At Sunday Evening Practice we listened to one of Kurt Spellmeyer"s dharma talks from Waking Up By Breaking Down Barriers
Tricycle, Sept 2018). Much to ponder about Zen and the willingness to accept contradictions.
In prison for Friday morning meetingbrook silent sitting and conversation we read and talked about "zero" (mentioned in an article we read). It occurred to us that with zero there isn't anything that isn't included. Everything is within nothing. No one, no two, no three. Whole and entire as is. And there we are. One of the men said that awakening is the unconscious perceiving what is.
That conversation carried through the weekend each recitation of the Four Vows of the Bodhisattva
At the walking meditation after silent sitting at the prison we bow to the altar when we pass -- a practice Chris and Doris brought Friday mornings from their Augusta Sangha. These days those two dear Buddhist friends are with us at a distance in sangha-spirit. Curiously, also invisible these last months, are the statues of Buddha, Bodhisatvas, altar cloth, water offerings, incense holder, or anything else that once occupied the space. Still and yet, when passing before the table by the window, each person bows to the empty space that holds what is not there in appearance. What is seen outside window are lines of lettuce and rows of flowers tended by men in yellow vests -- a prison farming detail that breathes life and growth mirroring the morning dharma hall and the bowing practitioners therein.
Rohr's words this Tuesday morning carry forward focus on contradiction:
The dualistic mind presumes that if you criticize something, you don’t love it. Wise prophets would say the opposite. Institutions prefer loyalists and “company men” to prophets. We’re uncomfortable with people who point out our shadow or imperfections. It is no accident that prophets and priests are usually in opposition to one another (e.g., Amos 5:21-6:7, 7:10-17). Yet Paul says the prophetic gift is the second most important charism (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11). Prophets are not popular people. Note how the Gospels say it was “the priests, elders, and teachers of the law” who condemned Jesus.
Human consciousness does not emerge at any depth except through struggling with our shadow. It is in facing our own contradictions that we grow. It is in the struggle with our shadow self, with failure, or with wounding that we break into higher levels of consciousness. People who learn to expose, name, and still thrive inside contradictions are what I would call prophets.
(Prophets : Part One, Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation, From the Center for Action and Contemplation)
Yesterday, as we sat as hospice volunteers with dear friend in his shipshape room, he slept. There is a silence unraveled when in the presence of someone drifting between two worlds. The silence is memory and gratefulness, looking back, overseeing, seeing through, and reviewing what has been given and lived through, experienced and known, wondered and wandered through -- as if a dream -- to be followed by, one Tibetan writer suggests, a new dream. His wife, returning from tasks at harbor, says it is hard to see this hard-working active man this way. I say, yes, it is. We agree each breath, each opening of eyes, each word spoken is gift. I tell her he said something funny to me earlier that I will tell her some other time. She asks if I'd remember to. I will, I said.
At Sussman (hospice house) Saturday evening the Welsh volunteer asked me where I hoped to go when I die. I told her I didn't care. Really, she asked? Really, I said. If there's anything, I guess I'll (so to speak) learn that -- but I'd be perfectly content (so to speak) if there was nothing -- lights out, zip, gone, dark, unsensing, no one here, no one there. Won't you be sad if that's the case, she wondered? I don't think so; I won't be there -- I replied. And if there is an afterlife, she followed, what then?
I don't know what then! Same way, I suspect, I don't know what now.
As Buddhist teachings evolved over the first several generations, the distinction between samsara and nirvana increased. Various Abhidharma schools identified a strong division between the “conditioned” phenomena of our changing experience and the “unconditioned” phenomena that are “beyond this world.”
The Madhyamika philosopher Nagarjuna deconstructed this dichotomy, arguing that when all phenomena are regarded as empty (having no intrinsic nature since they are interdependently conditioned), the polarity of the two words collapses. In fact, in expressing the view that would come to dominate later forms of Mahayana and tantric Buddhism, Nagarjuna declared that “there is no distinction whatsoever between samsara and nirvana.” With this insight, the meanings of samsara and nirvana are turned inward to refer not to outer worlds, fallen or perfect, but to inner perspectives, deluded or awakened, on the world as it actually is.
(--from What's in a Word? Samsara -- By Andrew Olendzki SUMMER 2019 Tricycle)
Someone visits from away. Sleeps in their van. I love visitors. Never am I more a hermit as when someone else is around. They give me their proximate cells -- but, mostly, I am given my cell.
Jesus said it well: Let the social socialize themselves. And you? You sequester what remains of your dubious and deficient self well off and away to the side around the back, upstairs out of sight, word-intoxicated, impertinent, and useless. (That, of course, is a rough translation of his actual Gospel saying.)