Thursday, June 24, 2010


To realize zen one has to pass through the barrier of the patriarch.  Enlightenment always comes after the road of thinking is blocked.  If you do not pass the barrier of the patriarchs or if your thinking road is not blocked, whatever you think, whatever you do, is like a tangling ghost.  You may ask: What is a barrier of a patriarch?  This one word, Mu, is it.

This is the barrier of zen.  If you pass through it, you will see Joshu [Chinese zen master] face to face.  Then you can work hand in hand with the whole line of patriarchs.  Is this not a pleasant thing to do?

If you want to pass this barrier, you must work through every bone in your body, through every pore of your skin, filled with this question: What is Mu? and carry it day and night.  Do not believe it is the common negative symbol meaning nothing.  It is not nothingness, the opposite of existence.  If you really want to pass this barrier, you should feel like drinking a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out.

Then your previous lesser knowledge disappears.  As a fruit ripening in season, your subjectivity and objectivity naturally become one.  It is like a dumb man who has had a dream.  He knows about it but he cannot tell it.

When he enters this condition his ego-shell is crushed and he can shake the heaven and move the earth.  He is like a great warrior with a sharp sword.  If a Buddha stands in his way, he will cut him down; if a patriarch offers him any obstacle, he will kill him; and he will be free in his way of birth and death.  He can enter any world as if it were his own playground.  I will tell you how to do this with this koan:

Just concentrate your whole energy into this Mu, and do not allow any discontinuation.  When you enter this Mu and there is no discontinuation, your attainment will be as a candle burning and illuminating the whole universe.

Has a dog Buddha-nature?
This is the most serious question of all.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your own Buddha-nature.

- from "zen Flesh, zen Bones - a Collection of zen and pre-zen writings", 1957, compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki

Monday, June 21, 2010

Poem for Thomas Merton by Dan Berrigan, Part 1

1. 1969 Opened Like This

I wish I had some joy --
the text of eyes that pay
this year, all the last exacted; tears.
When Merton died, we met, struck dumb,
the old year's locking jaw
let blood, one last time; death, then this death

We blow up big the photo Griffin made --
Kentucky woods, hunched arms
overalls, Picasso moon face, Eyes

like a wrapt stranger among mourners
on a road, of a noon, in a landscape
stinking like graves.  Hands outstretched
     filled with this world's
          (no other's)
               flowers, wounds;
               I have some joy!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

kentucky rock

Photograph by Thomas Merton

This is definitely Kentucky rock, the kind that plentiful in Nelson County.

(What are your thoughts on this one, Dr. Burpenstein? something about those striations that start looking like Merton's abstract drawings to me ...)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dan Berrigan, arrested again

Dan Berrigan was arrested on Good Friday (2010) for standing with about a dozen others and attempting to dissuade tourists from going on board the Intrepid, an aircraft carried moored in the Hudson River.  On June 1st a judge dismissed charges.  You can read more about the incident on The America Magazine blogsite

[I had to add the photo to louie-louie, being that I just posted the one from 1970.]

Monday, June 14, 2010


Photograph by Thomas Merton

"An artist must have downtime, time to do nothing.  Defending our right to such time takes courage, conviction and resiliency.  Such time, space, and quiet will strike our family as a withdrawal from them.  It is ... An artist requires the upkeep of creative solitude.  An artist requires the time of healing alone.  Without this period of recharging, our artist becomes depleted. ... We strive to be good, to be nice, to be helpful, to be unselfish.  We want to be generous, of service, of the world.  But what we really want is to be left alone.  When we can’t get others to leave us alone, we eventually abandon ourselves.  To others, we may look like we’re there.  We may act like we’re there.  But our true self has gone to ground. ... Over time, it becomes something worse than out of sorts.  Death threats are issued."  - Julia Cameron, from The Artist's Way

"Finally got back to my routine of Saturday fasting.  Went out in the sun to Linton's farm and got a good burn on my shoulders, reading a little about Islam mystics and feeling once again something like myself.  The visits have been a drag, no matter how much I like Lax, Jonathan Greene, Ron Seitz, Dick Sisto, etc.  I just need to have long periods of no talking and no special thinking and immediate contact with the sun, the grass, the dirt, the leaves.  Undistracted by statements, jokes, opinions, news.  And undistracted by my own writing." - Merton, June 15, 1968, The Other Side of the Mountain, p. 130

clouds not clocks

Almeria 2008 from Vicente + Sara on Vimeo.

I saw this on Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish, this morning.  It is lovely, contemplative.  According to Karl Popper, a philosopher of science, the world was once divided into clouds and clocks:

Clocks are neat, orderly systems that can be solved through reduction; clouds are an epistemic mess, “highly irregular, disorderly, and more or less unpredictable.” The mistake of modern science is to pretend that everything is a clock, which is why we get seduced again and again by the false promises of brain scanners and gene sequencers. We want to believe we will understand nature if we find the exact right tool to cut its joints. But that approach is doomed to failure. We live in a universe not of clocks but of clouds.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

that wordless gentleness ...

Photo by Thomas Merton

"Thomas Merton aimed for the image that was true to its subject and that had the mysterious ability to communicate fresh insights into it.  His photographs began to reveal, in a way that nothing else did, certain aspects of his interior vision and his qualities as a man.  His photographs were chosen not according to traditional canons of aesthetic beauty.  He cared nothing for "the decisive moment" or "the characteristic moment".  He selected only the frames that expressed his contemplative vision.  In the "tremendous action" of contemplation, Merton held that it was not so much what you did that counted, but what you allowed to be done to yourself.  He worked for photographic images which, when viewed without haste or pressure, might accomplish the slow work of communicating "a hidden wholeness", and perhaps reveal some hint of that wordless gentleness that flows out from "the unseen roots of all created being." - John Howard Griffin, The Hidden Wholeness, p. 4

Monday, June 7, 2010

On Prayer II

[Note: This poem appeared in the June/July 2004 edition of "The Other Side", a magazine which is no longer published. ]

On Prayer II

Some prayers are like spears.  They carry the whole weight
of the body behind them but they do not travel far.

Some prayers are like arrows flying light
and far and fast but they are never seen again.

Some prayers are like snares scattered in the woods,
ingenious and cunning -- but who knows what they will catch?

No.  You cannot bring down the Holy One with prayer.  He
is not caught in your traps.  Listen -- you are yourself the hunted.

Your prayer is the sudden stillness on the path,
the in-drawn breath, the pounding heart as you scent the wind.

Have you learned this?  Do you know?
You do not seek so much as you are sought.

You cannot pursue the Holy One -- or if you do,
it is only as the fish in the net pursues the fisherman.

- Robert Hudson
[Update: here is some more information about Robert Hudson.]

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dan Berrigan, arrested

I came across this photo of Dan Berrigan via a louie reader.  His comment: Who is really more free - D.B. or the sour faced g-men?

This photo definitely needs to be part of the louie collection! My guess is that this is the photo taken (August 12, 1970) when Berrigan was arrested after being "underground", hiding from the F.B.I for his part in the Cantonsville Nine action.  For several months Berrigan was in the home of Robert Coles in Cambridge.  He was finally caught on Block Island:

"Two F.B.I. agents attempting to disguise themselves as birders finally caught up with Berrigan, however, when he was staying in the home on Block Island, R.I., of the social activist and lay theologian William Stringfellow. “One day, Bill looked out the window and saw two men with binoculars acting as if they were bird watchers,” said Berrigan, “but since the weather was stormy, that seemed strange. ‘I think something’s up,’ Bill said, and sure enough they knocked on the door.” They took Berrigan back to Providence by ferry; the media, already alerted, were waiting at the pier. Berrigan showed me a poster in his apartment made from a photo taken at that moment. Smiling broadly, he was in handcuffs between two burly F.B.I. agents as they escorted him off the ferry. A reminder of Block Island lies on his living room floor: a dozen curiously shaped stones from the beach there. " - from an article in America Magazine by George Anderson, "Looking Back in Gratitude - a conversation with Daniel Berrigan", July 6, 2009

(louie-louie is going to kick back into gear soon, I promise.  I've been mulling over the relationship between art and contemplative-ness, lately, and can't quite come to a blog-way of putting it down.)


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