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December 2005 Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update

Theme: Learning to see each thing as itself -- Doing so, gratefulness abounds

I -- Prayer

Meetingbrook asks Itself for help.


What is Itself?

Let's say that the word "Itself" refers to God. Or to True Self. Or Authentic Being. Or, perhaps, the Ground-Fact of All Existence. "Itself" might refer to the Christ. Or the Buddha. "Itself" is even perfectly willing to drop its capital letters; even in lower case it retains its radiance.

Prayer and meditation are often annoying. During time engaging prayer and meditation one often asks, "What am I?" or "Who are you?" and even, "Is there any reason not to put an end to this particular existence?"

"Itself" is a word I came to love after reading Keiji Nishitani's Religion and Nothingness.

Carl Olson in his book published by SUNY Press, Zen and the Art of Postmodern Philosophy: Two Paths of Liberation from the Representational, writes about Nishitani:

Thus, Nishitani refers to self-awareness as not-knowing, or knowing of nonknowing, which represents the self as an absolutely non-objective selfness that is only possible on the field of emptiness. After breaking through the field of consciousness and discovering oneself within the field of emptiness, one realizes the "in itself" ('jitai'), which is neither a substance nor a subject. This realization of the self-identity of things indicates directly the thing itself in its original mode of being. From within emptiness, one can grasp a thing in its original mode of being, which is neither a subjective nor substantial mode of grasping. The realization of the "in itself" ('jitai') is a nonobjective process that is entirely devoid of representation of any kind.

Nishitani disagrees with the postmodernists when they claim that the self cannot know itself. The self grounded in emptiness cannot only know itself, but can also know objects in the world, which is possible because the self is a not-knowing. Nishitani summarizes his position thus far: "Thus we can say in general that the self in itself makes the existence of the self as a subject possible, and that this not-knowing constitutes the essential possibility of knowing."
(p.124, Olson)

At Meetingbrook, the Itself, for the time being serves as transparent and translucent way of seeing through what is now called God.

Wikipedia gives us a list of various ways God has been named:

Names of God

-- YHWH, the name of God or Tetragrammaton, in Phoenician (1100 BC to AD 300), Aramaic (10th Century BC to 0) and modern Hebrew scripts.
-- The noun God is the proper English name used for the deity of monotheistic faiths. Different names for God exist within different religious traditions:
-- Allah is the name used in Islam, although not exclusively so. "Allah" is Arabic for "the God", and is used by non-Muslim Arabs. Also, when speaking in other languages, Muslims often translate "Allah" as "God".
-- Yahweh Hebrew: 'YHVH', Elohim, and Jehovah are some of the names used for God in the Bible. Others include El Shaddai, Adonai, Amanuel, and Amen. When Moses asked "What is your name?" he was given the answer Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.
-- The name of God in Judaism for Jewish names of God. (Note: when written or typed as a proper noun, some observant Jews will use the form "G-d" to prevent the written name of God from becoming desecrated later on. Some Orthodox Jews consider this unnecessary because English is not the "Holy Language".)
-- The Holy Trinity (meaning the Father, the Son {Jesus Christ}, and the Holy Spirit/"Holy Ghost") denotes God in almost all mainstream Christianity.
-- God is called Igzi'abihier (lit. "Lord of the Universe") in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
-- Jah is the name of God in the Rastafari movement.
-- Some churches (United Church of Canada, Religious Science) are using "the One" alongside "God" as a more gender-neutral way of referring to God (See also Oneness).
-- The Maasai name for "God" is Ngai, which occurs in the volcano name Ol Doinyo Lengai ("the mountain of God").
-- The Mi'kmaq name for "God" is Niskam.
-- Ishvara is the term used for God among the Hindus. In Sanskrit, it means the Supreme Lord. Most Hindus worship the personal form of God or Saguna Brahman, as Vishnu, Shiva, or directly as the Supreme Cosmic Spirit Brahman through the Gayatri mantra. A common prayer for Hindus is the Vishnu sahasranama, which is a hymn describing the one thousand names of God. Ishvara must not be confused with the numerous deities of the Hindus. In modern Hindi, Ishvara is also called Bhagwan.
-- Buddhism is agnostic: When asked about a supreme God, Buddha remained silent on the subject. Buddha believed the more important issue was a way out of suffering. Enlightened beings are called Arhats or Buddha (e.g, the Buddha Sakyamuni), and are venerated. Bodhisattva is an enlightened being that has chosen to forego entering into nirvana until all beings are enlightened. Buddhism also teaches about the devas or heavenly beings who temporarily dwell in states of great happiness.
-- Jains invoke the five paramethis: Siddha, Arahant, Acharya, Upadhyaya, Sadhu. The arhantas include the 24 Tirthankaras from Lord Rishabha to Mahavira. But Jain philosophy as such does not recognize any Supreme Omnipotent creator God.
-- Sikhs worship God with the name Akal (the Eternal) or Onkar (See Aum). Help of the gurus is essential to reach God.
-- In Surat Shabda Yoga, names used for God include Anami Purush (nameless power) and Radha Swami (lord of the soul, symbolized as Radha).
-- Ayyavazhi asserts Ekam, (The Ultimate Oneness) as supreme one and Ayya Vaikundar the Incarnation of Ekam. There are also several separate lesser gods who were all later unified into Vaikundar.
-- Orthodox Jews believe it wrong to write the word "God" on any substance which can be destroyed. Therefore, they will write "G-d" as what they consider a more respectful symbolic representation.

What is Itself?

For this contemplation, Meetingbrook asks Itself for help.


II – Practice

We’ve changed several parts of Events at Meetingbrook.

  • We added Sunday Upstairs/Downstairs Open House at Bookshop. A sit-down meal is part of the drop-in of a Sunday, 1pm.
  • Friday  Evening Movie Night with Pizza or Spaghetti follows the regular conversation at 6:45pm
  • Saturday conversation Many Faces of Death returns at 12:30pm.
  • All conversations are now open to the possibility of someone making opening remarks about their practice, a current concern, a sudden insight. Articles, excerpts from books, or other material will be used as spontaneous inspiration to the evening’s theme. Books service conversation.
  • Ecospirituality and nature find a home on Friday Evening Conversation.
  • Saturday Morning Practice at the Hermitage retrieves and includes Lectio.
  • Prison Conversations are listed as part of our Friday practice. We’ve pledged to share insights between the two communities in and out.

  We no longer know what kind of community Meetingbrook seeks to be. We just practice with an open heart and mind. At times that mind is cranky, and heart uncertain of what it feels.

We attend Mass these Advent mornings. We chant Heart Sutra Sunday evenings. When we work we try to work. When we study we try to study. We try to be patient with ourselves and with other people. We try to learn what each is teaching us.

We’re happy not to be formally affiliated with any religious or spiritual organization. We’re happy to live somewhere between semi-hermits and semi-monastics.

This December 8th we’ll celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception as well as Buddha’s Enlightenment Day. On December 10th – Thomas Merton’s transition day -- we’ll again renew our promises for the 8th time. 

Meetingbrook Hermitage Monastics hold three promises: `              Contemplation,  Conversation,  Correspondence.
As held by Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage “m.o.n.o.” (monastics of no other) --

  • Contemplation  is the promise of simplicity.
    It is a gift of poverty inviting open waiting, receptive trust, attention, and watchful presence. It is a simple Being-With.
    It is attentive presence.
  • Conversation  is the promise of integrity.
    It is a chaste and complete intention to listen and speak, lovingly and respectfully, with each and all made present to us. It is a wholeness of listening and speaking.
    It is root silence.
  • Correspondence  is the promise of faithful engagement. 
    It is responsible attention and intention offered obediently to the Source of all Being, to the Human Family, to Nature. It is a faithful engagement with all sentient beings, with this present world, with existence with all its needs & joys, sorrows & hope.
    It is transparent service.

We’d like to run the bookshop/bakery completely by donation and subscription – no fixed price on anything at the shop, just freewill goodwill donations. We’re inching closer and closer to implementing such an economy of grace and gratefulness.

The federal government lists us as a non-profit vocational school – which describes our notion of the Schola Gratiae et Contemplationis. The State of Maine says we are a religious house of prayer and exempts us from certain taxes. The larger community considers us a benign curiosity of no particular moment or import. A woman published a book with a cover photograph of the altar in the chapel/zendo.  The stats counter says the total number of visits in November to the website was 7,050.

Winter nears. Cold scouts for it. Ground hardens. Light snow falls.  

What we’ve noticed is everything belongs to itself, and itself lets each thing be its own.

We are learning to see each thing as itself.

Doing so, gratefulness abounds.

Gratitude abides.

Et verbum caro factum est.
And the word is made flesh.
Christus natus est.
Christ is born.

Dwelling among us.

Silently, still.


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

4December2005, 2nd Advent

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.              

Visit www.meetingbrook.org    

Please send your donations to:
Meetingbrook, 50 Bayview St., Camden, Maine 04843



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64 Barnstown Rd.,
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Meetingbrook Bookshop & Bakery
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Camden, Maine USA 04843
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