Saturday, June 07, 2008

She said her name was Sarah. She said she'd had a rough year. I said we'd keep her in our prayers. She said she was grateful. She went back out to the patio.

Walking to close gate to hermitage I remember to pray for her.
Lu-men moonlight spills through misty trees
and I come again to the old hermitage.
The path leads through pines,
to the brushwork door
back again to solitude and silence.
Where a hermit lives,
there’s no need for companions.

--Meng Hao-jan (689-740)
Maybe there's only one teaching -- to remember one another in prayer -- in words, in silence, in stillness, and in act.

Prayer is the turning of heart and mind to that which creates and sustains us in this existence. "That which" is sometimes spelled "G-o-d", and at other times it is spelled "c-l-e-a-r l-i-g-h-t" There are times when those who prefer it be spelled "A-l-l-a-h" or "J-e-s-u-s" cannot help themselves when the spelling and pronunciation do not fit their preferences, and become angry or dismissive. Not always. Just sometimes.
The time is sure to come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; and then, instead of listening to the truth, they will turn to myths. Be careful always to choose the right course; be brave under trials; make the preaching of the Good News your life’s work, in thoroughgoing service.
(--from 2 Timothy 4:1 - 8)
Timothy doesn't want us to stop thinking new ways of understanding primordial verities, but he is interested in not substituting neologisms for sound action that physically and concretely helps people who are in need of help. Explanation of belief takes backseat to loving and compassionate action. This engaged service is the essence of the spiritual path.
There are two rules on the spiritual path - begin and continue.
(--Sufi saying)
Someone once sa
id it and it applies to me: Up until now I have done nothing.

Let's begin.

And continue.

Alone together.

This path.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The men in prison spoke about neutrinos, God, belief, and science.
When body and soul are rid of the dust of this world of dreams our understanding is awakened and Truth perceived.
(- Wall poem at North Peak Temple)
Like God, neutrinos permeate and penetrate all of matter and form.
Neutrinos are elementary particles that travel close to the speed of light, lack an electric charge, are able to pass through ordinary matter almost undisturbed and are thus extremely difficult to detect. As of 1999, it is believed neutrinos have a minuscule, but nonzero mass. They are usually denoted by the Greek letter nu.
It's an old question: Is God out there or in here? The mind you have that looks at this is the mind that formulates the response circumscribed by the ability of that mind to see.
Most neutrinos passing through the Earth emanate from the sun, and more than 50 trillion solar electron neutrinos pass through the human body every second. (--Wikipedia)
And if someone embodied the creative natural vitality of God, would they also be Christ?

Our visit to prison passes through what passes through us.

We thank each other for the visit through and through..

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Thursday Evening Conversation for the past year plus has been an ongoing study of the Course in Miracles. Jack and Cathy lead. The group fluctuates from six to sixteen. Tonight, because Megan was lecturing in Rockland about her new book on Clare of Assisi, there was the lower end of the fluctuation.
You cannot walk the world apart from God, because you could not be without Him. He is what your life is. Where you are He is. There is one life. That life you share with Him. Nothing can be apart from Him and live.
Yet where He is, there must be holiness as well as life No attribute of His remains unshared by everything that lives. What lives is holy as Himself, because what shares His life is part of Holiness, and could no more be sinful than the sun could choose to be of ice; the sea elect to be apart from water, or the grass to grow with roots suspended in the air.
There is a light in you which cannot die; whose presence is so holy that the world is sanctified because of you All things that live bring gifts to you, and offer them in gratitude and gladness at your feet. The scent of flowers is their gift to you. The waves bow down before you, and the trees extend their arms to shield you from the heat, and lay their leaves before you on the ground that you may walk in softness, while the wind sinks to a whisper round your holy head.
The light in you is what the universe longs to behold All living things are still before you, for they recognize Who walks with you. The light you carry is their own. And thus they see in you their holiness, saluting you as savior and as God. Accept their reverence, for it is due to Holiness Itself, Which walks with you, transforming in Its gentle Light all things unto Its likeness and Its purity.

(--from Lesson 156, I walk with God in perfect holiness, The Course in Miracles)
I remember 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. Robert Kennedy. Over the years it has seemed their deaths were less and less explainable, their killers less and less likely. Staying just this side of complete disbelief, I wonder what it is the world holds as truth.

Lesson 157 begins: "This is a day of silence and of trust"

Silence and trust are necessary.

Hard to apply to 40 year old stories.

Still, in themselves, despite fluctuations, worthwhile.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I am this not that. I am this and that. I am beyond this and that.

Beyond this and that, yet including this and that, is I Am consciousness. It sees and knows in stillness. It is not afraid. It loves all and each as itself.

Human behavior needs to reflect on itself.
Taking refuge in the Buddha implies no personal guarantee that the Buddha himself will effect the arrival at the Goal of any of his followers. To the contrary, he says: "Surely by oneself is evil done, by oneself one becomes pure. Purity and impurity are of the individual. No one purifies another." ...According to the doctrine of karma, future happiness is a direct result or continuation of the maintaining of a satisfactory standard of conduct in the present.
(--from Buddhist Ethics, by Hammalawa Saddhatissa)
The keynote in the life and teaching of Jesus with regard to man’s moral duty is found in "obedient love." This means that with faith in God as the energizing center of one’s being, one is required to seek to do the will of God by loving God supremely and one’s neighbor as one’s self. However, as the total impact of Jesus’ teaching makes evident, to love one’s neighbor as one’s self is not to be understood as any precise balancing and equating of love for others with self-love. Still less does it mean loving others for the sake of receiving love or other benefits in return. Agape love means, rather, an uncalculating, outgoing spirit of loving concern which finds expression in deeds of service without limit.
(--from Christian Ethics, by Georgia Harkness)
We need community. Community is our teacher. The teaching is not easy to discern.

Forty years ago Robert Kennedy was shot and killed. He'd be in his eighties today.

We have much to learn.

The maple tree that night
Without a wind or rain
Let go its leaves
Because its time had come.
Brown veined, spotted,
Like old hands, fluttering in blessing,
They fell upon my head
And shoulders, and then
Down to the quiet at my feet.
I stood, and stood
Until the tree was bare
And have told no one
But you that I was there.

(--Poem by Eugene McCarthy)
We are all there.

Do not be fooled. There is much to learn. Look to it.

Perhaps there is a way to undo that wrong.
Drop, drop—in our sleep, upon the heart
sorrow falls, memory’s pain,
and to us, though against our very will,
even in our own despite,
comes wisdom
by the awful grace of God.
(--words by AESCHYLUS, Agamemnon. Edith Hamilton, trans., Three Greek Plays, p. 170, 1937).
Perhaps by being this right here.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Democratic primaries end tonight. In the next 90 minutes or so the pundits will exclaim, the candidates will proclaim, and rhetoric will declaim.
Holding his stick,
He points directly to humanity,
Yet as he was originally without form,
This portrait is not true.
His form cannot be seen
As form,
His benevolence is merely his
Natural benevolence.
If, all of a sudden,
You can understand this law,
Then your spirit can roam
Beyond the world.

- Ingen (1592-1673)
I pause to pray. For all of them. For all of us. For decency, authenticity, and wisdom.

Tonight, before the theater of the final six months towards a new president begins, I turn to a Maine poet.
A Quiet Life

by Baron Wormser

What a person desires in life
is a properly boiled egg.
This isn't as easy as it seems.
There must be gas and a stove,
the gas requires pipelines, mastodon drills,
banks that dispense the lozenge of capital.
There must be a pot, the product of mines
and furnaces and factories,
of dim early mornings and night-owl shifts,
of women in kerchiefs and men with
sweat-soaked hair.
Then water, the stuff of clouds and skies
and God knows what causes it to happen.
There seems always too much or too little
of it and more pipelines, meters, pumping
stations, towers, tanks.
And salt-a miracle of the first order,
the ace in any argument for God.
Only God could have imagined from
nothingness the pang of salt.
Political peace too. It should be quiet
when one eats an egg. No political hoodlums
knocking down doors, no lieutenants who are
ticked off at their scheming girlfriends and
take it out on you, no dictators
posing as tribunes.
It should be quiet, so quiet you can hear
the chicken, a creature usually mocked as a type
of fool, a cluck chained to the chore of her body.
Listen, she is there, pecking at a bit of grain
that came from nowhere.

(-- Poem, "A Quiet Life" by Baron Wormser, from Scattered Chapters. Sarabande Books, 2008.)
Imagine from nothingness a dwelling place of reverence.

Arrive from nowhere. Bring invisible love. The community is teacher.

Nancy said tonight about authenticity: "He is what he says. She is what she says."


Monday, June 02, 2008

Sitting zazen at 5:20AM in cabin, incense and candle, Rokpa and bird call. A mantra arrives:
Francis, Buddha, Dogen, Christ -- see us through this loving life!"

Carrying wooden stepladder to bird feeder, pouring wild seed into green metal holder, the words change into "lead us through this loving life." White dog has become good meditation companion in cabin, on trail, in yard. Three months with us, eight months old.
The great way of the buddhas is profound, wondrous, inconceivable; how could its practice be easy? Have you not seen how the ancients gave up their bodies and lives, abandoned their countries, cities, and families, looking upon them as shards of tile? After that they passed eons living alone in the mountains and forests, bodies and minds like dead trees; only then did they unite with the way. Then they could use the mountains and rivers for words, raise the wind and rain for a tongue, and explain the great void, turning the incomparable wheel.
- Dogen (1200-1253)
Practice is not easy, not hard. It is beyond easy and hard. Without practice we are the playthings of others.
How to Become a Buddhist

If one desires to become a Buddhist, there is no initiation ceremony (or baptism) which one has to undergo....If one understands the Buddha's teaching, and if one is convinced that this teaching is the right Path and if one tries to follow it, then one is a Buddhist.

But according to the unbroken age-old tradition in Buddhist countries, one is considered a Buddhist if one takes the Buddha, the Dhamma (the Teaching) and the Sangha (the community of Buddhists)--generally called "the Triple-Gem"--as one's refuges, and undertakes to observe the Five Precepts--the minimum moral obligations of a lay Buddhist:

(1) not to destroy life, (2) not to steal, (3) not to commit adultery, (4) not to tell lies, (5) not to take intoxicating drinks....

There are no external rites or ceremonies which a Buddhist has to perform. Buddhism is a way of life, and what is essential is following the Noble Eightfold Path.

(--Walpola Rahula in What the Buddha Taught, from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book)
To be Buddhist is to practice awareness. Everyone will be Buddhist soon. Christians need not worry. Awareness is the essence of Jesus Christ. There's no choice to be made here.
All religions are cultural overlays whose undergrowth is awareness. Meet at awareness and inter-religious dialogue sits in loving silence together.


Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you
(Poem: "Lost," by David Wagoner from Collected Poems 1956-1976, Indiana University Press.)

Standing or sitting in stillness we allow awareness to move freely within and around us. We drop our selfish desires to have the world the way we would construct it with our thought and ideology. God practices awareness. God looks for clearing to take place so that we begin dwelling in the open. No more secrets. No more unquestioning arrogance. No more dropping weapons on innocent victims.
Taking Refuge

To take refuge in the Buddha means acknowledging the seed of enlightenment that is within ourselves, the possibility of freedom. It also means taking refuge in those qualities which the Buddha embodies; qualities like fearlessness, wisdom, love and compassion.

Taking refuge in the Dharma means taking refuge in the law, in the way things are; it is acknowledging our surrender to the truth, allowing the Dharma to unfold within us.

Taking refuge in the Sangha means taking support in the community, in all of us helping one another towards enlightenment and freedom.
(--Joseph Goldstein, in The Experience of Insight, from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book)
The community is finally rubbing sleep out of its eyes. It didn't want to believe, not entirely, that dad was a bit altered in his thinking by (some say, substances), insubstantial thought and inexplicable belief that he was the man, the one and only, without peer or opposition. Dad, or our disturbed brother, tired his arms swinging punches at our laws and the men and women holding fast to them practicing a modern Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope submission that rounded these seven years of administration pugs cynical pounding and punditry. There is, one can only hope, a turn towards enlightenment and freedom. It's been a long and very difficult detour from good will and legal decency.
Among the anecdotes in "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story" is an arresting portrait of Bush after four contractors were killed in Fallujah in 2004, triggering a fierce U.S. response that was reportedly egged on by the president.

During a videoconference with his national security team and generals, Sanchez writes, Bush launched into what he described as a "confused" pep talk:

"Kick ass!" he quotes the president as saying. "If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal."

"There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!"

A White House spokesman had no comment.

( from: General Ricardo Sanchez's Book Slams Bush, Iraq Handling, Washington Post, June 2, 2008 10:51 AM)
Last Friday was the feast of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Authentic compassion is hard to find. I'm looking for it in myself. If my compassion is authentic it must work backwards from the innocent deaths and pain in Iraq, to the men and women who carried out orders to bomb, shoot, and kill, to the families of warriors who mourn their dead and stitch up their traumatized returnees. It should also stretch to the perpetrators of this ill-begotten carnage. It must include Mr. Bush and his band of confidants, the inept congress, and puffed up supporters of something known to be a lie and a travesty.

This consideration and practice of authentic compassion has to be my daily practice. I'm glad to see the backs of these people, and I long for some justice to grab them from their lucrative future -- but they are clever and mostly immune from prosecution for their crimes. For perpetrators of war it is a blip on their resume. For the rest of the victims of war it is lifelong pain and suffering.

If we are going to practice religion we are going to have to admit God into the practice. Belief and personal testimony are insufficient. We must allow God, as God is, into moment to moment practice.

God help us.

No, really.

God help us.

See us through.


Loving life.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sometimes Sunday is merely Sunday.
The wise people of old who
Took goodness as their way
Possessed marvelously
Subtle powers of penetration;
They were so deep that
None could plumb their mind,
And, on this account, if forced
To describe them we can only
Say that they moved cautiously
Like people fording a river;

The wise people of old who
Took goodness as their way
Were retiring as though shy

Their conduct to all was
Respectful as though to
Honored guests;
They could adapt themselves
Like ice melting before a fire;
They were artless
As blocks of uncarved wood.
- Lao tzu

A dog by a gate is only a dog by a gate.

It is for this kind of revelation we live and breathe.