Thursday, September 6, 2007

From this you can infer how great is the reward of those who perform kind acts; for although Moses had many names, the name by which he is known in the Torah is the one which Batya, the daughter of Pharaoh, called him, and even God called him by no other name.
Exodus Rabbah 1:26
Rabbi Joshua of Kiknin said in the name of Rabbi Levi: The Holy One, the blessed One, said to Batya, the daughter of Pharaoh: "Moses was not your son, yet you called him your son; you, too, though you are not my daughter, yet I will call you Batya, the daughter of God."
Leviticus Rabbah 1:3
So every time you have an energy that needs to be transformed, like jealousy or fear, do something to care for this energy, for this negative energy, if you do not want this energy to destroy you. Touch the seed of mindfulness, and then all of its energy will be able to establish itself in your "living room", like a mother tenderly addressing your pain. With that energy of mindfulness, you are doing the true practice of meditation with regard to your pain, your emotions. If you are able to maintain mindfulness for five or ten minutes, you will experience some relief right away.
Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love
It is never too late to start the spiritual journey, or to start over, and it is worth starting over any number of times... What God is after are our good intentions and our efforts. The contemplative journey, because it involves the purification of the unconscious, is not a magic carpet to bliss. It is an exercise of letting go of the false self, a humbling process, because it is the only self we know.
Thomas Keating, The Human Condition
God said, "Let there by lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night; they shall serve as signs for the set times - the days and the years; and they shall serve as lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth." And it was so. God made the two great lights the greater light to dominate the day and the lesser light to dominate the night, and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth, to dominate the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that this was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
Genesis 1:14 - 19
I have felt that the Spirit of God was upon me,
and I thought that,
if I only turned my head a little,
I would see a tremendous host of angels in silver armor
advancing behind me through the sky,
coming at last to sweep the whole world clean.
It carried me along on a vivid ocean of peace.
Thomas Merton: Entering the Silence

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I will heal their affliction,
Generously will I take them back in love;
For My anger has turned away from them.
I will be to Israel like dew;
He shall blossom like the lily,
He shall strike root like a Lebanon tree.
His boughs shall spread out far,
His beauty shall be like the olive tree's,
His fragrance like that of Lebanon.
They who sit in his shade shall be revived:
They shall bring to life new grain,
They shall blossom like the vine;
His scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim shall say:
'What more have I to do with idols?
When I respond and look to Him,
I become like a verdant cypress."
Your fruit is provided by Me.
Hosea 14:5 - 9
Sanatkumara said: 'When you can discern the infinite in that which is beautiful, then you can enjoy beauty. Those who do not discern the infinite in that which is beautiful, cannot enjoy beauty. Therefore you must understand the infinite.' The young man said: 'I seek the nature of infinity.' Sanatkumara siad: 'When you understand the indivisible unity of all beings, and see and hear nothing, ou discern the infinite. When you see or hear only separateness and division, you discern only that which is finite. The infinite is beyond death, but the finite cannot escape death.'
Chandogya Upanishad 7:23-24
In the name of God the compassionate, the merciful.
All praise belongs to God, the Lord of all being. He is compassionate and merciful. He is the master of the day of judgement.
We worship only you; in you alone we seek refuge. Guide us along the straight path, the path of those whom you have blessed - not the path of those who have incurred your wrath, nor the path of those who have gone astray.
Quran 1:1 - 7
The Way has reality, and it can be expressed; but it does nothing, and has no form.
The Way can be passed on, but it cannot be received. It can be obtained, but it cannot be seen.
The Way is rooted in itself. It has existed since before heaven and earth were born. It exists for all eternity. Indeed, the Way brought heaven and earth to birth.
The Way is above the atmosphere, but it cannot be called high. It is below the ocean, but it cannot be called deep. It is more ancient than antiquity, but it cannot be called ancient.
The Way brought the sun and the moon into existence; and since that moment they have never rested.
Chuang Tzu, The Book of Chuang Tzu
There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity,
a silence that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me
from the unseen roots of all created being,
welcoming me tenderly,
saluting me with indescribable humility.
This is at once my own being, my own nature,
and the Gift of my Creator's Thought and Art within me,
speaking as Hagia Sophia,
speaking as my sister, Wisdom.
Thomas Merton, The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton
Through the Gospel of John, I have come to see that to pray is above all to dwell in Jesus and to let Jesus dwell in me.
It is not first and foremost to say prayers,
but to live in the now of the present moment, in communion with Jesus.
Prayer is a place of rest and quiet.
When we love someone, don't we delight in being with each other,
being present to one another?
Now and again we may say a word of affection,
we will be attentive to each other and listen to each other,
but it is essentially a place of silence.
The great Spanish mystic John of the Cross once said,
"Silence is the way God speaks to us."
Jean Vanier, Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John
Rabbi Akiba was walking with his colleagues, Rabbi Gamaliel, Rabbi Eliezer, and Rabbi Joshua, on the Temple mount that was in ruins. All four rabbis saw a little fox run about on the ruins of the Temple mount, on the place where the Holy of Holies once stood. Three of the four began weeping, but Rabbi Akiba laughed. "Why do you weep?" Rabbi Akiba asked his colleagues. The three answered, "Because the place of the Temple is now the place of the fox." Then the three rabbis asked Rabbi Akiba, "Why do you laugh, seeing all the destruction, seeing that the people are gone and only the fox remains?" Rabbi Akiba answered, "Because just as the prophet foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, so the prophet foretold the future restoration of the city. Now that Jerusalem has been destroyed, the first prophecy fulfilled, we know that the second prophecy, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, will also be fulfilled."
Babylonian Talmud Makkot 24b
Thanks to the practice of mindfulness, we come to life again immediately. Being alive is being in the present moment, in the here and now, and that is possible through mindful breathing. In Buddhist meditation, we practice resurrection every moment: "Breathe, you are alive." The Holy Spirit is present with our mindful breath: "Give us this day our daily bread." This is the very practice of living in the present moment, this day. We must not lose ourselves either in the past or in the future; and the only moment in which we can touch life is the present moment. In Christianity, we find the same teaching as in Buddhism.
Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love

Monday, August 13, 2007

Understanding is the fruit of meditation. When we practice deep looking directed toward the heart of reality, we receive help, we receive understanding, we receive the wisdom that makes us free. If there is deep pain within you, meditate. Meditating is not trying to run away, trying to ignore the presence of the pain, but on the contrary, it is looking at it face-to-face. You have to practice deep looking directed toward the nature of this pain, because for Buddhists, we are joy, but we are also pain; we are understanding, but we are also ignorance...Buddhist meditation is based on the principle of nonduality. This means that if we are mindfulness, if we are love, we are also ignorance, we are also suffering, and there is no reason to suppress anything at all.
Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love
All creatures in the heavens and on the earth give glory to God. He is mighty and wise. To him belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. He ordains life and death, and has power over all things. He is the first and the last, the seen and the unseen. He knows all. He created the heavens and the earth in six days. He is secure in his power. He knows all that happens below the surface of the earth, and he knows all that emerges from the earth. He knows all that comes down from the heavens, and all that ascends to the heavens. He is close to you, wherever you are. God is aware of all your actions.
Quran 57:1 - 4
Therefore fear not, Jacob, my servant (Jeremiah: 30:10)

This speaks of Jacob, of whom it is written and he dreamed, and behold, a ladder set up on the earth... and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. Rabbi Berekiah and Rabbi Helbo and Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai in the name of Rabbi Meir said: It teaches that the Holy One, the blessed One, showed Jacob the Prince of Babylon... of Media... of Greece... and of Edom ascending and descending. Then God said to Jacob: "You also ascend." Our father Jacob was afraid, and thought: Perhaps, heaven forbid, in the same way as these nations descended, I will also have to descend. Said the Holy One, the blessed One: Fear not, Jacob my servant. Once you ascend there will be no descent for you. Jacob would not believe and did not ascend.
Leviticus Rabbah 29:2; Pesikta De-Rab Kahana 23:2)
Your life has a limit, but knowledge has none. To use that which is limited, in order to pursue tat which has no limit, is dangerous. If you understand this, and yet still strive for knowledge, you will certainly run into trouble. If you sincerely wish to do good, then avoid rewards. If you wish to do evil, then avoid punishments. Follow the middle course, because by this means you will stay in one piece. Keep yourself alive, and look after your parents, and enjoy the years left to you.
Chuang Tzu, The Book of Chuang Tzu
The soul gathers the powers of life to itself, and descends with them into the heart. As life leaves the eye, and returns to its source within the soul, the eye no longer sees... As life leaves the mind, and returns to its source within the soul, the mind no longer thinks. As life leaves the skin, and returns to its source within the soul, the sense of touch is lost. 'By the light of the heart the soul leaves the body; and as the soul leaves, the powers of life follow. Since the soul is consciousness, the body loses consciousness as the soul departs; and the soul carries the spiritual effects of all that the person has done, experienced and known.'
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4:1-2
People reach greater maturity as they find
the freedom to be themselves
and to claim, accept and love their own personal story,
with all its brokenness and its beauty.
So, too, Christians reach greater maturity in Jesus
and advance into the new
as they claim, accept, love, honour and forgive
all that is beautiful and all that is broken in their heritage.
Their heritage is their Jewish origins.
It is also the evolving history of Christianity and of the Church,
with all that was and is broken and beautiful in it.
Jean Vanier, Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John
Let me hear what God, the Lord, will speak;
He will promise well-being to His people, His faithful ones;
may they not turn to folly.
His help is very near those who fear Him,
to make His glory dwell in our land.
Faithfulness and truth meet;
justice and well-being kiss.
Truth springs up from the earth;
justice looks down from heaven.
The Lord also bestows His bounty;
our land yields its produce.
Justice goes before Him
as He sets out on His way.
Psalm 85:9 - 14
Paper Cranes
(The Hibakusha come to Gethsemani)

"How can we tell a paper bird
Is stronger than a hawk
When it has no metal for talons?
It needs no power to kill
Because it is not hungry.

Wilder and wiser than eagles
It ranges around the world
Without enemies
And free of cravings.

The child's hand
Folding these wings
Wins no wars and ends them all.

Thoughts of a child's heart
Without care, without weapons!
So the child's eye
Gives life to what it loves
Kind as the innocent sun
And lovelier than all dragons!"

The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton

Saturday, August 11, 2007

"Let us make the human in our image" (Genesis 1:26).

Rabbi Simon said: When the Holy One, the blessed One, came to create Adam, the ministering angels formed themselves into groups and parties, some of them saying, "Let the human be created," while others urged, "Let the human not be created." Thus it is written, Love and truth fought together; righteousness and peace combated each other. (Psalm 85:11) Love said, "Let humans be created, because they will dispense acts of love:; Truth said, "Let humans be created, because they will perform righteous deeds"; Peace said, "Let humans not be created because they are full of strife." What did the Lord do? He took Truth and cast it to the ground... Rabbi Huna, the Elder of Sepphoris, said: While the ministering angels were arguing and disputing with each other, the Holy One, the blessed One, created humans. God said to the angels: "For what purpose do you argue? Humans have already been made!"
Genesis Rabbah 8:4-5
When we seek power, we lose the Way. When we lose power, we find the Way. But be aware of taking pride in finding the Way, for fear that you will start claiming to live by high moral standards - and then lose the Way again. Obedience to moral laws is the husk of truth; it is like a barren blossom that will not turn to fruit; it is ignorance appearing as goodness. People with great minds want the kernel not the husk; they want the fruit, not the flower. They pursh moral laws aside, as rocks along the Way.
Tao Te Ching: 38
The sun is rising. All the green trees are full of birds, and their song comes up out of the wet bowers of the orchard. Crows swear pleasantly in the distance, and in the depths of my soul sits God, and between Him, in the depths and the thoughts on the surface of my mind, is the veil of an unsolved problem... God makes us ask ourselves questions most often when He intends to resolve them. He gives us needs that He alone can satisfy and awakens capacities that He means to fulfill. Any perplexity is liable to be a spiritual gestation, leading to a new birth and a mystical regeneration.
Journal of Thomas Merton, May 15, 1949
The merciful God taught you the Quran. He created human beings, and gave them language. The sun and the moon follow the course he has ordained. The herbs and trees bow down in adoration. He raised up the sky and set all things in balance; he commanded you not to upset that balance, but to respect it. He laid out the earth for all creatures; and he planted upon it trees that bear blossom and fruit, husks that carry grain, and herbs that emit fragrance. He created human beings from dry clay, as a potter creates pots; and he created spirits from the flames of fire. The Lord is present where the sun rises in summer, and where the sun rises in winter. He is present where the sun sets in summer and where the sun sets in winter. Which of the Lord's blessings would you deny?
Quran 55: 1-25
During the day, if you practice walking meditation, each step brings you back to the present moment; each step enables you to touch what is beautiful, what is true. And in this way, after a few weeks of practice, joy will become something possible, you will be able to undo many knots within yourself and you will be able to transform negative energies into joy and peace. The Buddha said this: "The object of your practice should first of all be yourself. Your love for the other, your ability to love another person, depends on your ability to love yourself." If you are not able to take care of yourself, if you are not able to accept yourself, how could you accept another person and how could you love him or her? So it is necessary to come back to yourself in order to be able to achieve the transformation."
Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love
When human beings were created the obligation of selfless action was also created. God promised that through selfless action human beings would fulfill their deepest desires. Good people, who share the fruits of their work, are freed from all their sins. But those who keep the fruits of their work for themselves, consume sin. Every selfless action is inpired by God; he is present in every good deed. All life turns on this truth.
The Bhagavad Gita: 13-16
Listen to Me, you who pursue justice,
You who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock you were hewn from,
To the quarry you were dug from.
Look back to Abraham your father

And to Sarah who brought you forth.
For he was only one when I called him,
But I blessed him and made him many.
Truly the Lord has comforted Zion,
Comforted all her ruins;
He has made her wilderness like Eden,
Her desert like the Garden of the Lord.
Gladness and joy shall abide there,
Thanksgiving and the sound of music.
Isaiah: 51:1-3
"Even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith - being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter: 6-8

Monday, August 6, 2007

As human beings we consist of both body and soul; both of them are marks of God's goodness to us. The body is visible, and the soul is invisible. It follows that we should render to God both visible and invisible service. Outward religion is visible service, and involves such things as praying, fasting, acts of charity, building temples, celebrating festivals, and so on. Inward religion is invisible service, and involves such things as: acknowledging the unity of God in our hearts, loving God in our hearts; being humble towards him, and wishing to obey his every command; entrusting ourselves to him; abstaining from what he hates, and embracing what he loves; and meditating on his blessings.
Bahya: Guide to the Duties of the Heart
And his sister stood at a distance, to learn what would befall him (Exodus 2:4)
Why did Miriam stand at a distance? Rabbi Amram in the name of Rab said: Because Miriam prophesied, "My mother is destined to give birth to a son who will save Israel." When the house was flooded with light at the birth of Moses, her father arose and kissed her head and said: "My daughter, your prophecy has been fulfilled."
Exodus Rabbah 1:22
In the beginning the golden embryo arose. As soon as it arose, it became the source of all creation. It put in place the earth and the sky. Is the golden embryo the God whom we should worship? from the golden embryo comes life and strength. All the other divine beings obey its command. Its shadow confers immortality - or death. Is the golden embryo the God whom we should worship? The golden embryo is so powerful that it possesses the snowy mountains. It possesses the vast ocean, and also the mighty river that encircles earth and heaven. It has two arms embracing the north, two embracing the south, two embracing the east and two embracing the west. When two opposing armies face one another, their soldiers with trembling hearts look up to the golden embryo, and seek its help and the golden embryo rises, and casts its brightness upon them.
Rig Veda 10:12.1-4,6
In one sense we are always traveling, and traveling as if we did not know where we were going. In another sense we have already arrived. We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of God in this life, and that is why we are traveling and in darkness. But we already possess Him by grace, and therefore, in that sense, we have arrived and are dwelling in the light. But oh! How far have I to go to find You in Whom I have already arrived!
Thomas Merton. The Seven Storey Mountain
Let us always seek ways that lead to peace, and ways in which we strengthen one another. Those of us who are strong in faith should bear as our own burden the tender scruples of the weak. We should not try to please ourselves, but rather please our brothers and sisters, doing whatever will suit them, and in this way building up our common life. May God, the source of patience and encouragement, give you all the same purpose, which is to follow the example of Christ Jesus. Then with one mind and voice you will praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another for the glory of God, as Christ has accepted you.
Romans: 14:19; 15:1-2, 5-7
The Buddha said: 'Which do you think is more difficult: remaining undisturbed by the sound of five hundred carts passing by; or remaining undisturbed by the sound of a violent thunderstorm?' The Buddha then explained how his teaching gave people such inner calm, that nothing could disturb them. At the end Pukkusa said: 'This very moment I blow away my old faith and inhale a new faith - in Gautama Buddha'.
Parinibbana Sutta 4:33-35
Wise people are still and tranquil. This is not because they see ay value in being still and tranquil; it is simply that wisdom induces this state. No one can perturb them. Even if every livin being gathered around a truly wise person, and shouted and screamed, the wise person would remain calm. When it is still, water gives such a perfect reflection that you can even see your own eyebrows within it. When water is still, the carpenter can set his level perfectly by it. If still water offers such perfection, think what a still soul can offer! Heaven and earth are reflected in it; it is a mirror of all life. In its lack of movement it reflects all movement. In its inaction it reflects all action. By going notwhere it reflects the birds flying across the sky form one continent to another.
Chuang Tzu, The Book of Chuang Tzu: 13
Your God is one God. There is no god but him. He is merciful and compassionate. There are many signs of God for men and women of understanding. There is the creation of the heavens and the earth. There is the alteration of night and day. There are the ships sailing the ocean with cargoes that bring pleasure to people. There is the rain that God sends down from the sky; by this means he revives the barren earth, and nourishes the creatures that live in the earth. And there are the changing winds, and the clouds that are driven through the atmosphere between the earth and the sky.
Quran 2:163-4

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Among God's signs are ships which sail like mountains across the ocean. When God pleases, he calms the wind, so the ships lie motionless on the bosom of the ocean. The wealth of this world, which God has bestowed on you, brings only fleeting pleasure. Far better and more enduring is God's re2ward to those who believe and put their trust in him; who shun the gross sins and indecencies; who, when angered, are quick to forgive; who obey their Lord, and are regular in their prayers; who take advice from other believers when they must make important decisions; who give to others parts of the wealth which God gives them; and who, when injustice occurs, strive to restore justice.
Quran: 42:32-39
The soul is immediately at one with God, when it is truly at peace in itself. God is our sure rock, and he shall be our whole joy and make us as changeless as he is, when we reach the heavens. When we come to receive the reward that grace has won for us, then we shall thank and bless our Lord, for ever rejoicing that we were called upon to suffer. I saw full surely that wherever our Lord appears, peace reigns, and anger has no place. For I saw no whit of anger in God - in short or in long term. It is god's will that we should serve him steadfastly for love, without grumbling or striving against him, until our life's end.
Julian of Norwich, The Revelations of Divine Love
We are what we love. If we love God, in whose image we were created, we discover ourselves in him and we cannot help being happy: we have already achieved something of the fullness of being for which we were destined in our creation. If we love everything else but God, we contradict the image born in our very essence, and we cannot help being unhappy, because we are living a caricature of what we were meant to be.
Thomas Merton: The Waters of Siloe p.349-350
The Holy One, the blessed One said to Israel, "Even if you find the land full of all good things, do not say, 'We will sit and not plant'; rather be diligent in planting... Just as you came and found trees planted by others, you must plant for your children." A person must not say, "I am old, how many years will I live? Why should I stand and exert myself for others? Tomorrow I will die." You must not excuse yourself from planting. As you found trees, plant more, even if you are old.
Midrash Tanhuma, Kedoshim: 8
Just as a man digging with a spade eventually finds water, so the student listening to his teacher eventually finds truth. A student should observe the behaviour of all people. If a student observes some man or woman whose conduct is especially fine, he should strive to imitate that conduct. Even the lowliest person can be a worthy example. The student should regard his teacher as the embodiment of ultimate truth. When the student has learnt to respect his teacher and his parents, then he will find it easy to respect all other men and women. He should seek wisdom from every person he meets.
The Yoga of Knowledge and Action: 2.218; 239
I look at the ways in which ordinary people seek happiness. I look at the things for which they strive, and whic they say bring happiness. yet I am not convinced their happiness is real. Certainly I should not find happiness in those things. Does happiness really exist? Let me put it this way. The inaction of heaven is its purity and the inaction of earth is its peace. Let purity combine with peace, and there is perfection. So from inaction comes perfection.
Chuang Tzu, The Book of Chuang Tzu: 18
Although different from Indian Buddhism in form and practice, in the end Zen seems to be more authentic than many other Buddhist schools. In particular, Zen emphasizes the necessity of practice leading toward enlightenment, which is the very foundation of Buddhism. As we know, the principle of not-self is used only as a means to open the way of Buddhism - it is not a dogma. The principle of not-self is applied to both the world of living beings and the world of inanimate things. Not-self signifies absence of permanent identity. Not-self is impermanence itself. Everything is constantly changing. Therefore, nothing can be fixed in its identity. Everything is subject to not-self.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Keys
My beloved is mine
And I am his
Who browses among the lilies.
When the day blows gently
And the shadows flee,
Set out, my beloved,
Swift as a gazelle
Or a young stag,
For the hills of spices!
Song of Songs 2:16-17

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The contemplative life must provide an area, a space of liberty, of silence, in which possibilities are allowed to surface and new choices - beyond routine choice - become manifest. It should create a new experience of time, not as stopgap, stillness, but as "temps vierge" - not a blank to be filled or an untouched space to be conquered and violated, but a space which can enjoy its own potentialities and hopes - and its own presence to itself. One's own time. but not dominated by one's own ego and its demands. Hence open to others - compassionate time, rooted in the sense of common illusion and in criticism of it.
The Asian Journals of Thomas Merton, Chapter 7
With what did God bless the seventh day? With light. When the sun set on the night of the Sabbath, that light continued to function... But when the sun sank at the termination of the Sabbath, darkness began to set in. Adam was terrified, thinking, Surely the darkness shall envelop me (Psalm 139:11)...What did God do for him? God made Adam find two flints that he struck against each other; light came forth and Adam uttered a blessing over it.
Genesis Rabbah 11:2
Those lacking knowledge identify the mind with the soul; but as you grow in knowledge, you discern that the soul is distinct from the mind. Thus you isolate the soul from the mind. The mind is constantly buffeted by desires and other disturbances; this is because the mind is part of the body. By isolating the soul from the mind, the soul is liberated from the body. Thus the soul is free from all disturbance; it is no longer tied to the law of cause and effect. and this freedom is perfect knowledge.
Patanjali 4:34
As you find God, you lose your individual identity. with the loss of individual identity your soul is made pure. In this state of purity you lose your personal attributes. As you lose your personal attributes, you become wholly present to God. By being wholly present to God, you are wholly lost to the self. When God first overwhelms you by manifesting himself, you are bewildered - as if drunk. But as you lose the self, you have the clarity of sobriety. You see all things as they are, and you know their place and qualities.
Junayd: Tawhid 1
When reflecting upon transcendental intelligence, you should also consider carefully the various kinds of teacher. There are priests who perform rituals and ceremonies, and deliver eloquent sermons. There are philosophers who assume the reality of the world. And then there are enlightened people. They teach that there is nothing beyond the mind itself; there is no difference between being and non-being; and there is no external world as the object of perception. They teach the solitude of reality.
Lankavatara Sutra: 6