Saturday, October 11, 2008

Some feel it would be nice if God spoke aloud with us.

He slept on his hands.
On a rock.
On his feet.
On someone else's feet.
He slept on buses, trains, in airplanes.
Slept on duty.
Slept beside the road.
Slept on a sack of apples.
He slept in a pay toilet.
In a hayloft.
In the Super Dome.
Slept in a Jaguar, and in the back of a pickup.
Slept in theaters.
In jail.
On boats.
He slept in line shacks and, once, in a castle.
Slept in the rain.
In blistering sun he slept.
On horseback.
He slept in chairs, churches, in fancy hotels.
He slept under strange roofs all his life.
Now he sleeps under the earth.
Sleeps on and on.
Like an old king.

(Poem "Sleeping" by Raymond Carver from Ultramarine. Vintage Books, 1986.)
You'd think we'd have to wake up to hear anything.

Still, even a somnolent God sleep-talks.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stock markets blow erratically with autumn winds. Folks argue about strategy and speculate about solutions. There's not much of either. Those of independent means criticize those of limited means. Those in debt marvel at millionaires being bailed out and rewarded for their failures.
See for yourself.
Directly transcend the
principles and activities
of the buddhas and patriarchs.
Go through the forest of thorns.
Transcend the barriers
of potential described by
ancestral teachers.
Pass through the silver mountain
and iron wall; then for the first time
you will realize there is a
transcendent fundamental endowment;
you can sit, helping people solve their
sticking points and untie their bonds.
- Shoitsu (1202-1280)
In politics, weaker candidates decide to mount a campaign of dangerous threats to the well-being of stronger candidates. Absurd and stupid inflammatory rhetoric, attempts to stir violence and mayhem, partial truths wrapped in smelly fish stained newspaper, discarded dignity in yellow bags tossed into green transfer skips at town dump. The perpetrators are desperate. Their only hope is inciting violence against their opponents. They play a coy seditious video game with American sensibilities, mowing down terrorists and caricatured enemies, pointing at opposing running mates with disdain and disgust, lightly veiled invitations to lynch and kill, wave smiling to loyal rabid fans as partisan hacks rouse ire from radio and tv perches.

Elected officials, house and senate, executive and judiciary, look away with blank faces and feigned disinterest. If I weren't already insane with disapproval, I'd be tempted to go mad with disbelief.

Someone passing through shop says should anything untoward happen to Barack Obama she'd issue a fatwa against Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin for their participation in the untowardness. The common feeling seems to be that their comportment is unworthy and their demeanor unbecoming of any office they currently hold or aspire to attain.

I'd recommend they concentrate on evidence, analysis, and overt argumentation. Surely we could employ a level of intelligent dialectic that would surpass the tripe and trash of irresponsible voices.

As children in the schoolroom game
whisper from one end of the class to the other
and garble the message they pass on or change it
beyond recognition, so we
pass on the truth of our kind.

My father heard it from his, something
vaguely involving God, and his father
heard it from his, and so on back
to Abraham, and so father
passed it on to me, but God had dropped out.

And so my son heard it, a wisdom
found inside a Chinese fortune cookie:
"Be good and hope," which he will pass on
to his son, but maybe with good
missing or hope, maybe with love added.

Though love was never meant to mean so much.

(Poem "Truth" by Leonard Nathan from The Potato Eaters. Orchises Press, 1999.)
If we forget love, we'll get what terrifying rhetoric offers.

It's not too late for everyone to change.

A bit more humility.

I'll try.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A group gathers for the Course in Miracles. The afternoon has gone by. A couple stops by to tell they've self-published their art and words. Cigar smokers from Florida return for a warm weather visit and smoke on the patio.

In class last night we tried to focus on evidence, facts, and careful analysis. So many uninformed opinions about national election candidates.  The perpetrators of ignorant slander consider the electorate stupid. We have to prove that premise false.
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?
why change the environment?
- Ramana Maharshi (d. 1950)
Mind, we think, is inside the brain laden with habit and craving. But mind, say some thinkers, is what is between us, not within us. Thus, to know our "right mind" is to know the right relationship between us. There are frightening men and women who think fear is the ticket to their ascendancy to high office. Fear is the nemesis of love. With fear, no love; with love, no fear. The men and women wanting our fear will not get our love; nor do they want our love. They want our fear packaged as gratitude. They want us grateful they own and invest our fear into their ambitious plans for the world.  
Four Foundations of Mindfulness
“There is, monks, this one way to the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and distress, for the disappearance of pain and sadness, for the gaining of the right path, for the realization of Nibbana: --that is to say the four foundations of mindfulness.

“What are the four? Here, monks, a monk abides contemplating a body as body, ardent, clearly aware and mindful, having put aside hankering and fretting for the world; he abides contemplating feelings as feelings . . . he abides contemplating mind as mind . . . he abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, clearly aware and mindful, having put aside hankering and fretting for the world.”

(--Mahasatipatthana Sutta: The Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness, in Thus Have I Heard: The Long Discourses of the Buddha, translated by Maurice Walshe)
The saying should be changed: not 'mind over matter,' but rather, 'mind throughout, between, and beyond matter.' To know one's own mind is to extend out from enclosed spaces into open space of relational inquiry and analysis. We ask questions. We ponder responses. We intuit truth and actuate effort to do what needs to be done.

We need to think carefully. We need to be philosophers of rhetoric and opinion. Plato and Socrates are at hand to help us. Descartes and Rorty are ready. Wittgenstein and James are poised. Maseo Abe and Keiji Nishitani wait in empty silence for a voice asking them their way of viewing the complications of human thought and act.

I didn't understand a word at the Miracles gathering tonight. I was caught thinking about our failing economy and falling manners on political stumps. I do not find anything cute or sexy about demagoguery or dim-witted remarks. I'm old fashioned on this point. I feel candidates should run on their records and their honest plans to fix what needs fixing. We've had enough of character assassination and political chicanery. 

Just in case, I'm listening for Celtic Canadian fiddles from a long distance away. It's Thanksgiving there Monday, Columbus Day here. 

I might have to discover a new ground of gratefulness.  

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A poem is where dreams go when no one is watching.
in time of daffodils

in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why,remember how

in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so(forgetting seem)

in time of roses(who amaze
our now and here with paradise)
forgetting if,remember yes

in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek(forgetting find)

and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me,remember me

(poem by e.e. cummings)
Dream says to falling soul: I'll see you and raise you!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Pema Chodron speaks of hopelessness. Hard to warm to it. And yet, it says now is all there is -- don't hope for it, live it.
Though it has no bridge,
The cloud climbs up to heaven;
It does not seek the aid
Of Gautama’s sutras.
- Ikkuu
After hearing how hopeless life can be, I choose to live it right now for the time being.

Without belief in anything but the willingness to engage what is unfolding.

Monday, October 06, 2008

I write my senators.

I ask they contact their colleague Mr. McCain and ask him to avoid fearful and provocative rhetoric against his rival Mr Obama. I asked Senators Collins and Snowe to help moderate dangerous rhetoric into more civil discourse. I worry that violence will result from heightened smears and accusations. Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama must be held accountable for their public rhetoric.
Sentient beings are really Buddha.
Like water and ice;
Apart from water, no ice;
Outside of sentient beings, no Buddha.
Not knowing it is near
They seek for it afar!
Just like being in water,
But crying for thirst!

- Hakuin
I dislike the vituperative poison slandered through the airwaves.
I like that the point of convergence of liberation theology, Islamic mysticism, and engaged Buddhism is the sense of love that leads to commitment and involvement with the world, and not a turning-away from the world. A form of wisdom that I strive for is the ability to know what is needed at a given moment in time. When do I need to reside in that location of stillness and contemplation, and when do I need to get up off my ass and do whatever is needed to be done in terms of physical work, or engagement with others, or confrontation with others? I'm not interested in ranking one type of action over the other.
(--bell hooks, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review Fall 1992)
Today is the feast of St. Bruno, [1032-1101]. He founded the Carthusians. There have never been many of them. Silence. Solitude. Seclusion. The starkness of spirituality without celebrity. Not much to attract today's seekers.

We have to learn to listen to the strange sounds of the world's spiritual life. Prayer is prayer that appreciates the suffering of others. And longs for joy.
Another Reason Why I Don't Keep A Gun In The House

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.

(--Poem by Billy Collins)
We can use innovative genius today.

We cry with thirst for something to keep us alive!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

My alarm in the zendo didn't sound, so we sat for 60 minutes instead of 40.
In the language of the Buddha, the word for fuel and for clinging is the same: upadana. The Buddha understood that suffering arises from and is fueled by clinging. When the fuel is removed, suffering is extinguished. By understanding how deep-rooted and subtle clinging is in our own unliberated minds, we come to appreciate the mind of nibbana as refreshingly cool and peaceful.
(--from The Good News. By Gil Fronsdale)
Before leaving shop for hermitage this evening, a woman came in. I recognized her face. She'd become very thin. Her movements were paper brittle. She smiled and asked for our schedule. I had none. After a bit Saskia said the woman had told her she was in hospice -- a friend of our's is her volunteer. We stayed a little later for her, loaned her reading glasses, and told her husband we'd throw her out when we were ready to go. There's not much time for her. She brought the glasses back after she'd stepped out the door. A silence of prayerful gaze followed her.

There's no reason for us to keep the shop open.

The heart needs none.