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Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update
May 2005

Theme: Everywhere at Ease?

This month brings Meetingbrook to the cusp of beginning its 10th year at the harbor.  The raw rain and blowing swells out of the northeast these last few days remind that spring in Maine is a variable notion. So is Meetingbrook – a variable notion.

In blue-ephemeral haze,
You come and go
Through your Zen gate.
On Yen Mountain,
The view’s ten thousand li,
A thousand peaks.
When will we arrive

And be with the floating clouds
Everywhere at ease?
- Liu Chang-ch’ing (710-787)

The notion is a good one. It holds that we are all connected. That wherever gathers, however briefly, more than one person, begins the practice of changing and deepening one’s view of life. That even in solitude the practice of community continues. That even in communion with or in the presence of others the practice of solitude is ongoing.

Meetingbrook is nothing other than a loosely knit association of individuals walking along the path moving from dependence through independence to interdependence --and arriving home each step of the way.

The practice is to be everywhere at ease. With one another. Or alone. No one, no other – just dwelling at home at ease with the ways form changes and time empties – completely in one’s own place: the place of faith, hope, and love.  These perennial virtues of faith (saying yes), hope (asking please), and love (wordlessly praying as openness itself) – are variable hermit pathway trails into assertions of affirmation, invitation, and recognition.

Thomas Merton writes about a conversation with the Dalai Lama who asks Merton: “Well, to be precise, what do your vows oblige you to do? Do they simply constitute an agreement to stick around for life in the monastery? Or do they imply a commitment to a life of progress up certain mystical stages?” I sort of hemmed and hawed a bit, and said: “Well, no, that’s not quite what the vows are all about.” But it was interesting to see that this is what he thought the vows ‘should’ be about.” When you stop and think a little bit about St. Benedict’s concepts of ‘conversio morum’, that most mysterious of our vows, which is actually the most essential, I believe, it can be interpreted as a commitment to total inner transformation of one sort or another -- a commitment to become a completely new man. It seems to me that that could be regarded as the end of monastic life, and that no matter where one attempts to do this, that remains the essential thing.  (p.337, from “Marxism and Monastic Perspectives,” by Father Louis, O.C.S.O. {Thomas Merton} Talk delivered at Bangkok on December 10, 1968, Appendix VII in The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, c.1973)

Later, recalling a conversation with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche Merton writes:

He sent a message to a nearby abbot friend of his saying: What are we to do?” The abbot sent back a strange message, which I think is very significant: “From now on, Brother, everybody stands on his own feet.”

To my mind, that is an extremely important monastic statement. If you forget everything else that has been said, I would suggest you remember this for the future: “From now on, everybody stands on his own feet.”

This, I think, is what Buddhism is about, what Christianity is about, what monasticism is about – if you understand it in terms of grace. It is not a Pelagian statement, by any means, but a statement to the effect that we can no longer rely on being supported by structures that may be destroyed at any moment by a political power or a political force. You cannot rely on structures. The time for relying on structures has disappeared. They are good and they should help us, and we should do the best we can with them. But they may be taken away, and if everything is taken away, what do you do next? (p.338, Merton)

Living life dedicated to inner transformation is a variable notion and moveable feast.

What is essential in the monastic life is not embedded in buildings, is not embedded in clothing, is not necessarily embedded even in a rule. It is somewhere along the line of something deeper than a rule. It is concerned with this business of total inner transformation. All other things serve that end. I am just saying, in other words, what Cassian said in the first lecture on ‘puritas cordis’, purity of heart, that every monastic observance tends toward that. (p.340, Merton)

Meetingbrook has often wondered whether it would find itself elsewhere. Those loosely associated with the place – regularly or irregularly – catalogue their opinions and feelings about our wonderings and inquiries according to the seasons. Hearts are restless until they realize there is no permanent home with fixed street address; realizing this, hearts rest in the open, their true home.

Let us affirm, invite, and recognize one another in this hospitable dwelling place.  

As always, we’re here for now.

With gratitude.

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

9 May 2005

Email (mono@meetingbrook.org) or mail to
Meetingbrook, 50 Bayview St. Camden, Maine 04843.



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64 Barnstown Rd.,
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50 Bayview St. (Cape on the harbor)
Camden, Maine USA 04843
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