Saturday, November 29, 2008

Her daughter sat on stool. Her best friend on wood bench. She sat by wood stove. The conversation went from John O"Donohue to Eckhart Tolle, to what would I read if I had only a month or little more to live.

Then she said she'd decided. She'd stop chemo. How would the other two feel? They'd respect her wishes. The room fell quiet. That's what I'll do, she said.
To learn to be always in a state of meditation means never to let your vital energy wane. You would never allow it to do so if it were certain that you were to die tomorrow. It wanes because you forget about death. Grit your teeth, fix your gaze, and observe death at this moment. You have to feel it so strongly that is seems as if it’s attacking you. Fearless energy comes from this. At this moment death is right before your eyes. It’s not something you can afford to neglect.
- Suzuki Shosan (1579-1655) Daily Zen
The prospect of death focuses.

She'll come back, she says. I've ordered Anam Cara for her. The final chapter is worth the price of the book.

It's about dying.

It's First Advent.

It's about watching.

As we live and breathe.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The man just turned 75 remembers at age 8 deciding to walk from house to barn to tell his dad he loved him. He tells of how, half way there, he stopped, thought, turned and went back to house. He never did get to say it, his dad dying ten years ago just shy of 100.

But he'd said it out loud, tonight, right there in a circle.
All obstructions of defilements
and karmas of worry and trouble,
are in origin, empty.
All causes and effects
are dreams and illusions.
The great Way is empty and vast.
It is beyond thought and deliberation.
You, at this instant, have this
Dharma and are without lack.

- Fa-yung (593-657)
We think it is too late to retrieve or repair. It's not.

Origin is always at hand.

Fathers remain close.


Near the open.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

I've never been where I'm not now.
Silent Illumination

Silently and serenely, one forgets all words,
Clearly and vividly, it appears before you.
When one realizes it, time has no limits.
When experienced, your surroundings come to life.
Singularly illuminating is this bright awareness,
Full of wonder is the pure illumination.
- Hung Chih Cheng Chueh (1092-1157)
I'm just grateful to be here.

With you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The light of presence through emptiness.
Singularly radiating is the wondrous Light;
Free is it from the bondage of matter and the senses.
Not binding by words and letters,
The Essence is nakedly exposed in its pure eternity.
Never defiled is the Mind-nature;
It exists in perfection from the very beginning.
By merely casting away your delusions
The Suchness of Buddhahood is realized.

- Seng T’san (d.606)
What is emptiness?

The light of presence-through.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things get dicey in scripture as end of liturgical year plays out. The Book of Revelation fits the day -- early darkness, wet, chill, rain, gusts between 30-60mph. Maine coast is suitable backdrop for shivering warnings of destruction and decimation.

Before the cape on the harbor blows over we'll brace ourselves with Buddha's words.
Better than a thousand hollow words
is one word that brings peace.
Better than a thousand hollow verses
is one verse that brings peace.
It is better to conquer yourself
than to win a thousand battles.
Then the victory is yours.

(-- Buddha in the Dhammapada)
Of course its the end of the world as we know it. In passing, a former military man says he's exercising his rights before they're taken away by purchasing a lot of bullets and a new gun or two. When asked why, he says a lot of people are frightened by the new people coming into power in Washington. I wonder. He might be in a time-delay reaction-warp to the atmosphere of trepidation so rife these past eight years. Or, he could be a right-wing racist intent on survival once the 'coloreds' start to take over the country. Maybe he's a religious fundamentalist getting ready to shoot for Jesus to help the rapture along. Either way -- I don't know -- the end of the world at times seems an attractive scenario.

I don't own a gun. Like the Zen Abbot eye to eye with the fierce Samurai telling him he could run the monk through with his sword, the monk replies "Didn't you know I could be run through?" I'd like to think when the shooting starts (for some reason I cannot fathom) I'd be able to remember the colloquy and say: "Didn't you know I have one more second to breathe now that I've been shot through?"
When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’ And they put to him this question: ‘Master,’ they said ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?’
‘Take care not to be deceived,’ he said ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and, “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.’

(--Luke 21:5-11)
Destruction's not as interesting as you might think. It's something anybody can do. Murder/suicides are increasing. Shooting up malls, churches, and classrooms are happening at an odd alarming rate. Solitary self-inflicted wounds or death seems a choice these days in the same way one might say "I'd like that pink thingy with black trim" at a shop. We're blase about the carnage. We're a nation of options -- if you think this is bad, there's other ways it could get worse -- "choose your poison," the doomsday folks mutter, thinking it sounds profound.

Pema Chodron says that the spiritual life makes room for all of it -- the delightful and the desperate. Things continually fall apart then fall back together again -- only to fall apart once more then come back again. It is the nature of things to fall apart. It is the nature of humans to find a way to continue through the debris. Impermanence is run through and through all of existence.

Mary who mattered to me, gone or asleep
among fruits, spilled

in ash, in dust, I did not

leave you. Even now I can't keep from
composing you, limbs & blue cloak

& soft hands. I sleep to the sound

of your name, I say there is no Mary
except the word Mary, no trace

on the dust of my pillowslip. I only

dream of your ankles brushed by dark violets,
of honeybees above you

murmuring into a crown. Antique queen,

the night dreams on: here are the pears
I have washed for you, here the heavy-winged doves,

asleep by the hyacinths. Here I am,

having bathed carefully in the syllables
of your name, in the air and the sea of them, the sharp scent

of their sea foam. What is the matter with me?

Mary, what word, what dust
can I look behind? I carried you a long way

into my mirror, believing you would carry me

back out. Mary, I am still
for you, I am still a numbness for you.

(--Poem "Hail" by Mary Szybist, in Poetry Magazine, Nov.2008)
I knew two Marys in Albany. I knew a Mary in Pittsburgh. I knew a Mary in Camden. I knew a Mary in the Bronx. One in Attleboro. Another in Nanuet. All are out of my life. Three have died. No tellin' about the others. We fall apart and go beyond. I bow to their memory. They could be at these words the way southerly wind is at the windows with ecstatic rain. I don't know, at all, where they are. But these words carry them within.

As I set to leave this hermitage room I marvel at the force of wind pounding building, huge swells blowing into harbor, streets abandoned, night fallen. Buddhist conversation was intimate and rich with MaryAnn, Saskia, and Pema.

“Love of the Truth Puts You on the Spot,” is the Naropa Institute motto.

Fall apart and go beyond.

Spot on!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fr. Joseph spoke about those being remembered (Saints Andrew Dung-Lac and his Companions, Martyrs of Vietnam) before mass this morning.

Like peace activists everywhere, punished, or those who worked and died for racial equality, these martyrs spanning time suffered at the hands of ignorance and uncaring.

A life can end at any moment. What would I want to be my final comprehension?
To look at life is like being in a dream;
It is really noisy being in the dream.
Everything stops when the dreamer suddenly awakens,
And in the same way as a dreamer awakes,
The wise understand how to wake from the dream.
The deluded believe in the dream and are disturbed
That understanding and dreaming seem to be two aspects.
When once the truth is comprehended,
There is no other comprehension.

- Master Pen Ching (d. 761)
There is something I would like to comprehend. Why is it we refuse so passionately to accept within us the broken and suffering? Thus there is lashing out at others, punishing them, treating with scorn and disdain, and finally, missing our true light as it is pushed closed behind doors of fear and clinging opinion. Shut tight with certainty.

Who are the people going beyond lie and fault? Who are they?
They never allowed a lie to pass their lips and no fault can be found in them. (--Apocalypse 14:5)
Do I just not see? So often I live a lie. Do the faultless and truthful pass among us without being...seen?

The thirteen years at this odd shop have taught me some. Some compassion Some wariness. Some patience. Mostly it has taught me some foolishness. The absurdity of my fixed opinions, the absurdity of others' hard and fast habits of thought. Kindness is lacking when we cling to fixed and hard habits of unreflective and uncompromising mental and emotional identity.

Only kindness is worth noting. Tonight I note kindness. Little gifts letting pass what faults rise up. Someone giving some length. Not pinning with flaws easily pinned. Things like waiting for time to go by, finishing making a fool of oneself without someone making it worse by pointing it out.

We are faulty at the same time as we are faultless; living in flaw while being flawless. We are hurtful and inconsiderate while being healing agents touching one another's lives with sudden sparks of gentle consideration. Maybe that's our crazed experience in this existence -- the convoluting glory of forgiveness, the surprising grace of genuine feeling for one another!

The armies of the righteous omnisciently rumble by. Pinning down and pointing out faults and flaws. There's a muteness undergirding all accusation, one that doesn't issue forth from marauding plunderers. The guardians and custodians of others' failures do not share their sound, the sound that reverberates within them that echoes the sound of judgment and castigation spewed from their lips. They hold themselves in camera. Nothing they externalize finds recognition internally. Correspondence is a severed ear. What remains is the projected failure of acceptance in the dismaying sound of detonation that blows hands from bodies. We experience the futility of an unforgiving hand.

If being a Christian means being right, I fail. There's a meanness in us when we refuse to allow kindness to come to light. Offense given, offense taken; defense on field, defense defining fear.

Let's try something new. Let's hold out our hand.
Look Deeply into the Palm of Your Hand

If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.

To be born means that something which did not exist comes into existence. But the day we are "born" is not our beginning. It is a day of continuation. But that should not make us less happy when we celebrate our "Happy Continuation Day."

Since we are never born, how can we cease to be? This is what the Heart Sutra reveals to us. When we have tangible experience of non-birth and non-death, we know ourselves beyond duality. The meditation on "no separate self" is one way to pass through the gate of birth and death.

Your hand proves that you have never been born and you will never die. The thread of life has never been interrupted from time without beginning until now. Previous generations, all the way back to single cell beings, are present in your hand at this moment. You can observe and experience this. Your hand is always available as a subject for meditation.

(-- Thich Nhat Hanh, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment)
Once our hand is touched with kindness things come to light.

Through the gateless gate we pass.

Heart of Christ. Mind of Buddha. Mind of Christ. Heart of Buddha.

The trouble with being born is the forgetting of heart and mind.

Until we begin to lose both.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

What's the worse thing that could happen?

Don't ask!
The hermit practices the
Bleached Bones Meditation,
The Mahasattva vanishes into the void
Like sweet dew, each of the six senses
Is completely clean and pure,
Both the mind and the world
Are out of the ordinary.
For me, the True Source has
Not yet completely matured,
And the residue of unrooted
Habits still lingers on.
It is like the falcon who although set free,
Still feels the tug of the midnight leash.

- Su Shih (1075)
To ask is to extend from what is within the desire to be connected with what is without.

Any questions?