Saturday, February 28, 2009

Is this dog on or off his cushion?

The hermitage pup is one year with us on 1st of March. Rokpa, a Tibetan name which means to help and serve in harmony and continuance, was born on 4Oct2007 and adopted by us on 1Mar2008.

Dear friends, at every moment "the earth is full of the mercy of God," and nature itself is a lesson for all the faithful in the worship of God. The heavens, the sea and all that is in them bear witness to the goodness and omnipotence of their Creator, and the marvellous beauty of the elements as they obey him demands from the intelligent creation a fitting expression of its gratitude.               (from a sermon by St. Leo the Great, Thursday after Ash Wednesday, Office of Readings)
Why is there something rather than nothing?

Who's asking?

The Buddha's Path

Suppose we use a traveling metaphor for the universal spiritual quest. The main map the Buddha offered for the trip to happiness and contentment is called the Eightfold Path, but I have often thought it should be called the Eightfold Circle. A path goes from here to there, and the nearer you are to there, the farther you are from here. A path is progressive... on a genuine path you need to start at the beginning and proceed in a linear way until the end. With a circle, you can join in anywhere, and it's the same circle.

When the Buddha taught his path, he said it had a specific number of constituent parts; people could be sure they were going the right way if they saw any one of eight special markers....The order in which the traveler sees the signs doesn't matter. If we look at any sign closely, it becomes apparent that Right Understanding, the suspicion that it is possible to be contented even if we aren't pleased, arouses Right Aspiration to make a lot of Right Effort to develop more Right Understanding.... It's all connected.

(- Sylvia Boorstein, It's Easier Than You Think)
The weak Anthropic Principle is stated as such:
"The argument can be used to explain why the conditions happen to be just right for the existence of (intelligent) life on the earth at the present time. For if they were not just right, then we should not have found ourselves to be here now, but somewhere else, at some other appropriate time. This principle was used very effectively by Brandon Carter and Robert Dicke to resolve an issue that had puzzled physicists for a good many years. The issue concerned various striking numerical relations that are observed to hold between the physical constants (the gravitational constant, the mass of the proton, the age of the universe, etc.). A puzzling aspect of this was that some of the relations hold only at the present epoch in the earth's history, so we appear, coincidentally, to be living at a very special time (give or take a few million years!). This was later explained, by Carter and Dicke, by the fact that this epoch coincided with the lifetime of what are called main-sequence stars, such as the sun. At any other epoch, so the argument ran, there would be no intelligent life around in order to measure the physical constants in question-so the coincidence had to hold, simply because there would be intelligent life around only at the particular time that the coincidence did hold!"
(—from, The Emperor's New Mind, Chapter 10, by Roger Penrose)
We're so glad Rokpa chose to be with us.

And because he is with us, we're here.

As are you, where you are.

Friday, February 27, 2009

NAACP/Barack Hussein Obama/Martin Luther King celebration in prison this afternoon. Joe, Charlie, Billy, and others give talks and read poems. A good gathering.
The body of Buddha is everywhere,
Does the Goddess of Mercy live in the eastern sea?
Every green mountain is a place of awakening;
Why must you seek Mount Potalaka?

- Paegun (1299-1375)
Why are we here?

Because the question is asked.

Why are organizations that respect and honor individuals necessary?

Because a poet's grandmother occupies the first and last line of Joe J's poem asking her rhetorical question.

I'm glad to have been there with over a hundred responses.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

On and on.
Pantoum of the Great Depression

Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.

Simply by going on and on
We managed. No need for the heroic.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
I don't remember all the particulars.

We managed. No need for the heroic.
There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
I don't remember all the particulars.
Across the fence, the neighbors were our chorus.

There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
Thank god no one said anything in verse.
The neighbors were our only chorus,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.

At no time did anyone say anything in verse.
It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.
No audience would ever know our story.

It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us.
We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
What audience would ever know our story?
Beyond our windows shone the actual world.

We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
Somewhere beyond our windows shone the world.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.
And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
We did not ourselves know what the end was.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues.

But we did not ourselves know what the end was.
People like us simply go on.
We have our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues,
But it is by blind chance only that we escape tragedy.

And there is no plot in that; it is devoid of poetry.

(Poem, Pantoum of the Great Depression, by Donald Justice, in New and Selected Poems, 1997)
We do not know what the end is.

It just is.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

We are of earth. We come from earth.
In Memory of the Unknown Poet, Robert Boardman Vaughn
But the essential advantage for a poet is not, to have a beautiful world with which to deal: it is to be able to see beneath both beauty and ugliness; to see the boredom, and the horror, and the glory.
It was his story. It would always be his story.
It followed him; it overtook him finally—
The boredom, and the horror, and the glory.

Probably at the end he was not yet sorry,
Even as the boots were brutalizing him in the alley.
It was his story. It would always be his story,

Blown on a blue horn, full of sound and fury,
But signifying, O signifying magnificently
The boredom, and the horror, and the glory.

I picture the snow as falling without hurry
To cover the cobbles and the toppled ashcans completely.
It was his story. It would always be his story.

Lately he had wandered between St. Mark’s Place and the Bowery,
Already half a spirit, mumbling and muttering sadly.
O the boredom, and the horror, and the glory.

All done now. But I remember the fiery
Hypnotic eye and the raised voice blazing with poetry.
It was his story and would always be his story—
The boredom, and the horror, and the glory.

(--Poem, “In Memory of the Unknown Poet, Robert Boardman Vaughn” from New and Selected Poems. © 1995 by Donald Justice. )
Earth is where we'll return.

And let us not be separated from earth.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Olin quoted Ranciere.
"Reasonable man knows, therefore, that there is no political science, no politics of truth. Truth settles no conflict in the public place. It speaks to man only in the solitude of his conscience. It withdraws the moment the conflict erupts between two consciences. Whoever hopes to meet up with it must know, in any case, that it travels alone, without any retinue."
(Jacques Ranciere, The Ignorant Schoolmaster, p.90)
Truth alone exists.

The thought occurs.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I don't remember losing God. Not that I ever had God to lose. It's just there were assurances. More like...rituals...sunrise, sunset, night.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men not now wreck his rod?
Generations have trod,have trod, have trod;
All is now smeared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, not can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs -
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods
With warm breast and ah! bright wings.

(Poem, God's Grandeur, by Gerard Manley Hopkins)
The rituals seem a way off in the corner of some cavernous underground. And the words of men seem oddly menacing. The maddening thickness of far right thinking.

I've begun to fear some deep sorrow is about to cover the land. Maybe it's my inability to shake this body ache, or the second 12 inches of snow in three days. My mind is on strike. It allows no action before deadline. My life catches up with me as finish line nears. Roof rake pulls down great swaths of snow. Body says it is likely to seize up without advance notice.

We become a nation of expert opinion. Write out a check and someone gives their opinion at the same time as people pay admission to sit and listen to the opinion paid for. Nothing is for free. It is a shame. Free was always a good idea.
And you as well must die, belovèd dust

And you as well must die, belovèd dust,
And all your beauty stand you in no stead;
This flawless, vital hand, this perfect head,
This body of flame and steel, before the gust
Of Death, or under his autumnal frost,
Shall be as any leaf, be no less dead
Than the first leaf that fell, this wonder fled,
Altered, estranged, disintegrated, lost.
Nor shall my love avail you in your hour.
In spite of all my love, you will arise
Upon that day and wander down the air
Obscurely as the unattended flower,
It mattering not how beautiful you were,
Or how belovèd above all else that dies.

(Poem by Edna St Vincent Millay)
Looking at Bald Mountain completely white with bent branches this afternoon so snow replete, I found myself just barely upright as something so recently within me went wandering down the air.



Sunday, February 22, 2009

I like chanting the Prajna Paramita Sutra. It brings me no closer nor leaves me further away. Just the chanting, even when begun too low in register.
Right Speech
"And what, monks, is Right Speech? Refraining from lying, refraining from slander, refraining from harsh speech, refraining from frivolous speech. This is called Right Speech."

(--Mahasatipatthana Sutta: The Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness, in Thus Have I Heard: The Long Discourses of the Buddha, trans. by Maurice Walshe)
Snow again. Wet and heavy. With wind. We axed ice from roof this afternoon. Water flowed from behind the dam. Then it started snowing as we went to cushion and breath.
"Shikan" means nothing but, "Ta" means to hit, "Za" means to sit. SHIKANTAZA, or "just sitting," is alert nonselective attention which neither pursues nor suppresses thoughts, sensations, etc., but, rather, gives alert detached attention to whatever arises in and vanishes from consciousness.
There was a time I thought to sit meditation, walk meditation, and breathe meditation was all that was needed.

That time is now.

No big deal. As a failure and as a success there's not much room for failure and success in meditation.

Just meditate.

Leave failure and success to those who like to place things in one box or another.
Night Rain
For no reason it rains,
Whispers of reality.
How lovely it sings,
Drop by drop.
Sitting and lying I listen
With emptied mind.
I don't need ears,
I don't need rain.

- Chin'gak (1178-1234)
What Chin'gak does with rain the passing plow does with snow.

Who needs it?

Any of it?

Hit me.

No reason.