Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update
Theme: Poverty & Silence – Practicing for Itself
Today we begin our daily Evening Practice at the hermitage. The events
of 11 September sober and sensitize. We recognize the need for change
and enter now a time of poverty and silence.
Today is the feast of St.Teresa of Avila, born 1515CE,
in Castile, Spain.
She was a beautiful woman, endowed with many talents
and a very strong character. She needed to be converted more than once
from a perhaps self-centered and mediocre life. But, when she finally
listened to God's call she gave her whole being to following him. She
suffered a great deal of opposition, betrayal, calumny and insult. But,
she never gave up. In our own times of trial she is an encouragement
to us and a symbol of perseverance in living what we know to be what
God wants of us even if it be unpopular or not the "in" thing
to do. (- from The
Monastery of Christ in the Desert, New Mexico)
Bodhidharma, credited with bringing Zen Buddhism to China, was born
in Southern India in 440CE. He is quoted as saying:
The ultimate Truth
is beyond words. Doctrines are words. They're not the Way. The Way is
wordless. Words are illusions... Don't cling to appearances, and you'll
break through all barriers...
Another story is entitled “Bodhidharma and the Emperor Wu”
Emperor Wu of China
was a very benevolent Buddhist. He built many temples and monasteries,
educated many monks, and performed countless philanthropic deeds in
the name of Buddhism. He asked the great teacher Bodhidharma, "What
merit is there in my good works?" Bodhidharma replied, "None
whatsoever." The Emperor then asked, "What is the Primal meaning
of Holy Reality?" Bodhidharma answered, "Emptiness, not holiness."
The Emperor then queried, "Who, then, is this confronting me?"
"I do not know," was Bodhidharma's reply. Since the Emperor
did not understand, Bodhidharma left his kingdom.
Later, the Emperor
related this conversation to an adviser, Prince Shiko. Shiko reprimanded
him, saying that Bodhidharma was a great teacher possessed of the highest
truth. The Emperor, filled with regret, dispatched a messenger to entreat
Bodhidharma to return. But Shiko warned, "Even if all the people
in the land went, that one will never return."
(- from Zen Koans by Venerable Gyomay Kubose c.1973)
Teresa and Bodhidharma are mid-October models – one who couldn’t live
in the convents of her time, the other who legend says spent 9 years
meditating facing a cave wall. This transitional and troubling time
calls for a new form of both community and solitary monastic process
Meetingbrook tries to see how it wishes to reside and think of itself.
Teresa would recognize the problem of this time. Bodhidharma would carry
his sandal and travel home.
Abandoning the false and embracing the true, and in
simpleness of thought, abiding in pi-kuan or wall meditation, one finds
that there is neither selfhood nor otherness, that the masses and the
worthies are of one essence. Holding firmly to this belief and never
moving away therefrom, one is not guided by any written instructions,
for one is in silent communion with the principle itself, free from
conceptual discrimination serene and not-acting.
(- from Meditation on Four Acts, Bodhidharma)
The world has taken on the shape of loss and uncertainty.
… there need be no fear, with the help of God, that
religious observances in this house will decline, for, as Saint Clare
said, the walls of poverty are very strong. It was with these walls,
she said, and with those of humility, that she wished to surround her
convents; and assuredly, if the rule of poverty is truly kept, both
chastity and all the other virtues are fortified much better than by
the most sumptuous edifices.
It seems very wrong, my daughters, that great houses
should be built with the money of the poor; may God forbid that this
should be done; let our houses be small and poor in every way. (-Teresa, in The Way of Perfection)
Our crisis is to practice, at least inwardly, what we wish to see take
In Peace, Bill, Saskia, Sando, Mini, and all who grace Meetingbrook,