Saturday, August 19, 2023

an odd sense of connection

 Listening on Scribd to The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, by John Koenig, the hardback on coffee table sent (gratefully) by Chris in Augusta of the Kennebec River Zen Center.

At Tuesday Evening Conversations Chris and (elder) Doris (who is in NYState) join in conversation in repeatedly inspiring colloquy about the practice, thought, and questions involved in Zen Buddhism and ordinary experience along the way.

The delight of shared peer dokusan wending way through aporia of zen and everyday life.

This is what we shared years ago together in prison conversations and continuing currently weekly at both maximum security prison up on the hill and minimum correction facility down to the farm -- inquiring and listening, laughing and pondering what appears before us, whether in body or mind or spirit, going forward.

One question that crops up regularly for those whose zen training was conducted in traditional settings with classical methodology is the question of what zen will look like in metamorphic transfiguration being sculpted by contemporary experience.

Coupled with the sorrow of disentangling from what has gone by and, as yet, not fully fused with what is coming to be, we practice with one another as "nowlings" (per Koenig, p.183):


n. the total set of human beings alive at any given  

time, a group that nudges slightly forward when-  

ever a new baby is born or the world’s oldest per-  

son dies, and turns over completely every hundred  

years or so; a random assemblage of billions of  

contemporaries who you feel an odd sense of con-  

nection to, because whatever problems we might  

face right now, we’re all facing them simulta-  


From now, the present moment + -lings, inhab-  

itants of. 

Asked recently who my teacher is (or teachers have been) it occurred to me there are three:
  • the community (however and wherever they show up)
  • presence (in whatever form it is experienced), and
  • whenever aporia (uncertainty) beckons
One day at a time, one step apace, the ambiguity and unsuspecting content of presenting-matters for conversation, sitting with one another in some fashion of improvisational theater, saying yes and going forward together in unscripted performance of the unfolding place and presence of one-another for the time-being.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Thursday, August 17, 2023

don’t make three, don’t make two, don’t make (one)

Wordless Being

Worded World

Silence of Emptiness

Journey Itself

Passing Through 

All at Once




at the centre of religious experience

 Perhaps God's name is silence.

Maybe that's why so many are leery about silence.

If silence is God's name, perhaps the only way to see God's face is through the silence and emptiness of no-mind, which, some will say, is no-seeing at all. 

The Christian faiths based on the assertion that there is more to an understanding of silence than simply the interaction of humans with humans, or even the interaction of humans with societies or landscapes around them. Whether on not one accepts the assumption of theism (belief in a God), it belittles and impoverishes human experience not to treat seriously the Christian assertion of divinity, and it is the duty of any historian of religion to explore the working out of faith in the past with appropriate sympathy and understanding. Some will see that silences lie at the centre of religious experience, and will wish to affirm that they have had a profound and unfolding effect on the history of Christianity.

(--p.2, Silence, A Christian History, by Diarmaid MacCulloch, 2013)

No-seeing isn't not-seeing. 

Not-seeing is a form of blindness.

No-seeing is seeing through mu-shin or no-mind.

What-is seen is what is passing through the seer into itself.

The seer is a waypoint.

The way is what-is passing through the seer enroute to the perennial elsewhere.

Where else is there?

Rest easy.

The rest is silence


 Sometimes you don’t feel

well, something doesn’t sit right, you

wait for things to pass

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

ninety five year old kenshō

Her koan was stuck

in her throat -- David pouring

water to ground -- he

felt God move within, three men

sacrificed for him, grateful

παράφωνος, λήθη *

                    (* discordant, oblivion) 

Cars go by from Hope

down mountain sluice Ragged/Bald

inching toward tide --

such surprise disinterest — tree

watching outside deeply mute

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

yes, it is

 Perhaps Christ is the story of unfolding creation through nothing to matter to psyche to pneuma to emptiness.

We've made Christ human (as Jesus is) because that is the medium through which humans investigate what is relevant to them.

Perhaps to trees Christ is tree. To water, water. To birds, bird.

To cosmos, cosmos.

 That which is flowing through, that which is at surface and depth at same time, that which is what it is as it is when it is where it is.

Apart from the institutionalized systems of belief, if one were to be asked "Do you believe in Christ?" -- the question takes on a different feel.

It would be like asking: is what is standing standing? is what is looking looking? is what is sleeping sleeping? The response to each would seem to be "yes, it is."

Each thing is what it is as it is when and where it is.

It is not a matter of believing in Christ.

It is more a fact of being . . .

Christ moving through.

the continuity

 It’s a fascinating prospect to awarely undergo “a direct experience of the continuity of the psyche with the cosmos.” 

 The general goal of mysticism is to achieve ever-increasing levels of awareness of the cosmos. This involves training exercises in attitudes and orientations toward the self and the world that promote the emergence of another level of awareness. This other level is best understood as experiential rather than cognitive or emotional or even intuitive, although it is important to note that the experiential level of understanding includes all of these three. Achieving this experiential level of understanding enters a domain where words, emotions and even intuition can no longer be used to communicate what is apprehended. Here the way cosmic reality is apprehended is neither by words nor by emotions but by a direct experience of the continuity of the psyche with the cosmos.

 (—p.597, entry “Mysticism and Psychotherapy “ by Anthony Badalamenti, in Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion; Eds: Leeming, Madden, Marlan, 2009)

If such is mysticism, I’m interested. In zen, mushin no-shin is described:

The Mind of No-Mind “Mushin no Shin” by Takuan Soho (1573-1645)

A mind unconscious of itself is a mind that is not at all disturbed by affects of any kind. It is the original mind and not the delusive one that is chock-full of affects. It is always flowing, never halts, nor does it turn into a solid. As it has no discrimination to make, no affective preference to follow, it fills the whole body, pervading every part of the body, and nowhere standing still. It is never like a stone or a piece of wood. It feels, it moves, it is never at rest. If it should find a resting place anywhere, it is not a mind of no-mind. A no-mind keeps nothing in it. It is also called, munen, “no-thought.” Mushin and munen are synonymous.

When mushin or munen is attained, the mind moves from one object to another, flowing like a stream of water, filling every possible corner. For this reason the mind fulfills every function required of it. But when the flowing is stopped at one point, all the other points will get nothing of it, and the result will be a general stiffness and obduracy.


In my original Catholic Christian metaphor so many syllogisms and dogmatic constructs came from rationalism and categorical catechesis. Direct apprehension or experience of reality itself as not-other or nothing-other might have been considered as beneath the theology of lofty intellectualism.

Catholicism and Humanism might have to be saved from themselves. Perhaps zen, mysticism, and poetic consciousness could help.

“The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all.” (Karl Rahner, sj)

It does seem difficult for us to see things as they are, to accept things as they are, to allow things as they are to become what they inevitably will/must/can become.

We have never been other than what we are.

To become what you are — perhaps this is the heart of mysticism.

opinion is modified by facts, knowledge, and insuperable sensibility

 Let the legal system work. Anyone charged is considered innocent until proven guilty by a jury of peers. It’s a good system where doubt is a deterrent to the sometimes roughshod power of prosecutors anywhere.

There is a comfort knowing that self-serving willfulness has a countering limitation such as law.

Patience, facts, and jousting argument serve well the emergence of justice.

Monday, August 14, 2023

a future we can see

In prison this morning we read Hughes’ poem.

There’s poetry and, then, there’s political posturing and pretense.

Langston Hughes is the poet.

The other guy is best soon forgotten like bad prose and the offal of a disturbed skunk.

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(—from Langston Hughes poem, “Let America Be America Again”

 The men around the table needed no prod or opinion from me.

They recognized the fraud of the politician without a scintilla of doubt.

What we did not speak of is fascism, a significant concern according to Robert Reich.

We spent time with poetry and the prophetic voice. Poetry, it seems, beckons us to a future we can see promise through.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

that’s it, the buddha’s koan, “with”


In the middle



all the poets, all the notes

 from snow bowl, band sings

"without love, where would you be

now?" -- big beat practice

a seer who sees all the way through

Seeing is its own universe.

It's not what is seen. It's what is seen through. 

For Richard Rohr, prophets do not foretell the future, but they do seem to anticipate futures that are shocking to the rest of us:    


Most of the prophets seem to be ordinary people who find themselves with a gift. Prophecy in the Bible is not a matter of foretelling, but—to play with the English language a bit—it’s forthtelling. Prophecy is speaking with such a forwardness of truth, direction, and passion that, after the fact, we say the prophet foretold it. It’s not that they’re really predicting something, it’s just that they have immense spiritual insight. The original Hebrew word for a prophet meant simply that: one who sees. A prophet is a seer who sees all the way through.   


The reason prophets can speak so clearly and strongly in the now is because they judge the now from, of all places, the future. Prophets have seen the future. In other words, they have seen where God is leading humanity. They have seen and drawn close to the heart of God and they know God is leading us somewhere good. Since they know the conclusion and where it is that we’re heading, they become impatient and angry at the present state of things. If we know where history is going and what God is leading us toward; if we know what our lives could and should be, why are we wasting time with all this violence and all this stupidity?  


Not fore- but forth- telling. A seeing that is beyond concept or ideology. A true seeing. 

A correspondence that undifferentiates. A way of being that transcends and includes, 

lives with aporia and ambiguity, accepts and accommodates all presenting itself. 

 In the mahahayana framework, all knowledge of God is

metaphorical, bending words and images in striking and

disturbing ways. The function of doctrine in mahahayana

theology is not to communicate a body of information

about God, but to engender a sense of the presence of

God beyond all words. All proclaimed knowledge of God is

parable, not entailing acceptance of a given state of

affairs in the Godhead but eliciting conversions within

the minds of the hearers.

The scriptural words of and about Jesus likewise

describe him as empty of essence. He presents himself in

the New Testament as unconcerned with his own identity.

It is impossible to understand him apart from the web of

relationships that form his life. As Edward

Schillebeeckx asserts, (There is no a priori definition

of the substance of Jesus.[14] He is constituted by

being related to Abba in silent awareness and to humans

in commitment to the rule of God on earth. In the phrase

of Ignatius of Antioch, he is (the voice of the Father

from silence." [15] He has no identity apart from the

1ather. Almost all the descriptive terms applied to

Jesus in the scriptures

refer him to the Father. He is the son of God, the word

of God, the presence of God, the sacrament of God among

us. One cannot define a sacrament apart from its

referent, and the referent of the person of Jesus

is not an immutable essence as defined by Greek

philosophy, but rather the Father who dwells in silence.

by John P. Keenan, Anglican Theological Review, Pp.48-63)

So much to ponder here.

Dwelling in silence. 

thunder storm lights up night

 It a curious story. Jesus died because he was human. He didn’t stay dead because he was divine.

Many believe he now has extraordinary power to forgive sin, heal the sick, run a religious corporation, and help the Republican Party in America battle immorality and elect politicians, appoint judges, ban abortion, and increase the sale of guns, assault rifles, and chicken franchises.

Me, I don’t know.

Identity theft is rampant. Lies are de rigueur. Moral purity and political patronage is the privilege of wealthy conservatives with judges and elected hacks in their back pocket.

Jesus in America is someone the holy trinity might not recognize. 

Still, don’t hate on him.

Invite him to a meeting.

Say “Hi, Jesus” and make him feel welcome.

He’s near bottom.

Don’t serve him one for the road.

That’s a lie.

Roads don’t drink.

Fraud will run out of time.