Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update
field of fundamental conversion”
Conversion changes nothing.
Time is the field where nothing
Water dripping ceaselessly
Will fill the four seas.
Specks of dust
Not wiped away
Will become the
Shih Wang Ming (6th cent AD)
Water is the sea; dust the mountains.
Nothing is changed by becoming
what one is.
Slender clouds. On the pavilion
a small rain.
Noon, but I’m too lazy to open the far cloister.
I sit looking at moss so green
My clothes are soaked with color.
- Wang Wei (699-759)
Advent returns. A new liturgical year. Isaiah finds voice again.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.
O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the Lord!
(--From Isaiah 2: 4-5)
Isaiah prophesied some seven hundred years before the time of
Jesus. Twenty hundred years has followed the birth and death
of Jesus. Plowshares have disappeared and swords forged a million-fold.
This doesn’t seem like the light of the Lord.
I sought out every mystic, seer, and magician
I could find throughout the
world. I subjected myself to severe austerities, long periods
of isolation and meditation. I studied
the world’s philosophies
and religions. I spent long
periods in India and in the
Himalayas, searching, contemplating,
At one point, I went to see a powerful yogi. I suggested
to this man, who
had obviously obtained a deep insight into life, that I had
come to learn all he knew about the powers
of the inner world.
His response was simple and to the point: “Why
do you want power? What are you afraid of?” Then
he walked away.
The exploration of that fear was the beginning, and the end,
of my spiritual journey.
(--Steven Harrison, from Doing
It seems the vast majority of people in the world have opted
for power. Defined by its acquisition or absence, we court power
and insist its bestowal grants prestige and worth. The powerless
are pitied, and more than that, they are both unnecessary to
and unwanted by those attired in power.
What are we afraid of?
I think we’re afraid of time. And so, we are afraid of truth.
There are men and women in our midst who are so afraid of time
and truth that they pledge allegiance only to eternity and a
very certain brand of truth.
a story about absolute truth
A king was once disturbed by the relative
appearance of truth. Being an absolute ruler, he decided to do
away with relative truth and to enforce absolute truth by decree.
law was simple. If anyone entered his city and did not tell the
absolute truth, they would immediately
hang the liar.
He was content that he had
found the ultimate expression of truth.
Nearby his kingdom lived a mad mystic, who, upon
hearing the king’s decree, laughed long and hard.
He presented himself to the king the next day
and said, “By your decree, today you will hang me for telling
The king was stunned. He could
not hang the madman for then the mystic would have spoken the
truth. Nor could
the king not hang him, for then the mystic would have lied.
of doing either, the king gave up his kingdom and went off
with the mad mystic to learn the real
nature of absolute truth.
in Doing Nothing, Coming
to the End of the Spiritual Search, by Steven Harrison, c.1997)
The word ‘absolute’ does not mean ‘certain.’ And yet those seduced
by power, with wealth and celebrity accompanying, will try to
impose the certainty of their views. They demand we receive their
views and actions as absolute truth.
Mystics and madmen point out absolute means nothing left out.
The power-certain notoriously marginalize and fragment the population
in the name of purity and security. If the power-certain suspect
opposition or disagreement they label such people enemy and danger
to the security of homeland.
December begs for conversion. Deepening darkness will convert
to lightening return. Mother Mary will have her Immaculate Conception
celebrated. Shakyamuni Buddha will have his Enlightenment celebrated.
Jesus Christ will have his Incarnation celebrated.
Silvia brought up Yama at Sunday Evening Practice. We’d been
talking about fear.
Yama is an ancient Vedic deity incorporated into the Tibetan
Buddhist Pantheon as the judge of the dead and ruler of
the Buddhist hells located in the southern hemisphere of
Meru world system beneath the continent of Jambuvidpa. His
name comes from the root used in Vedic literature meaning "twin" and
restrain or bound."
Yama is personified as a
bull as a metaphor of the uncontrolled mind that one must
learn to control to overcome death. In Yama's right hand
he holds a club to smash obstacles and with his left hand
he makes the threatening tarjani mudra to ward off difficulties
and bound them with a snare that he usually carries. Clinging
to his left side is his twin sister the red-colored Yamari
or Yami, who offers him a blood filled skull-cup, representing
the offering of the five senses.
In his role as lord of hell,
Yama should not be confused with Western religious notions
of the Devil as the embodiment of evil. Instead, Yama should
be understood as a deity given a task within the greater
Buddhist cause of the salvation of all living beings. In
Buddhist symbolic terms the overcoming of death by terminating
the cycle of rebirth is the ultimate goal and it is Yama
who serves as a transformer in that process by embodying
(--from web commentary by Tom Suchan, 3 June, 1998,
on Yama and Yamari, Thangka, painting, http://kaladarshan.arts.ohio-state.edu/exhib/sama/*Essays/T97.078Yama.html)
Embodiment in time is conversion of impermanence into the ephemeral.
Andrew Harvey wrote that Jesus comes from the undivided. Buddha’s
enlightenment was seeing whole. Mary’s birth retained her non-separation
from the One, a readied way of being allowing her to be Theotokos,
Christ-Bearer. Yama/Yamari twin the transforming of life/death
into unborn life/itself.
We come to see new what has always been there to be seen.
To recap the main point, in newness without ceasing, we see
two simultaneous faces of time: one of creation, freedom, and
infinite possibility, and one of infinite burden, inextricable
necessity. Newness is essentially equivocal; thus, so is time.
(p.221, in Religion and Nothingness, by Keiji Nishitani, c.1982)
We must change our mind. It is time. Isaiah’s old perspective
is new. Absent time, Isaiah is pronouncing his vision, Buddha
sees morning star, Mary floats free in her amniotic dream, and
Jesus divines creation with the hands and feet of an infant.
Lastly, we said that time only comes about
in virtue of having an infinite openness at its bottom. This
infinite openness also contains an ambiguity of its own. In a
word, it can mean both nihility and sunyata in its original sense.
According to the meaning it takes on, time and all matters related
to time will assume meanings fundamentally opposed to one another.
The true Form of time consists in the simultaneous possibility
of these opposing meanings. The essential ambiguity in the meaning
of time means that time is essentially the field of fundamental
conversion, the field of a “change of heart” or “metanoia” (pravrittivijnana).
Isaiah captured the wording for us: “I am the Lord, there is
We live in a divisive time. Some, with temporal power, ‘other’ one
and ‘other’ all. Death scents the bait and bites at the sacrificial
bodies tossed it by othering power-certain individuals intent
on narrowing the field.
It is time to wake up, end the divisions, plow the earth, seed
the mind, open the heart, and view nature changing us into what
we are. It is time to change.
The field of fundamental conversion is each one of us. Conversion
opens the field.
And yet, as yet, December’s conversion changes nothing.
To see through this koan -- this life – is newness without ceasing.
We become what we are -- each of us what is always true.
Nothing changes – each becomes itself – this life unceasingly
What life, what child, is this?
, Sando , Cesco , Mu-ge ,
all who grace Meetingbrook