Saturday, May 23, 2020

when some sudden sound spooks dog

Start again, birds at break of day, say

Their anthem, arising all, unsteady

Faint light mixed rhythm easy breeze —

They wake up singing, ode, astronomical twilight

Friday, May 22, 2020

our mistake

can you

Between mystical intuition and scientific evidence

a third plot of land --

display without fact or vision

and that's where we dwell these days

the fatuous


and infantile

there is no stopping him

he is a mistake

he is our mistake

Thursday, May 21, 2020

itself no other

What does it mean to ascend to heaven?

I can’t imagine.

Except that something radically becomes itself.

Seeing and knowing itself no other.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

the weak around us

Watched film The Lone Survivor (2013). The horror of war. The codes and rules contained therein.

And, in our highly compromised culture of illegality at the highest reaches of political and corporate privilege, we have before us a meditation on how we wish to dwell in a forgetful world.

We have something to learn from Pashtunwali, a pre-Islamic code of hospitality:
“Melmastia” (hospitality) is a key component of Pashtunwali. “Melma” means a guest. However, hospitality is not to be interpreted in the manner a Westerner would interpret it. It means offering hospitality to a guest; transcending race, religion and economic status. It also means once under the roof of the host, a guest should neither be harmed nor surrendered to an enemy. This will be regardless of the relationship between the guest and the host enjoyed previously. In this regard, melmasthia takes precedence over badal (yet another principle of Pashtunwali); so even the enemy who comes seeking refuge, must be granted it and defended against his pursuers Elphinstone in 1815 observed: “The most remarkable characteristic of the Afghans is their hospitality. The practice of this virtue is so much a point of national honour, that their reproach to an inhospitable man is that he has no Pashtunwali” (Elphinstone 1969: 226).

Simply put, “Badal” means “to seek justice or take revenge against the wrongdoer.” There is no time limit to when the injustice can be avenged. If badal is not exercised, the offended man or his family will be considered stripped of honour. The exercise of this principle can lead to generations of bloodshed, feuds, hundreds of lives lost for one insult. It requires a violent reaction to the insult or death or injury inflicted. A badal usually ends with a badal. An action elicits or demands an equivalent response - and the cycle goes on. Khushal Khan Khattak, the great Pashto poet, warrior and soldier, was not far off the mark when he said: “Let the head be gone, wealth be gone, but the honour must not go, because the whole of dignity of a man is due to this honour.”
(--Understanding Pashtunwali, by Yasmeen Aftab Ali, The Nation Newspaper - Lahore. Pakistan, August 06, 2013) 
Wikipedia elaborates on the twelve principles of Pashtunwali:
Although not exclusive, the following twelve principles form the major components of Pashtunwali. They are headed with the words of the Pashto languagethat signify individual or collective Pashtun tribal functions.
  1. Melmastia (hospitality) – Showing hospitality and profound respect to all visitors, regardless of race, religion, national affiliation or economic status and doing so without any hope of remuneration or favor. Pashtuns will go to great lengths to show their hospitality.[2][13][14]
  2. Nanawatai (forgiveness or asylum) – Derived from the verb meaning to go in, this refers to the protection given to a person against his enemies. People are protected at all costs; even those running from the law must be given refuge until the situation can be clarified.[2] Nanawatai can also be used when the vanquished party in a dispute is prepared to go into the house of the victors and ask for their forgiveness: this is a peculiar form of "chivalrous" surrender, in which an enemy seeks "sanctuary" at the house of their foe. A notable example is that of Navy Petty Officer First Class Marcus Luttrell, the sole survivor of a US Navy SEAL team ambushed by Taliban fighters. Wounded, he evaded the enemy and was aided by members of the Sabray tribe who took him to their village. The tribal chief protected him, fending off attacking tribes until word was sent to nearby US forces.
  3. Nyaw aw Badal ('justice' and revenge) – To seek justice or take revenge against the wrongdoer. No time limit restricts the period in which revenge can be taken. Justice in Pashtun lore needs elaborating: even a mere taunt (or "Peghor/پېغور") counts as an insult.[2] Monetary compensation can be an alternative to badal, for example in murder cases.
  4. Turah (bravery) – A Pashtun must defend his land, property, and family from incursions. He should always stand bravely against tyranny and be able to defend the honour of his name. Death can follow if anyone offends this principle.[2]
  5. Sabat (loyalty) – Pashtuns owe loyalty to their family, friends and tribe members. Pashtuns can never become disloyal as this would be a matter of shame for their families and themselves.
  6. Respect for the environment. Pashtuns must behave respectfully to people, to animals, and to the environment around them. Pollution of the environment or its destruction is against the Pashtunwali.[2]
  7. Groh (faith) – Contains a wider notion of trust or faith in God (known as "Allah" in Arabic and "Khudai" in Pashto).[2] The notion of trusting in one Creator generally comports to the Islamic idea of belief in only one God (tawhid).
  8. Pat, Wyaar aw Meṛaana (respect, pride and courage) - Pashtuns must demonstrate courage [مېړانه]. Their pride [وياړ], has great importance in Pashtun society and must be preserved. They must respect themselves and others in order to be able to do so, especially those they do not know. Respect begins at home, among family members and relatives. If one does not have these qualities they are not considered worthy of being a Pashtun.[2]
  9. Naamus (protection of women) – A Pashtun must defend the honor of women at all costs and must protect them from vocal and physical harm.[2]The killing of women is forbidden in Pashtun culture[15]
  10. Nang (honor) – A Pashtun must defend the weak around him. In Pakistan, the crime rate is much lower in Pashtun areas than non-Pashtun areas[16]
  11. Meheranah(manhood or chivalry)[17]. A turban is considered a symbol of a Pashtun's chivalry
  12. Hewaad (country) – A Pashtun is obliged to protect the land of the Pashtuns. Defense of the nation means the defense of Pashtun culture or "haśob" [هڅوب], countrymen or "hewaadwaal" [هيوادوال], and of the self or "źaan" [ځان]. This principle is also interconnected to another principle denoting the attachment a Pashtun feels with his land or źmaka [ځمکه]. In times of foreign invasion such as the Soviet-Afghan War Pashtuns may unite for war under a religious leader.[12]
(--Wikipedia, Pashtunwali)
In prison this Fall, if the coronavirus allows any return to what passes for normalcy, I will teach with an inmate assistant a course on The Code of the Warrior, Ethics and Character Development. 

Being a warrior is broader and deeper than we might initially think.

And, perhaps, in this country, at this time, we have not yet begun to think.

not long

Do yourself a favor.

Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III | The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery

can you see what I can’t

           (for us)

When the world ended

No one could find a window

To look out or back

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


every time I sit

zazen, nothing happens — what

a gift, with a bow

er sagt es für mich

He says it for me.
Everyone who has ever lived has had to die. Then other people have had their chance. I hope it will go on like that for a very long time.

While it does for me, I will continue to reflect on life, death, and whether there is a hereafter. After reading many hundreds of authors dealing with these issues over the years, at the end of the day I continue to throw in my lot with the great Socrates, who said it best. In his view death was one of two things. Either it was a deep, dreamless sleep, far deeper than anything we experience normally. None of us is afraid of getting a fantastic night’s sleep and none of us regrets it. Death would be even better, even if there is no activity or even consciousness—a restful cessation of existence. There is nothing to fear in it. In modern terms, this is my general anesthetic. 
The alternative for Socrates: after death would come a great reunion, where he would be able to meet and converse with all those who went before. For the Athenian philosopher, that meant having a chance to speak with the greats of his Greek culture: Orpheus, Hesiod, and Homer. For me I suppose it   .would be speaking with those of mine: Dickens, Shakespeare, and Jesus. 
Even though it is debated, in my mind it is relatively clear which of these two choices Socrates, or rather, his ventriloquist, Plato, actually thought. He believed death was the end of the story. But this was not a source of anxiety for him, and it doesn’t need to be for us either. It is instead a motivation to love this life as much as we can for as long as we can, to enjoy it to its utmost as far as possible, and to help others do the same. If all of us do that, we will live on after death—not in a personal consciousness once our brains have died, but in the lives of those we have touched.

(Excerpt from: "Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife" By Bart D. Ehrman, c.2020, Scribd.)
A good phrase, and, I submit, a good no-phase following this current phase — when this time of life comes to an end, and arrives “a restful cessation of existence.”

in ómnibus indivisíbilis

It’s only taken me sixty years to slowly appreciate the four years of Latin taken in high school followed by two more years in college. I’ve the Universalis app with Latin/English for texts used in spiritual reading and praying the hours in Roman Catholic tradition. Sometimes, say at 3:30AM, the phrasing of a text in Latin grabs attention:
Quemádmodum enim sanctæ carnis virtus concorporáles reddit eos, in quibus est, eódem, opínor, modo unus in ómnibus indivisíbilis inhábitans Dei Spíritus ad unitátem spiritálem omnes cogit.  
Just as the power of Christ’s holy flesh makes into one body everyone in whom it exists, in the same way the Spirit of God, being indivisible, ties together the spirits in which it dwells. 
It as the concorporális. The into one body. I’ve been reading Bart Ehrman’s book (Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife, c.2020), and thinking about the different ways the ancient world devised and discerned notions of afterlife, their interpretations and rewrites of what was an evolving comprehension of what, if anything, followed death. The theology, philosophy, and metaphysics was complicated and thought-provoking.

Bottom line — I don’t know what, if anything, I believe; so I’m interested in what I think.

Thus, my middle of the night orations today bring me to concorporális.

Here’s how it was enwrapped:
If we are all the same body with one another in Christ – not just with one another, but with him who, through communion with his flesh, is actually within us – are we not then all of us clearly one with one another and one with Christ? For Christ is the bond that unites us, being at once God and Man.

Following the same line of thought, we can say this about spiritual unity: we all receive one and the same Spirit, I mean the Holy Spirit. So in a way we are blended together with one another and with God. Even though we are many individuals and Christ, the Spirit of the Father and his own Spirit, dwells in each one of us individually, still the Spirit is really one and indivisible. And so that one Spirit binds together the separated spirits of each one of us so that we are seen to be one, together in Christ. 
Just as the power of Christ’s holy flesh makes into one body everyone in whom it exists, in the same way the Spirit of God, being indivisible, ties together the spirits in which it dwells. [.Quemádmodum enim sanctæ carnis virtus concorporáles reddit eos, in quibus est, eódem, opínor, modo unus in ómnibus indivisíbilis inhábitans Dei Spíritus ad unitátem spiritálem omnes cogit.]
Again, Paul emphasized this point: Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all. As the one Spirit abides in us, the one God and Father will be with us through the Son, leading those who share the Spirit into unity with each other and with himself. 
 (— From a commentary on the gospel of John by Saint Cyril of Alexandria, bishop, “What binds us together is Christ“)
 Just that.

For deliberation or contemplation.

As faint light emerges at 4:15 in the morning.

Indivisible in all.

Monday, May 18, 2020

our empty gathering

I will again find mallet and maple.

I will thank my pileated siblings for their perseverance.
I love the sound of the han, particularly in the early morning. It is a sharp and definitive sound but at the same time, a warm and inviting sound. The han doesn’t just call an individual to zazen, the striking of the han gathers us to sit zazen together. The han gathers the power of the sangha. In an analogous way, practice period calls and gathers the power of the sangha as well. Dogen writes of the coming together for practice period as,
Clouds settle on the mountain,
like children with their father.  
             (Eihei Koroku, Leighton and Okumura, p. 183) 
"Clouds" symbolizes Zen monks, and the mountain refers to the monastery. So, we are the clouds gathering around Red Cedar Mountain Zen temple. I like this image very much. In our everyday lives, we are clouds following the currents of our own lives. But, during practice period we make that special effort to gather around the mountain. 
On the han, there is an inscription which reads:
Great is the matter of
Birth and death
Quickly passing, gone, gone
Awake each one, awaken
Don't waste this life
This verse, I think, offers excellent guidance regarding the attitude we should cultivate toward practice. It cuts directly to the point – we will die some day. Every one of us will die. There is no escape. Our mortality is an important backdrop which can help us frame our practice. The more we hesitate and procrastinate, the closer death comes and the less time to practice, less time to live our lives vividly. This verse can also be used to guide our attitude and effort during practice period. We can re-evaluate our priorities, and bring formal practice into focus and make it more vivid. 
The han is one of the ways we mark the sitting schedule at monasteries and Zen centers. The schedule in Zen practice isn’t about rigidity, but is a way to encourage selfless practice.
(—from,  The Han  by Kuden Paul Boyle, A talk given during the June, 2011, Chapel Hill Zen Center Practice Period)
What sound is this that calls no one to silent sitting?

Our empty gathering.

The children stay at home; yellow school bus brings meals to their dooryard.


Obituary of woman with whom I sat two months ago. Her doll. Her smile while turning it sitting in chair. The country christian singer on pbs overhead. The frown if any question was asked of her. A colloquy of silence. A fine teacher. Her quiet laughter. Cremation, it read. The orphaned companion her hands held.

Sunday, May 17, 2020


Maybe the practice is resurrecting Jesus rather than worshipping him or calling him your personal lord and savior.

Maybe the spiritual exercises of nikos kazantzakis were aptly titled The Saviors of God. His Ασκητική, asceticism, was severe and troubling. In his introduction he wrote, “We came from an abyss of darkness; we end in an abyss of darkness: the interval of light between one and another we name life."

Adyashanti’s description of his own view is quieter. He writes about spiritual autonomy:
Spiritual autonomy is knowing who and what you are—knowing that you are divine being itself, knowing that the essence of you is divinity. You are moving in the world of time and space, appearing as a human being, but nonetheless you are eternal, divine being, the timeless breaking through and operating within the world of time. To Jesus, spirit is everything. Nothing matters more than spirit or, as I like to say, divine being. Divine being is what Jesus is here for; it is the vitality source from which he moves, from which he speaks, from which his critique arises. He is the living presence of divine being. He’s a human being too, but he’s here to convey divine being, and that comes out most clearly in the Gospel of Mark. 
(—Excerpt from: "Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic" by Adyashanti. Scribd)
Bronze encircled by lights in porch window of hermitage

If divine being is spiritual life, and incarnated being is who and where we are, we have an everyday practice wherein one embodying divine being is worth a glance and listening.

The constant in divine being and human being is being.

Being itself.

The constant in divine life and human life is life.

Life itself.

Life without distinction.


Risen into


a political casualty

It is very hard to understand the meanness of people.

I don’t come close to understanding.

It is a bridge that has collapsed.

I look across at faces that have become unrecognizable.

Meanness disfigures.

Face it.

the world I face

If anyone is feeling insane these days, you are not alone.
What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance?
(—Theodore Roethke, in poem, In a Dark Time)
I have gone dark with the world I face.