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Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update
November 2004

Theme:  Difference and Unity -- As We Become Aware: “Wakened out of [deep} sleep, fled each our several ways”

November settles into a pattern of disappearances. Election over. World Series gone. All Saints and Souls quieted and returned to hiddenness. We have to turn to late autumn without the color of leaves but with the clarity of seeing that comes only when things have fallen away.

Buddha is Sanskrit for what you call aware, miraculously aware. Responding, perceiving, arching your brows, blinking your eyes, moving your hands and feet, it’s all your miraculously aware nature. And this nature is the mind. And the mind is the buddha. And the buddha is the path. And the path is zen. But the word zen is one that remains a puzzle to both mortals and sages. Seeing your nature is zen. Unless you see your nature, it’s not zen.
       -Bodhidharma (d. 533)

We are, we are told, a moral nation. We are interested in preserving that which makes us a moral nation. When I read the Sermon on the Mount I am uncertain what they mean when they say we are a Christian nation. Chesterton comes to mind. We’ve not yet tried Christianity.

I think of Peter Maurin. I think of The Catholic Worker movement. I think of the words of Lloyd, who said one Friday night, “I don’t know what God is.” His sentence appears to find the middle place where Catholic Christianity and Zen Buddhism touch one another.

In his Easy Essays Peter Maurin writes:

What the Catholic Worker Believes

The Catholic Worker believes
in the gentle personalism
of traditional Catholicism.
The Catholic Worker believes
in the personal obligation
of looking after
the needs of our brother.
The Catholic Worker believes
in the daily practice
of the Works of Mercy.
The Catholic Worker believes
in Houses of Hospitality
for the immediate relief
of those who are in need.
The Catholic Worker believes
in the establishment
of Farming Communes
where each one works
according to his ability
and gets
according to his need.
The Catholic Worker believes
in creating a new society
within the shell of the old
with the philosophy of the new,
which is not a new philosophy
but a very old philosophy,
a philosophy so old
that it looks like new.

The Duty of Hospitality

People who are in need
and are not afraid to beg
give to people not in need
the occasion to do good
for goodness' sake.
Modern society calls the beggar
bum and panhandler
and gives him the bum's rush.
But the Greeks used to say
that people in need
are the ambassadors of the gods.
Although you may be called
bums and panhandlers
you are in fact the Ambassadors of God.
As God's Ambassadors
you should be given food,
clothing and shelter
by those who are able to give it.
Mahometan teachers tell us
that God commands hospitality,
and hospitality is still practiced
in Mahometan countries.
But the duty of hospitality
is neither taught nor practiced
in Christian countries.

Christianity Untried

Chesterton says:
"The Christian ideal
has not been tried
and found wanting.
It has been found difficult
and left untried."
Christianity has not been tried
because people thought
it was impractical.
And men have tried everything
except Christianity.
And everything
that men have tried
has failed.

Feeding the Poor at a Sacrifice

In the first centuries
of Christianity
the hungry were fed
at a personal sacrifice,
the naked were clothed
at a personal sacrifice,
the homeless were sheltered
at personal sacrifice.
And because the poor
were fed, clothed and sheltered
at a personal sacrifice,
the pagans used to say
about the Christians
"See how they love each other."
In our own day
the poor are no longer
fed, clothed, sheltered
at a personal sacrifice,
but at the expense
of the taxpayers.
And because the poor
are no longer
fed, clothed and sheltered
the pagans say about the Christians
"See how they pass the buck."

A Radical Change

The order of the day
is to talk about the social order.
Conservatives would like
to keep it from changing
but they don't know how.
Liberals try to patch it
and call it a New Deal.
Socialists want a change,
but a gradual change.
Communists want a change,
an immediate change,
but a Socialist change.
Communists in Russia
do not build Communism,
they build Socialism.
Communists want to pass
from capitalism to Socialism
and from Socialism to Communism.
I want a change,
and a radical change.
I want a change
from an acquisitive society
to a functional society,
from a society of go-getters
to a society of go-givers.
(--from Easy Essays, by Peter Maurin,
http://www.catholicworker.com/maurin.htm )

Dorothy Day has always been an intriguing person and persona. The newspaper she founded still sells at a penny a copy. The philosophy she espoused still wanders city streets and farm lanes with integrity far beyond political reach. The Jesus she and Peter sat at table with is hardly recognized in the rhetoric of preachers, bishops, protectors of our morals, or those certain of what is right and ready to condemn or slaughter those wrong.  

Shall we dance?

There is a Gnostic text entitled “The Hymn of Jesus.” It reads:


   Glory to Thee, Father!
   (And we going round in a ring answered to Him:)
   Glory to Thee, Word (Logos)!
   Glory to Thee, Grace (Charis)!
   Glory to Thee, Spirit!
   Glory to Thee, Holy One!
   Glory to Thy Glory!
{p. 22}
   We praise Thee, O Father;
   We give Thanks to Thee, O light;
   In Whom Darkness dwells not!
   (For what we give thanks to the Logos).
   [Or, if we adopt the "emended" text: For what we give thanks, I say:]
   I would be saved; and I would save.
   I would be loosed; and I would loose.
   I would be wounded; and I would wound.
   [Or, I would be pierced; and I would pierce.
{p. 23}
   Another reading has:
   I would be dissolved (or consumed for love); and I would dissolve.]
   I would be begotten; and I would beget.
   I would eat; and I would be eaten.
   I would hear; and I would be heard.
   [I would understand; and] I would be understood; being all Understanding (Nous).
   [The first cause I have supplied; the last is probably a gloss.]
{p. 24}
   I would be washed; and I would wash.
   (Grace leadeth the dance.)
   I would pipe; dance ye all.
   I would play a dirge; lament ye all.
   The one Eight (Ogdoad) sounds (or plays) with us.
   The Twelfth number above leadeth the dance.
{p. 25}
   All whose nature is to dance [doth dance].
   Who danceth not, knows not what is being done.
   I would flee; and I would stay.
   I would be adorned; and I would adorn.
   [The clauses are reversed in the text.]
   I would be at-oned; and I would at-one.
{p. 26}
   I have no dwelling; and I have dwellings.
   I have no place; and I have places.
   I have no temple; and I have temples.
   I am a lamp to thee who seest Me.
   I am a mirror to thee who understandest Me.
   I am a door to thee who knockest at Me.
{p. 27}
   I am a way to thee a wayfarer.
   Now answer to My dancing!
   See thyself in Me who speak;
   And seeing what I do,
   Keep silence on My Mysteries.
   Understand by dancing, what I do;
   For thine is the Passion of Man
   That I am to suffer.
   Thou couldst not at all be conscious
   Of what thou dost suffer,
   Were I not sent as thy Word by the Father.
   [The last clause may be emended: I am thy Word; I was sent by the Father.]
   Seeing what I suffer,
{p. 28}
   Thou sawest Me as suffering;
   And seeing, thou didst not stand,
   But wast moved wholly,
   Moved to be wise.
   Thou hast Me for a couch; rest thou upon Me.
   Who I am thou shalt know when I depart.
   What now I am seen to be, that I am not.
   [But what I am] thou shalt see when thou comest.
   If thou hadst known how to suffer,
   Thou wouldst have power not to suffer.
   Know [then] how to suffer, and thou hast power not to suffer.
   That which thou knowest not, I Myself will teach thee.
   I am thy God, not the Betrayer's
{p. 29}
   I would be kept in time with holy souls.
   In Me know thou the Word of Wisdom.

   Say thou to Me again:
   Glory to Thee, Father!
   Glory to Thee, Word!
   Glory to Thee, Holy Spirit!

   But as for Me, if thou wouldst know what I was:
   In a word I am the Word who did play [or dance] all things, and was not shamed at all.
   'Twas I who leaped [and danced].
   But do thou understand all, and, understanding, say:
   Glory to Thee, Father!
{p. 30}
   (And having danced these things with us, Beloved, the Lord went forth. And we, as though beside ourselves, or wakened out of [deep} sleep, fled each our several ways.)

(from -- THE HYMN OF JESUS, Echoes from the Gnosis,
Translated with comments by G. R. S. MEAD 

This Lord and this Dance often elude the eyes of those who see only right or wrong, punishment or reward, good or evil. Those riveted to those enticing dualities are themselves riveted to a fixed place where everything revolves around their fixed position. Ask Galileo. Ask Giordano Bruno. Ask the Lords of fixed ideas that rule across the world and who temporarily park in top places both in church and state.

I like the way Dogen Zenji looks at difference and unity. 

 In the beginning of their commentaries on Genjo-koan, Senne and Kyogo interpreted the word "koan" based on this kanji (gives character): "Ko” (character) means to be equal. “An” (character) means to keep one's lot. Hei-fu-hei (shows characters; equalize inequality) is “ko” (to be public). Keeping one's lot is “an.”

Ko (to be public) means to equalize inequality. When there are some unequal and unfair situations, the duty of a government officer is to equalize the unfair situation for all people.

An is to keep one's lot. Each person has different responsibility depending on their occupation in the society. Each profession such as Emperor, ministers, high-class officers, low-class officers, merchants, farmers, teachers, doctors, etc. has its own lot. each person has different personality, capability and occupation. Each of us is unique and cannot be replaceable with anyone else.

Ko is equality of everything and an refers to uniqueness or particularity of each and every thing.

Gosho says, "Koan refers to the Shobogenzo itself." Shobogenzo is the true-dharma-eye-treasury that has been transmitted from the Buddha through ancestors in each generation. Shobogenzo is another name of the true reality of all beings (shoho-jisso).

According to the Gosho, the word koan expresses the reality of our own lives. That is, we are the intersection of equality (universality, unity, oneness of all beings) and inequality (difference, uniqueness, particularity, individuality). Emptiness includes both unity and difference.

Everything in the world has differences; nothing is actually equal. Also, in society there are many kinds of discrimination, inequalities, unfair situations. to equalize such inequality is to be public. "Public" is the opposition of private. As a private person, each person is different. For example a person who has a public position has to think all people are equal. That's the meaning of "to be public." A public officer should think how we can all become equal.

"An" means each person should take care of his/her own responsibility. Ko and an are in opposition within this dynamic. Ko is to be public, we should think of all people as equal, and an means, as a private person each person has a different and unique personality and each person takes care of different things.

I often use the example of a hand: this is one hand and each hand has five fingers. When we think this is a collection of five fingers each finger is independent and has a different shape and function. The thumb has its own shape and function. A little finger has its own shape and its own function. We cannot exchange. Each finger has its own unique way of being. And yet, as one hand, all five fingers function together and there's no separation. This is really "one" hand. We can see this as only one hand and also as a collection of five fingers. Not only a hand but each one of us is the same. We have both sides of universality and individuality. And these are not two separate aspects. Each side is absolute. One hand is 100% five fingers. When we call this one hand, there are no five fingers. And when we call this five fingers, one hand is hidden. In Genjokoan, Dogen Zenji expresses this, "When one side is illuminated another side is dark." This whole universe is one universe, there's no separation within it. And yet, when we see it from another aspect, this universe is a collection of billions of different, unique and individual beings. Nothing can be the same; everything has its own position in particular time and space. Each and everything is completely independent. And yet, this whole world, whole universe and all time -- from beginningless beginning to endless end -- is just one. Dogen Zenji said in Bendowa, "Even if only one person sits for a short time, because this zazen is one with all existence and completely permeates all time, it performs everlasting buddha guidance within the inexhaustible dharma world in the past, present, and future." We cannot separate. It's really only one time and one space.

There are two ways of viewing this one reality. One is to see things as a whole, the other is to see things as independent. these two ways of seeing things are really important in understanding Mahayana Buddhist philosophy. In Mahayana Buddhist philosophy the two aspects of this one reality of our life is called "the two truths," one is absolute truth and another is conventional truth.

For example, in the Heart Sutra emptiness is considered to be absolute truth, there's no eyes, no ear, no hand, no nose, no tongue, no anything because this reality is just working as one; emptiness. Yet, from the other side, each has form, eyes are eyes, nose is nose, tongue is tongue; this person, Shohaku is Shohaku; I'm not you and you are not me. Even when you eat delicious food my stomach is not filled or vice versa. So we are completely different individual people. And yet, as a whole, we are living the same life; as living beings, we are interconnected completely together with all beings. This whole universe is just one thing, as five fingers are just one hand.

In Zen this reality is called sabetsu (distinction, inequality) and byodo (equality). Everything is different and independent on the one side, and everything is equal and interconnected on the other side. To see one reality from those two sides is the basic view of Mahayana Buddhism including Zen.

As a form, everything is different. Everything has different form and yet those forms are empty; empty means no discrimination and separation. And yet this emptiness is form. We see one reality as an intersection or merging of equality and uniqueness.

In Chinese Zen literature, such as the Sandokai (merging of difference and unity) composed by Zen master Sekito Kisen, it says these two sides are called difference and unity. this difference and unity should merge. In Sandokai, Sekito expresses this side of oneness or unity as dark, and the other side is light. When it's bright outside we can see things and different forms, different colors, different names and different functions; when it's completely dark all beings are there but we cannot distinguish them. As a whole, it's one darkness. These are two aspects of one reality.

This is the basic way we see reality in Buddhism and Zen. It's important to understand this point to understand any Zen literature or Buddhist philosophy.

In the case of Dogen, however, to see one reality from two sides is not enough. We should express both sides in one action. For example, in the Heart Sutra two sides are expressed as "form is emptiness and emptiness is form." But, Dogen Zenji said in Shobogenzo Makahannya-haramitsu, "Form is form. Emptiness is emptiness." When we say form is emptiness and emptiness is form, there is still separation of form and emptiness. If form is really emptiness and emptiness is really form, we can only say form is form and emptiness is emptiness. When we say form, emptiness is already there. And when we say emptiness, form is already there. If we understand this basic point we can understand the first three sentences (paragraphs) of Genjokoan.

When we study and practice according to Dogen Zenji's teachings, it's important not only to understand with our intellect those two aspects; actually we should aim at actualizing these two different sides within one action.

(-- from Dogen Zenji's Genjo-koan Lecture, By Shohaku Okumura, (transcribed from the original article published in the November 1997 issue of Soto Zen Journal (Dharma Eye) http://www.alaska.net/~zen/lecture.html )

It is November. We settle into a pattern of disappearances. On Ragged and Bald Mountains millions of leaves have fallen, curled, and begun their disintegration back to humus, back to a more mysterious pattern of falling and rising through home-ground.

Oddly, we’re grateful for this disintegration and renaissance.

I can’t imagine why, so, I’m left with life without the question why.

(Cesco lies by barn door. Sando[kai] is on the mattress with Mu-ge in this study – both of the cat’s extended paws are on the extended legs of Sando as they stretch together in their drowse of difference and unity.)

With gratitude,

, Sando , Cesco , Mu-ge
and all who grace Meetingbrook 

7November 2004                                                                                                                                          (Birthday of Albert Camus, born in Mondovi, Algeria (1913). In Russia, Nov.7 is the  Day of Accord and Reconciliation)

Email (mono@meetingbrook.org) or mail to
Meetingbrook, 50 Bayview St. Camden, Maine 04843.



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