Saturday, December 15, 2012

Putting oars up

The air is cold. The ground hard. Snow is being made on the mountain ski runs.

The peapod comes out of the harbor after 18 months and is turned on her gunnels on wooden horses by cabin.

It is an ordinary day in December.

Except for the killings yesterday.

The cold feels here to stay.

Friday, December 14, 2012

For the children, for the teachers, for the families this day inConnecticut

Here is stark news, listen carefully:
This sorrow is beyond understanding --
Feel it, just feel it...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Settling in

When tired, nap.
Nice big white dog pillow.

Still time

Not yet light.

The state of being most of us occupy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

ninkû, hokkû -- 12.12.12

Ten Ox-herding Pictures Stage5
    Once thoughts rise up even slightly, they are followed by other thoughts.
    Through enlightenment, they become true; in delusion, they become false.
    It is not due to our surroundings that they are there;
        they are only produced by our mind.
    We must pull the Ox firmly by his tether and not allow any doubts to enter.
Whipping does not depart from the body at any moment.
Lest he follow his own whim, entering the dust and dirt.
If you devotedly tame him, he will be pure and gentle.
Without bridle and chains, he will follow you of his own accord.

       Once you have reached the point of "seizing" the ox, which is the true self, you must not rest on your laurels but continue to practice with all your strength and go on to the next stage. It is the stage of taming the ox, a very important process by which you make your own that which has been realized.

       As I mentioned previously, seizing the ox is grasping clearly the fact that the essence of your self is completely empty [ninkû] and at the same time all things in the universe are also completely empty [hokkû]. But to have attained such an enlightenment does not mean that our concepts and delusions automatically all disappear. With the re-appearance of just a minor conceptualization, the delusive concepts come back again one after another without end. In fact, it is the case that the clearer your experience of seizing the ox, the harder it is to escape the delusion of having understood this whole world and to avoid the proud thoughts which ensue one after another. You boast of the experience, talk proudly of Zen, and fall prey to the reckless desire to want to direct and lead others.

       Of course, if you should ask what is the essence of these delusive and discriminatory thoughts that arise continually. They are in themselves totally empty and without reality. If you can really rest assured in that fact, each of them, one by one, becomes the true self as it is. But we humans, unfortunately, always cling to what we have experienced and have the habit of not letting go. This is especially true in the case of the seizing of the ox, a feat that most people have a difficult time achieving. Once we have made it, we boast that no one has had such a wonderful experience. We cling to the delusive and proud thoughts that arise one after another, such as, "Perhaps even Shakyamuni Buddha himself did not have such an experience as I." And these thoughts themselves become a new reason for delusion.

       We always can see only the oppositional world of dualism, subject and object, but the concept that the objective world "is" appears not because the objective world is really there. Only because in our hearts we recognize "The objective world is," it is. This means that this "is-ness" is, in reality, only in our mind. Therefore, there arises in the mind the idea of "I" which has experienced seizing the ox, so the world corresponding to that "I" also appears, with the result that the objective world is conjured up by the proud "I". In the true world of seizing the ox, the objective world as well as the subjective world is totally empty; there is no room for being and non-being to appear at all. To be always at rest securely in such a world, it is necessary by all means to put the halter through the nose of the ox and pull it firmly. If the ox starts to eat the grass of discriminatory delusion, tell him "No, no!", never neglecting the due training, and continue in hard practice to the end. The practical means to that end is that single sharp spear, MU. This is the practice for post-enlightenment, and you must say that, in a sense, it is endlessly more difficult than the pre-enlightenment practice. 
(from:  Ten Ox-herding Pictures with the Verses Composed by KAKUAN ZenjiBy KUBOTA Ji'un

Monday, December 10, 2012

A version of Merton's last words

From blog, "louie, louie":
This year I would like to share Sr. Luke's telling of Merton's last words.  The passage is transcribed from a talk that she gave.  I believe that it gives a great deal of insight into the person of Merton from someone who knew and understood him.
 In the very last of his life, he gave this final talk in Bangkok.  I went to the place in Bangkok, and I visited the room where he gave the final talk, and I visited the little bungalow where he died.  I remember then what I heard about his last words.  Merton, as you know, gave his talk, and then sat down and said. "We are going to have the questions tonight.  Now I will disappear."  Many people repeat that as a prophecy.  I think Merton meant he'd leave.  And we'll have the questions tonight. 
 So then he went from there to the lunchroom and had the lunch they had prepared, and then he walked over to his room accompanied by a French monk who talked to him as they walked along to Merton's room and said to him, "Well, thank you for the talk you gave this morning.  Everybody didn't exactly appreciate it, though.  We had some question."  And I thought to myself, "Yes, this is the way it always is.  Yes, I know they said some good things BUT."  There's always that little part, and Merton was experiencing that there.  Actually, it was a nun that said that, but usually I don't say that because we have a bad enough press as it is, so I don't usually set up the nun as the one who said that.  Anyone could have.  She happened to say it, and what she said was repeated to Merton: "I thought he would talk more about converting people to Christianity.  I thought that's what he was going to be talking about."  She enlarged on that.  This is a pagan area where we are working, and we're missionaries, and it's a pagan area, and here he's talking about something else and alienation, whatever.  But I thought he'd talk about bringing people to Christ. 
 Merton, when he heard that, instead of getting upset the way many of us would get upset, said simply, "Well, I don't think that is what we are asked to do today.  All the preaching we get on television telling us who God is -- honestly, you wonder what the word 'God' is to mean in all of that."  Merton has it better.      "[T]oday I don't think it is what we are asked to do.  I think today it's more important for us to so let God live in us that others may feel God and come to believe in God because they feel how God lives in us."  These were Merton's last words that we know anything about and were said right before Francois de Grunne took him to his room where he tragically died, tragically for us, in any case.  Certainly he had completed what was his journey.  In other words, so let God live in us, so allow God to be the center where we make our decisions, where we live our lives, so let God live in us that others may find God by seeing how God lives in us, by somehow grasping how God lives in us.  Better than any long television explanation of who God is.  A beautiful last message, and I'd like to leave that with you as we conclude the talk on prayer because prayer, that presence of God, that reality of God, which each of us possesses, is our good fortune, "All love's luck."  We have achieved it.  Thank you very much.  -- Sr. Mary Luke Tobin SL

Sitting with Thomas Merton -- Joy; blessed solitude: You are alone;with God

Forty four years ago today Thomas Merton took a shower, touched a faulty wired stand-up fan, was electrocuted, and died in a cottage of a conference center in suburban Bangkok Thailand at a conference on Interreligious Monasticism.

He was immersing himself at this point of his life with Zen.
In keeping with Merton's idea that non-Christian faiths had much to offer Christianity in terms of experience and perspective and little or nothing in terms of doctrine, Merton distinguished between Zen Buddhism, an expression of history and culture, and Zen.[32] What Merton meant by Zen Buddhism was the religion that began in China and spread to Japan as well as the rituals and institutions that accompanied it. By Zen, Merton meant something not bound by culture, religion or belief. In this capacity, Merton was influenced by the book Zen Catholicism.[34] With this idea in mind, Merton's later writings about Zen may be understood to be coming more and more from within an evolving and broadening tradition of Zen which is not particularly Buddhist but informed by Merton's monastic training within the Christian tradition.[35]
He would have liked the article and 'Jules' response to it in Truthout:
On the other hand, sociopathy/psychopathy is a character disorder which is simply an intentional choice of how someone lives and interacts with others. People with sociopathy/psychopathy create an alternate reality by willfully manipulating others and their environment. Their tactics and behaviors are at the pathological level, and yet are being normalized every day by media and media personalities: projection, denial, distortion, splitting (black-and-white thinking), magical thinking. 
Sociopaths, through a lifetime of conditioning by their family and the larger social structure, learn to see other people not as human beings who have a right to self-determination, but only as objects to moved around like pieces on a chessboard. They see things like empathy and justice and reason as something that only "saps" waste their time on. All their time is spent gaining control - on anything and everything that they value - which is always something material: wealth, fame, and power over others. 
We are experiencing such a rapid decline in character in America that we as a nation are bordering on the pathological - and yet it is barely being noticed by anyone. The APA (American Psychological Association), which is "in charge" of developing diagnostics and treatment for mental illness, is too busy colluding with BigPharma on inventing diseases that can be treated by newly invented drugs. Studies that show our rapidly declining mental health (9% of all American teenagers can be classified as having Narcissistic personality disorder, as opposed to 3% of people in their 60's or 6% of people in their 40's, conducted by NIMH) have been all but swept under the rug. 
No society can function for long at a pathological level, it will eventually break down. And yet that is where we are right now. And no one is talking about it, especially not in a way where it can be tackled as an issue.
(--From response by 'Jules,' to article, Schizophrenics, Psychopaths Holding America Hostage, Wednesday, 05 December 2012 00:00, By Dr Brian Moench, Truthout | Op-Ed
Merton was annoying like that -- he found what was deleterious to human harmony and spiritual integrity, and wrote about it. His superiors in the organizational church wished a vow of silence would gag him -- but he was a poet -- and poets speak through silence with words that carry the depths of silence with them.
“Be good, keep your feet dry,
your eyes open, your heart at peace
and your soul in the joy of Christ.”
(--Thomas Merton)
As much as bombs and drones and assassinations of 'enemies' do -- so, too, the deceptions, manipulation of truth, false claims, and blatant lies rife today -- all mangle and tear apart the heart of human goodness creating fear, greed, dominance, and insidious mistrust between us.

Joy is an endangered way of being.

Don't buy their smearing and sneering demands to cross over to discrimination and exclusionary behavior, those purveyors of political penury and posturing patronizing pissant pedantry!

That being said, here are words about Merton's death from a Rob Pollack blog:
International Thomas Merton Society President Donald Grayston provides the following reflection on Merton's death... 
Merton dies at Suwanganiwas, the Red Cross Centre at Samut Prakan, 30 km outside Bangkok, accidentally electrocuted. It is 27 years to the day since he entered Gethsemani, and a mere eight days after his deep experience at Polonnaruwa. 
His Christian identity was expressed and symbolized for us by the fact that he said mass in Bangkok on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary in the Roman Catholic calendar, two days before his death. I mention this because some commentators have said that towards the end of his life he abandoned Christian faith and became a Buddhist. On the contrary, he opened himself fully to Buddhist experience and understanding, which he much valued, as a fully-formed Catholic Christian. 
Death of the Master
Both east and west share four kinds of death—natural causes, accident, murder, suicide. But in the east there is a fifth category, the death of the master. This involves the master gathering his disciples around him, giving them his last words, doing or saying something absurd, and then dying. 
So I Will Disappear
The example of this with which we are most familiar is that of Jesus at the last supper, the “absurd” element being his strange words about the bread and wine of the meal being his body and blood. At the conference Merton was attending, all the Catholic participants had read Merton’s books, and were eagerly awaiting his words (pp. 326-43), at the end of which he said “So I will disappear”—this much in the AJTM (p. 343), and followed this with a classically Mertonian comment—“and we can all get a Coke or something” (not included in the AJTM, but clearly audible in the film of his talk). 
The Great Compassion
The other monks and nuns who held a vigil after his death said that “In death Father Louis’ [his monastic name] face was set in a great and deep peace ….” (p. 346). He had fulfilled the intention with which he set out on his Asian pilgrimage. He had settled the Great Affair, and had found also the Great Compassion, mahakaruna (see p. 4).
A Merton quote ends the post:
"Death is someone you see very clearly with eyes in the center of your heart: eyes that see not by reacting to light, but by reacting to a kind of a chill from within the marrow of your own life." (--Thomas Merton)
The rest of the quote, found in The Seven Story Mountain (p.107) says: "And, with those eyes, those interior eyes, open upon that coldness, I lay half asleep and look at that visitor, death." He was 17, ill with gangrene in a hospital, he recounts his apathy, not caring if death took him.

Many years later, in the final chapter and penultimate page of his autobiography, he recounts a different viewpoint:
I do not make a big drama of this business. I do not say: "you have asked me for everything, and I have renounced all." Because I no longer desire to see anything that implies a distance between You and me: and if I stand back and consider myself and You as if something had passed between us, from me to you, I will inevitably see the gap between us and remember the distance between us. 
My God, it is that gap and that distance which kill me. 
That is the only reason why I desire solitude -- to be lost to all created things, to die to them and to the knowledge of them, for they remind me of my distance from You. They tell me something about You: that You are far from them, even though You are in them. You have made them and Your presence sustains their being, and they hide You from me. And I would live alone, and out of them. "O beata solitudo!"
For I knew that it was only by leaving them that I could come to You: and that is why I have been so unhappy when You seemed to be condemning me to remain in them. Now my sorrow is over, and my joy is about to begin: the joy that rejoices in the deepest sorrows. For I am beginning to understand. You have taught me, and have consoled me, and I have begun to hope and learn. 
(p.461, The Seven Story Mountain, by Thomas Merton,

You are alone; with-God!

(Oh, and Robert Lowell!)

Sunday, December 09, 2012


David Steindl-Rast said the name of God might be "you."

Or "surprise."

Are you surprised by this turn of events?