Hermit's Corner Meetingbrook Home Page
Bookshop & Bakery Running comments on Meetingbrook
Hermitage Update About Meetingbrook
Meetingbrook Events Meetingbrook Home Page

Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update
December 2003

Theme: “The field of fundamental conversion”

Conversion changes nothing.

Time is the field where nothing changes hands.

Water dripping ceaselessly
Will fill the four seas.
Specks of dust
Not wiped away
Will become the
Five mountains
 - Shih Wang Ming (6th cent AD)

Water is the sea; dust the mountains.

Nothing is changed by becoming what one is.

Slender clouds. On the pavilion a small rain.
Noon, but I’m too lazy to open the far cloister.
I sit looking at moss so green
My clothes are soaked with color.
- Wang Wei (699-759)

Advent returns. A new liturgical year. Isaiah finds voice again.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.
O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the Lord!
(--From Isaiah 2: 4-5)

Isaiah prophesied some seven hundred years before the time of Jesus. Twenty hundred years has followed the birth and death of Jesus. Plowshares have disappeared and swords forged a million-fold. This doesn’t seem like the light of the Lord.

I sought out every mystic, seer, and magician I could find throughout the world. I subjected myself to severe austerities, long periods of isolation and meditation. I studied the world’s philosophies and religions. I spent long periods in India and in the Himalayas, searching, contemplating, being.

At one point, I went to see a powerful yogi. I suggested to this man, who had obviously obtained a deep insight into life, that I had come to learn all he knew about the powers of the inner world. His response was simple and to the point: “Why do you want power? What are you afraid of?” Then he walked away.

The exploration of that fear was the beginning, and the end, of my spiritual journey.
(--Steven Harrison, from Doing Nothing)

It seems the vast majority of people in the world have opted for power. Defined by its acquisition or absence, we court power and insist its bestowal grants prestige and worth. The powerless are pitied, and more than that, they are both unnecessary to and unwanted by those attired in power.

What are we afraid of?

I think we’re afraid of time. And so, we are afraid of truth. There are men and women in our midst who are so afraid of time and truth that they pledge allegiance only to eternity and a very certain brand of truth.

a story about absolute truth
            A king was once disturbed by the relative appearance of truth. Being an absolute ruler, he decided to do away with relative truth and to enforce absolute truth by decree.
            His law was simple. If anyone entered his city and did not tell the absolute truth, they would immediately hang the liar.
            He was content that he had found the ultimate expression of truth.
            Nearby his kingdom lived a mad mystic, who, upon hearing the king’s decree, laughed long and hard.
            He presented himself to the king the next day and said, “By your decree, today you will hang me for telling this lie.”
            The king was stunned. He could not hang the madman for then the mystic would have spoken the truth. Nor could the king not hang him, for then the mystic would have lied.
            Instead of doing either, the king gave up his kingdom and went off with the mad mystic to learn the real nature of absolute truth.
--pp.7-8, in Doing Nothing, Coming to the End of the Spiritual Search, by Steven Harrison, c.1997)

The word ‘absolute’ does not mean ‘certain.’ And yet those seduced by power, with wealth and celebrity accompanying, will try to impose the certainty of their views. They demand we receive their views and actions as absolute truth.

Mystics and madmen point out absolute means nothing left out. The power-certain notoriously marginalize and fragment the population in the name of purity and security. If the power-certain suspect opposition or disagreement they label such people enemy and danger to the security of homeland.

December begs for conversion. Deepening darkness will convert to lightening return. Mother Mary will have her Immaculate Conception celebrated. Shakyamuni Buddha will have his Enlightenment celebrated. Jesus Christ will have his Incarnation celebrated. 

Silvia brought up Yama at Sunday Evening Practice. We’d been talking about fear.

Yama is an ancient Vedic deity incorporated into the Tibetan Buddhist Pantheon as the judge of the dead and ruler of the Buddhist hells located in the southern hemisphere of the Mount Meru world system beneath the continent of Jambuvidpa. His name comes from the root used in Vedic literature meaning "twin" and means "to restrain or bound."

Yama is personified as a bull as a metaphor of the uncontrolled mind that one must learn to control to overcome death. In Yama's right hand he holds a club to smash obstacles and with his left hand he makes the threatening tarjani mudra to ward off difficulties and bound them with a snare that he usually carries. Clinging to his left side is his twin sister the red-colored Yamari or Yami, who offers him a blood filled skull-cup, representing the offering of the five senses.

In his role as lord of hell, Yama should not be confused with Western religious notions of the Devil as the embodiment of evil. Instead, Yama should be understood as a deity given a task within the greater Buddhist cause of the salvation of all living beings. In Buddhist symbolic terms the overcoming of death by terminating the cycle of rebirth is the ultimate goal and it is Yama who serves as a transformer in that process by embodying impermanence.                                     
(--from web commentary by Tom Suchan, 3 June, 1998, on Yama and Yamari, Thangka, painting, http://kaladarshan.arts.ohio-state.edu/exhib/sama/*Essays/T97.078Yama.html)

Embodiment in time is conversion of impermanence into the ephemeral. Andrew Harvey wrote that Jesus comes from the undivided. Buddha’s enlightenment was seeing whole. Mary’s birth retained her non-separation from the One, a readied way of being allowing her to be Theotokos, Christ-Bearer.  Yama/Yamari twin the transforming of life/death into unborn life/itself.

We come to see new what has always been there to be seen.

To recap the main point, in newness without ceasing, we see two simultaneous faces of time: one of creation, freedom, and infinite possibility, and one of infinite burden, inextricable necessity. Newness is essentially equivocal; thus, so is time.
 (p.221, in Religion and Nothingness, by Keiji Nishitani, c.1982)

We must change our mind. It is time. Isaiah’s old perspective is new. Absent time, Isaiah is pronouncing his vision, Buddha sees morning star, Mary floats free in her amniotic dream, and Jesus divines creation with the hands and feet of an infant. 

Lastly, we said that time only comes about in virtue of having an infinite openness at its bottom. This infinite openness also contains an ambiguity of its own. In a word, it can mean both nihility and sunyata in its original sense. According to the meaning it takes on, time and all matters related to time will assume meanings fundamentally opposed to one another. The true Form of time consists in the simultaneous possibility of these opposing meanings. The essential ambiguity in the meaning of time means that time is essentially the field of fundamental conversion, the field of a “change of heart” or “metanoia” (pravrittivijnana). 
(p.222, Nishitani)

Isaiah captured the wording for us: “I am the Lord, there is no other.”

We live in a divisive time. Some, with temporal power, ‘other’ one and ‘other’ all. Death scents the bait and bites at the sacrificial bodies tossed it by othering power-certain individuals intent on narrowing the field.

It is time to wake up, end the divisions, plow the earth, seed the mind, open the heart, and view nature changing us into what we are. It is time to change.

The field of fundamental conversion is each one of us. Conversion opens the field.

And yet, as yet, December’s conversion changes nothing.

To see through this koan -- this life – is newness without ceasing.

We become what we are -- each of us what is always true.

Nothing changes – each becomes itself – this life unceasingly itself new.

What life, what child, is this?

With gratitude.
, Sando , Cesco , Mu-ge
and all who grace Meetingbrook




HomeEventsHermitage Update Bookshop & Bakery
Bookshop Recommendations About MeetingbrookHermit's Corner


Meetingbrook Hermitage
64 Barnstown Rd.,
Camden, Maine USA 04843
Meetingbrook Bookshop & Bakery
50 Bayview St. (Cape on the harbor)
Camden, Maine USA 04843
e-mail: mono@meetingbrook.org

© Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage

Web design by Karl Gottshalk