Saturday, January 05, 2008

Why live as miser?

I ask this when misery seems what I cultivate.

As a mean, grasping person I remain enclosed in small notion of self.

Conditioning, without benefit of awareness, isolates and clings.
Patch-robed monks make
Their thinking dry and cool
And rest from the remnants of
Persistently brush up and sharpen
This bit of the field.
Spiritual and bright,
Vast and lustrous,
Illuminating fully what is
Before you, directly attain
The shining light and clarity
That cannot attach to a single defilement.
- Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1157)
When conditioned, be aware of conditioning. Then, perhaps, conditioning no longer rules from hiding.

Curtis Island keeps to itself in outer harbor. From outside edge, there is no harbor, but open bay. Swells lengthen. Depth plummets. There's a sense of basic trust called for, humbly relied upon. Seal and loon eye and vigil the stranger passing. Bell buoy tolls uncounted lifts, alteration, and sway of clappers clanging tide and wind in cathedral sea.

How many ashes of deceased have taken final entry here? Sacred sound invokes stirring solitude. This is why we row alone. This also why even on land the monastic church is home and sanctuary.
But when the kindness and love of God our saviour for mankind were revealed, it was not because he was concerned with any righteous actions we might have done ourselves: it was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit...
(--Titus 3:4-5)
In a poem recalled at Saturday afternoon's Poetry, Tea, and Literature, a line once written: "We are orphans and children of orphans."

Tonight, John 14:18 is recalled: "I will not leave you orphans."

It's not that we're not alone, not that we're not orphans, but it's the appearance or non-appearance of a comma.

We might be alone. We might be orphans.
(Here insert comma.)
"I will not leave you, alone." "I will not leave you, orphans."

Like nearing bell buoy in vast openness of water, we are surrounded by Presence-Itself too profound for our ability to grasp.

No meaning. No grasping.



Friday, January 04, 2008

Reading opening pages of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek at shop. Two women come in. They buy the book. We'll have to order more for next week.
A solitary winter lantern
Casts a feeble shadow
Wind blows through
My flimsy hut and
Covers me with snow
I remember sitting
Cross legged on Wutai;
A makeshift door amid
The thousand year old ice.
- Han-shan Te-ch’ing (1546-1623)
Prison this morning conversing about theater and drama -- the acting of everyday, staging dialogue that emanates from...where? What playwright? Who is fashioning the scenes?

The shop is a warm hearth. Former students, the irregulars, some drop-ins, and wondering conversation about the water bug and the deflating frog. When you no longer call nature violent, how speak about the withining of one species and another? After intellectualizing about 'survival' or 'food chain' how do we come merely to see the inner exchange of essence and essence without hardening into objectification?
Never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (--Colossians 3:17)
What is name but presence?

Irene steps in to say hello. Mark and friend from New York bring back Chinese food. FedEx loads ipod from shipping origin in China (for destination Camden) to the surprise of almost everyone.

In the prison Buddhist gathering, the notion of our own nature as sacred -- the practice everyday of someone asking you (menacingly or dismissively) "Who are you?" and the opportunity to meditate on the invitatory question.

On the board of the scrabble game in art room was the potential of 'pye.'

We are half-wild.

The ice holds.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

What's the difference between 'being here' and 'listening'?
6 Again the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
"My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down."

7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD : The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.

8 The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy.

9 So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.' " So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!"
Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

(1 Samuel 3)
We do not yet understand what 'here' means. Nor what it means to be here. These days I am taken by the curious loss of elasticity in my energy. There's a sense of solitude, a hermit-like resting in the near and nigh.

Listening belongs to eyes. Trees on snowy hill. Their very stillness.

Some teachers spend their lives looking at what is listening.
# How does one be a buddha?
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 from Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith)
What else is there? Only dusk quietly lowering itself to ground. Silver silence, empty branch and twig, nestling snow.

Even in the midst of this lucid silence, one zen master held: You have to say something.

Is 'knowing the Lord' -- life itself listening?

What-is, in itself, listens with what-is surrounding itself.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Two days, two storms, two feet of snow. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are filled with snow and snow.

Maine winter returns. Everything softened by snow. I climb ladder to roof with rake and hatchet, chopping ice dams, removing laden snow. Arms give up, hurting glad to be tired from useful pounding.
It’s about to snow;
Clouds fill the lake.
Tall buildings and terraces
Shimmer and disappear.
Now there are mountains;
Now there are not.
From the rocks flows water clear;
You can count the fish.
In the deep woods there aren’t any people;
Birds call back and forth.

- Su Shih (1036 – 1101)
It is easy to pretend to know the mind of God. Theologies are filled with data mined from that source.

It is harder to assent to the will of God. There's all that paradox and non-sequitor.

Blaise Pascal in his Pensees (#565) writes:
We understand nothing of the works of God, if we do not take as a principle that He has willed to blind some, and enlighten others.
All we can do is muddle along, doing this and that, expecting nothing and not disappointed by anything. Watching comings and goings from the vantage point of whoever we are wherever we are there.

Noting. Merely noting. This eighth day of Christmas.

Nietzsche wrote that : "'Faith' means not wanting to know what is true."

What does it mean to say: We are what is true!

It doesn't mean anything.

It is merely true.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Begin with mothering God. Mary did. So must we. Wisdom mothers. So we must.
Hagia Sophia
I. Dawn. The Hour of Lauds.

There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a
dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden whole-
ness. This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom,
the Mother of all, Natura naturans. There is in all
things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence
that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in word-
less gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen
roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly,
saluting me with indescribable humility. This is at
once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of
my Creator's Thought and Art within me, speaking
as Hagia Sophia, speaking as my sister, Wisdom.

I am awakened, I am born again at the voice of this
my Sister, sent to me from the depths of the divine

(--opening lines from poem, Hagia Sophia, by Thomas Merton, - Written in 1963)

"For him, to live was Christ. And to die, gain." (Thomas Merton, talk on John Cassian to novices, Prayer and the Active Life, at Gethsemane Abbey, early 1960s.)

The nothingness of the world, the emptiness of the world. Once seen, cannot but be looked at. And yet, it is nothing, zero. Merton is undaunted. It is why there are monasteries, why monastics keep looking, why this seeing-through is vocation and practice.
Clear, fresh Lu-yi sake
Warms on my little stove.
This evening sky may bring snow.
Come enjoy a cup with me.

- Po Chu-I (772-846)
We watch Ernesto Cardenal read his poem Psalm 5 on YouTube.
Psalm 5

Give ear to my words, O Lord
Hearken unto my moaning
Pay heed to my protest
For you are not a God friendly to dictators
neither are you a partisan of their politics
Nor are you influenced by their propaganda
Neither are you in league with the gangster

There is no sincerity in their speeches
nor in their press releases

They speak of peace in their speeches
while they increase their war production
They speak of peace at Peace Conferences
and secretly prepare for war
Their lying radios roar into the night
Their desks are strewn with criminal intentions and
sinister reports
But you will deliver me from their plans
They speak through the mouth of the submachine gun
Their flashing tongues are bayonets …

Punish them, O Lord,
thwart them in their policies
confuse their memorandums
obstruct their programs
at the hour of Alarm
you shall be with me
you shall be my refuge on the day of Bomb
To him who believes not in the lies of their commercial messages
nor in their publicity campaigns nor in their political campaigns
You will give your blessing
With love do you encompass him
As with armor-plated tanks.

(--Poem originally written in 1967 by Ernesto Cardenal, Nicaraguan poet, translated by Robert Marquez. It is a re-write of the Hebrew Scripture psalm.)
The 81-year old Roman Catholic priest, sculptor and revolutionary, once remonstrated by the visiting Pope for his work for justice in Nicaragua, carries on his work and art in a way Merton would smile at.

We need both smiles and silence as we enter this new year. When things look bleak both help.

And so we begin again. Last night into new day and new year we chanted the Heart Sutra followed by Salve Regina at midnight after silent sitting.

Wisdom and compassion are loving mothers of God.

We have come here to be alone.

We've come to look through.

We approach the altar.

Attending wisdom.

Monday, December 31, 2007

It's just a numerical progression. Going from 2007 to 2008. Passing from 11:59:59 to 12:00:00. A mere bagatelle.
Another year about to end
In my empty mountain abode;
Rivers and clouds,
Their trails indistinct;
Pines and cedars,
Their nature’s the same.
I arise from my nap
To find the taro roots done;
As the incense fades out,
I finish a scripture.
Who knows that real pleasure
Lies within stillness and silence?

- Wen-siang (1210-1280).
Of course old (auld) acquaintances shouldn't be forgotten. And, yes, it very well could be a happy new year. These things are beneficial musings.

We're with e.e.cummings in his six nonlectures. He said something like: Better worlds, I suggest, are born, not made - and begin with the birthdays of individuals. Let us pray, therefore, not for better worlds, but for individuals.

That's our prayer tonight.

In stillness and silence.

For each one.

Of us.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cook (Francis Dojun), writing about Dogen, says that "drinking tea and eating rice" means not killing the ordinary, not saying things are not good enough.
A soaring endlessly curving path,
Every few miles we have to rest.
I look around for my friends.
They’ve vanished in the wooded hills.
Rain floods the pine trees
And flows hushed among the rocks.
There are silent words deep in hill water,
A long whistle over the summits.
When I look at South Mountain
The sun floats white through the mist.
A blue marsh is luminous and clear.
Green trees are heavy shadows, drifting.
When I am tired of being closed in,
Suddenly a clearing and I’m at peace.

- Wang Wei (699-759
Let's not kill. Let's see things as they are and practice allowance.

Robert Creeley's: "Things come and things go -- then, let them," is a koan worth carrying with us.

Eight of us (nine, counting Mu-ge) did silent sitting in front room this evening.

We walked, chanted, bowed, rang bell, and left for middle room -- with reading, silent eating, then round-table shared observations.

Allowing one to be one, two two, and three to be three is a gracious act.

Life is a gracious act.

So are you.