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November 2005 Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update

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 bird flu.

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 grabbing's good.

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 military:
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 earlier:
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 Catholic Worker")

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 guns.

Lower eyes.

Lower body to sit.

Silently, still.


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

11 November 2005, Veterans Day

Please see http://www.meetingbrook.org/updates/05SepUpdate.htm for continuing support.

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 formed as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization in 1998 for the purpose of serving as a place of collation and recollection for the side-by-side practice and study of Buddhist Zen Meditation, Christian Contemplative Prayer, and the Engaged Service flowing from each. Central to Meetingbrook is its Laura Common – dedicated to a forum for individuals sharing practice with others, and its Schola -- dedicated to Interreligious & Interdependent Dialogue —Unveiling and Practicing Peace Between Ways. Donations are always gratefully accepted for the continuance and deepening of Meetingbrook.              

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