowing, tolling bell on porch before returning under view of mountain to house.

Bookending zazen in front room -- the quiet presence of everything!
Why are the nations in a ferment? Why do the people make their vain plans?
(--Psalm 2)
Peace is not the absence of war. Wars are the steady diet of insufficiency. Rather, peace is a more modest view.

To "view" is "to look at attentively." I view peace as the act of attentiveness. A saying we placed on the wall of the bookshop reads, "Our monastery is the attention we give to all of itself."

As monastics of no-other we long to practice viewing peace as the presence of itself in each and all of us, each moment, every thing, and the whole scope of appreciation of what is, for what is real and true in our midst.

Christmas now enters its own season. There's more to it than we've settled to believe. In the church calendar there are murdered men, murdered innocent children, writers, men and women who loved and lived, and the searching inquiry of foreigns looking to see for themselves the prospect, perspective, and palpable embodiment of peace. Yet, still, then and now:
The murderers are at work.

They are stoning Stephen,
They are casting him forth from every city in the world.
Under the Welcome sign,
Under the Rotary emblem,
On the highway in the suburbs,
His body lies under the hurling stones.
He was full of faith and power.
He did great wonders among the people.
They could not stand against his wisdom.
They could not bear that spirit with which he spoke.
He cried out in the name
Of the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness.
They were cut to the heart.
They gnashed against him with their teeth.
They cried out with a loud voice.
They stopped their ears.
They ran on him with one accord.
They cast him out of the city and stoned him,
The witnesses laid down their clothes
At the feet of the man whose name was your name-

(--from poem THOU SHALT NOT KILL, (A Memorial For Dylan Thomas), by Kenneth Rexroth)
And me.

We are now ready for peace. This is both an intention and a daily practice. No more throwing at each other. Put down the stones. Build a cairn. It is a trail we set foot on. Build a day marker at the edge of sea. Be that which we look to and through as we learn the viewing of peace. There is much sadness and suffering in the season. Do not be afraid to see it through.

View yourself as the other person -- thus and then, there is no other.

Peace is viewing the whole in and through each and every being before you.

It is Stephen's Day.

It is your day

Take the trail.

Peace is an open vulnerability.

Row well through it!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Better to see the face than hear the name.
(--Zen saying)
Single flame in front window aside Madonna and Child icon.

Silent sitting in empty space. Nothing but morning and candle and what is right here.
Salt and Water
The degree of love we manifest determines the degree of spaciousness and freedom we can bring to life's events. Imagine taking a very small glass or water and putting into it a teaspoon of salt. Because of the small size of the container, the teaspoon of salt is going to have a big effect on the water. However, if you approach a much larger body of water, such as a lake, and put into it the same teaspoonful of salt, it will not have the same intensity of impact, because of the vastness and openness of the vessel receiving it. Even when the salt remains the same, the spaciousness of the vessel receiving it changes everything. We spend a lot of our lives looking for a feeling of safety or protection -- we try to alter the amount of salt that comes our way. Ironically, the salt is the very thing that we cannot do anything about, as life changes and offers us repeated ups and downs. Our true work is to create a container so immense that any amount of salt, even a truckload, can come into it without affecting our capacity to receive it.
- Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness, from Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith)
This Christmas morning -- stillness.

I am with everyone -- alone.

As I am -- with everyone, here or gone, now or gone beyond -- in this onlyness.
At Zen centers they say there is a Way to be practiced
And a religious truth to be realized.
Tell me, what religious truth is realized,
What way is practiced?
In your present functioning, what do you lack?
What would you fix?
Younger newcomers, not understanding this,
Immediately believe these mesmerists and
Let them talk about things that tie people up.

- Linji (d. 867)
When the Christ-Reality is seen in this world, all will be untied and free to come and go, free to be what always they have been and are now.

What is that? What is this?

Christ-Reality, seen, is Son or Daughter, each and every being, and thing, of What-Is-Nearest.
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 1:18)
This is my Christmas prayer and practice: seeing each face, sensing each presence, gratefully attending what is nearest.

This is the beginning. And in the beginning is the Word: reality, life, energy of wholeness.

Receiving this.


Facing what is.



(Merry Christmas, friends!)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Full moon. On ground. White snow.

The gift is each being itself.
'...this by the tender mercy of our God
who from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us,
to give light to those who live
in darkness and the shadow of death
and to guide our feet
into the way of peace.’
(--from Luke 1:67 - 79)
It is still possible to end war. By dawn, war will be over.
If you want to be free,
Get to know your real self.
It has no form, no appearance,
no root, no basis, no abode,
but is lively and buoyant.
It responds with versatile facility,
But its function cannot be located.
Therefore when you look for it
You become further from it,
When you seek it
You turn away from it all the more.
- Linji (d. 867)
Go to bed. Sleep. Let night do what it must do tonight.

By morning, the leap will have been taken.

We will awaken.

With first light.

To begin again.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The phrase spoken at end by celebrant was "Be God with us." Whichever word gets the emphasis changes and decides the meaning.
Where people of today dwell,
I do not dwell.
What people of today do,
I do not do.
If you clearly understand what this really means,
You must be able to enter a pit of fire with
Your whole body.

- Huanglong
The end of Advent comes. Monday appears. A hiatus arrives. It is the transition of 'this' into the body and blood, soul and divinity of a being heretofore unrecognized and unimagined.

Which being? (How will it arrive this time with us? Sentient? Human? Animal? Material? Mineral? Elemental? Ontological? Cosmological?) There's the koan. There's the mystery of Christmas wrapped in no ribbon with no name card affixed.
There will be no more night: they will not need sunlight or lamp-light, because the Lord God himself will shine upon them. (--Apocalypse 22:5)
It's the part of the Christian tradition that befuddles Christians. Instead of bowing down in complete reverence to the revealing truth that God is with us in ways too obvious and ordinary for us to attend -- that we are to be with God with us -- there is instead a race to define, exclude, demand formula, look past one another, attempt to defeat individuals and peoples who are (themselves) the mystery embodied. Finally, there is the absurd effort on the part of some to create a heaven and a theology that ignorantly bars the very God they so tout and crave.
Call It Quits

If you're not a movie mogul, rock star, or President
if you're not a CEO sitting on a billion in the bank,
no one will answer your e-mails, phone calls or letters.
You'll be helpless, hopeless, too old, too young,
in too much pain, the wrong color, some unacceptable
sex, a non-believer in some religion people kill for.
You could be struggling to see through everyone's
skin to their slick, writhing guts, including your own.
Or, you could call it quits, and slip into the unknown,
inexhaustible, frothing teeth of the sea that turns us
all to brine, sweet salt of the universe.

(--Poem by Freya Manfred, from Swimming With A Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle. Red Dragonfly Press, 2008.)
A hiatus arrives. Look closely. Yes, the 24th brings hiatus.
hi·a·tus Pronunciation[hahy-ey-tuhs]
–noun, plural -tus·es, -tus.
1. a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.
2. a missing part; gap or lacuna: Scholars attempted to account for the hiatus in the medieval manuscript.
3. any gap or opening.
4. Grammar, Prosody. the coming together, with or without break or slight pause, and without contraction, of two vowels in successive words or syllables, as in see easily.
5. Anatomy. a natural fissure, cleft, or foramen in a bone or other structure.

It's often like that, an arrival, unexpected and discontinuous, the missing part itself showing up, all surprising and an inadvertent complete necessity.

Perhaps we think, "Ah, a foramen!" ('Foramen' means 'great hole' --or is it 'whole' -- 'a natural opening.' It would change the meaning of exclamation following any prayer.)

Whether great hole or great whole -- there it is.

All of itself.

Being God with us