In Burlington Vermont, meeting Saint Bernard Border Collie mix.
Tomorrow we’ll drive him home to Maine.
A good boy.
What is going on between us . . .(?) (!)
That sentence, seemingly a question, these six words, might be the clearest description of God so far this new year.
The year is young, however, and God, perhaps, will not be so easily satisfied with such designation.
Still, as exclamation, the movement, breath, and activity of God ... is
First, the Abstract:
This paper argues that effective compassionate action must address two kinds of human cause of suffering.The first kind, pointed out by Buddhist epistemology, are universal human tendencies of misperception and mis-reaction, tendencies of delusion, greed, and ill-will.The second kind of cause of suffering, pointed out by Christian liberation theologies, are socio-economic systems which incorporate individuals into structures of inequity that organize resources and ways of knowing in oppressive ways.Effective contemplative practice is essential to address the first cause of suffering: deluded misperception and reaction, since social analysis alone does not remove the pervasive, unconscious misperception that some persons matter more than others, a misperception that distorts anyone’s attempt to build better social systems.Contemplative practices (from various spiritual traditions) that deconstruct that delusive tendency can also empower human capacities of discernment, love, compassion, peace, courage and creative responsiveness essential for effective work for social change.On the other hand, social analysis is essential to address the second kind of cause of suffering, oppressive social structures, which, if not addressed, promulgate systemic patterns of harm while socially conditioning individuals into the first cause of suffering: delusion, greed and ill-will.Contemplative practice that lacks social analysis may also prop up oppressive structures, by improving people’s ability to tolerate, but not to challenge, those structures.The conclusion is that neither contemplative practice nor social analysis alone effectively addresses enough man-made causes of suffering.Each must inform and empower the other to provide what is necessary for effective compassionate action.
Then, from body:
This deluded habit of misperception is not solved by social analysis or activism alone, because the mind that engages in social analysis is the same mind that unconsciously mistakes everyone included in its analysis for its reductive thoughts of them, perpetuating habits of misperception that exclude many from genuine care and compassion, even when we think we are working for social justice. When those of us seeking to dismantle oppressive social systems remain unconsciously identified with our own patterns of deluded perception, those patterns become woven into whatever new social system we may create (Knitter 2009, 200). In recent history, this has been evident, for example, in the actions of communist regimes of Russia, China, Cambodia, and Eastern Europe, which came into power under high ideals of social equity, then instituted death-dealing policies against masses of people whose lives held little value within the new regime.
Another sign that this basic habit of misperception is operative when we work for social change is how often dysfunctional rage and anger are experienced by social justice activists, anger that lacks awareness of its own tendencies of misperception. Many social justice activists report that, over time, they become caught in recurrent feelings of painful rage and anger, making it difficult to work effectively, to attract support, and often contributing to burnout (Gross in Gross & Reuther 2001, 181; Knitter 2009, 175; Makransky 2016, 89-90). Such dysfunctional anger is supported by the habit of reification and misperception described above, which triggers endless reactions to our own fragmented images of ourselves and others. Such reactive habits of anger, in themselves, lack any means to stay in touch with the fuller humanity and potential of everyone involved, especially those who oppose our positions. Such habits prevent us from accessing our fuller capacities for discernment, more inclusive care, inner replenishment, inspiration, and energy (Dass & Gorman 1985, 159-160).
By pointing out this tendency to mistake our reductive thoughts of persons for the persons, I am not arguing against the need to confront oppressive social systems and behaviors. Rather, to confront such things effectively we need a kind of knowing that can maintain awareness of the fuller personhood of everyone involved, including those we may confront, and for this a contemplative practice is essential. The Buddhist epistemology I draw on here assumes that there is much to be confronted in persons—all their ways of thinking and acting that are harmful to themselves and others. But in the moment that we confront others out of anger, even supposedly righteous anger, we tend not to sense their deep dignity and human potential beyond the single, reified image that our anger has made of them. And to declare our anger ‘righteous’ does nothing to correct that error.
For this reason, the power to confront harmful persons in many traditional Buddhist stories is understood as a fierce form of compassion rather than any ordinary form of anger. This is exemplified in stories of bodhisattva figures that fiercely confront an individual or group, out of compassion for all involved, and is also imaged in wrathful tantric Buddhist images of enlightenment. Fierce compassion is a power forcefully to confront someone who thinks and acts harmfully, both on behalf of those he harms and on behalf of his own underlying potential, his fuller personhood or Buddha nature.2
Finally, the conclusion:
In sum, individual forms of delusion, greed and ill-will have been the focus of Buddhism as the main cause of suffering, while systemic forms of delusion, greed and ill- will have been the focus of Christian liberation theology as the main cause of suffering. Yet both of these causes of suffering, individual and systemic, are mutually conditioning and mutually reinforcing. Neither can be adequately addressed unless the other is also addressed. This means that neither contemplative practice and action alone, nor social analysis and activism alone, are sufficient to address the world’s man-made
suffering. Each such practice must inform and empower the other. Another conclusion is that neither classical Buddhist epistemology nor Christian liberation epistemology alone are enough to inform effective compassionate action in the world. Both are needed to effectively address man-made suffering, and to illumine critical elements of the process toward individual and social awakening and liberation.
(--from, The Need to Integrate Buddhist and Christian Liberation Epistemologies, by John Makransky, 2019, Buddhist-Christian Studies Journal)
As year ends, Thursday turns to see where it's been. Just so, Friday tidies its room wondering what welcome might wish to be extended to whatever could appear.
In order to see things whole, you have to be seeing things whole.
The final Tuesday Evening Conversation of 2020 last night.
Naturally we talked about death. Georgiana died in 2019 we learned earlier, a friend from bookshop days up from Charlottesville, a good woman, strong and confident.
D, at ninety two, talks freely about death. C, after multiple surgeries and years of hospital stays, also speaks openly.
With each breath, great teacher demonstrates, arrival and departure, coming and going, beginning and end.
Where are the dead? As with everything and everyone, the dead are within me as I am within them.
The great gift with hospice is listening. We listen things into existence. We listen things out of existence.
It strikes me that when someone does not listen it might indicate they are terrified of death, departure, disappearance.
The interminable talker attempts to stay death by fending away silence and perpetuating opinion and disagreement.
Silence is the field of awareness where death, like birth and surrounding life, arrives and departs with each accompanying breath.
Be silent, be still, even in movement — and know — I am, God.
Of course we want to know God.
God is what is here and now.
May God be with you!
And with your breath, in your breath, as your breath, coming, and going, inside and outside, with you and without you, near and far, on its way, here and not.
Poet and stonemason, John M. comes to mind and images in Martha’s Vineyard. His wife, Kristin, died in 2016 in Chilmark. I learned that today. I stare out window.
Light over past three hours has come up Barnestown road. Trees feel me feeling la tristesse. She was born on 4Oct in Paris. Those visits just after they met in Cambridge.
My traveling there for Robert Lowell and Richard Hugo. The apartment off Harvard square with Ezra Pound quote on refrigerator, something about never trust a poet who uses the word “cosmic” in a poem.
John, equally impressive, reciting his poem Last Call walking Mt. Auburn street, he doing all the voices.
I sent a telegram from Philadelphia in 1978 for their wedding: “May you be for one another a resting place for time to change hands.”
The western union operator asked:
"Who wrote those words?"
“Why would I lie to you, I don’t know you. We only lie to those we know.”
(This is now a serious koan for me.)
As is, and seems to be, everything, for me, now.
There we are!
There's no bread and no wine in bookshop as I read the words in the 1964 red missale romanum found tucked in second floor acquisitions amid german and dutch language books:
Hoc est enim corpus meum.
Hic est enim calix sanguines mei.
I feel to be some reincarnated catholic priest as I turn pages of dates and seasons, liturgical rubrics and words of consecration.
This is where some place god in ritual and daily devotion. The transubstantiation of bread and wine into body and blood of christ.
This unheated bookshed/retreat on 5th day of christmas, sun through glass door, wind roughing bird feathers landing on branches to crack open last season's sunflower seeds.
God, the trappist monk Matthew who died in 2018 is saying in concept film The Cloud of Unknowing, God is no thing.
Where is something when it is no thing?
Everywhere you look.
Identity -- let's take a look at the word.
- is, ea, id -- (demonstrative pronouns): (Latin), (id: neuter) -- that
- entity: n that which is perceived or known or inferred to have its own distinct existence (living or nonliving)
So, we could say: That which is its own. Distinct existence. Perceived or known. To have that which is.
Identity doesn't have
It has that which is as a whole. (It is perhaps a misperception to see separation as a means to establishing a misinterpreted 'distinct' existence.) Yes, we are distinguishable. No, we are not separate.
Perhaps we need to issue a new kind of 'identity' card to all our fellow existents across, along, and actualizing this planet, galaxy, cosmos.
So, here we are.
Who are we?
Bodhidharma and Emperor Wu had a dialogue:
Naturally, his first question to Bodhidharma was, “I have made so many monasteries, I am feeding thousands of scholars, I have opened a whole university for the studies of Gautam Buddha, I have put my whole empire and its treasures in the service of Gautam Buddha. What is going to be my reward?”
He was a little embarrassed seeing Bodhidharma, not thinking that the man would be like this. He looked very ferocious. He had very big eyes, but he had a very soft heart — just a lotus flower in his heart. But his face was almost as dangerous as you can conceive.
With great fear, Emperor Wu asked the question, and Bodhidharma said, “Nothing, no reward. On the contrary, be ready to fall into the seventh hell.”
The emperor said, “But I have not done anything wrong — why the seventh hell? I have been doing everything that the Buddhist monks have been telling me”.
Bodhidharma said, “Unless you start hearing your own voice, nobody can help you, Buddhist or non-Buddhist. And you have not yet heard your inner voice. If you had heard it, you would not have asked such a stupid question.
“On the path of Gautam Buddha there is no reward because the very desire for reward comes from a greedy mind. The whole teaching of Gautam Buddha is desirelessness and if you are doing all these so-called virtuous acts, making temples and monasteries and feeding thousands of monks, with a desire in your mind, you are preparing your way towards hell. If you are doing these things out of joy, to share your joy with the whole empire, and there is not even a slight desire anywhere for any reward, the very act is a reward unto itself. Otherwise you have missed the whole point.”
Emperor Wu said, “My mind is so full of thoughts. I have been trying to create some peace of mind, but I have failed and because of these thoughts and their noise, I cannot hear what you are calling the inner voice. I don’t know anything about it”.
(--in, This and That, There and Here, Observations, feelings and emotions of a Dame Quixote)
Elsewhere, Bodhidharma's responses to Wu were: "No merit"; "nothing holy, vast emptiness"; and, (responding to the question 'Who are you?'), "I don't know."
The apparent difficulty of hearing the inner voice derives from the mistaken belief that it comes from elsewhere to be heard by someone.
Perhaps the inner voice belongs no where else to no one other.
And, suddenly, the sound of --
That which is itself!