Saturday, March 10, 2012

As or as presently; aporia and aphasia

Now that religion has gotten a bad name, it is time to admit I am a religious person. A religious person listens to the ways people attempt to live through the difficulties and mysteries experienced in this world, this existential facticity of being-in-the-world. A religious person is willing to contemplate that we are all in this great adventure of unknowing together, that we are attempting to sort through the possibilities and potentialities presented us with as much integrity and intuition as we can muster.

Karen Armstrong might say it is a matter of open aporia and commen apophasis we share when confronted with the stark ambiguity and uncertainty comprising our real experience and shared nature. We stand withing the absurd making choices that are absurd with a paucity of evidence and shortness of time with which, absurdly, to think, feel, and act.
Observe the example of Buddha Shakyamuni of the Jeta Grove, who practiced sitting up straight for six years even though he was gifted with intrinsic wisdom. Still celebrated is Master Bodhidharma of the Shaolin Temple, who sat facing the wall for nine years although he had already received the mind seal. Ancient sages were like this; who nowadays does not need to practice as they did?
- Dogen (1227)
Aporia, we don't know where to turn. Aphasia, we don't know what to say. So we turn in. So we say nothing.

In prison Friday morning, at Buddhist group, eleven of us sit in silent zazen. There was one open space on green mat between Ed and Pidgeon, across from Josh and Chris for the first sitting. Rokpa, the prison-visiting Border Collie, wandered to it, on his own, and placed himself in perfect alignment on the blanket as the session began. This hermitage living meditating dog does zazen with an ease of presence that astounds.

Later, at meetingbrook conversation, we read sections from Confucian and Taoist texts with shared circle comments by Michael, Brian, Steve, Doris and Chris. Afterwards, breakfast at Moody's, capped by four-berry piece of pie with whipped cream, puts the morning on its proper axis navigating home.
If I Told Him, A Completed Portrait of Picasso

            If I told him would he like it. Would he like it if I told him.
            Would he like it would Napoleon would Napoleon would would he like it.
            If Napoleon if I told him if I told him if Napoleon. Would he like it if I told him if I told him if Napoleon. Would he like it if Napoleon if Napoleon if I told him. If I told him if Napoleon if Napoleon if I told him. If I told him would he like it would he like it if I told him.
            Not now.
            And now.
            Exactly as as kings.
            Feeling full for it.
            Exactitude as kings.
            So to beseech you as full as for it.
            Exactly or as kings.
            Shutters shut and open so do queens. Shutters shut and shutters and so shutters shut and shutters and so and so shutters and so shutters shut and so shutters shut and shutters and so. And so shutters shut and so and also. And also and so and so and also.
            Exact resemblance to exact resemblance the exact resemblance as exact resemblance, exactly as resembling, exactly resembling, exactly in resemblance exactly and resemblance. For this is so. Because.
            Now actively repeat at all, now actively repeat at all, now actively repeat at all.
            Have hold and hear, actively repeat at all.
            I judge judge.
            As a resemblance to him.
            Who comes first. Napoleon the first.
            Who comes too coming coming too, who goes there, as they go they share, who shares all, all is as all as as yet or as yet.
            Now to date now to date. Now and now and date and the date.
            Who came first Napoleon at first. Who came first Napoleon the first. Who came first, Napoleon first.
            Exactly do they do.
            First exactly.
            Exactly do they do.
            First exactly.
            And first exactly.
            Exactly do they do.
            And first exactly and exactly.
            And do they do.
            At first exactly and first exactly and do they do.
            The first exactly.
            And do they do.
            The first exactly.
            At first exactly.
            First as exactly.
            As first as exactly.
            As presently.
            As as presently.
            He he he he and he and he and and he and he and he and and as and as he and as he and he. He is and as he is, and as he is and he is, he is and as he and he and as he is and he and he and and he and he.
            Can curls rob can curls quote, quotable.
            As presently.
            As exactitude.
            As trains.
            Has trains.
            Has trains.
            As trains.
            As trains.
            As proportions as presently.
            Farther and whether.
            Was there was there was there what was there was there what was there was there there was there.
            Whether and in there.
            As even say so.
            I land.
            I land.
            The land.
            The land.
            The land.
            I land.
            I land.
            I land.
            I land.
            As a so.
            The cannot.
            A note.
            They cannot
            A float.
            They cannot.
            They dote.
            They cannot.
            They as denote.
            Miracles play.
            Play fairly.
            Play fairly well.
            A well.
            As well.
            As or as presently.
            Let me recite what history teaches. History teaches.

(Poem by Gertrude Stein, “If I Told Him, A Complete Portrait of Picasso” from Selections: Gertrude Stein. Copyright © 2008 by University of California Press)
Rokie and I go out to bookshed/retreat at 4:30am to bump the heat for Saturday morning practice at 7:30am. The full moon has climbed Ragged Mountain and looks out to the east where twilight turns in the dark pulling covers over its head for another few winks before waking birds through silhouette branches fly to seed and dawning chatter.

We are not seen.

We are religious.

Winking ourselves in blue-gray blanket.

Friday, March 09, 2012

mindless wayfarer; navigating doldrums

When I look at my foolish life I wonder how I could have so carefully cultivated failure and impertinence so as to become the insignificant nobody I am today. Ha! Only kidding. No cultivation was needed. It came naturally and without effort. Like falling off a log. No skill required. Only no footing. And gravity. Like the water flowing down ragged mountain into dirt cellar to be sump-pumped up and out window to continue its journey to road coming down from Hope.

It's an odd travel plan.
What is no mind? If there is no mind at all, who sees reality; who awakens to the way? And who can expound the way to teach?”

No mind means that there is no deluded, foolish mind; it does not mean there is no mind to discern false from true. If one doesn’t think of sentient beings, doesn’t long for Buddhas either, doesn’t think of illusion or seek enlightenment, doesn’t go along with the honor of others, does not hope for fame, profit, support, or reputation, does not shrink from attacks from those who are resentful or hostile, and does not add any discriminating thoughts about any good or evil, one is called a mindless wayfarer.

Thus it is said, “The path is mindless of union with anyone, a mindless person unites with the way.”

(--from Treatise on Sitting Meditation, Part 2, Daikaku, 1213-1279,
So many spiritual paths, teachers, practices! Why bother? What for?

I don't know.

These days I've been wearing the Tibetan wrist bracelet given by Saskia.

I come across a good story:
Sanskrit form
Om Mani Padma Hum
mantra of Avalokiteshvara

Tibetan form
Om Mani Peme Hung
mantra of Chenrezig

The True Sound of Truth
An old story speaks about a similar problem. A devoted meditator, after years concentrating on a particular mantra, had attained enough insight to begin teaching. The student's humility was far from perfect, but the teachers at the monastery were not worried.

A few years of successful teaching left the meditator with no thoughts about learning from anyone; but upon hearing about a famous hermit living nearby, the opportunity was too exciting to be passed up.

The hermit lived alone on an island at the middle of a lake, so the meditator hired a man with a boat to row across to the island. The meditator was very respectful of the old hermit. As they shared some tea made with herbs the meditator asked him about his spiritual practice. The old man said he had no spiritual practice, except for a mantra which he repeated all the time to himself. The meditator was pleased: the hermit was using the same mantra he used himself -- but when the hermit spoke the mantra aloud, the meditator was horrified!

"What's wrong?" asked the hermit.

"I don't know what to say. I'm afraid you've wasted your whole life! You are pronouncing the mantra incorrectly!"

"Oh, Dear! That is terrible. How should I say it?"

The meditator gave the correct pronunciation, and the old hermit was very grateful, asking to be left alone so he could get started right away. On the way back across the lake the meditator, now confirmed as an accomplished teacher, was pondering the sad fate of the hermit.

"It's so fortunate that I came along. At least he will have a little time to practice correctly before he dies." Just then, the meditator noticed that the boatman was looking quite shocked, and turned to see the hermit standing respectfully on the water, next to the boat.

"Excuse me, please. I hate to bother you, but I've forgotten the correct pronunciation again. Would you please repeat it for me?"

"You obviously don't need it," stammered the meditator; but the old man persisted in his polite request until the meditator relented and told him again the way he thought the mantra should be pronounced.

The old hermit was saying the mantra very carefully, slowly, over and over, as he walked across the surface of the water back to the island.

So, we'll schlep into prison, sit with Buddhists, then sit at round table talking with anyone stopping in, about poetry, politics, prison life, philosophy, Chuang Tzu, economics. Just sitting and talking of a Friday morning.

I don't really regret being nobody.

It's just, at times, I feel a little stupid.

A little...foolish.

Hell, we'll get breakfast at Moody's after prison. That'll make up for doldrums.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Windy Night Haiku

Everything hurts all
at once. Surely, something's up --
Else, what's a death for?

(nunc ipsum, wfh)

into the open, questioning

I think of you as an open question. Myself too. Fact is I see everything as an open question. Life is. God is.

Go ahead, ask it!

Open to what?
If we attempt to explain the experience of “being the question,” we can only talk around it. Because “being” is an experience, and the moment we try to describe it we shut down around an idea. But perhaps we could attempt to describe it by saying that being the question has something to do with our ability to tolerate or bear witness to the full expressions of experience, rather than closing down around them and then reacting to them through our preferences.

We might call this approach to experience “the practice of open questioning.”

When we ask an open question we have not yet found an answer. And this leaves the mind free, unobstructed, and ready for adventure. And yet there is nothing ignorant or vague about this openness, because questioning actively engages the movement and fluidity of life.

(--from The Power of an Open Question, Why a question can be a more powerful tool for practice than its answer, by
Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel! Tricycle, Fall 2010)
Open to "what-is." Here and now. And forever. World without end. Amen!
The real way circulates everywhere;
How could it require practice or enlightenment?
The essential teaching is fully available;
How could effort by necessary?
Furthermore, the entire mirror is free of dust;
Why take steps to polish it?
Nothing is separate from this very place;
Why journey away?

- Dogen (~1227)
Morning sun visits through study window. It's Tommy's birthday. May all kindly and Luddite curmudgeons feel the warmth of the strengthening sun these ending days of winter!

Let's ask openly one another what we see when our questions stand before us attempting to invite us into them thus provoking the disappearance of the questioner into the open, questioning.

Where's my kazoo? Time to play 'Happy Birthday' -- my singular repertoire.

Who do we thank for this glorious morning? And when shall we do so? Will you point out to me the way to dwell gratefully in this cosmos?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Wonderful moon!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Cracking open, sliding free

During theological and philosophical studies in religion and education it was a delight to read things that never seem to have reached the ordinary churchgoers in Sunday pews. at least not in the catholic pews of local parishes. And that is a shame. Mystics and scientists, poets and contemplatives lend texture and surprising depth to the religious imagination.
Perhaps Delio's most original, intriguing, and challenging contribution is her final chapter, “Christ in Evolution: Technology and Extraterrestrial Life.” Delio says, “The meaning of Christ in evolution includes our ability to transcend ourselves through the creativity of technology” (165). Thus, in her view, technology is an integral part of the ongoing story of Christ in evolution and of the human story. She calls humans “technosapiens” who are “techno-transcendent.” Our interaction with technology and our technological creativity, if spurred by our restless heart’s desire for transcendence toward God, may be a gracefilled activity. For in our creativity, Delio explains, we potentially participate as co-creators with the divine in the dynamic processes of evolution. However, she warns us:“The power of technology is such that it can abet the movement toward the fullness of Christ or it can thwart it” (165). For scholars working at the intersection of theology and technology, the questions and issues Delio raises here will likely spur more questions. Fortunate will be all those theologians, scientists, students, teachers, and preachers who encounter this stunning book, a work rich in insight, cosmic in scope, yet very much down to earth?
( from review of: Christ in Evolution. By Ilia Delio. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2008. Pages, xii + 228. Paper,
Reviewed by Eileen D. Crowley, Catholic Theological Union, in New Theology Review)
Not only, it might be said, is evolution not at odds with Christianity -- but it might just be that Christ is evolution. Christ is the emergence of consciousness and compassion in the realm of existence sorely longing for these qualities of being.
Waking me up
To the spring that's come [or, coming]
Water trickles down
The valley, and long crag-bound ice
Now cracks open, slides free.

- Saigyo (1118-1190)
Lands here.

Moon bright on frozen snow.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Good company

Lao Tzu thinks we are earth and heaven. So does Teilhard. And Panikkar.

No personal interests, says the shadowy Chinese sage.

Cosmic consciousness in the offing, says the French paleontologist.

Hidden Christ, says the Spanish-Indian cosmotheandrist..
In the Ch'an perspective wisdom is a state
That is free from attachments, 
Free from measurement, 
Free from self-reference
And empty of vexation. 

 - Sheng Yen
It, we, will be cold in Maine tonight.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

slowly giving way to a new configuration

Losing car key and losing mind are close cousins.

On Sunday morning it hardly seems to matter that Christ does not have a car and does not attend church.

Every place is here. As is Christ.
Letting go of fixation is effectively a process of learning to be free, because every time we let go of something, we become free of it. Whatever we fixate upon limits us because fixation makes us dependent upon something other than ourselves. Each time we let go of something, we experience another level of freedom.   (- Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche, "Letting Go of Spiritual Experience")
Vagrant Buddhas and Bodhisattva Christs wander in their own footprint the walking circles of wisdom and compassion. Churches, temples, mosques, and manners empty out. The profitable and the ideological replace piety and mystic vision in the narthex and sanctuary. Bricks and morter wall up insight and grace. The longing to see and do has stepped out of the building. We have forgotten not only what we think but why we thought it as we did.
 We live in a predominately Christian culture which has lost its living connection to the symbolism of wafer and wine. Lacking spiritual sustenance there is a genuine hunger and thirst. The archetypal structure behind the wafer and wine is slowly giving way to a new configuration, but we are in chaos during the transition. That chaos breeds loneliness, fear and alienation. While that sense of aloneness is hard to endure, it can be of supreme value in the analytic process. The new life always comes out of the dispossessed, as Christ came from the cow stable.  (-- Marion Woodman).
Without an understanding of myth or religion, without an understanding of the relationship between destruction and creation, death and rebirth, the individual suffers the mysteries of life as meaningless mayhem alone.
(-- Marion Woodman )
Is righteousness "right mind"?

If we are in right mind, do we see things as they are? Constantly changing. Always escaping the confines of thought, belief, ideology, dogma, and position papers?

A time will come when we will move without moving.

We will be there without leaving here.

Christ and the Bodhisattva will find themselves in one another.

Within one another's presence.

Church and temple, zendo and mosque will  be in and walk in our shoes.

And we will be barefoot.