Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Comments at OC Outreach, 11/05/07. These are mostly quotes from other sources (mostly documented, but perhaps not adequately for academic standards), with a few notes of my own interspersed.


Abbot Palladius: “the first step away from God is a distaste for learning, and lack of appetite for those things for which the soul hungers when it seeks God.”

David Hume: “And as every quality, which is useful or agreeable to ourselves or others, is, in common life, allowed to be a part of personal merit; so no other will ever be received, where men judge of things by their natural, unprejudiced reason, without the delusive glosses of superstition and false religion. Celibacy, fasting, penance, mortification, self-denial, humility, silence, solitude, and the whole train of monkish virtues; for what reason are they every where rejected by men of sense, but because they serve to no manner of purpose; neither advance a man's fortune in the world, nor render him a more valuable member of society; neither qualify him for the entertainment of company, nor increase his power of self-enjoyment? We observe, on the contrary, that they cross all these desirable ends; stupify the understanding and harden the heart, obscure the fancy and sour the temper. We justly, therefore, transfer them to the opposite column, and place them in the catalogue of vices; nor has any superstition force sufficient among men of the world, to pervert entirely these natural sentiments. A gloomy, hair-brained enthusiast, after his death, may have a place in the calendar; but will scarcely ever be admitted, when alive, into intimacy and society, except by those who are as delirious and dismal as himself.” (David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. 1898 ed. Quoted from http://www.anselm.edu/homepage/dbanach/Hume-Enquiry%20Concerning%20Morals.htm; accessed 11-04-07).

"Is not the neglect of this plain duty (I mean fasting, ranked by our Lord with almsgiving and prayer) one general occasion of deadness among Christians?"
--- John Wesley, *The Journal of John Wesley*

No “Precious Moments”: Jesus’ method of evangelism

“Peacemaking, he said repeatedly, is hardly possible without a well-formed spiritual life, with the usual elements of prayer and fasting, quiet reflection, and sacramental life. Prayer was at very top of the list. How can one love a person one will not pray for? Or, without prayer, find the strength to overcome despair?” (Jim Forest, “Meeting Thomas Merton.”)

The early church expected those who fast to give away what they would have eaten, either in money-value or in food, to those in need. (Shepherd of Hermas 3.5.3; Augustine's Sermon 208). Origen (Homilies on Leviticus, 10) even praised those who fasted in order to give to the poor.

Fasting = solitude, silence and humility = repentance.

Abbot Moses of Scete: “Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.”

“It was said of Abbot Agatho that for three years he carried a stone in his mouth until he learned to be silent.”

Abbot Pastor said: A man must breathe humility and the fear of God just as ceaselessly as he inhales and exhales the air.”

One of the elders was asked what was humility, and he said: If you forgive a brother who has injured you before he himself asks pardon.”

Thomas Merton observed, "It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love others. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them; it is pure affection and filled with reverence for the solitude of others. Solitude and silence teach me to love others for who they are, not for what they say."

Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu. Translator/Editor Thomas Merton. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1965. ISBN 0877736766

Yen Hui:
What is fasting of the heart?
The goal of fasting is inner unity.
This means hearing, but not with the ear;
hearing, but not with the understanding;
hearing with the spirit, with your whole being...
The hearing of the spirit is not limited to any one faculty, to the ear, or to the mind.
Hence it demands the emptiness of all the faculties.
And when the faculties are empty, then the whole being listens.
There is then a direct grasp of what is right there before you
that can never be heard with the ear or understood with the mind.
Fasting of the heart empties the faculties, frees you from limitation and from preoccupation.
Fasting of the heart begets unity and freedom.
Yen Hui:
I see. What was standing in my way was my own self-awareness. If I can begin this fasting of the heart, self awareness will vanish.
(4:1, pp. 75-76)

Enemy = you/ego.

“Yet another elder said: If you see a young monk by his own will climbing up into heaven, take him by the foot and throw him to the ground, because what he is doing is not good for him.”

To one of the brethren appeared a devil, transformed into an angel of light, who said to him: I am the Angel Gabriel, and I have been sent to thee. But the brother said: Think again – you must have been sent to somebody else. I haven’t done anything to deserve an angel. Immediately the devil ceased to appear.”

“The next step in the process is for you to see that your own thinking about what you are doing is crucially important. You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and your witness. You are using it, so to speak, to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation. That is not the right use of your work. All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love. Think of this more, and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.” (Thomas Merton, in a letter to Jim Forest. Quoted in “Meeting Thomas Merton,” lecture given by Jim Forest at the meeting of the Thomas Merton Society of Great Britain and Ireland at St Lawrence Church in Winchester, England, 29 November 2003; http://www.incommunion.org/forest-flier/jimsessays/meeting-thomas-merton/; accessed 11-04-2007).

Meister Eckhart:

“Man never desires anything so earnestly as God desires to bring a man to Himself, that he may know Him.

God is always ready, but we are very unready; God is near to us, but we are far from Him; God is within, but we are without; God is at home, but we are strangers...

“If it is the case that man is emptied of all things, creatures, himself and god, and if god could still find a place in him to act . . . this man is not poor with the most intimate poverty. For God does not intend that man should have a place reserved for him to work in since true poverty of spirit requires that man shall be emptied of god and all his works so that if God wants to act in the soul he himself must be the place in which he acts. . . . (God takes then) responsibility for his own action and (is) himself the scene of the action, for God is one who acts within himself.” (Meister Eckhart, “Blessed are the Poor” [sermon], in R. B. Blakney, Meister Eckhart, a Modern Translation, NY: 1941, p. 231; quoted from Thomas Merton, Zen and the Birds of Appetite [NY: New Directions, 1968], 9.).

Merton, Zen and the Birds of Appetite, “Author’s Note”:

Where there is carrion lying, meat-eating birds circle and descend. Life and death are two. The living attack the dead, to their own profit. The dead lose nothing by it. They gain too, by being disposed of. Or they seem to, if you must think in terms of gain and loss. Do you then approach the study of Zen with the idea that there is something to be gained by it? This question is not intended as an implicit accusation. But it is, nevertheless, a serious question. Where there is a lot of fuss about “spirituality,” “enlightenment” or just “turning on,” it is often because there are buzzards hovering around a corpse. This hovering, this circling, this descending, this celebration of victory, are not what is meant by the Study of Zen—even though they may be a highly useful exercise in other contexts. And they enrich the birds of appetite.

Zen enriches no one. There is no body to be found. The birds may come and circle for a while in the place where it is thought to be. But they soon go elsewhere. When they are gone, the “nothing,” the “no-body” that was there, suddenly appears. That is Zen. It was there all the time but the scavengers missed it, because it was not their kind of prey.

“Abbot Lot came to Abbot Joseph and said: Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and according as I am able I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do? The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not be totally changed into fire”?

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