Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of a day. End of a year. End of a decade.

Anyone wish to pray for guidance?
After realizing the intent of Zen, people in ancient times used to spend decades polishing themselves thoroughly in order to free themselves from compulsions of conditioning and habit. This is called the work of maturation; the completion of maturation is called the attainment of unification. - Muso Kokushi (1275-1351)

We can choose to see things differently. We can transform, reverse, see truly differently whatever is occuring, has occured, or will be occurring in this perception we call the world. We can choose to live lovingly and compassionately throughout -- that is, in present presence upside down, backwards forward, inside out.

The house didn't burn down tonight. The energy was incendiary finishing with a roar the Epilogues of Course in Miracles. Eggnog sipped. Dog out and back in. We stay up and drain glasses.

Two nothing one nothing.

The message of the angel is:
"O neno thi ng. Twono thi ng."

Let's take the message. Let's follow the guidance.

Let's live in joy and light this 2010!

Happy New Year! New Day! New Decade!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

As the year ends, there is a lot of work to do. First, exit Afghanistan. Second, encourage voluntary poverty. Third, welcome strangers.
8 Americans die in suicide blast in Afghanistan
DEB RIECHMANN, The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 30, 2009; 3:02 PM
-- At least eight Americans died Wednesday in a suicide bombing at a military base in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. officials said. Conflicting reports were reaching the Pentagon on whether the victims were civilian or military in the bombing at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost province near the border with Pakistan.

The deaths were confirmed late Wednesday by a U.S. official in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

A senior U.S. official in Washington said the Americans were killed by an attacker wearing a suicide vest.

Another senior U.S. official in Washington said there were conflicting reports on the number of casualties, and that other people were wounded in the attack reported hearing a blast on the base.

Soon afterward, two helicopters landed, a police officer in Khost said.

All the U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because not all details about the incident had been confirmed.

(-- from The Washington Post.)
Maybe, for two, diminish greed.

And for three, accept the possibility that everyone is you without your particular ego.

A later report:

KABUL — A suicide bomber at a base in Afghanistan's volatile east killed eight CIA officers:

The attack is one of the most ambitious of the war, highlighting the insurgency's reach and coordination at a time when violence has reached its highest levels since the overthrow of the Taliban regime by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001.

Reuters reports that the attack on CIA officers is one of the largest death tolls for the U.S. agency. The attack is also one of the worst loss of life for Americans in the country since October. Four Canadian soldiers and a journalist were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan's south, NATO said.

U.S. officials in Washington said the suicide attacker detonated explosives Wednesday at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost province near the Afghan border with Pakistan, killing eight American civilians. A congressional official said CIA employees were believed to be among the dead.

"We mourn the loss of life in this attack, and are withholding further details pending notification of next of kin," U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said. (AP)

The killings must stop.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wind chill to minus -18 degrees tonight.

It's cold.
"Do not be attached to the past or wait for the future.
Be grateful for each day, that is enough.
I do not believe in a future world, I deny the past.
I believe entirely in the present.
Employ your entire body and mind in the eternal now."

-Santoka Taneda
All day I read student's papers.

Crawling into sleeping bag.

Wind slicing through near-full moonlight on fresh white snow.

Wood stacked in barn.

Sticks by wood stove.

Furnace thinks it can do its job.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Quantumly, there are myriad ways of seeing an event. Ah, we say, this is a good thing! Or, as likely, we spot something that becomes for us something worrisome and revealing of a dangerous backyard.

The peanut butter and jam on toasted English with cup of yesterday's coffee reheated, is a good morning's treat. There are no guests, so I don't have to make fresh coffee. My tastes are primitive. Anything is good enough.

In the news, more info about the widening gyre of war. We now publicize, thanks to an incident on a plane landing in Detroit, that we are plying war in Yemen. Like buying donuts at Willow Bake Shop, we drop CIA operatives along with mercenary war-for-hire companies, and keep arms merchants in the dough.
U.S. Widens Terror War to Yemen, a Qaeda Bastion

Published: December 27, 2009

WASHINGTON — In the midst of two unfinished major wars, the United States has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against Al Qaeda in Yemen.
Yemeni protesters staged a demonstration in the southern part of the country on Thursday after a raid against Qaeda militants.

A year ago, the Central Intelligence Agency sent several of its top field operatives with counterterrorism experience to the country, according a former top agency official. At the same time, some of the most secretive Special Operations commandos have begun training Yemeni security forces in counterterrorism tactics, senior military officers said.

The Pentagon is spending more than $70 million over the next 18 months, and using teams of Special Forces, to train and equip Yemeni military, Interior Ministry and coast guard forces, more than doubling previous military aid levels.

As American investigators sought to corroborate the claims of a 23-year-old Nigerian man that Qaeda leaders in Yemen had trained and equipped him to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas Day, the plot casts a spotlight on the Obama administration’s complicated relationship with Yemen.

The country has long been a refuge for jihadists, in part because Yemen’s government welcomed returning Islamist fighters who had fought in Afghanistan during the 1980s. The Yemen port of Aden was the site of the audacious bombing of the American destroyer Cole in October 2000 by Qaeda militants, which killed 17 sailors.

(--from New York Times,
Donuts are considerably less expensive than the $3,888,888.89 a month or $125,448.03 a day to scope out who to kill, kidnap, or turn to the good guys. It is a complicated world, the rationale goes, and we have to fight against simplicity of thought.
Once the human mind goes astray,
Truth, the true pattern of the Tao,
Is lost.
Once the human mind is gathered in,
The true pattern of the Tao is there.

- Hu Juren (1434-1484)
The world, so it seems, is what we make it. We choose what small percentage of any given second or segment we see. We narrate the impressions we receive into a story that fits into our familiar pattern of thought. We place halos around what we call sacred and horns on that which we despise. We are the principle filmmakers of our own personal studios.

And we are frightened by a world of our own making. We blame anything, anyone, for what we see. We grow paranoid and unhappy with the lot we see.

We grow numb, cloistered and claustrophobic, very particular in our opinions and subscribed home front, and we settle in for a long winter's nap.

"And I felt it was a matter of personal integrity not to...interfere with it" -- that's what Dr. Helen Schucman said about the communication of A Course in Miracles through her. "It talked about a system I don’t know anything about, and confused me no end. I’m still cross-eyed."
(--audio, The Voice: A Historical Moment with Helen,
As for me, I remain a kid from a Brooklyn street in Bensonhurst. I know stoop-ball and kick-the-can. I know hoops in P.S.205 Night-center and stickball in the schoolyard. We lived sewer to sewer. It was the measure of football toss, punchball hit, and how far Gary and Dominick's houses were from mine. When Anthony across the street was killed in a truck accident on the BQE something about childhood came to a close. Backyards, once the kingdom of a thousand idles, emptied out and all trace disappeared of someone else's footprints in the snow.

The old neighborhood is reconstructed within me. It is not, as the film-maker said on The Problem of God, memory. It is the energy that has comprised my very being coming alive again for a visit.
I catch my mind
circling for you with glazed eye--
my lost love hunting
your lost face.

Summer to summer,
the poplars sere
in the glare--
it's a town for the young,
they break themselves against the surf.

No dog knows my smell.

(--from poem by Robert Lowell - "Homecoming"
Now Yemen is my backyard.

Looking out my first-floor window a half-century gone toward the converted barn against the fence to 70th street -- no dog is chained to the link fence, no old man sits in folding chair smoking a White Owl, and no members of a large household come up stairs from basement or down stairs from back porch.

I look out at the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Arabian Sea.

It seems a long way from the clinking glass bottles delivered to morning milk box under storm window.

I'd choose to be the milkman at dawn bringing a simple delight. The milk would be pasteurized, a process reducing the number of viable pathogens likely to cause disease and premature death.

How would you choose to see the world?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

If you wish to know the mind of God, do this: Nothing.
"Having seen that I was not capable of using all my resources in political action, I returned to my literary activity. There lay the battlefield suited to my temperament. I wanted to make my novels the extension of my own father's struggle for liberty. But gradually, as I kept deepening my responsibility as a writer, the human problem came to overshadow political and social questions. All the political, social, and economic improvements, all the technical progress cannot have any regenerating significance, so long as our inner life remains as it is at present. The more the intelligence unveils and violates the secrets of Nature, the more the danger increases and the heart shrinks."
(from Nikos Kazantzakis by Helen Kazantzakis, 1968)
Dust gathers on books. Rain falls on mountain. A quiet chant sways silence.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Franciscan priest at refectory table told me to read the book again in a year or ten and see what I thought about it then.

I did. Both times. And still liked it. That was over forty years ago.

Somewhere between Lin Yutang's loafer/scamp, Hermann Hesse's oscillating seeker, and Han Shan's Cold Mountain Hermit -- Maugham's Larry Darrell has been to war, come back -- but not all the way. Some part of him is lost in the meaninglessness of war and death.

He weaves through the surface postures of prosperity. He pilgrimages to deeper vistas -- with grace and goodness.
"You see my dear, goodness is after all the greatest force in the world, and he's got it."
(--final line, W. Somerset Maugham in film THE RAZOR'S EDGE, 1946).
I'm older now. Still looking. Grace and goodness continue to be profound longing. Even in fiction.

Or in fact.
Hermits are alone for one another.
My true home is Cold Mountain
perched among cliffs beyond the reach of trouble ...

The Tientiei Mountains are my home
mist-shrouded cloud paths keep guests away
thousand-meter cliffs make hiding easy
above a rocky ledge among ten thousand streams
with bark hat and wooden clogs I walk along the banks
with hemp robe and pigweed staff I walk around the peaks
once you see through transience and illusion
the joys of roaming free are wonderful indeed.

(-- anonymous 9th-century Chinese poet-hermit Han Shan, who called himself Cold Mountain.)

One day alone is a joy of roaming free.

A razor's edge paring and coring.
Tired of wandering far from home, I realize the closeness, the profound intimacy, of homecoming is right here where each one of us is.

The practice of dwelling at origin is watching.
Total Cost of Wars Since 2001
as of 26Dec2009, 5:10am. (
War is the disembodying destruction done in the name of ideal, spiritual, and unattainable utopia.

The Christmas story tells of the birth of Jesus. He is to be the Christ. So are we.

The Christ-Reality is being born in the heart/mind/center ("shin" or "kokoro"). These words are described in a posting from Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, Fall 2005.

Defined by Shohaku Okumura

When I moved to Minneapolis from Japan in 1993 to teach at the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, my daughter Yoko was five years old. She went to kindergarten and then elementary school there. And while she learned English at school, at home we tried to talk in Japanese. One time, when she was seven or eight, we were talking about the Japanese word kokoro. I pointed to my heart as we usually do in Japan to show where kokoro is. She pointed to her head and said, “Kokoro is here.” I was amazed to discover that she was already translating the Japanese word kokoro into the English word “mind.”

Kokoro is a common Japanese word that carries meanings conveyed by the English words “mind” and “heart.” It is used as an equivalent of the Chinese word xin and covers almost the same range of meanings. The Japanese use Chinese characters to write Japanese, and have also studied Chinese literature as an essential part of both secular and Buddhist education for more than 1,500 years, which has led to a convergence of meaning between Chinese and Japanese for many classical words.

The Chinese ideogram for xin depicts the shape of the heart—the actual organ in the human body. Since ancient Chinese people thought the heart was where psychological function took place, the character conveyed a range of meanings including the heart organ, heart generally, mind, feeling, intention, center, and core.

The entry for kokoro in a dictionary of classic Japanese words communicates similar notions:

Originally, kokoro referred to the beat of the heart, which was considered to be the essential organ of life and the source of all activities. By extension, kokoro refers to all human activities affecting the outside world through intention, emotion, and intellect.
Kokoro, then, has three basic meanings: the heart and its functions; mind and its functions; and center, or essence.

The Chinese xin has an important spiritual and philosophical history, since it was used in Chinese translations of Buddhist scriptures for such Sanskrit terms as: citta, manas, and vijnana. In the Sarvastivadin view, these three were considered to be different names for basic mind. In Yogacara, though, citta refers to the alaya, or storehouse consciousness, while manas refers to the seventh consciousness, and vijnana refers to the function of the first six consciousnesses. These three can all be translated into the catchall English word “mind.” Another Sanskrit word, hrdaya, means the heart, center, or essence. It is also rendered as xin.

So both xin and kokoro carry the physical and spatial meaning of heart, center, or essence, and the psychological meaning of mind. It is very interesting to see that Sanskrit and English have completely different words to point to heart or mind and have no word that combines both meanings. The fact that they are both Indo-European languages may account for this shared dichotomy.

The Prajna Paramita Hrdaya Sutra is one of the most popular Mahayana sutras. In Japanese, it is called maka-Hannya-haramita-shin-gyo. The shin in the title is another rendering of the Chinese character xin, which of course carries the same dual meaning and roughly similar meaning to kokoro. But the best English translation is Heart Sutra, not Mind Sutra, because the original Sanskrit being rendered into Japanese and Chinese is hrdaya, not citta. Hrdaya, here, means that though this is a short sutra, the essence of the large six-hundred-volume Prajnaparamita Sutra is fully expressed.

There is another interesting and important usage of xin/shin/kokoro in Zen literature, as illustrated in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, when Shunryu Suzuki Roshi says,

The mind which is always on your side is not just your mind, it is universal mind, always the same, not different from another’s mind. It is Zen mind. It is big, big mind. This mind is whatever you see—this mind is at the same time everything.
Although Suzuki Roshi used the English word mind, to me it is clear that he is elucidating the meaning of xin as it developed from the meaning of hrdaya, not citta. Mind, or citta, cannot be both subject and object, whereas xin includes both the subject and all the objects in the entire world. Suzuki Roshi’s understanding of this principle came from Dogen Zenji’s treatise entitled Shobogenzo Sokushinzebutsu (The Mind Is Itself Buddha), where he says, “The mind that has been correctly transmitted is the one mind... and all dharmas are one mind. The mind is mountains, rivers, and the great earth; the sun, the moon, and stars.”

I don’t think either the Sanskrit citta or the English word mind conveys such a meaning, which presents us with a typical problem in translation. Uchiyama Kosho Roshi often said that the xin used in Zen is not “psychological mind,” but it is rather “life,” which includes both subject and object. In the 1970’s when I tried to explain this to an American friend, he was puzzled by the expression “psychological mind” and asked, “Is there such a thing as mind that is not psychological?” In Zen, I think we would say yes.

Kokoro (xin, shin, heart/mind) ultimately refers to the entire network of interdependent origination in which we are born, live, and die, and to which we awaken through our practice.

(Shohaku Okumura was ordained as a Soto Zen priest in 1970 by the late Kosho Uchiyama Roshi. He now resides in Bloomington, Indiana, where he founded the Sanshin Zen Community.)
As of 5:45am, the cost has increased in 35 minutes to:
Total Cost of Wars Since 2001

Cost of War in Iraq

Cost of War in Afghanistan
To become a Christ, to revere Christ, there is something very important to do. What is that?

To become a Buddha, to revere Buddha, there is something very important to be. What is this?

I will practice under the watchful gaze of these two questions.

I will sit, walk, eat, work, bow, converse, and keep silence.

For strength I will look to you -- as you practice.



Embody life here and now!

It is Christmas.

Friday, December 25, 2009

And so.

It's been Christmas.
I've lived in this hermitage
How long I don't know
Deep and secret and
Without obstructions
Heaven and earth meet
Like box and cover:
There's no turning toward
Or turning away.
I do not stay in the east, west,
South or north
The jewel tower and the jade palace
Do not stand opposite me.
I do not take guidelines from
Bodhidharma as a model
As the light shines freely through
Eighty four thousand gates.

- T'aego (1301-1382)
War, you know, is over.

If we want it.

I do.


It dawns.

First light.

Christmas morning.

Winter, Camden, Maine.

The fragrance.

Silence of the mountain.

Experiencing in solitude the warmth of the real, present, vibratory energy of all we've touched, heard, and held in heart.

Enter here.

And be glad.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

To be born is to die.

But life does not begin nor end.
Wide is his dominion
in a peace that has no end,

(--from Isaiah 9:1-7)
Because of this, we celebrate Christmas.

What is today?

Life itself enters into our parameters.

To die is to be born.

But life itself knows no other way but itself.
Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.
(--from Luke 2: 1-14)
Christmas is the celebration of what is itself!

Take joy and be merry in this celebration of what is itself.
When asked what a hermitage is I say it is a place for solitude, meditation, and prayer.

There is a quiet in the air tonight. The night before Christmas Eve. We insulate the 1st floor of the bookshed all day. There is light snowfall outside.

Christianity is the metaphor of the embodiment of wholeness. It is a good feast, Christmas. It is the choice one makes to see humanity as good, as worthy of itself, as poised always on the edge surrounding the center, ready to fall into it's very heart.

Jesus has been the property of churches, saved enthusiasts, and powerful politicians both secular and ecclesiastical. They own the brand. But the reality, the personal intimacy beyond platitude -- that belongs to the unsuspecting, the stranger, the open-hearted. No ritual, no dogma, no creed, no special invitation, no fuss. The child is born. The earth has received it's own. The pretentious rift between matter and spirit, heaven and earth, and secular and sacred is healed and dissolved.

We're at home now.

Midnight passes.

Wholeness nears.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dalai Lama is talking on the podcast about being 74 and maybe in ten years 84 and then in ten years 94. Maybe he will see a different Tibet in his lifetime. I like his tone.
Stop and look around you.
Look out from the frameless window
Of a long pause.
Let the images come to you
Rather than chasing outward after them.
Allow yourself to reorient so that
You're no longer pulled along
By the stream of events.
If you want to see differently,
You'll have to look differently. - Ji Aoi Isshi
Finish one to one interviews with students in Comparative Religion course in Maine State Prison. It was a good semester. Last night we had the students from University College at Rockland course on East Asian Philosophy to the hermitage for final make-up class with meditation practice, lentil soup, bread, then apfel kuchen. The young son of one of the students kept Rokpa busy. Now to read papers, grade tests, and issue grades.

"I am one of the six billion human beings," he says. Non-violence and religious harmony are his predominant messages.

Ahimsa or non-injury, of course, implies non-killing. But, non-injury is not merely non-killing. In its comprehensive meaning, Ahimsa or non-injury means entire abstinence from causing any pain or harm whatsoever to any living creature, either by thought, word, or deed. Non-injury requires a harmless mind, mouth, and hand.

Ahimsa is not mere negative non-injury. It is positive, cosmic love. It is the development of a mental attitude in which hatred is replaced by love. Ahimsa is true sacrifice. Ahimsa is forgiveness. Ahimsa is Sakti (power). Ahimsa is true strength
(-from BLISS DIVINE, A Book of Spiritual Essays On the Lofty Purpose of Human Life And the Means to Its Achievement, by Swami Sivananda)
Away from his job, a young (age 29) correctional officer died suddenly of apparent heart-related difficulty. His memorial is tonight in Rockland. I knew him by sight. I will sit on my cushion with him in mind in solitude memorial at the hermitage.

The tone of Dalai Lama suggests he might just be the last Dalai Lama. Not only does everyone die, so too every institution and every sentient being pass on, pass away, or pass over.

At this time of meditation on the metaphor of coming-to-life of Life-Itself within the surround of what we call "life" -- I turn attention to the tone of the Dalai Lama who notes that democracy, liberty, freedom, and tolerance are very good things.

It would be nice to return to a religious faith that was open to the reality of life.

One of the men in prison suggested that faith was not having to deny anything.

I hear this as radical openness.

A person of faith sees everything as matter for reflection, love, and kindness.

The Dalai Lama is silent now.

Now everything listens.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It is fruitless to try to eliminate "the other".

There are two ways. One is Karl Barth writing,"Gott ist der ganz andere" (God is wholly other). Another is the sentence: There is no other.

There is a middle way between one and two. It is being caught in the paradox that says it is fruitless to try to eliminate the other because -- there is no other.

At this season of the Incarnation it seems the metaphor of God becoming man is an instance of that paradox -- namely, God is God by becoming man. Man is man by becoming God.

When the Son of Man dies, death is no other -- so, resurrection takes place indicating there is only that which is -- namely, God, or Life.

So too with reincarnation and rebirth. Death being not-other than life, it is not a state of being, nor is it non-being. Death is death by becoming life. Life is life by moving through death back to itself.

Isn't this what is longed for?

We are not one. Nor are we two.

Each is itself.

It is fruitless to try to eliminate the other.


There is non(e) to speak of.

Blessings of the day!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

If people in positions of authority do not work for the benefit of the people, then...
Aposiopesis (from Classical Greek, "becoming silent") is a rhetorical device wherein a sentence is deliberately broken off and left unfinished, the ending to be supplied by the imagination, giving an impression of unwillingness or inability to continue. An example would be the threat "Get out, or else—!" This device often portrays its users as overcome with passion (fear, anger, excitement) or modesty. To mark the occurrence of aposiopesis with punctuation an 'em dash' or an ellipsis may be used.
There is an energy in words or presence that refuses to finish the journey.

There is only the journeying.

Christmas comes nearer.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lament we spend a million dollars a year for each military person in a war zone.

Bemoan conservative right-wing politicians refusing health care to everyone.

Decry the demise of representative government replaced by capitalistic bribes by the monied.

The temperature outside in Maine tonight is zero. The weathering cold stops you. Nothing moves. Everything tightens.

I look at the stars.

I load wood-stove.

I root for my brothers and sisters -- for their health, their warmth, and their safety.

A new war, undeclared, has begun.

You and I are in the sights of those willing to sacrifice us for profit.

It is good light is coming.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


That's what the Chinese philosopher said we need.
Today we are afraid of simple words like goodness and mercy and kindness. We don't believe in the good old words because we don't believe in good old values anymore. And that's why the world is sick.
(--Lin Yutang)
We get it. In abundance.

Many, many, fools practicing foolishness.

Now we have to sort out the scamps from the scoundrels.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

If you've ever done the right thing just because it was the right thing to do, you know the inherent desire of being human.

You write that unity, as opposed to duality, is "the purpose of evolution." What do you mean?

The fact that we experience separation is really a perceptual artifact. There's only a single reality that differentiates into both mind and body and then from body and environment. So our perceptual experience of the environment is different than the body, the body is different from the mind, and the mind is different from the soul.

There are two types of ignorance that we come to in this world, one is innate ignorance, which is this perceptual artifact of separation and the other is cultural ignorance.

Just like, your DNA, for example, differentiates into the different cells of your body, your heart cells and your brain cells, and your kidney cells are different in appearance, but not different in their essence. They came from the same double strand of DNA and if I wanted to isolate the DNA in every cell of your body, even though these belong to different organs, I'd get the same information. So the appearance of the expression of the different organs in the body is different, but it's still the same essence. So, too, every observer is a differentiated aspect of a single observer and every object of perception is a differentiated expression of the same observer, because the observer and the observed, the seer and the scenery, the knower and the known are differentiated aspects of a single consciousness. The goal of all spiritual seeking is to realize that experientially and intellectually—but more importantly experientially.

Cultural ignorance is when we take these ideas of duality and then we create institutions around them—so religious and cultural and social indoctrination perpetuates the ignorance.

(from, Spirituality in a Material World, Interview with Depak Chopra by Lisa Schneider,

I don't know much about God.

Still, I'm fond of the idea there is a source of compassion and love.

Compassion and love are right things.

They are our inherent desires.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I am disturbed by so much.
Beyond Hope

1. Don't wish for perfect health. In perfect health, there is greed and wanting. So an ancient said, " Make good medicine from the suffering of sickness." 2. Don't hope for life without problems. An easy life results in a judgmental and lazy mind. So an ancient once said, "Accept the anxieties and difficulties of this life". 3. Don't expect your practice to be clear of obstacles. Without hindrances the mind that seeks enlightenment may be burnt out. So an ancient once said, "Attain deliverance in disturbances".
(--Zen Master Kyong Ho [ 1849-1912], in Thousand Peaks)
Lord, deliver me!
Standing at edge of wharf Rockport Harbor at sunrise reading psalm from Nan Merrill's Psalms For Praying, I realize that cars coming down ramp might think I was planning to jump into the freezing water. I think this because it is always an option, others have done it, and the thinking mind thinks too much.
You should therefore cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest. If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay.

For sanzen (zazen), a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. Cast aside all involvements and cease all affairs. Do not think good or bad. Do not administer pros and cons. Cease all the movements of the conscious mind, the gauging of all thoughts and views. Have no designs on becoming a Buddha. Sanzen has nothing whatever to do with sitting or lying down.

(from, FUKANZAZENGI, by Eihei Dogen )
Saskia and her mom prepare and bake seasonal Kipferl and Linzer torte. Tom works on wiring bookshed. Cat looks down from crawlspace above kitchen.

I don't jump. I bask, instead, in the lovely rendition of psalmic verse by Nan Merrill. Sun comes up over Beauchamp point trees after announcing itself on clapboards and in windows on west side of harbor. Schooner Timberwind, covered and securely tied to pilings, is pushed by wind lifting lines from water taut to land. Coffee and muffin from Market Basket on Route One. Water and wind, dawn and sun from the mystery, creator, and nature of Being-Itself.
by David R. Slavitt

Each morning, as I confront my closet's array,
I have to admit again that the life I lead
is hardly good enough: I have not been named
ambassador to Malta; I am not on the board

of any college or large corporation; I shall not
receive a major prize today and pose
for photographers. Those suits, the shirts, the ties
are ready, but I am not, and the shoes are shined

as they wait for different occasions than I imagined
on the tailor's block, when I shopped for a dandified
future brighter than what I expect or deserve.
Even for weddings and funerals that require
a suit, I choose from the second best, reserving
that one for the dream into which I yet hope to awake.

(Poem, "Suits" by David R. Slavitt, from William Henry Harrison and Other Poems. Louisiana State University Press, 2006. From The Writer's Almanac)
I pick up my wrinkled shirts and hang them from metal clothes-tree on hangers hooked on two remaining trident prongs. My life is messy. Dust from years ago has despaired of being swiped away and deposited elsewhere. Books thick with decade dust lean against different genres with indifference. None are especial. All are abandoned.

I go to eye doctor and get completely different readout for corrective lenses. How could every number change from one town and 12 days to another? It is, or course, the season of miraculous changes.

Many hands decorated the tree yesterday. Evening practice was holy imperfection (as one woman averred). All we do is sit, walk, read, eat, and speak of what is taken place. It's just us. As we are. Becoming present.

I find the worlds of politics, sports, celebrity, punditry, experts, know-it-alls, and assorted camouflaged soldiers fighting unspecified battles under their breath -- I find all of it to be less and less interesting.

Dogen's words return:
Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest. If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay.

Such it is.

Where we are.

Let there be.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

To find God lose God. To find yourself lose yourself.

What's left?
To find you, I moved beyond the city,
A wide path led me, by mulberry and hemp,
To a new-set hedge of chrysanthemums
Not yet blooming although autumn had come.
I knocked; no answer, not even a dog.
I waited to ask your western neighbor;
But he told me that daily you climb the mountain,
Never returning till sunset.
- Sen Chiao-jan
God isn't hard to find.

It's raining.

I told you.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Three promises of Meetingbrook monastics, renewed yearly on December 10th:

Contemplation, Conversation, Correspondence. held by Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage“m.o.n.o.”(monastics of no other).

Contemplation is the promise of simplicity.
It is a gift of poverty inviting open waiting, receptive trust, attention, and watchful presence. It is a simple Being-With.
* It is attentive presence.

Conversation is the promise of integrity.
It is a chaste and complete intention to listen and speak, lovingly and respectfully, with each and all made present to us. It is a wholeness of listening and speaking.
* It is root silence.

Correspondence is the promise of faithful engagement.
It is responsible attention and intention offered obediently to the Source of all Being, to the Human Family, to Nature. It is a faithful engagement with all sentient beings, with this present world, with existence with all its needs & joys, sorrows & hope.
* It is transparent service.


Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage invites & welcomes individuals interested in the practice of these 3 promises in their life. Whether the interest is in conversing, praying, deepening, learning, or even holding these 3 promises, we invite you to enter the inquiry and stillness. May the loving light and the compassionate peace of the Christ and the Bodhisattva accompany and support the efforts of each one.


Quotes: 1. We are going to have to create a new language of prayer. (Thomas Merton, Calcutta 1968)

2. When you go apart to be alone for prayer…see that nothing remains in your consciousness mind save a naked intent stretching out toward God. Leave it stripped of every particular idea about God (what he is like in himself or in his works) and keep only the awareness that he is as he is. Let him be thus, I pray you, and force him not to be otherwise. (Anonymous)

3. I long for a great lake of ale. / I long for the men of heaven in my house. / I long for cheerfulness in their drinking. / And I long for Jesus to be there among them. (Brigid, Celtic saint)

4. It is not by closing your eyes that you see your own nature. On the contrary, you must open your eyes wide and wake up to the real situation in the world to see completely your whole Dharma Treasure, your whole Dharma Body. The bombs, the hunger, the pursuit of wealth and power - these are not separate from your nature….You will suffer, but your pain will not come from your own worries and fears. You will suffer because of your kinship with all beings, because you have the compassion of an awakened one, a Bodhisattva. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

5. He who truly attains awakening knows that deliverance is to be found right where he is. There is no need to retire to the mountain cave. If he is a fisherman he becomes a real fisherman. If he is a butcher he becomes a real butcher. The farmer becomes a real farmer and the merchant a real merchant. He lives his daily life in awakened awareness. His every act from morning to night is his religion. (Sokei-an)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

We pronounce our lay-monastic promises at conversation tonight. It is December 10th. It is Thomas Merton Transition Day.
...a digression on each point in order to reach the center.
(--Pascal, Pensees)
I sometimes pass my days and nights in vain. Or, as another translation has it, " Do not waste your time by night or day." This is the final line of the poem "Sandokai" -- a poem by the eighth Chinese Zen ancestor Shitou Xiqian (Sekito Kisen, 700–790).
The Sandokai is chanted daily in Soto Zen places of practice.

Harmony of Difference and Sameness

The mind of the great sage of India
is intimately transmitted from west to east.
While human faculties are sharp or dull,
the Way has no northern or southern ancestors.
The spiritual source shines clear in the light;
the branching streams flow on in the dark.
Grasping at things is surely delusion;
according with sameness is still not enlightenment.
All the objects of the senses
interact and yet do not.
Interacting brings involvement.
Otherwise, each keeps its place.
Sights vary in quality and form,
sounds differ as pleasing or harsh.
Refined and common speech come together in the dark,
clear and murky phrases are distinguished in the light.
The four elements return to their natures
just as a child turns to its mother;
Fire heats, wind moves,
water wets, earth is solid.
Eye and sights, ear and sounds,
nose and smells, tongue and tastes;
Thus with each and every thing,
depending on these roots, the leaves spread forth.
Trunk and branches share the essence;
revered and common, each has its speech.
In the light there is darkness,
but don't take it as darkness;
In the dark there is light,
but don't see it as light.
Light and dark oppose one another
like the front and back foot in walking.
Each of the myriad things has its merit,
expressed according to function and place.
Phenomena exist; box and lid fit.
principle responds; arrow points meet.
Hearing the words, understand the meaning;
don't set up standards of your own.
If you don't understand the Way right before you,
how will you know the path as you walk?
Progress is not a matter of far or near,
but if you are confused, mountains and rivers block your way.
I respectfully urge you who study the mystery,

do not pass your days and nights in vain.
Translation/Compilation copyright Soto Shumucho 1997
(November 15-16, 97; revised version)
There's plenty to be confused about. The Way right before me might actually be several ways at once. I am reading about MWI (Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics). Perhaps it's not just a case that we have all been here before, but more like we are all here and here and there and there at the same time.
Bonnie Mitchell: "Living in the electrons of cyberspace, we have no gender, we have no race, we are neither old nor young, intelligent nor naive, we have only an e-mail address to identify us. Our writing style and smileys reveal our virtual personalities. We are not alone. Yet we sit in physical isolation. Our machines satisfy our quest for social acknowledgment. We speak with our fingers and the machine replies.... Nonphysical intimacy. Security and privacy. Suppressed expression. Electrically altered ego. We have no need for faces. Don't show me yours. We have no need for bodies. They deteriorate anyway. We have no need for voice. We speak through thought. We have no need for any of these things. We have fingers, words, and images. We have an Internet connection. We have our virtual selves.
(--Segmentation / Alternative paths. Silvio Gaggi, From Text to Hypertext. Metonymy and Metaphor in the Fiction of Forking Paths: "
Someone suggested we might change the phrase from 'the spiritual life" to "the life of consciousness." Maybe the lexical tension between material/spiritual would mutate into a deeper appreciation of awareness or consciousness that does not cultivate opposition.

When the chickadee swoops over kitchen roof, I go there. When red squirrel runs between barn and bookshed, I go there. Not I, we. Not we -- just Chickadee, just Red Squirrel.
Q.15 Where are the other worlds?

Non-relativistic quantum mechanics and quantum field theory are quite unambiguous: the other Everett-worlds occupy the same space and time as we do.
The implicit question is really, why aren't we aware of these other worlds, unless they exist "somewhere" else? To see why we aren't aware of the other worlds, despite occupying the same space-time, see "Why do I only ever experience one world?" Some popular accounts describe the other worlds as splitting off into other, orthogonal, dimensions. These dimensions are the dimensions of Hilbert space, not the more familiar space-time dimensions.

The situation is more complicated, as we might expect, in theories of quantum gravity (See "What about quantum gravity?"), because gravity can be viewed as perturbations in the space-time metric. If we take a geometric interpretation of gravity then we can regard differently curved space-times, each with their own distinct thermodynamic history, as non-coeval. In that sense we only share the same space-time manifold with other worlds with a (macroscopically) similar mass distribution. Whenever the amplification of a quantum-scale interaction effects the mass distribution and hence space-time curvature the resultant decoherence can be regarded as splitting the local space-time manifold into discrete sheets.

(-from, 22. THE EVERETT FAQ, Michael Clive Price, February 1995
I like the phrase "discrete sheets" -- it sounds so...bedtime civilized.

Clarity has an Opening Reception at Camden Library tonight. Their show is elegant. So are the dips and biscotti.

However many universes, dimensions, alternate realities there might be, I'm happy to be weaving my way -- our way -- through them all.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Snow cancelled everything but the car stuck at end of driveway. That went on for a while.
Wind blows as first storm of the season enters ninth hour.

I sit zazen then call the man further down coast. He is not well. Not sleeping. Legs in pain. Just starting dinner. He'll call back.

It's not what is said. It's the listening.
After Missing the Recluse on the Western Mountain

To your hermitage here on the top
Of the mountain I have climbed,
Without stopping, these ten miles.
I have knocked at your door,
And no one answered;
I have peeped into your room,
At your seat beside the table.
Perhaps you are out walking,
Or fishing, more likely, in some autumn pool.
Sorry though I am to be missing you,
You have become my meditation.

The beauty of the grasses, fresh with rain,
And close beside the window the music of pines,
I take into my being all that I see and hear,
Soothing my senses, quieting my heart;
And though there be neither host nor guest,
Have I not had a visit complete?
The afternoon fades,
I make my way
Back down the mountain.
Why should I wait for you any longer?

- Ch-iu Wei
Why wait, indeed!

I like missed appointments, cancelled classes, and unworded conversation. Worded ones can work too.
He Gets Around to Answering the Old Question
by Miller Williams

He doesn't see as well as he thinks he remembers.
His fingers sometimes find it hard to bend.
He often can't find the name to go with a face.
Sometimes he doesn't hear but decides to pretend.

Weekends, week by week, are closer together.
Sometimes he has to sit down to put on his pants.
No lady seems to mind if he calls her Honey,
never grins nor even throws a glance.

Sometimes he's told himself what all this means.
"Every year some more of me is dead,
but there's a lot of stuff still left to collapse."
He started to laugh but talked to himself instead.

"Think of yourself as a plumbing system, a clock.
As soon as you're done, you start to come undone.
It's almost interesting when you pay attention,
how working parts stop working, one by one.

So now you've asked me the oldest question of all.
You want to know how I'm doing. I told you before,
I'm dying. Been at it for years. Still, I think
I could hang a few more calendars on the door."

(Poem, "He Gets Around to Answering the Old Question" by Miller Williams, from Time and the Tilting Earth.
The elderly man calls back and we talk. He's finished dinner. He's worried. I tell him about the poem. He tells me he's not afraid to die. It's just his mind is worried. A changed diagnosis, brain and legs not working well, no sleep for 4 nights.

Talk to your foot, your legs, your head -- I say to him. Maybe they feel neglected. Ask them to help you out. Tell them you'll ask them questions, listen to their responses, inform them about what you'd like. He says he likes that idea. Why not ask them to help in the same way he might ask God to help. He says why not move into a more bodily prayer.

I tell him about the 22 year old young man who's been in a coma for the past week since his car accident. He tells me that's sad. I tell him about the way they pray for so many specifics, how they trust that God's will -- no matter what happens -- will be done. They have it covered. He tells me how he doesn't dream of hell these days.

I tell him about Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight on He tells he'll watch it.

Earlier, someone asks about giving a talk to hospice volunteers about spirituality. I won't know what to say. I say yes. We'll have to have a conversation at the session. It's all about conversation, isn't it?

And gratitude.

I'm grateful to this body for serving so long with me.
I'm grateful to this mind for helping things along all these years.

It's an old question: How are you doing?

It's beyond amazing that we're doing anything!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

For Events, see

Today, December 8th, we are presented with two unusual stories.

One man is opened to the transparency and emptiness of everything and finds his true nature, sees compassion and wisdom as that original nature, lets fall all duality, and is known in history as Shakyamuni Buddha

One woman-to-be, in utero, arrives in her mother, Anne, to grow into this existence with an openness that is said to have no separation or flaw, preparing her (Mary) to receive the embodied wholeness history will name Jesus.

1. A man under a tree sees the morning star and realizes he and that star are not two things. He considers this for a long time then spends the rest of his life teaching about suffering, desire, release from desire, and the way to do it.

2. A couple conceive and their future child is considered to be free from a sin that is part of a mythic centuries-old story not yet identified as "Original Sin" until three hundred years later. Her doctrine is declared 1500 years later.

Still, they are good stories.
Bodhi Day Sermon:
Today we commemorate the awakening of Shakyamuni Buddha. Shakyamuni means the “Sage of the Shakya Clan.” Buddha is a title which means “Awakened One.” Out of all the millions and millions of people who have lived upon this earth, we believe that he, at least, awoke from the dream of life’s all too frequent sufferings and all too fragile joys and saw the Truth for himself. This Truth that he awakened to was the Truth which resolved all his previous concerns about the meaning of life and death. This Truth was the solution to the problem of suffering that he had been seeking. All of his subsequent teachings and all the efforts of the 2,500 year old community that has passed on those teachings to the present day are all for the purpose of helping us to see the Truth for ourselves as well, the very same Truth that the Buddha realized.
Immaculate Conception, The doctrine:

In the Constitution 'Ineffabilis Deus' of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."
(-The Catholic Encylopedia,
In Maine today, sun shines. Snow melts drip by drip. Morning mountain walk on Ragged with Saskia, Cody (her mom's German Shepherd) and Rokpa (our Border Collie). Coffee and toast. Lighting incense and candle on front room altar honoring both Mary and Siddhartha.

These last few days for me it seems that everything is a story.

We are told stories; we tell stories.

Of course they're mostly true -- even if the rational consciousness cannot grasp the facts or ideas proposed. But something deeper, more open, less mental -- does say 'yes' and goes on about the day with a gratitude for what the stories present.

They present us.

Opening --

A good story!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Snow. Everything changes.

Friday, December 04, 2009

There are souls calling out to souls saying: Listen to me!

That's what the 90 year old woman said in poetry today.

Those in the circle nodded.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Maybe there is no way out.
The Way Out
Like someone lost in the forest, if you're not really convinced that there's a way out, you give up very easily. You run into a thicket here, a steep cliff there, and it just seems way too much. But if you're convinced there's got to be a way out, you've heard of other people who've made their way out, you think, "It's got to be in here someplace." You keep looking, looking, looking. And finally you see how the other people made their way out: "Oh. That was the path they took."

-Thanissaro Bhikkhu, "Power of Conviction," Tricycle, Winter 2006
Maybe there is.




Monday, November 30, 2009

Weep --

Sunday, November 29, 2009

For Events, see


At times, when moon is bright, I can see nothing clearly.

Most times, I can't see anything.
Do not say, "I understand! I have attained mastery!" If you have attained mastery, then why are you going around asking other people questions? As soon as you say you understand Zen, people watch whatever you do and whatever you say, wondering why you said this or that. If you claim to understand Zen, moreover, this is actually a contention of ignorance. What about the saying that one should "silently shine, hiding one's enlightenment?" What about "the path is not different from the human mind?"
- Foyan (1067–1120)
Even hermits have to be alone some days.

Moonlight everywhere!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

After you watch the film "Trouble the Waters" you come to see Hurricane Katrina as the storm that opened the window to let in the awful truth of poverty -- that poor people don't matter, are an embarrassment, and should go away, preferably to prison.

In prison today we talk about Shahadah, Salat, Zakat, Sawm, and Hajj. The statement of acknowledgment and submission to Allah; the five times of prayer daily; the charity shown and shared with one another; the fasting during the month of Ramadan; and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Wholeness matters. Practicing and doing what we are...doing, matters. Serving all our brothers and sisters matters. Self-emptying and surrendering to the whole-beyond-ego, matters. Journeying alone-with-others to the common place of undifferentiated sacred practice, matters.

God -- at all times, with all people, the intimate transcending mere compassion beyond a limiting self -- is our practice and journey with everyone and everything that lives and breathes and has being in this world.

Poor people matter. Are instances of compassion. Belong. And prisons must dissolve.
Sitting alone in peace
Before these cliffs
The full moon is
Heaven's beacon
The ten thousand things
Are all reflections
The moon originally
Has no light
Wide open
The spirit of itself is pure
Hold fast to the void
Realize its subtle mystery
Look at the moon like this
This moon that is the heart's pivot

- Han-shan
One Imam called Allah "the compassionate and the compassionating."

To surrender to God is to allow compassion to be who and what we are.

To be asked, "Do you believe in God?" is to be asked, "Is compassion for you?"

Yea, it is.

David leaves us his Tibetan calligraphy. It encourages perseverance.

For me to be.

For us to become.

For peace to pervade.

We Persevere.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Listening to Yusuf Islam sing "Peace Train."

Listening to rain outside window.

Listening to the sound of surrender to the compassionating wholeness.

Tomorrow, several hours' class on Islam in prison.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

According to Berkeley, "esse est percipi" ("to be is to be perceived").

If not perceived, then, perhaps, not.
Wanting to go to the eastern cliff
Setting out now after
How many years
Yesterday I used the vines
To pull myself up
But halfway there
Wind and mist made
The going tough
The narrow path grabbed
At my clothes
The moss so slippery
I couldn't proceed
So I stopped right here
Beneath this cinnamon tree
Used a cloud as a pillow
And went to sleep

- Han-shan
The joy of being a hermit is being able to stop right where you are. It is Thanksgiving. Being at home is a gift. With oneself. No need to be where one is not.

If you are looking for what is not, don't.

Stop right here.

Sleep well!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Is God in us? Or, are we in God?

Such a silly question.

Everybody knows the answer.

God is God. Allah is Allah. Christ is Christ. Yahweh is Yahweh. Reality is Reality.

Now, then -- was there something you wanted to know?

Or would you rather feel what is beyond knowledge?

Or, perhaps, we might just say: "Thank You!"

You are.