Saturday, January 19, 2008

When the music festival at Fez, Morocco, appears on film tomorrow, the following question might be raised: Perhaps music, song, art, dance and spirit are greater unifiers of world traditions and peoples than scriptures, thought, dogma and doctrine. Are we on the brink of recognizing one another through metaphor, sound, movement, and color -- a universal understanding without translation?
The state we call Realization is simply
Being one’s self,
Not knowing anything or
Becoming anything.
If one has realized,
One is that which alone is and
Which alone has always been.
One cannot describe that state,
But only be That.
Of course, we loosely talk
Of Self-realization for want of a better term.

- Ramana Maharshi
By being that, we become this -- without reason or explanation -- intimate relation.
Concluding Prayer
In your love, Lord, answer the prayers of your people:
make us see what we have to do
and give us the strength to do it.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
(--from Office of Readings)
To see. That's worth praying.

Never mind the knowing and reciting, the behooving and amen amen I say to you. No suras or sutras, no litanies no oaths no salaaming or shaloming no reverends or imams masters or priests, no rabbis no elders no missionaries no acolyte's.

You Must Be Present to Win
There is a sign outside a casino in Las Vegas that says, "You must be present to win." The same is true in meditation. If we want to see the nature of our lives, we must actually be present, aware, awake. Developing samadhi [concentration] is much like polishing a lens. If we are looking to see the cells and workings of the body with a lens that has not been ground sufficiently, we will not see clearly. In order to penetrate the nature of the mind and body, we must collect and concentrate our resources and observe with a steady, silent mind. This is exactly what the Buddha did: he sat, concentrated his mind, and looked within. To become a yogi, an explorer of the heart and mind, we must develop this capacity as well.

(--Jack Kornfield, Seeking the Heart of Wisdom, from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book)
"So then," asked the man in prison Friday," what keeps us from feeling and acting with empathy for everyone in the world?"

He asks the question worth asking.

No simple answers need apply.

In fact, no answers at all will be received.

This question demands twirling in an empty square; listening along a winter river; splashing color on a blank canvas; looking long and hard at nothing in particular; nodding attentively to the one before you.

This one asks for a far deeper presence than any answer can give.

No one translation.




Friday, January 18, 2008

Eat spinach every day. And a banana.
Soundless Sound

I like bamboo as the symbol
Of constancy and simplicity.
I built my house deep within the grove.
Do not strike my bamboo with a piece of brick.
Perhaps the sound might be
Heard by other Zen monks
And cause trouble.

- Jakushitsu (1290–1368)
Chew quietly.

No need to confuse anybody with the suspicion you're interested in health.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sometimes what appears to be conversation is monologue.

Someone we know is diagnosed with depressive cancer. He lives alone. His monologue is a conversation. His busy mind conducts every square millimeter of space into a place of inquiry and complaint. We send a message he is in our prayer. And he is.
Good friends, if you would cultivate imperturbability, just whenever you see people, do not see their right or wrong, good or bad, faults or troubles; then your own nature is immovable. Good friends, even though the bodies of deluded people be immobile, yet when they open their mouths to speak of the right and wrong, strengths and weaknesses, good and bad of other people, they turn away from the path. If you cling to mind or cling to purity, this veils the truth.
What is called sitting meditation? In this way there is no obstruction, no impediment. When outwardly, in the midst of all pleasant or unpleasant realms, thoughts do not arise in the mind, this is called “sitting.” Inwardly to see that one’s own nature does not move is called “meditation.”

- Hui-neng (638-713)
In "No Exit" Sartre wrote "Hell is other people." Does that suggest that heaven is no-other? Not in the sense of vacuity, but that if you see "no-other" you are seeing heaven as singular expression of lovely what-is.

St Antony, Abbot (251 - 356) is considered the founder of monasticism.
He lived to be over a hundred years old, and died in 356.
The Gospels are full of wise sayings of Jesus that seem to be ignored, and one of the most poignant of these was in his meeting with that young man who asked over and over again, insistently, “What must I do to have eternal life?”. When, in the end, Jesus told him that if he wanted to be perfect he would have to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor, the young man went away, sorrowing; because he was very rich. What could be more of a waste than that? You tell someone what he has to do, and he is afraid to do it. And yet... 250 years later, St Antony hears the story, and does give away all that he has, and becomes the founder of monasticism. And then again, over 1,000 years later, St Francis of Assisi hears the story, and gives away his possessions (and some of his father’s) and revolutionises Christianity again.
Not all the words that we speak are forgotten, even though we cannot see their effects ourselves. Let us pray that those unknown effects may always be good ones.

In the desert there were many monks. There were, no doubt, many mad monks. We're all a bit mad. If someone cries out to God, are they mad? When purpose and meaning seem less and less, are we mad? When no-other appears in the emptiness of just this and this, is that madness?

So many madmen and madwomen! We cry for God; God hears the cry; God is the one crying. The balm and calming resurrecting realization that comes over us time to time is the fact God is no-other. I'd ask what that means, no-other, but it's not meaning nor is it purpose surrounds the realization of true mature no-other.

It's just that everything is itself and, as well, that which is beyond itself. Particular facts, jottings of instances that pretend they're not the whole ball of rubber bands -- when they are.
What's In My Journal

Odd things, like a button drawer. Mean
Thing, fishhooks, barbs in your hand.
But marbles too. A genius for being agreeable.
Junkyard crucifixes, voluptuous
discards. Space for knickknacks, and for
Alaska. Evidence to hang me, or to beatify.
Clues that lead nowhere, that never connected
anyway. Deliberate obfuscation, the kind
that takes genius. Chasms in character.
Loud omissions. Mornings that yawn above
a new grave. Pages you know exist
but you can't find them. Someone's terribly
inevitable life story, maybe mine.
(-- Poem: "What's In My Journal" by William Stafford, from Crossing Unmarked Snow, Harper Collins, 1981.)
No one's fooled.

God is in the details.

Every one of them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I sit quietly.
Listening to the falling leaves.
A lonely hut, a life of renunciation.
The past has faded,
Things are no longer remembered.
My sleeve is wet with tears.
- Ryokan (1758-1831)
To renounce is to give up. "I give up" for a renunciate means letting go of attachment to what is not essential.

The essential is what is core, source, true nature, of itself, in itself. What is essential is no other. Just what is there. Besides that, too many words.

I'd rather be quiet.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

If we are defined by that which disturbs us, and we find that nothing disturbs us, do we have no definition? Second to that -- is the opposite of the definite the infinite?
When we practice zazen [Zen meditation] our mind always follows our breathing. When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world. When we exhale, the air goes to the outer world. The inner world is limitless, and the outer world is also limitless. We say "inner world" or "outer world," but actually there is just one whole world. In this limitless world, our throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door. If you think, "I breathe," the "I" is extra. There is no you to say "I." What we call "I" is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no "I," no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door. (--Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginners Mind from Everyday Mind)
There is only breath breathing. Sitting in shadow the meditator contemplates each breath as being just what it is.
Love Minus Zero/No Limit

My love she speaks like silence,
Without ideals or violence,
She doesn't have to say she's faithful,
Yet she's true, like ice, like fire.
People carry roses,
Make promises by the hours,
My love she laughs like the flowers,
Valentines can't buy her.

In the dime stores and bus stations,
People talk of situations,
Read books, repeat quotations,
Draw conclusions on the wall.
Some speak of the future,
My love she speaks softly,
She knows there's no success like failure
And that failure's no success at all.

The cloak and dagger dangles,
Madams light the candles.
In ceremonies of the horsemen,
Even the pawn must hold a grudge.
Statues made of match sticks,
Crumble into one another,
My love winks, she does not bother,
She knows too much to argue or to judge.

The bridge at midnight trembles,
The country doctor rambles,
Bankers' nieces seek perfection,
Expecting all the gifts that wise men bring.
The wind howls like a hammer,
The night blows cold and rainy,
My love she's like some raven
At my window with a broken wing.

(Song by Bob Dylan, Copyright 1965)
We often seem silly -- our sorrows and our seriousness. The fears we hold about loss and disgrace. We worry about not being able to control the finite circumstances of bodily needs -- food, shelter, clothing, transportation, heating fuel, our children.

Our perception is clouded and unfocused. We want someone to show us the way. If we are the way, we want someone to show us ourselves. It is too difficult seeing for ourselves.
"If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite." (--William Blake)
On earth.

As it is.

In heaven.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sometimes silent sitting resembles what could be imagined as death.

It is not death. Nor is death an imagined thing. Silent sitting is only silent sitting. Imagination is something else. It happens of itself. As does, I suspect, death. In the presence of imagination, silence, or death, I am astonished. That I am, or you are, or this is. Astonished!

Wittgenstein said that with death, the world does not alter, but comes to an end. He said that death is not an event in life, that we do not live to experience death. "There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical." (Proposition 6.522, from Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, by Ludwig Wittgenstein)
Mystical: 1 a: having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence mystical food of the sacrament> b: involving or having the nature of an individual's direct subjective communion with God or ultimate reality mystical experience of the Inner Light>
Each day we pray for those who are dying, those who will die today, and all those who have died, especially those with no one to pray for or remember them. Then we say the Our Father, asking that what is "as it is" in heaven will be "as it is" also on earth.
When truly sought even the seeker cannot be found.
Thereupon the goal of the seeking is attained,
And the end of the search.
At this point there is nothing more to be sought,
And no need to seek anything.

- Padmasambhava, (Daily Zen)

What are we looking for? Kids on corners looking out for police. Lobbyists looking left and right with their money. Soldier behind automatic weapon acutely aware of every movement. Women and men at red lights taking the only pause of their crowded day. Monk in solitude gazing at nothing.
Which One

I eye the driver of the Chevrolet
pulsing beside me at a traffic light

the chrome-haired woman in the checkout line
chatting up the acned clerk

the clot of kids smoking on the sly
in the Mile-Hi Pizza parking lot

the meter reader, the roofer at work
next door, a senior citizen

stabbing the sidewalk with his three-pronged cane.
Which one of you discarded in a bag

—sealed with duct tape—in the middle of the road
three puppies four or five weeks old

who flung two kittens from a moving car
at midnight into a snowbank where

the person trailing you observed the leg
and tail of the calico one that lived

and if not you, someone flossing her teeth
or watering his lawn across the street.

I look for you wherever I go.

(Poem: "Which One" by Maxine Kumin, from Jack and Other New Poems. W.W. Norton, 2006. The Writer's Almanac)
I like the old phrase: "I'm looking out for you." Someone watching out for us is a useful ambiguity. Will we be found? Will I be protected? Do we thank someone? Or worry they're closing in on us?

The boy looks out from a mountain in Austria. The dog, from a mountain overlooking Penobscot Bay. The gentleman in the photo looks from a rise over reservoir in Granville. Of the three, only the boy remains manifest.

Before going to bed, brief silent sitting in front room. A foot of snow, and still falling.

It's right here, at hand, under foot.

No need to seek anything.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

In the film The Son of Man, made in South Africa in 2006, Jesus says to the man who has just said "I'm going to kill you," something like the following: "How long will it take you?" or, "How quickly can you do it?" The words sound smart and brazen. Maybe they're something else.
Evening mountains veiled in somber mist,
One path entering the wooded hill:
The monk has gone off, locking his pine door.
From a bamboo pipe a lonely trickle of water flows.
- Ishikawa Jozan (1583-1672)
Maybe Jesus is asking the power-brokers how long do they think it would take to kill a radical belief in the goodness of man? How quickly can truth be dispersed and disappeared? Is there enough energy and time in the universe to uproot the essential nature of the cosmos?

They prefer to hear Jesus' question as a smart ass retort. That would fall within their experience and comprehension. But perhaps Jesus is taking the long view. Maybe he sees something beyond their limited vision -- something for those who long for hope.

We like the idea of sturdy trust in the essential foundation of reality. Like the biblical emphasis on the breath-word of creation. The Holy Spirit itself weaving the wholeness we cannot fathom nor can we disassemble.

Evil, some might say, perpetrates division. The person of good heart invites indivision. The sole-seeing wholeness, the soul-seen holiness -- these are the elements of the courage of the Christ in and through time.
Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

(Poem by Derek Walcott)
The winter meditation room is set up in front room of house in a flurry before arrival of first car. Chapel/zendo cabin will be for solitary mice the duration of cold months on Sunday evenings. Someone might wish a winter silent retreat. The mice have said this is acceptable. The peace dove 'open' flag is again torn by hard winds but says it will endure its invitation through Maine's 1st quarter of 2008. Zafus brought in make semi-circle with seiza bench and Charlotte's foot-rest-become-sitting-bench turning out from window altar.

We look in and bow each time we descend stairs. We see ourselves in its spacious gift of itself for us.

At table of Sunday Evening Practice, Symphony No. 3, Op. 36, first movement, composed by Henryk Górecki in 1976, using Walcott's poem as Lectio, a lovely interlude of listening.

It would take a very long time to undo the loveliness done unto us with God's love, to unhear the sound of our own name, to undream a dream that is now material flesh and blood.

Snow Monday.

You can't kill life itself. You can only attempt to kill the idea of life itself. The thought of such killing drives men and women into paroxysms of fear of self and others.

Real love steps into itself facing oneself with goodness born of itself.

I'd like one of those.

Indivison, please!