Essene Holy Rule of the
(The primary Source Document for this revised and adapted rule is The Rule of St. Benedict, Timothy Fry OSB (Ed.), Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1980. Secondary sources are noted at conclusion.)
Chapter 1. The Kinds of Monks
Chapter 2. Qualities of the Abbot
Chapter 3. Summoning the Brothers and Sisters for Counsel
Chapter 4. The Tools for Good Works
Chapter 5. Obedience
Chapter 6. Restraint of Speech
Chapter 7. Humility
Chapter 8. The Work of God
Chapter 9. Only-Just-Sitting
Chapter 10. Without Thinking
Chapter 11. Practicing Without Thinking
Chapter 12. The Deans of the Monastery
Chapter 13. Abbatial Consultation
Chapter 14. Levels of Abbatial Consultation
Chapter 15. The Abbot and Monk Relationship
Chapter 16. The Monastic Practice
Chapter 17. The Clothing of Monks
Chapter 18. The Procedure for Receiving Monks
Chapter 19. Community Rank
Chapter 20. The Election of An Abbot
Chapter 21. The Prior of the Monastery
Chapter 22. Assignment of Impossible Tasks to a Monk
Chapter 23. The Presumption of Defending Another in the Monastery
Chapter 24. The Presumption of Counseling Another Monk At Will
Chapter 25. Mutual Obedience
Chapter 26. The Healthy Zeal of Monks
Chapter 27. This Rule Only A Beginning of Perfection
Chapter 28. No Rule, No Order
St. Benedict, the patron saint of all Europe, was born around the year 480 in Nursia, near what is now Spoleto, Umbria. He was sent by his provincial but cultured family to Rome, to be educated and begin his career. But the corruption of the decayed imperial city greatly shocked him, and he retired to the Subiaco area as a hermit. Later, he found a cave in the rocks beside a lake near the ruins of Nero's palace, and there he lived alone for three years. According to legend, he was fed by ravens, but more probably he was cared for by Romanus, a monk from one of the numerous monasteries nearby.
Somewhere in his search for truth, the young Benedict discovered St. Jerome's translations of the mysterious Hebrew fragments, just as Jerome had stumbled on the original, in his own search for truth many years before. The life of those first century Essenes must have been a glorious vision to the young hermit, tortured as he was by the threatening world chaos before him. A flowering branch of the eternal Tree of Life took root, grew and flourished in his mind. The Essene Brotherhood took shape as the Holy Rule of Benedict, that masterpiece of order and simplicity which gave rise to a monastic system that saved Western culture from extinction during the Dark Ages.
Alone in his cave, he felt himself a bridge between two worlds: the sun filled radiance and order of the ancient brothers whose lives followed the harmony of nature and the cosmos, and the other barbaric and evil time that stretched before him like a chasm, threatening to engulf and drown all that man had so far created of wisdom and beauty. Benedict was determined this should not happen, and summoned the Essene Brothers out of the past to help him.
Disciples began to flock to him. He left his cave and founded twelve monasteries, each with twelve monks. His fame grew, and with it the inevitable attempts to destroy him.
As he had turned away from Rome, so he departed from the intrigues, and with a few disciples turned his eyes to the summit of a hill rising steeply above Cassino, halfway between Rome and Naples. Monte Cassino was destined to become a beautiful, organized fortress of security and order amid the surrounding chaos of invasion, disorientation and confusion. It would become one of two magnetic poles of western civilization, the other being the Vatican. Just as the Essenes guarded the Holy Law during the troubled era of the first century, so did the Benedictine monks guard and copy in their Scriptoria, which played the role of medieval publishing houses, the works of Cicero, Seneca, Tacitus, St. Jerome and St. Augustine, Philo of Alexandria, Josephus Flavius, and many more, all of which would have been trampled to shreds under the heel of the warriors who would soon tear Europe apart.
From the highest point of Monte Cassino, one could see the whole length of the green valley of Iri. The monastery itself consisted of a fortress, a pagan temple and a sacred grove. Monte Cassino and the other Benedictine monasteries were economically self-sufficient, self-contained, secluded cities, well able to resist the turbulence of the world. Within its enclave were all the preconditions of life: springs, vegetable gardens, orchards, fields of growing grain, oven for baking (the monks baked their own bread as well as continuously copying their books), materials for the artist and the artisan, as well as a library of a great number of books and manuscripts studied and read in the Scriptorium.
But of all the Essene echoes which resounded in the world of Benedict, perhaps the most beautiful and long- lasting was his Regula Santa, or the Holy Rule. This was a highly logical and practical Code of Ethics for the communal living of the monks, working to their greatest benefit and usefulness. In practically every way, the Rule interpreted and adapted to medieval times the way of life of the Essene Brotherhoods. All things were owned in common. The Abbot,
elected for life by the monks, had supreme power but was obliged to seek the counsel of the elders, his final decision on any matter being between himself and God. Thus he represented both Man and the Creator, working together as partners in the never-ending task of Creation. He appointed his own officials-prior, novice-master, guestmaster, and the rest-but although every detail of their behavior is outlined and laid down with precision, a strong current of humanity, of brotherly love, flows through the Rule, in this aspect unique among all the monastic and religious rules of the Middle Ages, and proving the link to the Essene traditions. The wise balance of prayer, work and study -ora et labora- the care given to the body, with time divided wisely between rest, exercise and proper food, the importance given to gardening and cultivation of the fields, the love of music and art, and above all, the courtesy given to each and every guest, as if he were the Lord himself, all these were much closer to life in the Brotherhoods at the Dead Sea, than they were to medieval, Europe. The character of Benedict shines through all the words of his Rule: wisdom tempered with love; order and authority tempered with compassion.
A copy of the Regula Santa sent to Rome was lost, but a handwritten copy by the Saint himself remained in Monte Cassino. During the Lombard invasion the monks fled to Rome with this original copy, a pound weight for bread and a measurement for fruits ( the monks were allowed one pound of bread, one pint of milk and one quart of fruit daily). All these relics were returned to Monte Cassino in the middle of the eighth century by Pope Zachary. In the ninth century, many manuscripts were destroyed by the marauding Saracens. Finally, during the Napoleonic wars, the last original parchment written by St. Benedict was lost.
A few important fragments nevertheless survived, giving evidence of the original Essene traditions as written down by St. Jerome, that indefatigable translator of so many first century texts.
The Essene Gospel's supreme law, "Love your brothers, for your Heavenly Father is love, for your Earthly Mother is love, for the Son of Man is love," was clothed in a Benedictine garment: "In the first place to love the Lord God with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole strength, then our neighbor as ourselves."
The Essene teaching on the Heavenly Father and his Angels, and their praise and guidance to live in harmony with them, "and so shall his Angels know that you walk in His paths," took this admonition: "Let us therefore think well how we ought to behave under the eyes of God and his angels, and so stand to sing the psalms that our mind may be in harmony with our voice."
The communal life and works performed in the Essene Brotherhoods, so beautifully described by Josephus, Philo and Plinius, strongly survives St. Benedict's Holy Rule: "Then are they truly monks when they live by the labor of their hands, as did our fathers and the Apostles."
Divine love was the universal guidance for the elders of the Essene Brotherhood, and that same divine love flows through Benedict's advice to the Abbot: "Let him so temper all things that the strong may have something to strive after, and the weak nothing at which to take alarm." The basic teaching of the Essene Gospel: " And so love
your true brothers as your Heavenly Father and Earthly Mother love them," becomes: "Let them cherish mutual love chastely as brothers. Let them fear God lovingly. Let them love their Abbot with sincere and humble charity. Let them put absolutely nothing before Jesus, and may he bring us all together to Life Eternal."
St. Benedict wrote in his Holy Rule that there would always be guests at his monastery, and made it a law: " All visitors who call are to be welcomed as if they were Jesus himself." The more than a thousand years
that have passed since he created his monastery at Monte Cassino have proven his words to be true. Visitors always find an atmosphere of the Sevenfold Peace, an invitation to communion with the Angels in a constant divine presence of a living community, offering a daily round of communions.
Miraculously, the monasteries of St. Benedict, have, for the most part, remained relatively unscathed by the many wars fought outside the peaceful walls. Even in 1943, the German officials felt compelled to warn the Abbot of Monte Cassino that within a few days the monastery would be the center of decisive and fierce battles with awesome artillery duels. Under the direction of the Abbot, hundreds of monks improvised wooden crates and packed together the priceless contents of the rare manuscripts, scrolls and codices, representing Greek and Roman classics, the most important works of the pattistics and scholastics, and more than forty thousand invaluable parchments.
All these found safety and shelter in the Secret Archives of the Vatican.
PrologueListen, my sons and daughters, carefully to the Word of the Father. Attend to it with the ear of your heart, enlightened by the Wisdom of the Mother, the Holy Spirit. This is advice from another who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. Listening through your experience of being-in-the-world being obedient, you return to your Father's home. You leave the houses of false belief, delusion; false stories, allusion; and false perception, illusion. You entered these houses because you listened not. Through your will you build the illusion of your ego. Your ego is only but the thought-emotion of who you think you are and are not. This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will once and for all. Once you accept your will, you can let it go and again be whole. Armed with the strong and noble intention of obedience, you reenter a place you never left: your Father's home.
First, every time you begin a work, intentionally pray most earnestly to bring it to perfection. With God's gifts that are in us, we must obey him always lest we injure someone else and ourselves.
Let us wake up then, for the Scriptures rouse us when they say: It is high time for us to arise from sleep (Rom 13:11). Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice that every moment calls out this charge: if you hear his voice today, harden not your hearts (Ps 94 <95>:8). Again, You that have ears to hear, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 2:7). What does the Spirit say? Come and listen to me, sons and daughters; I will teach you the fear of the Lord (Ps 33<34>:12). Run while you have the light of life, that the darkness of death may not overtake you (John 12:35).
Being mindful of the Lord, we do not become attached to our good thought-emotions for a job well done. We know without mediation of mind-heart that it is the Lord's power, not our own, that causes the good we do. They praise (Ps 14<15>:4) the Lord working in them, and say with the Prophet: Not to us, Lord, not to us give the glory, but to your name alone (Ps 113<115>:9). In just this way Paul the Apostle refused to take credit for the power of his preaching. He declared: By God's grace I am what I am (1 Cor 15:10).That is why the Lord says in the Gospel: Whoever hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house upon rock; the floods came and the winds blew and beat against the house, but it did not fall: it was founded upon rock (Matt 7:24-25).
Thus, only-just-sit, still as a rock. Practice only-just-sitting each day for a time, Be still and know that I am God (Ps 45 <46>:10). Experience the without thinking-emoting attitude of only-just-sitting, which means neither to think-emote nor not think-emote. Realize that the ceaseless unfolding of experience is the only reality. As we listen, becoming Present, we become aware that all that is really extraordinary is our persistent refusal to accept our experience as it is. We want it to be other than it is: Not my will, but thine be done. As we sit, we tend no longer to place a conceptual-emotional overlay on our experience. We stop taking that conceptual-emotional overlay to be objectively real. Our concepts-emotions are only an expression of the occasion as immediately experienced — the rock, the pillow.
Brothers and Sisters, we have asked the Lord who will dwell in his tent. We have heard the instruction for dwelling in it. We can live in it only if we fulfill the obligations of those who live there. We must, then, prepare our hearts and bodies to obey in holy obedience his instructions. What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace. If we wish now to enter the kingdom of heaven, while we are in this body and have time to accomplish all these things by the light of life — we must act for our own benefit and the benefit of all sentient beings, whomever and where ever they may be.
Therefore we intend to establish a school for the Lord's service. In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. We know that the universe we know is the image of our own selves — we create as we recreate life. Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road to compassionate Presence. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. As we progress in this way of life, we shall run on the path of God's commandments to love. As we surrender to him, our neighbor, and ourselves, our hearts will be overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. Never swerving from his instructions, then, but faithfully observing his teaching in the monastery of the world till death, shall we through patience share in the Presence of Christ. Amen.
Chapter 1. The Kinds of MonksThere are clearly five kinds of monks. First, there are the cenobites. Cenobites belong to a particular monastery, where they serve under a rule and an abbot.
Second, there are the anchorites or hermits, who have come through the test of living in a monastery for a long time. They have passed beyond the first fervor of (cenobitic) monastic life. Thanks to the help and guidance of many, they are now trained to acquiesce to their separated selves and have achieved unity of being. They have built up their integrity. They now go forth from the security of the monastic community to the single encounter of the desert, literally or figuratively. Self-reliant now, without support of another, they are ready with God's help to further authenticate their being by knowing their own original face before their parents were born. They attain wisdom of direct knowing without mediation of mind, knowing before greed, hate, and delusion present in human consciousness.
Third, there are the unsuii. They have come through the test of the desert. They have passed beyond optimism, pessimism, and mysticism. They know that silence is the total manifestation of our whole personality. Being so, they are like clouds and water. They are able to wander across the world as free as a cloud, educating or bringing-out from others Truth. They live in the monastery of the world — in the world and not of it. As water, they have the strength to wash away every mountain that may stand in their way. They do not instruct or train others. They instruct only themselves. Thus, they attain the mind of The Word, not leaning backward or forward in response to people or things. The Word responds to people and things, concealing nothing of its own. Therefore, they are able to deal with people and things without injury to their reality, for the benefit of one and all. In short, they do not possess fame nor are they storehouses of schemes.They do not take over the function of things, nor are they the master of knowledge.They personally realize the infinite to the highest degree and travel in the realm of which there is no sign. They exercise fully what they have received from the Father and Mother and Son without any subjective viewpoint. In one word, they are empty, still and thus able to contain all. They are still and know God. (Ps<46>:10).
Fourth, there are the sarabaites, the most pitiable kind of monk. With no experience to guide them, no rule to try them as gold is tried in a furnace (Prov 27:21), they have a character as soft as lead. Still loyal to the world by their actions, they clearly lie to God by their tonsure. Two or three together, or even alone, without a shepherd, they pen themselves up in their own sheepfolds of their own minds and fantasy, not the Lord's. Their law is what they like to do, whatever strikes their fancy. Anything they believe in and choose, they call holy; anything they dislike, they consider forbidden.
Fifth and finally, there are the monks called gyrovagues. These monks spend their entire lives drifting from region to region, staying as guests for three or four days in different monasteries. Always on the move, they never settle down. They are slaves to their own wills and gross appetites. In every way they are even more pitiable than sarabaites.
In compassion, it is better to keep silent than to speak of thesst and their way of life. Let us pass them by, then, and with the help of the Lord, proceed to draw up a plan for those who have surrendered to the Lord, the unsuii.
Chapter 2. Qualities of the AbbotTo be worthy of the task of governing a monastery, the abbot must always remember what the title signifies and act as a superior should. As abbot, the person holds the place of Christ in the monastery. S/he is addressed by a title of Christ, as the Apostle indicates: You have received the spirit of adoption of sons and daughters by which we exclaim, abba, father (Rom 8:15). Therefore, the abbot must never teach or decree or command anything that would deviate from the Lord's instructions. On the contrary, everything s/he teaches and commands should, like the leaven on divine justice, permeate the minds of monks. Let the abbot always remember that, in the compassionate judgment of God, not only the abbot's teaching but also his or her monks' obedience will come under scrutiny. The abbot must, therefore, be aware that the shepherd will bear the blame where ever the father of the household finds that the sheep have yielded no profit. Still, if the abbot has faithfully shepherded a resistive and disobedient flock, always striving to cure their unhealthy deluded ways, it will be otherwise: the shepherd will be acquitted at the Lord's judgment. Then, like the Prophet, the abbot may say to the Lord: I have not hidden your justice in my heart; I have proclaimed your truth and your salvation (Ps 39<40>:11), but they spurned and rejected me (Isa 1:2; Ezek 20:27). Then at last the sheep that have rebelled against the abbot's care will be punished by the overwhelming power of death, the delusion of their own thoughts, feelings and desires.
Furthermore, anyone who receives the name abbot is to lead the monks by a twofold teaching: s/he must point out to them all that is good and holy more by example than by words. S/he is to propose the commandments of the Lord to receptive monks with words, but demonstrating God's instructions to the stubborn and the dull by living example. Again, if the abbot teaches the monks that something is not to be done, then neither must s/he do it, lest after preaching to others, s/he oneself be found reprobate (1Cor 9:27). God someday will bring to the to the abbot's attention his or her delusion: How is it that you repeat by just commands and mouth my covenant when you hate discipline and toss my words behind you (Ps 49<50>:16-17)? Also this: How is it that you can see a splinter in your peer's eye, and never notice the plank in your own (Matt 7:3)?
The abbot avoids all favoritism in the monastery. S/he is not to love one more than another, loving as God loves all his creatures equally in his infinite compassion. A person born free in spirit is not to be given higher rank than one a slave to greed, hate, and delusion who has elected to become a monk. The abbot is free, if s/he deems fit, to change anyone's rank as justice and compassion demand. Ordinarily, everyone is to keep his or her regular place, because whether slave or free, we are all one in Christ (Gal 3:28; Eph 6:8) and share alike in joining hands in the service of the one Lord, for God shows no partiality among persons (Rom 2:11). Only in this are we distinguished in his sight: if we are found better than others in good words and humility. Therefore, the abbot is to show equal love to everyone and apply the same discipline to all, including him or herself, according to merit.
In teaching, the abbot always uses the Apostle's recommendation, in which he says: Use argument, appeal, reproof (2 Tim 4:2). This means that the abbot must vary with circumstances, threatening and coaxing by turns, stern as a taskmaster, devoted and tender as only a father can be, nurturing and supportive as only a mother can be, and compassionate as only Christ can be. With the undisciplined and restless, the abbot uses firm argument. With the obedient and docile and patient, s/he will appeal for greater virtue. As for the negligent and disdainful, we charge the abbot to use reproof and rebuke.
The abbot does not gloss over the delusory behaviors of those who err. S/he is to cut them out while s/he can, as soon as they begin to sprout, remembering the fate of Eli, priest of Shiloh (1 Sam 2:11-4:18). For the upright and perceptive monks, the abbot's first and second warnings should be verbal. For those who are recalcitrant in their greed, hate, or delusion, the abbot can turn only by direct and immediate confrontation at the first offense. It is written, The fool cannot be corrected with words (Prov 29:19).
The abbot always remembers what s/he is and what s/he is called. S/he is aware that more will be expected of the human being to whom more has been entrusted. the abbot knows what a difficult and demanding burden s/he has undertaken: directing souls and serving a variety of temperaments, coaxing, reproving and encouraging them as appropriate. The abbot also accommodates and adapts him or herself to each one's character and intelligence. Thus, s/he not only keeps the flock entrusted in his or her care from dwindling, but also rejoices in the increase of a good flock. Above all, the abbot does not show too great concern for the fleeting and temporal things of this world. Yet, s/he does not neglect or treat lightly the welfare of those entrusted to him or her. Rather, the abbot keeps in mind that s/he has undertaken the care of souls for whom s/he must give an account. That s/he may not plead lack of resources as an excuse, the abbot is to remember what is written: Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all things will be given to you as well (Matt 6:33).
The abbot knows that anyone undertaking the charge of souls must be ready to account for them. Whatever the number of brothers or sisters s/he has in his or her care, let the abbot realize than on judgment day s/he will surely have to submit a reckoning to the Lord for all their souls — and indeed for his or her own soul as well. In this way, while always mindful of the future examination of the shepherd about the sheep entrusted to him or her and careful about the state of others' accounts, s/he becomes concerned also about his or her own. While assisting others to amend by his or her warnings, s/he achieves the amendment of his or her own faults.
Chapter 3. Summoning the Brothers and Sisters for CounselAs often as anything important is to be done in the monastery, the abbot shall call the whole community together. The abbot alone explains what the business is. After hearing the advice of the brothers and sisters, let the abbot listen to the Spirit speaking in the advice — not a consensus or majority opinion, but advice — and then follow what s/he judges with the help of God the wiser course. Why we have said all should be called for counsel is that the Lord often reveals what is better to the younger. The brothers and sisters, for their part, are to express their opinions with all humility. They are not to presume to defend their own views obstinately. The decision is rather the abbot's to make. Thus when the abbot has determined what is more prudent, all may obey — listening to God speaking through the decision. Nevertheless, just as it is proper for monks to obey their abbot, so it is becoming for the abbot on his or her part to settle everything with foresight and fairness.
Accordingly in every instance, all are to follow the teaching of the rule. No one shall rashly deviate from it. In the monastery no one is to follow his or her own heart's desire, nor shall anyone presume to contend with the abbot defiantly. Should anyone presume to do so, let him or her be subjected to the discipline of the rule. Moreover, the abbot must be mindful of God and keep the rule in everything s/he does. S/he can be sure beyond any doubt that s/he will have to give an account of all his or her judgments to God, the most just and compassionate of all judges.
If less important business of the monastery is to be transacted, the abbot shall take counsel with the seniors only, as it is written: Do everything with counsel and you will not be sorry afterward (Sir 32:24).
Chapter 4. The Tools for Good WorksFirst, love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-31; Lk 10:27). Then the following: You are not to kill, not to commit adultery. You are not to steal or covet (Rom 13:9). You are not to bear false witness (Matt 19:18; Mark 10:19; Lk 18:20). You must honor everyone (1 Pet 2:17), and never do to another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16; Matt 7:12; Lk 6:31).
Renounce yourself to follow Christ (Matt 16:24; Lk 9:23); discipline your body (1 Cor 9:27); do not pamper yourself, but love moderation. You must relieve the lot of the poor, clothe the naked, visit the sick (Matt 25:36), and bury the dead. Go to help the troubled and console the sorrowing.
Your way of acting should be different from the world's way; the love of Christ must come before all else. You are not to act in anger or nurse a grudge. Rid your heart of all deceit. Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love and acceptance. Bind yourself to no oath lest it proves false, but speak the truth with heart, tongue, and action.
Do not repay one bad turn with another (1 Thess 5:15; 1 Pet 3:9). Do not injure anyone, but bear injuries patiently. Love your enemies (Matt 5:44; Lk 6:27). If people curse you, do not curse them back but bless them instead. Endure persecution for the sake of justice (Matt 5:10).
You must not be proud, nor be given to wine (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3). Refrain from too much eating or sleeping, and from laziness (Rom 12:11). Do not grumble or speak ill of others.
Place your hope in God alone. f you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself. Be certain that the evil you commit from your own delusion is always your own and yours to acknowledge.
Live in the state of mindfulness, listening always with your whole being to the Spirit in all that you do and that takes place around you.
Devote yourself to only just sitting, being present in all that you do and do not do — for your benefit and that of all around you. Avow fully and daily all that you do out of your own greed, hate, and delusion, confessing to God in prayer and grow ever more mindful day by day, moment by moment.
Do not gratify the promptings of the flesh (Gal 5:16); be mindful of the urgings of self-will. Obey the orders of the abbot unreservedly, even if his or her own conduct — which God forbid — be at odds with what s/he says. Avoid judgment, remembering the teaching of the Lord: Do what they say, not what they do (Matt 23:3).
Do not aspire to be called holy. Simply be holy — whole — in all that you do and do not do. Live by God's commandments every moment. Treasure purity in thought, in feeling, in action. Harbor neither hatred nor jealousy of anyone. Do nothing out of envy. Do not love quarreling; shun arrogance. Respect the elders and love the young. Pray for your enemies out of love of Christ and compassion for them. If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with that person before the sun goes down.
In summary, vow to refrain from all delusive behavior. Vow to make every effort to reveal beginner's mind; and vow to live to benefit all being. Thus, being obedient to the Law of Christ, the Law of Love, you do not willfully take life. You do not take what is not given. You do not engage in sexual or sensual misconduct. You do not lie. You do not intoxicate oneself or others. You do not slander. You do not praise self at the expense of others. You are not spiritually or materially avaricious. You do not harbor ill will. You do not ignore God, The Law, God's children or your own Christ nature.
Finally, never lose hope in God's infinite mercy and compassion as well as your own — for your own self, those whom you serve, and all God's children — whomever they may be or not be.
These, then, are the tools of the spiritual craft. When we use them without ceasing day and night, moment by moment, we realize the reward the Lord has promised: What the eye has not seen nor the ear heard, God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).
The workshop where we are to toil faithfully and mindfully at all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery of God's creation, specifically Earth. We persevere in the community of the human family to realize Christ's compassionate presence in thought, word, and action.
Chapter 5. ObedienceThe first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which naturally comes to those who cherish Christ above all. Because of the holy service they have professed, monks carry out the superior's order as promptly as if the command came from God. The Lord says of human beings like this: No sooner did the person hear than that person obeyed me (Ps 17<18>:45); he tells teachers: Whoever listens to you, listens to me (Lk 10:16). Such people as these immediately put aside their own concerns, abandon their own will, and lay down whatever they have in hand, leaving it unfinished. With the ready step of obedience, they follow the voice of authority in their actions. Almost at the same moment, then, as the teacher gives the instruction, the disciple quickly puts it into practice mindful of God; and both actions together are swiftly completed as one.
It is love that impels monks to engender the Compassionate Presence of Christ in the world. Therefore, they are eager to take the narrow road of which the Lord says: Narrow is the road that leads to life (Matt 7:14). They no longer live by their own judgment, giving in to their whims and appetites. Rather they walk according to another's decisions and directions, choosing to live in the monastery of God's creation and to have an abbot over them. Human beings of this resolve unquestionably conform to the saying of the Lord: I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me (John 6:38).
This very obedience, however, will be acceptable to God and agreeable to human beings only if compliance with what is commanded is not cringing or sluggish or half-hearted, but free from any grumbling or any reaction of unwillingness. For the obedience shown to superiors is given to God, as the Lord said: Whoever listens to you, listens to me (Luke 10:16). Furthermore, the monks' obedience must be given gladly for God loves a cheerful giver (2Cor 9:7). If a disciple obeys grudgingly and grumbles, not only aloud but also in heart, then, even though s/he carries out the order, action will be not accepted with favor by God, who sees that s/he is grumbling in heart. S/he will have no reward for service of this kind; on the contrary, s/he will incur punishment for grumbling, unless s/he changes for the better and makes amends. As it is written, as we give, so do we receive.
Being obedient, then, to the Word of the Father and Mother, the monk naturally practices the four wisdoms: charity, tenderness, benevolence, and compassion. In charity, the monk senses the neediness of his/her brothers and sisters and assists them in meeting their own needs. Being tender, the monk senses the prison another has put him or her self in and gently — without undo confrontation brings out of that person his or her own key to freedom. Being benevolent, the monk consistently demonstrates in action his/her intention to do the will of God — to love God and neighbor and oneself, accepting unconditionally, with full and absolute positive regard. Being compassionate, because the monk has surrendered to his/her own ego, s/he can enter into the experience of another and not be overwhelmed by it. Thus the monk is present to that person as s/he is to God and his/her own being-in-the-world.
Chapter 6. Restraint of SpeechLet us follow the Prophet's counsel: I said, I have resolved to keep watch over my ways that I may never sin with my tongue. I have put a guard on my mouth. I was silent and was humbled, and I refrained even from good words (Ps 38<39>:2-3). Here the Prophet indicates that there are times when good words are to be left unsaid out of the esteem for silence or compassion. For all the more reason, then, should less than honorable speech be curbed so that punishment for delusory behavior may be avoided. Indeed, so important is silence that permission to speak should seldom be granted even to mature monks, no matter how good or holy or constructive their talk, because it is written: In a flood of words you will not avoid sin (Prov 18:21). Speaking and teaching are the teacher's task; the monk is to be silent and listen.
Therefore, any requests to a superior should be made with all humility and respectful submission, as Christ submitted to the will of the Father. We absolutely condemn in all places any vulgarity, gossip, and talk leading to harm or injury of any being. We do not permit a disciple to engage in words of that kind.
Chapter 7. HumilityBrothers and sisters, divine Scripture calls us saying: Whoever exalts him or herself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles him or herself shall be exalted (Lk 14:11; 18:14). In saying this, therefore, sense that every exaltation is a kind of pride, which the Prophet indicates he has shunned, saying: Lord, my heart is not exalted; my eyes are not lifted up and I have not walked in the ways of the great nor gone after marvels beyond me (Ps 130<131>:1). And why? If I had not a humble spirit, but were exalted instead, then you would treat me like a weaned child on its mother's lap (Ps 130<131>:2).
Accordingly, brothers and sisters, if we want to reach the highest summit of humility, if we desire to attain speedily the Compassionate Presence of Christ to which we climb by the humility of the present life, then by our ascending actions we must set up that ladder on which Jacob in a dream saw angels descending and ascending (Gen 28:12). Without doubt, this descent and ascent can signify only that we descend to exaltation and ascend by humility. Now the ladder erected is our life on earth. If we humble our hearts the Lord will raise them to Christ's compassion being present in our actions for the benefit of all sentient beings. We may call our body and soul the sides of this ladder, into which our divine vocation has fitted the various steps of humility and discipline as we ascend.
The first step of humility, then, is that a human being be always mindful — of God, brother and sister, all sentient beings and what s/he is doing, never forgetting either. The human being constantly remembers everything God has commanded. In mindfulness, the human being remains aware even when unaware.
The Prophet indicates this to us when he shows that our thoughts are always present to God, saying: God searches hearts and minds (Ps 7:10); again he says: The Lord knows the thoughts of humans (Ps 93<94>:11); likewise, From afar you know my thoughts (Ps 75<76>:11). That the human being may take care to avoid delusory thoughts, the virtuous brother and sister must always say to him or herself: I shall be blameless in his sight if I guard myself from my own wickedness (Ps 17<18>:24).
Truly, we are encouraged to acknowledge and accept our own will. Scripture tells us: Turn away from your desires (Sir 18:30). In the Prayer too we ask God that his will be done in us (Matt 6:10). We are rightly taught to do the will of God, since we are to be one as the Lord prayed: May they all be one. Father may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you (John 17:21).
The second step of humility is that a human being loves not his or her own will. Nor does s/he become attached to the pleasure in the satisfaction of desires. Rather s/he imitates by action that saying of the Lord: I have come not to do my will, but the will of him who sent me (John 6:38). We demonstrate that we are not attached to our desires even when desiring. We are not attached to being satisfied even when satisfied.
The third step of humility is that a human being submits to his or her superior in all obedience for the love of God, imitating the Lord of whom the Apostle says: He became obedient even to death (Phil 2:8).
The fourth step of humility is that if this obedience is under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, his or her heart quietly embraces suffering, s/he endures it without weakening or seeking escape. S/he knows no suffering, not being attached to the desire to either suffer or cease suffering even while suffering. For Scripture has it: Anyone who perseveres to the end will be saved (Mat 10:22), and again, Be brave of heart and rely on the Lord (Ps 26 <27>:14).
The fifth step of humility is that a monk not conceal or hide or deny from his or her abbot delusory thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. S/he confesses them humbly as the abbot requests. Concerning this, Scripture exhorts us: Make known your way to the Lord and hope in him (Ps 36<37>:5). Again, Confess to the Lord, for he is good; his mercy is forever (Ps 105<106>:1; Ps 117<118>:1). So too the Prophet: To you I have acknowledged my offense; my faults I have not concealed. I have said: Against myself I will report my faults to the Lord, and you have forgiven the wickedness of my heart (Ps 31<32>:5).
The sixth step of humility is that a monk is content, being without attachment, with the lowest and most menial treatment. S/he regards him or herself as s/he is in whatever task s/he is given, saying with the Prophet: I am insignificant and ignorant, no better than a beast before you, yet I am with you always (Ps 72<73>:22-23).
The seventh step of humility is that a human being senses that s/he is without value. S/he neither has value nor no value. S/he humbles oneself and says with the Prophet: I am truly a worm, not a human being, scorned by humans and despised by the people (Ps 21<22>:7). I was exalted, then I was humbled and overwhelmed with confusion (Ps 87<88>:16). Again, It is a blessing that you have humbled me so that I can learn your commandments (Ps 118<119>:71,73). Not being attached to the need to be valuable, s/he can be present as Christ is compassionately present.
The eighth step of humility is that a monk does only what is endorsed by the common rule of the monastery and the example set by his or her superiors.
The ninth step of humility is that a monk controls his or her tongue. S/he remains silent. S/he does not speak unless asked, for Scripture warns, In a flood of words you will not avoid sinning (Prov 10:19) and A talkative human being goes about aimlessly on earth (Ps 139<140>:12).
The tenth step of humility, the monk has surrendered his or her sense of self. Not attached to either life or death, s/he knows no fear. The monk is given to laugh and be merry, and to quiet and be still. S/he is able to express the joy of the compassionate presence of God in the world.
The eleventh step of humility is that a monk speaks gently and with compassion with few words, as it is written: A wise human being is known by his or her few words.
The twelfth step of humility is that a monk always manifests humility in his or her bearing no less than in his or her heart. Compassionate humility is evident in the Work of God, in the oratory, in the house, in the garden, on a journey or in the field, or anywhere else. Whether the monk sits, walks or stands, s/he carries him or herself with the humble dignity of Christ. S/he is equal and one, and yet spontaneously an individual, with all sentient beings and compassionate to all.
Now, therefore, after ascending all these steps of humility, the monk will quickly arrive at that perfect love of God which casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Through this love, all that the monk once did with dread, s/he now does without effort as though naturally, from habit, no longer our of fear of loss. S/he now moves spontaneously out of the Compassionate Love of Christ. All this does the Lord, by the Holy Spirit, graciously manifest in his spontaneous and naturally playful men and women now freed of delusions of self, self-pity, and self-worth once expressed as greed and hate in delusory behavior, illusory dreams, and allusive fantasies.
Chapter 8. The Work of GodThe work of God is to be Compassionately Present to all human beings, whomever they may be, just as Christ was present to the people of his day and to us today. As the Scripture says: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons and daughters of your Father in heaven, he causes his sun to rise on bad people as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest people alike (Matt 5:44-45). When present, the human being is humble and obedient. S/he can listen to the Word of God speaking in the silence behind the din of world or of one's own thoughts and emotions. As the Scripture says: Be still and know that I am God (Ps 45<46>:10).
Being still, we recognize silence is exactly the total manifestation of our personality, the Compassionate Presence of Christ. Whole personality, the Presence of Christ, means our individual personality is manifested with the whole universe. All other beings are the contents of our personality. So when we manifest our whole personality, it is not just our individual personality; but simultaneously through this personality we can feel the whole universe. Thus, that is why we can feel magnanimity, tolerance, and compassion — and be present as Christ is present. As the Scripture says: If your plea is for clear perception, if you cry out for discernment, you will then understand what the fear of Yahweh is, and discover the knowledge of God (Pro 2:4-5). And so, to be silent, one must be still. To still means to only-just-sit.
Chapter 9. Only-Just-SittingAs the Scripture says: Listen, my sons and daughters, to a father's instruction; pay attention, and learn what clear perception is (Pro 4: 1). The human being who studies the Wisdom of Direct Knowing, the Wisdom of Christ, first arouses the intention of compassion, next makes the vow to save all beings from their suffering, and then carefully cultivates the attitude of Presence.
This means that even though the monk may have great understanding and be full of insight, able to know at a glance, s/he knows s/he may have reached only the courtyard. S/he still lacks something of the vital path of liberation.
Therefore, the monk stops daily the intellectual practice of investigating words and chasing after talk. S/he takes the backward step of turning the light and shining it back. Body and mind will drop away of themselves, and the monk's original face before his or her parents were born will appear.
The face of God becomes apparent only-just-sitting. As the Apostle says of the Lord: Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me, sees the one who sent me. I, the light, have come into the world (John 12: 44-46) To only-just-sit, the monk makes a quiet place. S/he spreads a thick mat, perhaps a folded soft blanket, on the floor. S/he does not let in drafts. S/he keeps one place where s/he practices daily only-just-sitting. The place where s/he only-just-sits is bright, both day and night. It is warm in winter and cool in summer.
Before only-just-sitting, s/he casts aside all involvements and discontinues all affairs. The monk says: Be still and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted over the earth! (Ps 45<46>:10). Good is not thought of; evil is not thought of. It is not a matter of mind, intellect or consciousness; nor of thoughts, emotions, ideas or perceptions. S/he does not intend to gain anything, and is not even attached to sitting still, yet that is how s/he sits. S/he is moderate in food and drink.
The monk uses a cushion or pillow on a thick mat. S/he sits down on the front portion of the cushion and sits either full cross-legged, half cross-legged, or legs folded horizontal in front. For the first position, s/he places the right foot on the left thigh; then places the left foot on the right thigh. For the second, s/he simply rests the left foot on the right thigh. For the third, s/he sits as described.
The monk then arranges the clothes. S/he places the left hand in the palm of the right hand. S/he lightly touches the thumbs of both hands together. With the hands in this position, s/he places them lightly against the body, so that the joined thumb tips align with the navel. S/he slowly raises the torso and stretches it forward. S/he then swings to the left and right; then straightens the body and sits erect. S/he does not lean to the left or right, forward or backward. The monk keeps hips, back, neck, and head in line. S/he does not strain the body upward too far, lest it makes breathing forced and unsettled. S/he keeps the ears in line with the shoulders, and the nose in line with the navel. S/he presses the tongue against the front of the palate, closing lips and teeth. S/he keeps the eyes slightly open to prevent drowsiness. S/he breathes gently through the nose.
Once s/he has settled posture and has let breathing regulate itself, s/he relaxes the abdomen. Whenever a thought occurs, s/he is be aware of it. As soon as s/he is aware of it, it will vanish. If s/he remains for a long period unattached to thoughts, s/he will naturally become unified. S/he continues only-just-sitting without thinking This is the essential art of only-just-sitting.
If a human being grasps this essential point of only-just-sitting, the four elements of the body will become light and at ease, the spirit will be fresh and sharp, thoughts will be correct and clear. The flavor of realized experience, the Law of Christ's Love, will sustain the spirit, and the human being will be calm, pure, and joyful. Daily life will be the expression of the monk's natural state. S/he will realize that when right thought is present, dullness and agitation cannot intrude. S/he realizes the Presence of Christ.
One who has already achieved clarity of Christ's love may be likened to a mirror with no stand, always clean and pure, where there is no room for any dust. Even one who has not yet achieved it, by letting the wind fan the flame, will not have to make too much effort. S/he just assents and surrenders to it; s/he will not be deceived. Nevertheless, as the path gets higher, demons flourish, and agreeable and disagreeable experiences are manifold. Yet, if s/he just keeps right thought present, being without thought, none of them can obstruct any human being.
The monk concludes the sit by reciting:
Lord, Our Father, we pray that
All beings may be happy and at their ease.
May they be joyous and live in safety!
All beings, whether weak or strong — omitting none
in high, middle, or low reams of existence,
small or great,
visible or invisible,
near or far away
born or to be born —
May all beings be happy and at their ease.
Let none deceive another or
despise any being in any state;
Let none by anger or ill-will wish harm to another.
Even as a mother watches over and protects her child
her only child
So with boundless mind should one cherish all beings,
Radiating friendliness over the entire world,
above, below, and all around without limits;
So let all people cultivate a boundless good will
Towards the entire world, uncramped,
free from ill-will or enmity.
We ask this through Christ your Son, our Lord
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever. Amen.
When the monk arises from sitting, s/he moves slowly and arises calmly. S/he is not hasty or rough. The human being is at peace. As the Scripture says: My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives, but as I give (John 14:27).
Chapter 10. Without ThinkingBrothers and sisters, we must acknowledge and accept our selves as we individually see, hear, and feel our selves. If you think there is a substantial self, investigate that self. Where is presence, where is Christ? How does it function? Brothers and sisters, do not accept any view on mere faith; authenticate it within your own experience. If you feel anger, investigate it: what is its presence? Is it a response to what now controls you or is it a residue of some past experience?
Brothers and sisters, be aware that we can construct a world view of self-delusions. As the Scripture says: Put no faith in your perception (Pro 3:5) We must check for such delusions by comparing them with what appears prereflectively.
In only-just-sitting there is no room for delusion since there is no reflection. Just sitting is, consequently, the central experience of a monk's life. The pure cultivating practice of only-just-sitting is itself authentication.
When we ground in only-just-sitting, without thinking operates as the Direct Source of thinking and not-thinking. God in Christ can become compassionately manifest in our experience. As the Scripture says: In every course have the Lord in mind: he will see that your paths are smooth (Pro 3:6). Unless without thinking is the motive force behind activity, without thinking cannot infuse thinking and not-thinking.
Compassion is the Presence of Christ made manifest. Each life situation must first be confronted directly on its own terms without coloration by reflection. Then, and only then, can we be truly responsive and, consequently, spontaneously moral. Only after we have clearly apprehended the situation will it be clear whether, and in what way, reflection is necessary.
Brothers and sisters, we are thinking when we are considering with the intention of weighing ideas. We may become attached to our perceptual experiences. We can become judgmental and perhaps become involved with our desires, our knowledge, emotion and even will.
We become engaged in an intellectual attitude of positive and negative, right and wrong, good and bad. Does not the Scripture say: Do not judge (Matt 7:1). We become attached to the content of our intellect, the conceptualized objects of our life. We live life the way we think-emote it is, lost in the delusion of our own creation and self-interest We may become as the scribes and Pharisees that Christ indited (Matt 23:13-32). As a result, we take positions. We feel we must defend our position. Thus, we become emotional and judgmental. We live life from what we believe, what we remember, and what we assume.
On the other hand, we engage in not-thinking-emoting when we stop our thoughts-emotions. We have the intention to not think-emote. When we do not want to think-emote about something we are in a state of denial, even if it is the denial of thinking-emoting. We are cutting off consciousness and engage in nihilation. Of course, this may be problematic as these activities are thinking-emoting as well — to think not thinking is thinking.
We become engaged in an intellectual attitude of negation and denial. Yet, we remain attached to the content of our intellection, only this time it is thinking-emoting itself that we objectify as we deny it. As a result, we take the position of negating, assuming a denying or rejecting attitude, intentionally turning-off thought-emotion.
Brothers and sisters we are without thought-emotion when we are beyond thinking-emoting and not-thinking-emoting. We are merely accepting the presence of ideation-emotion without affirmation or denial. We are empty. We are like little children. As the Scripture says for it such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs (Matt 19:14) and further I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Mk 10:16).
We sublate thinking-emoting and not-thinking-emoting. We do not make a negation without content. We do make an affirmation between thinking-emoting and not-thinking-emoting. Intellectually, we are non-positional, neither positively positive or negative, nor negatively negative or positive; neither not-positively positive or negative, nor not-negatively positive or negative. The content of our intellection is the pure presence of things as they are and are not. We can follow Christ's command: Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate (Lk 6:36).
We assume no intentional attitude whatsoever, neither affirming nor denying, accepting nor rejecting, believing or disbelieving. We let be. We let the rose be a rose; the daffodil a daffodil, and stinkweed, stinkweed.
From the without-thinking-emoting attitude of only-just-sitting, the ceaseless unfolding of experience is the only reality. We soon recognize that all that is extraordinary is our persistent refusal to accept our experience for what it is. Our direct experience as experienced is not different from that of Christ's, as the Scripture recounts: I know my own and my own know me (John 17:21). We are not like a household divided against itself, which, because of division, must collapse. (Luke 11:17)
Chapter 11. Practicing Without ThinkingBrothers and sisters, practice only-just-sitting. Let be a natural state of mind that continually flows — adapting to every situation and responding accordingly, while holding onto nothing. Have the mind of a child. Again, as the Scripture says: Anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Lk 18:17). Thus, will you realize Christ present in all things and people moment by moment. You will know by your own direct experience what Christ meant when he said: Love one another just as I have loved you (John 13:34.) We will naturally and spontaneously — just as a child — follow though and love one another (John 15:17).
In the beginning, only-just-sit in brief intervals. Be in contact with your abbot or dean. Practice daily, regularly, moment-by-moment. Gradually build up to sitting in 40 minute intervals, at least one sit per day. After a while, perhaps you may return to a deanery for a one day sit, sitting about 16 forty minute sits, separated by 10 minute walking meditations, Holy Mass, meals, and rest periods as established by the dean. During the day, you are advised to meet with the prior or dean to discuss your practice. Eventually, take part in a seven day sit; in time, a108 day sit.
Chapter 12. The Deans of the MonasteryThe abbot shall select brothers or sisters as deans. The abbot shall choose deans for their good repute and holy life. The deans will take care of their groups, managing all affairs according to the commandments of God and the orders of the abbot. The deans selected should be of the kind of human being whom the abbot can confidently share the burdens of his or her office. The deans are to be chosen for virtuous living, wise teaching, and steady practice and not for their rank.
If perhaps one of these deans is found to be puffed up with any pride, and so deserving of censure, the abbot is to counsel the dean once, twice and even a third time. Should s/he refuse to amend, the abbot is to remove the dean from office. We prescribe the same course of action regarding the prior, who is the abbot's executive assistant.
Chapter 13. Abbatial ConsultationIf a brother or sister happens to be stubborn or disobedient or proud, if s/he grumbles or in any way dishonors him or herself, the holy rule, or defies the orders of seniors, the abbot consults privately in accord with Christ's compassion. The abbot's intention is to engender in the monk a spirit of forgiveness, forgiveness of self. The abbot is to sense monks clearly, just as a light is necessary to enlighten darkness. As the abbot is compassionate, s/he, by example, teaches the monk. Never is the abbot to accuse or condemn, keeping his or her heart open to everyone. The abbot, as Christ, welcomes both saints and sinners, the sane and not so sane. Thus, the abbot remains available to all monks. Because the abbot senses the essential nature of human beings, s/he does not become entrapped inside his or her own judgments. Nor does the abbot delude him or herself into thinking-feeling that the monk is good or evil. Thus, the abbot follows the admonition of the Lord: Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. (Luke 7:37)
Chapter 14. Levels of Abbatial ConsultationThere ought to be due proportion between the seriousness of an action and the measure of instruction. The abbot determines the gravity of faults, reactive conditioned habit patterns of behavior. The abbot brings to the monk's awareness the Lord's insight: The measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you (Lk 7:38). Through consultation coupled with only-just-sitting, the monk comes to appreciate his or her conditioned habit patterns of thinking-emoting-doing behavior. The monk become more responsive rather than reactive. Even the most entrenched unhealthy patterns can be transformed into light.
Chapter 15. The Abbot and Monk RelationshipThe abbot and monk acknowledge and accept as a simple statement of fact Christ's statement: Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to suffering, and those who go through it are many. But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to true life, and those who find it are few (Matt 7:13-14). The aim of this relationship is to realize one mind in Christ so that all may realize the kingdom of God, not necessarily as Christ said, but as it is. As the Lord said, The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which is smaller than any other seed; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky are able to make their nests in its shade (Mark 4:30-32). Where is the monk to find this kingdom? The kingdom of God is within you (Lk 17:21). The purpose of this relationship is attain a mature mind that can grasp this simple truth in all its nakedness.
Both the abbot and monk realize that all teachers have different teaching styles. Some may be like a high wall with no way of assent. Others may be open and friendly. Two extremes that include all the subtle variations of style that may be evident in between. All teachers, regardless of style, stimulate the student to discover what s/he is to do. The best instruction is often the most subtle. Thus, does the monk grow in awareness with the subtly of instruction, literal or figurative. In listening to the subtle instruction, both abbot and monk listen through the idiosyncrasies, personality, style and even intellect of each other. Both acknowledge and accept that sin is simply the capacity to make mistakes. Thus, the nature of the relationship is founded in forgiveness.
Chapter 16. The Monastic PracticeBrothers and sisters, the basis of monastic practice is thus two fold: first is only-just-sitting and second, the relationship with the abbot. The essence of both is to listen. Where ever you are, whatever you are doing, you are listening. You realize in some sense that what you do is your own practice. You acknowledge and accept that what we do affects every one else around you. When you forget this, you are listening only to yourself and no longer maintain a beginner's mind.
As you listen, you sense that every situation is a vehicle for practicing and making real the compassion of Christ in the world. You will be making those around you happy and at their ease. Interacting with every one around us in a non-self-centered way is how we practice. We listen. All circumstances, situations, and people around us become our teacher. Through our monastic practice, we further realize Christ's prayer: May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you (John 17:21).
Chapter 17. The Clothing of MonksThe habit has three elements: a tunic so fitted that the monk can sit properly and comfortably. This tunic will have a belt. Over the tunic is a scapula to which is attached a cowl. The front of the scapula is neatly secured with a small piece of rectangular cloth that snaps the sides together. The habit is made of a material and weight suitable to the climate and temperament of the monk. The color of the habit is white for as the Scripture says: At all times let your garments be white (Ecclesiastes 9:8).
Chapter 18. The Procedure for Receiving MonksDo not grant newcomers to the monastic life an easy entry, but, as the Apostle says, Test the spirits to see if they are from God (1 John 4:1). Therefore, if someone comes, the abbot, prior, or dean only-just-sits for at least five 15 minute sessions over at least seven days with the postulant. The postulant and abbot speak with one another or about 30 minutes, discussing the applicant's awareness. If at the end of these seven days, both agree, the abbot admits the postulant to the novitiate and clothes the postulant with the habit.
A senior chosen for his or her skill in winning souls should be appointed to look after the novices with careful attention. The concern must be whether the novice truly seeks God and whether s/he shows eagerness for the Word of God and for obedience. The novice should be clearly told all the hardships and difficulties of giving up the thought of who one thinks one is and is not as s/he walks the Way of the Lord.
If the novice promises perseverance in his or her stability, let this rule be given to the Novice for him or her to study and read as s/he continues only-just-sitting. After two months have elapsed let the novice be told by the abbot (or dean) after the reading of the Gospel at Mass: This is the law under which you are choosing to serve. If you can keep it, come in. If not, feel free to leave. If the novice still stands firm, s/he is to be taken back to the novitiate, and again thoroughly tested in all patience.
After six months have passed, the novice again reads the rule in its entirety so that s/he may know what s/he is entering. If again s/he stands firm, let four (modified to "two") months go by. Then let the novice read the rule in its entirety again. If after due reflection s/he promises to observe everything and to obey every command given to him or her, let the novice be received into the community. The novice must be well-aware that, as the law of the rule establishes, from this day s/he is no longer free to leave the monastery, for the duration of his or her commitment, nor to shake from his or her neck the yoke of the rule which, during so prolonged a period of reflection, s/he was free either to reject or accept.
When the novice is to be received, s/he comes before the whole community in body or in spirit in the oratory and promises stability, fidelity to monastic life, and obedience. This is done in the presence of God in the person of the bishop or abbot and his saints to impress the novice that if s/he ever acts otherwise, s/he will surely be condemned by the one s/he mocks. The novice states his or her promise in a document drawn up in the name of his or her patron saint, St. Benedict, and the abbot. The novice writes this document him or herself and lays it on the altar where the novice and bishop and/or abbot sign it. After all have signed the document, the novice begins the verse: Receive me, Lord, as you have promised, and I shall live; do not disappoint me in my hope (Ps 118<119>:116). The community present repeats the verse three times and adds "Glory be to You Source of all being. Eternal Word, and Holy Spirit. Amen." Then the novice prostrates him or herself at the feet of each monk present to ask his or her prayers. From that very day s/he is to be counted as one of the community.
Chapter 19. Community RankThe monks keep their rank in the monastery according to the date of their entry, the virtue of their lives, and the decision of the abbot. The abbot is not to disturb the flock entrusted to him or her nor make any unjust arrangements, as though s/he had the power to do whatever s/he wished. The abbot must constantly reflect that s/he will have to give God an account for all of his or decisions and actions. Therefore, when the monks come for the kiss of peace and for Communion, when they only-just-sit, they do so in the order decided by the abbot or already existing among them. Absolutely nowhere shall age automatically determine rank. Remember that Samuel and Daniel were still boys when they joined their elders (1 Sam 3; Dan 13:14-62). Therefore, apart from those mentioned above whom the abbot has for some overriding consideration promoted, or for a specific reason demoted, all the rest should keep to the order of their entry.
The younger monks, then, must respect their seniors, and the seniors must love their juniors. When they address one another, no one should be allowed to do so simply by name when in community. "Brother" or "Sister" is appropriate for all monks, except the abbot. The abbot, because we believe that s/he holds the place of Christ, is to be called abbot, not for any claim of his or own, but out of honor and love for Christ. The abbot, for his or her part, must reflect on this, and in his or her behavior show him or herself worthy of such honor.
Chapter 20. The Election of An AbbotIn choosing an abbot, the principle should always be that the person placed in office be one selected either by the whole community acting unanimously being mindful of God, or by some part of the community, no matter how small, which possesses sounder judgment. Goodness of life and wisdom in teaching must be the criteria for choosing the one to be made abbot, even if s/he is the last in community rank.
May God forbid that a whole community should conspire to elect a person who goes along with its own unmindful ways. If it does, and if the bishop of the diocese or the abbots or Christians in the area come to know of these unmindful ways to any extent, they must block the success of this conspiracy, and set a worthy steward in charge of God's house. They may be sure that they will receive a generous reward for this, if they do it with pure motives and zeal for God's honor. Conversely, they may be equally sure that to neglecting to do so, they are also being unmindful and assume culpability.
Having received the abbatial blessing from the bishop of the diocese, the abbot must keep constantly in mind the nature of the burden s/he has received, and remember to whom s/he will have to give an account of his or her stewardship (Lk16:2). Let the abbot recognize that his or her goal must be profit for the monks, not prominence for him or herself. S/he ought, therefore, to be learned in divine law, so that s/he has a treasury of knowledge from which s/he can educate, bring out what is new and what is old (Matt 13:52). The abbot must be chaste in mind, temperate in spirit, and merciful in action. S/he should always let mercy triumph over judgment (Jas 2:13) so that s/he too may win mercy. S/he must be wary of faults and love the monks. When s/he must counsel them, s/he should use prudence and avoid extremes; otherwise, by rubbing too hard to remove the rest, s/he may break the vessel. S/he distrust his or her own frailty and remember not to crush the bruised reed (Isa 42:3). By this we do not mean that the abbot should allow faults to flourish. Rather, as we have already said, s/he should prune them away with prudence and love as s/he senses best for each individual. Let the abbot strive to be loved rather than feared.
Excitable, anxious, extreme, obstinate, jealous or oversuspicious the abbot must not be. Such a human being is never at rest. Instead, s/he must show forethought and consideration in his or her orders. Whether the task s/he assigns concerns God or the world, s/he should be discerning and moderate, bearing in mind the deception of holy Jacob, who said: If I drive my flocks too hard, they will all die in a single day (Gen 33:13). Therefore, drawing on this and other examples of discretion, the mother of virtues, s/he must so arrange everything that the strong have something to yearn for and the weak nothing to run from.
The abbot must, above all, keep this rule in every particular. When s/he has ministered well s/he will hear from the Lord what that good servant heard who gave his fellow servants grain at the proper time: I tell you solemnly, he said, he sets him over all his possessions (Matt 24:47).
Chapter 21. The Prior of the MonasteryFor the preservation of peace and love we have judged it best for the abbot to make all decisions in the conduct of the monastery. As we have already established, the whole operation of the monastery should be managed through deans under the abbot's direction. Then, so long as it is entrusted to more than one, no individual will yield to pride. When the time is right and as long as conditions invite, then let the abbot with the advice of monks mindful of God, choose the individual s/he wants. Then let the abbot make that person prior.
The prior is to carry out respectfully what the abbot assigns him or her, and do nothing contrary to the abbot's wishes or arrangements. Because the prior is set above the rest, the more s/he should be concerned to keep what the rule commands.
If this prior is found to have serious faults, or is led astray by conceit and grows proud, or shows open contempt for the holy rule, s/he is to be warned verbally as many as four times. If s/he does not amend, s/he is to be punished as required by the discipline of the rule. Then, if s/he still does not reform, s/he is to be deposed from the rank of prior and replaced by someone worthy. If after all that, s/he is not a peaceful and obedient member of the community, s/he should even be expelled from the Order. Yet the abbot should reflect that s/he must give God an account of all his or her judgments, lest the flames of jealousy or rivalry sear his or her soul.
Chapter 22. Assignment of Impossible Tasks to a MonkA brother or sister may be assigned a burdensome task or something s/he cannot do. If so, s/he should, with complete gentleness and obedience, accept the order given him or her. Should s/he sense, however, that the weight of the burden is altogether too much for his or her strength, then s/he should choose the appropriate moment and explain patiently to his or her superior the reasons why s/he cannot perform the task. This s/he ought to do without pride, obstinacy or refusal. If after the explanation the superior is still determined to hold to his or her original order, then the junior must recognize that this is best for him or her. Trusting in God's help, s/he must in love obey. As the Scripture says: Not my will, Lord, but yours be done (Lk 22:43).
Chapter 23. The Presumption of Defending Another in the MonasteryEvery precaution must be taken that one monk does not presume in any circumstance to defend another in the monastery or be his or her champion, even if they are related by the closest ties of blood. In no way whatsoever shall the monks presume to do this, because it can be a most serious source and occasion of contention. Anyone who breaks this rule is to sharply be restrained.
Chapter 24. The Presumption of Counseling Another Monk At WillIn the monastery every occasion for presumption is to be avoided. Thus, we decree that no one has the authority to counsel or strike in thought, word or deed any other monk unless s/he has been given this power by the abbot. After all, it is written: Never do to another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16).
Chapter 25. Mutual ObedienceObedience is a blessing to be shown by all, not only to the abbot but also to one another as brothers and sisters. We know that it is the way of obedience, of listening to God through the illusions, delusions, and allusions of our own creation. Therefore, although orders of the abbot or prior take precedence, and no unofficial order may supersede them, in every other instance younger monks should obey their seniors with all love and concern.
Chapter 26. The Healthy Zeal of MonksJust as there is an unhealthy zeal of bitterness that separates from God and leads to alienation, isolation, and loneliness, so there is a good zeal that evaporates unmindfulness and leads to God, peace, and joy. This, then, is the good zeal which monks must foster with fervent love and compassion: They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom 12:10), supporting with the greatest patience one another's weaknesses of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. No one is to pursue what s/he judges better for him or herself, but instead, what s/he judges better for someone else. To their fellow monks they show the pure love of brothers and sisters; to God, loving mindfulness; to their abbot, unfeigned and humble love. Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ. May Christ bring us all together in the joy and peace and fellowship of his Presence here on Earth so that we may better bring his joy, peace, and compassion to others.
Chapter 27. This Rule Only A Beginning of PerfectionThe reason we have written this rule is that, by observing it in the silence of our own hearts, we can demonstrate the presence of Christ in the world. For anyone hastening on to be Christ-like, to be authentically who one is, there are the teachings of the holy Fathers, Sages and Masters both East and West that show the way. What page, what passage of the books of the Old and New Testaments does not offer guidelines for human life? What book of the holy catholic Fathers does not summon us along a path to reach the Creator, present if only we but listen through our delusions, illusion, and allusions — which we use to separate us from ourselves. For observant and obedient monks, this rule offers nothing less than tools for the cultivation of virtue. Thus with Christ's help, keep this rule that we have written for beginners, inviting you to always maintain the mind and heart of a child, a beginner's mind.
Chapter 28. No Rule, No OrderIn that all designs of human beings eventually come to an end, the property of the The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict is irrevocably dedicated to religious purposes and no part of the net income or assets of the organization shall ever inure to the benefit of any director, officer or member thereof or to the benefit of any private person.
On the dissolution or winding up of The White Robed Monks of St.Benedict, its assets remaining after payment of, or provision of, all debts and liabilities of this Religious Order, shall be distributed to a nonprofit fund, foundation, or Corporation which is organized and operated exclusively for religious purposes and which has established its tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of the United States of America.
AfterwordPlease note, "the description of the rule as 'holy' is an important indication that these authors regarded their work not simply as their own original literary productions but as the adaptation of a common monastic tradition. The written rule is holy because it embodies that tradition, especially as that tradition was itself seen as embodying the tradition of the Gospel. This notion of a normative tradition can be traced especially to Cassian who speaks of a monasteriorum regulam, of the Aegyptiorum regulum and of a communis regula. ...Cassian speaks of the observance of a communis regula as his sixth indication of humility. The phrase becomes, by way of the Rule of the Master (source of Benedict's rule), the 'common rule of the monastery' (communis monasterii regula) in St. Benedict's description of the eighth step in humility."(p. 286)*
*The primary Source Document for this rule is The Rule of St. Benedict, Timothy Fry OSB (Ed), Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1980. The compiler liberally borrowed from these sources as well as: Dogen's Manuals of Zen Meditation, Carol Bielefeldt; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. Zen Action/Zen Person, T.P. Kasulis; Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii, 1981. Zen Catholicism, Aelred Graham OSB; New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc, 1963. Returning to Silence, Dainin Katagiri; Boston: Shambhala, 1988. The Gospel According to Jesus, Stephen Mitchell; New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991. The Wisdom of the Desert, Thomas Merton OCSO, New York: New Directions Publishing Corp., 1960. A Listening Heart: The Art of Contemplative Living, David Steindl-Rast OSB; New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1983. "Thoughts on the Relationship of Teacher and Student," Abbot Sojun Weitsman in Wind Bell, Vol. XXV, 1, pp 5-12. The compiler acknowledges and bows these and other teachers whose presence is reflected in this rule. Gassho. Peace.
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