Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage
Theme: Between War and Peace
- Time to face suffering
War is not the issue. War is defined as: “A state of open, armed, often
prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties.”War
threatens to become fashionable. We are at war in Iraq with an enemy we cannot
recognize. Before that we were in Afghanistan at war with people from another
country. We are at war with terror. Every irregular behavior looks like terror
and attracts wary police or military attention. We have no idea how to fight
a noun, verb, adjective or adverb variant of “terror.”
Still, we are at war with terror. At home we have been at war with poverty.
At war with drugs. There are wars between red and blue, liberals and conservatives,
Bush-lovers and Bush-haters. There is a propaganda war. There is even a ratings
war for dominance among television networks. There are battles between sports
franchises. There are battles in congress, before the Supreme Court, and no
one is quite sure what (if any) sensible outcome is possible or will ever result
from these battles and wars. The president has recently declared war against
War is not the issue. Greed, self-delusion, and deceit are closer to the issue.
War is only war -- a means searching for a reputable end. But there is, it
seems, no end to the human mind's attachment to war and the concept of war.
Greed, delusion, and deceit are enders of human hope and trust -- a far more
destructive effect than even the devastation mechanized war can reach.
A crowd of stars lines up
Bright in the deep night.
Lone lamp on the cliff,
The moon is not yet sunk,
Full and bright without being
Ground or polished.
Hanging in the black sky is my mind.
- Han Shan (early 9th century)
Time is out of joint. It is confusing for many of us. Time seems to be speeding
up. The gulf widens between the rich and poor. Natural catastrophes, such as
volcanoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes tear through life and property with
death and destruction. Men and women, wearing or driving bombs, hurl themselves
into the midst of fellow and sister human beings detonating themselves. Elected
leaders of nations have no response that indicates they have a clue what is
going on and how to make a difference. At least not an insightful, enlightening
response. So much of the behavior we see in corporate halls is grab while the
We can deal with war, the so-called traditional war. Legitimate, ethical, and
proportionate response to unprovoked attack against the well being of peoples
or nations is necessary when the call comes to intervene. When we send young
men and women into harm's way we have a responsibility to transcend politics,
ideology, and self-serving ambition. It is always young men and women whose
minds and bodies are torn apart in war. Every day from Iraq we are sent dead
bodies of Americans, and we watch as dead bodies of Iraqis are sent to ground.
The wounded –all of them from every side –limp, half blinded, shattered
into a broken future.
A New York Times columnist relates a conversation with a man serving in the
A captain who is on active duty, and therefore asked not to be identified
by name, told me yesterday:
" The only reason I stayed in the Army was because one colonel convinced
me to do it. Other than that, I would have walked. Basically, these guys who
are leaving have their high-powered educations. Some are from West Point. They've
done their five years. Why should they stay and go back to Iraq and die in a
war that's just going to keep on going?"
Beyond that, he said, "Guys are not going to stay in the Army when their
wives are leaving them."
From the perspective of the troops, he said, the situation in Iraq is perverse.
He could find no upside. "You go to war," he said, "and you
could lose your heart, your mind, your arms, your legs - but you cannot win.
The soldiers don't win."
(11/10/2005, NYTimes Op-Ed, "An Army Ready to Snap" By Bob Herbert)
The issue is suffering. It is time to face suffering.
The suffering of Christ is not a trademark owned by any Christian church. The
suffering of Christ is the suffering of each and every being. The church is
the individual willing to open mind and heart to another individual, and then
another. The process of such opening illuminates the reality of Christ as the
loving acceptance of the reality of each. To find the reality of Christ we
must look to the individual -- i.e. the undivided -- and be willing to sacrifice
the belief in what is not of the whole in order to engage the reality of what
is of the whole. The world is of the whole. The world is not a mistake, not
a falling from a state of primordial perfection into matter, not the booby
prize in a contest of spiritualist purity. The earth and all that it contains,
all the beings it supports, and the humans that unlock nature's secrets --
all this, things as they are -- is the dwelling place of the one-we-call-God.
The Four Noble Truths -- about suffering: its cause, the penetration, understanding,
and cessation of it -- are not the intellectual property of any Buddhist sangha.
The Eightfold Path invites us into a life of practice that attends to 1. Wisdom,
i.e. (Right Understanding, Right Aspiration); 2. Morality, i.e. (Right Speech,
Right Action, Right Livelihood); and, 3. Concentration, i.e. (Right Effort,
Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration). These efforts to get ourselves "right" with
the world and one another are efforts to realize the true and proper nature
of who we are and what we are doing in the world. The dissatisfaction and unfulfilled
lives we experience is directly an effect of clinging to views, beliefs, and
opinions that are harmful to persons, places, sentient beings, and things of
all shapes and purpose. Suffering discords and discards.
To allow the suffering of individuals and the suffering of the world to be
transformed through us, we have to incarnate a new being. This being will not
be discordant, but will harmonize the many sounds passing through it. This
being will not be discarded, but will find its place in the dwelling of a community
of awareness. You through whom the discord and discard passes, will not be
harmed or destroyed by the process of transubstantiation. Why not? Because
you have not made yourself other, have not taken stance antagonistic to the
life flowing through you, nor have you pretended it was you doing the transforming
work. Life heals itself. Or, put another way, life is healed by Itself. "Itself" needs
a place through which the suffering of life's members can pass and be acknowledged,
accepted, and affirmed. You are that place. We are that place.
Archbishop Romero, who was assassinated in 1980, had this to say fifteen months
But let us remember that Christ has become a person of his people, of
his time; he lived as a Jew; he labored as a worker in Nazareth, and ever
since, he is made flesh in all people.
If many have moved away from the church, it is precisely because the church
has been a little alienated from humanity.
But a church that would feel as its own, all that is human, and would wish
to incarnate within itself the sorrow, hope and anguish, of all who suffer
and rejoice, that church would be Christ loved and awaited, Christ present.
And that depends on us.
(Archbishop Oscar Romero, 3December1978, in August-September 2005 issue of "The
Are we ready to put off greed, delusion, and deceit? Are we ready to vacate
our views, beliefs, and opinions in order to arrive empty for the loving work
of Itself to renew being and life?
We need to encourage those of us frightened by the prospect of embodying and
transforming suffering. Encourage a reflection about dying and resurrecting
through suffering's transformation and cessation. Encourage an awareness that
ultimately, by birthing a new incarnation and new enlightenment in this world,
yes, in this very world, this very existence -- we enter into the sacred meditation
and transubstantiating miracle that is the grace of this moment.
This moment of grace is attention to our true nature. The work needing to be
done is inner work that must be done through, with, in, and as "us." There
is no world "out there" to change. The healing needing to be done
is an inside job.
It is not a war.
It is, simply -- prayer and practice.
Lower body to sit.
and all who grace Meetingbrook,
November 2005, Veterans Day
Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage is a Schola Gratiae et Contemplationis,
i.e., a School of Gratefulness and Contemplation.
Bookshop and Bakery opened 29 June1996. Hermitage was
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