31 December 2009

Knowing and flowing

If the great ocean knew it was full, the hundreds of rivers would all flow upstream.
Dogen, Dharma Hall Discourse 447 (Eihei Koroku, 404)

24 December 2009

On timing

A couple of poems from William Blake's notebooks:

If you trap the moment before its ripe
The tears of repentance you'll certainly wipe
But if once you let the ripe moment go
You can never wipe off the tears of woe

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sun rise

20 December 2009

On teaching

It is necessary to get to the reality and reveal to learners the thing in each one of them that is the fundamental matter of great liberation, without dependencies, without contrived activities, without concerns.
— Yuanwu (Cleary and Cleary 1994, 178)

Do not regard the capacity to expound the dharma as superior, and the capacity to listen to the dharma as inferior. If those who speak are venerable, those who listen are venerable as well.
— Dogen, ‘Gyobutsu Iigi’ (Tanahashi 2004, 94)

— and thanks to John Harvey (see his comment) for pointing out that Lao Tzu was there before Dogen!

17 June 2009


Emerging from a silent space of time
all the signs read themselves differently.

According to Genesis 1:26, ‘God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’; according to Xenophanes of Colophon, mortals portray their gods as like themselves. Could they both be right?
As God has wished that the inner person be created to be like God, so also earthly people create gods in their own image.
Excerpt from the Perfect Discourse (NHS, 432)

22 April 2009

And now for something completely difficult

The next thing is. We are once amore as babes awondering in a wold made fresh where with the hen in the storyaboot we start from scratch.
Finnegans Wake 336

18 April 2009


If we don't survive, we don't do anything else.
— John Sinclair

I've got better things to do than survive.
— ani difranco

16 April 2009

Snake on ice

Though the ground is still snow-covered a foot deep or more in shady places, it's warm enough to bring some critters out of hibernation. Yesterday i came across a garter snake crawling over a little snowbank – very slowly, as you might imagine, and my arrival didn't speed him up. I lifted him with a stick and set him down in a dry, sunny spot and went on my way as he slowly unkinked his coils. I hope he found something to eat – not many bugs out yet! – or else found a good place to go back to sleep for awhile.

15 April 2009

The source

Entering is the source, and the source means from beginning to end.
Dogen, ‘Bukkyo’ (Nearman 2007, 312)

25 January 2009

Common and uncommon Causes

Here and elsewhere i've put in a few plugs for Chris Martenson's Crash Course, which analyzes the current global crisis in terms of economy, energy and environment as key pieces of the puzzle. Near the end of Chapter 10, Martenson says: ‘There is literally nothing more important for you to be doing right now than gaining an understanding of how these pieces fit together, assessing the risks for yourself, and taking actions to prepare for the possibility of a future that is substantially different from today.’

Martenson's website also invites you to ‘Help the Cause’ by spreading the word about it – as i've tried to do – because it's all about our common future.

Now, i'd bet that at least one other Cause is currently telling you the same thing: that nothing is more important than devoting your time to it right now.

If these are separate Causes, and you have only one chance at now, then at least one of those voices must be wrong. If not, they must both belong to a common Cause.

How do you decide which Cause has the greatest claim on your attention and commitment?   – Is there a better way to make that kind of decision?

My own calling is working toward answers to those questions, through inquiry and dialogue, as expressed in Turning Words. That's my primary mission, and other Causes are either secondary branches of it or distractions from it, for me.

What's your mission?

I call it your mission, but of course it doesn't belong to you. You belong to it, as the Person you try to live up to. You might call that Person your true Self, or maybe God, for all i know.

15 January 2009

Religion and guidance

Broadly speaking, every religion preaches peace, love and unity. Religions differ in the means by which they try to realize these ends; also in their attention to secondary principles such as liberty, equality and justice. They also differ in the scale of the group they aim to include. Some wish to unify only a part of humanity, some the whole of it, and some the greater whole of the biosphere (though this remains rare).

The problem is that peace, love and unity within the group – regardless of its size – is not enough to guide the collective conduct of the group. If a loving, united group is unable or unwilling to learn what its real situation is, and to renovate its habits (including beliefs) accordingly, it could end up like the legendary herd of lemmings, rushing off the cliff in perfect loving unison. Does it matter whether a form of life now extinct was ‘saved’, entered nirvana or went to heaven? Certainly not to its future generations.

What's necessary to any well-guided system is the creative tension between individual discovery and incorporation into the higher-scale system. Neither can have any meaning without the other.

The identity of any self-organizing system – that is, any living system – is determined by the collective behavior of its membership and the differentiation of its functional parts. Every member of the corporate body has a mission to carry out, in the scale of real time at which that member's experience unfolds. The health of the whole system depends on each member's freedom and ability to carry out that mission within its defining context.

14 January 2009


The world presents resistance to your will: in other words, you and the world exist.
The separation of self and other created the space in which you can act. Thus it also created good and evil.
The meaning (to you) of what is not you generates your guidance system, recreating you and the world together as inside and out.
Semiosis is self-organization.

On this January morning, the walls of this house make a difference of about 50 degrees (Celsius) between inner and outer space. I am burning birch (harvested last summer) to maintain this difference – the aspen i usually feed the woodstove with is not quite equal to the task. The goldfinches, nuthatches and chickadees are feeding their inner fires with nyjer and sunflower seeds. How they do it is beyond me.

11 January 2009

Walking with Henry David

from Thoreau's Journal, 10 January 1851:
I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of taking walks daily,—not [to] exercise the legs or body merely, nor barely to recruit the spirits, but positively to exercise both body and spirit, and to succeed to the highest and worthiest ends by the abandonment of all specific ends,—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering. And this word “saunter,” by the way, is happily derived “from idle people who roved about the country [in the Middle Ages] and asked charity under pretence of going à la Sainte-Terrer,” to the Holy Land, till, perchance, the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainte-Terrer," a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds.

At this point four pages are missing from the original Journal; but later in his essay ‘Walking’ – first published a month after he died – Thoreau continued the thought as follows:
… but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels.

08 January 2009

Divine manifestation

There is no God who is not wholly manifested here and now. There is no God finally manifest at any time: for manifestation is time.

01 January 2009

And now for something completely

Time is nature's way of making sure that everything doesn't happen all at once.
— anon