Saturday, January 12, 2008

Out of nothing else, this.

That's my translation.
Genesis 1
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 Now the earth was [a] formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
4 God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.

(--New International Version)
From darkness, light. From nothingness, something. From wholeness, separation? (Can that last one be right!)
There is no help in changing
Your environment.
The obstacle is the mind,
Which must be overcome,
Whether at home or in the forest.
If you can do it in the forest,
Why not in the home?
Therefore, why change the environment?

- Ramana Maharshi

It's all about translation. It's about mind. And the mind we mostly use is a dualistic mind. But what if we employed a non-dualistic mind?

What if there was nothing else? No "other" place, or other thing, no other separate making of two against which to contrast what it is wished to be emphasised, to be the focus of a beneficent act?

This place, this person, this action, this planet, this existence -- is not other than itself. Itself is the core and extension of itself in alternating expression of itself expanding into what it is becoming.

Today, this intuition: Out of nothing else, this.

I'm glad to be here.

Doing this.

Nothing else.

Friday, January 11, 2008

It is late.

Rain ran through the day. Some lightning. Raw. At Rankin's Hardware we pick up stove pipe. Wrong size. Will try again tomorrow. Kept shop closed. Prison first thing: Protective Custody Unit; Buddhist Group; Regular Meetingbrook Education Group. In the hallway one of the men shares Yale Review poem with me. In room talk of Obama and primaries. In BG young man wants to know if once a drug dealer, then getting enlightenment, do you become an enlightened drug dealer? In PC, reading NYTimes Magazine's Lives They Lived, two soldiers who'd published account of Iraq seldom heard, died in IED blast. In RMEG, story of shy Harlem blogger who was fierce in print.
Where subject and object are realized
As a single sphere

Happiness and sorrow mingle as one
Whatever circumstances I encounter,
I am free in the blissful realm
Of self-awakening Wisdom.

- Milarepa
At the shop Sunday, Hugh sat awhile as I started the fire in wood stove. I reminded him of his painting ustairs in the Harbor Room. "I know, I know," he growled, "I want it to stay here for now." We're delighted to have it. From Greece, a rudder from classic sailing vessel, he says it befits our place. "The most important part of a ship isn't its engine nor its guns," he says. "It's the rudder. That's why I left it here." After a bit he gets up to go. "I'm glad I stopped in," he says. "Me too," I say. As he leaves I think about how many people I've known in their eighties. I like them.

If we forget that in every criminal there is a potential saint, we are dishonoring all of the great spiritual traditions. Saul of Tarsus persecuted and killed Christians before becoming Saint Paul, author of much of the New Testament. Valmiki, the revealer of the Ramayana, was a highwayman, a robber, and a murderer. Milarepa, one of the greatest Tibetan Buddhist gurus, killed thirty- seven people before he became a saint. Moses, who led the Jews out of bondage in Egypt, began his spiritual career by killing an Egyptian. If we forget that Charles Manson is capable of transformation, that doesn't reveal our lack of confidence in Manson, it shows our lack of confidence in our own scriptures. We must remember that even the worst of us can change.

Over the past twenty years I've had the privilege of knowing thousands of people who did horrible things and yet were able to transform their lives. They may not have become saints, but I have seen murderous rage gradually humbled into compassion, lifelong racial bigotry replaced by true brotherhood, and chronic selfishness transformed into committed altruism. The promises of every great spiritual tradition are indeed true: Our deepest nature is good, not evil.
(--from, Seven Ways to Fix the Criminal Justice System, by Bo Lozoff, from Renaissance Universal,

So much is the luck of the draw. So, let's not put much stock in how good we are, or how noble, or how we've managed to live an upstanding life. I'm amused by the theater of righteousness played out on the street. It's not that simple. There's something else at work. It might be called luck, or grace -- but spare us the innuendo of holier than thou. Bad news can happen to any one of us on any Tuesday following any Monday. That's when life jump-starts. When chair has been kicked out from under and we swing with the will of something we did not envision -- then?

We'll talk then.

In the meantime, how do you like them Patriots? Who'll take Michigan primary? Do ya think Roger Clemens didn't really get juiced? Will there be a recession?

When the time appears we really have to talk, let's pray we'll have the courage to show up.

It'll be a nice change.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Thought is seeing what is, as it is, now.
The clouds of sunset
Gather in the western sky,
And over the silent silvery Han
Rises a white jade moon.
Not often does life
Bring such beauty.
Where shall I see the moon
Next year?

- Su T’ung-Po (1037-1101)

Bald Mountain appears. I look out from dooryard and there it is. Never before. And, the thought occurs, never again.

Sometimes there's confusion about thought. Real thought is akin to pure seeing. And then there are those thoughts which mechanically stagger through and grab at our brains like sticky fingers sorting down feathers into small plastic refrigerator bags.

Pure seeing, or mere seeing, is thought without content. When what is seen is hardened at the edges by erroneous opinion of repetition, that hardened thought becomes a concept or a fixed opinion. Concepts, when hardened further, become beliefs. And beliefs are the separating protection we cultivate against seeing things new and now.

Origin-al thought, (which is prior to ossification and beyond repetition), is seeing what is, as it is, now.

Maria sang the praise of mind and thought. Loren composed a strophe of counter-balance. And the bookshop became a concert hall of something seen.

Saskia makes burgers and salad. She says she can't think of what she'd said from behind the bakery case where she stood with Delia. I'd asked her in the kitchen what she'd said earlier.

Nineteen folks attended Thursday Evening Conversation.

"Something about distractions," she says.

Then, just like that, she says: "I'm dishing out."

A lovely thought!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"History," Chris said at the shop after playing a classical piece on the piano, "history is the hope," Think Soviet Union, Rome, Hitler's horror. Now our folly. History remedies. Insanity collapses and goes away. Blood, sorrow, and drought of justice. Still -- the self-assured offenders go away. However cemented in their resolve, whatever the looting, they go away.
Listening to Snow

Cold night, no wind, bamboo making noises,
Noises far apart, now bunched together,
Filtering the pine-flanked lattice.
Listening with ears is less fine
Than listening with the mind.
Beside the lamp I lay
Aside the half scroll of sutra

- Daito
We listen to snow and to 6.77 billion human paths to the One We Call God. (Not to mention however many sentient beings and instances of consciousness there are on this planet alone -- can anyone count that high?)

Practice, for me, is listening. There's no one way. Way is as we are -- many.

Every way is one to follow.

It's not what we think.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

January turns warm. Snow and ice from last week drip in sunlight. Impermanence takes a bow, turns corner, and disappears.

New moon with new moon energy falls into its own emptiness and we are mute as monks whose prayer has gone missing.

The Way is vast and without favor.
The all-empty Tao is profound.
With an empty heart,
Its nature is easily learned,
Though its power encompasses the cosmos.
With its wisdom one may discern
Life’s great mysteries,
So that the heart may become pure
As the throne of the immortals.

- Loy Ching-Yuen (1873-1960)
Richard's daughter writes to say there are two four year old Siamese cats looking for a home. I say I'll keep a look out. Anyone? Richard's death leaves them wanting.

Candidates for presidency run hard at each other. We choose leaders with the roughshod panache of stock car demolition derby.

Watching film about GDR and Stasi gloom of mistrust. Awkward to imagine something similar here. The cost of security is very very dear. Alan Watts wrote a book entitled The Wisdom of Insecurity.

Sometimes the deepest prayer is the empty silence that surrounds nothing to say.

Nothing other than what is itself.

Our koan: Embodying the dwelling-place of the Alone; Stepping aside to make room for Another.

Is gratitude ever exhausted?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Lobster boat enters harbor. Two seagulls fly low tide cavern southeast. Dripping water from rooftop falls through four bells from Baptist steeple. Red flash from northeast channel marker. Mini-tug Barbi D is postage stamp below covered yachts on the hard above her. Day descends to dusk.
The wind is the breath of heaven and earth.
Into every corner it unfolds and reaches;
Without choosing between high or low,
Exalted or humble, it touches everywhere.
- Song Yu (290-223 BCE)

Winter is its own harbor. Forty three degree overcast melts white into grey and shadow. The kings have come and gone. Whatever it was they saw at end of their search they keep to themselves. As they must. As, too, we.
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, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book
The Gospels say the Magi arrive with gifts and leave with mystery. What had they found? We can only imagine. Authors have, composers and painters too. Today, we are left to our own narrative. Scripture doesn't belong to the past. Each narrative is contemporaneous revelation. What is under our feet? What unveiling now?

In conversation the other day I noted a situation that felt unusual. I find my faith is without content. There is no satisfaction of moral statements, dogmatic tenets, or theological beliefs. Yet, there is faith -- if you will -- profound faith. It is a faith that resides on its own.

I suspect everything resides on its own. This is not to infer an absence of community or sangha. I reside on my own. You do. And, (if you will), God resides on God's own. Everything resides on one's own in the same way everything belongs to itself. "Itself" is that which is without separation.

Prayer is the inquiry toward finding one's place within the longing and belonging of each being in existence as itself.

One's own.

Sleeping loon. Dusking day. Deceasing individuals. Melting snow.

To be on one's own -- for today -- is to reside in the reality of no-other.


More closely.

One's own dwelling.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

For a year at Friday Evening Conversation we've been reading, enjoying, and conversing afterwards inspired by the writings of John O'Donohue. First Anam Cara, then Eternal Echoes -- which we finished the last Friday of 2007. John O'Donohue died at 53 in his sleep three days ago in France.

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the music of laughter break through your soul.

As the wind wants to make everything dance,
May your gravity be lightened by grace.

Like the freedom of the monastery bell,
May clarity of mind make your eyes smile.

As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May a sense of irony give you perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames,
May fear or worry never put you in chains.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough
To hear in the distance the laughter of God.

(--By John O’Donohue, from Benedictus or, To Bless the Space Between Us – A Book of Blessings’)
Schooners at head of harbor hibernate. It's like that with death. Passengers are gone. Decks are wrapped and sealed. It is season of rising and lowering tide. A sort of inward and outward breath belonging to the breathing cosmos. Then a gap. Hiatus. A pause with no promise of anything else.

Meister Eckhart called it "Leben ohne warum," or, Life without the question why. No "What now?" No "He's happier elsewhere."

It has been surprising of late to consider that this is it. No need for anything else -- an afterlife, or whatever language is put on an "over there" or "eternal reward." No more. For now, just this life as sufficient. Nothing else. Just the joy of being here, and for so long a time. Just the joy.

At church today, hearing the "now and forever" at end of the Our Father, the realization that these are not contrasting words. "Now" and "forever" are the same reality.

I'm happy with nothing else.

Cat flicks tail on cushion as Saskia crunches numbers. Sunday Evening Practice is done, dishes washed, and cars gone from dooryard.

We're grateful for the gifted words John gave us.

May he rest well. In peace. Where all is wonderfully caring in itself.

A gentle gratitude of laughter.