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!