Sunday, March 08, 2009

ANGER & OTHER DELIGHTS


First the plugs. My next talk/book signing is at Bodhi Tree Books in Los Angeles at 7pm March 12th. The address is: 8585 Melrose Ave. West Hollywood, CA 90026. It's free and open to the public.

Also, I'll be at the Dharma Punx place in Hollywood leading zazen and talking on Sunday March 15th at 11am. This will be a monthly thing. Although I won't be there for the April one and I'm not 100% sure about May, my Dharma Brother Kevin Bortolin will lead the ones I can't make it to. The address is 4300 Melrose (between Heliotrope and Vermont) Los Angeles, CA 90029.

Continuing with the Q&A stuff:

I was angry today. I have made this commitment to sit zazen for 20 minutes every night before I go to work. Not wanting to break this commitment to my self, I sat. I sat and I was angry. It took me a good 10 minutes to calm down, and yet I was still angry. I sat, I breathed. I sat with my anger. I acknowledged it. By the end of the 20 minutes I was still angry, but in a way I was "OK with it." I wanted to ask you about your experience with anger and sitting zazen. I would assume, being that your a human being just like my self, that you would have dealt with this as well.

According to "reliable sources," I am an angry Zen teacher -- perpetually in the thrall of seething rage! So who better to ask?

Actually, I don't feel a whole lot of anger anymore. Not like I used to, anyway. I used to be a breaker of stuff. The dashboard of every car I owned was caved in. All of my closet doors were beyond repair.

My experience with anger in zazen is pretty much like yours. It's good to do zazen when you're angry because you can't do any damage that way. You let it be just as it is but you refuse to act upon any of your habitual responses to it. Still, by sitting you are acting on it. Zazen is not avoidance!

Anger is the ultimate ego boost. "Bad" feelings are much better than "good" ones to reinforce your sense of self because they give you something clear to contrast it with. I'm not like that guy! He's wrong! I'm right!!

And, in truth, maybe you are right. Which will only make it worse!

Anger is energy. But it's not very useful. It squanders your resources and makes you behave stupidly. So it's best to avoid. It's energy the way eating Pixie Sticks or shooting speed is energy. If you're right and the other guy is wrong, you need to deal with that situation without anger -- if you're truly interested in resolving it and not just interested in proving yourself right. It's no good to be complacent in the face of a situation that calls for change. But it's no good to scream and yell because that just builds up the other person's anger and exacerbates the situation.

Sometimes walking away is good too. Sometimes you walk away and you stay away for a long, long time because you know the situation is not going to be resolved as long as it continues to anger you.

OK? Be happy!

NEXT!!

I made an appointment for instruction at a local Soto Zen place. It went well and I had decided to start trying to sit with them. Then, near the end of the interview, the guy I spoke to mentioned that at some point a person (I'm sorry, I don't remember the correct terms) would come around and, if we gave the signal, hit us with a stick.

What is the deal with being hit with a stick in Soto Buddhism? I still want to sit with this group, but I don't understand the stick and it kind of freaks me out.


Ah, the kiyosaku! The "staff of instruction!" Yep. It's a common feature in Zen temples. In the old days it was common for a guy to come around looking for anyone who was slacking off in their practice and just whack them with the stick. That still happens, but it's pretty rare. Nowadays places that still use the kiyosaku tend to use it only when a student specifically asks for it.

Neither of my teachers used it. But I've been to temples where you could ask for it. I found that incredibly annoying. You're trying to do zazen and all of a sudden from the other side of the room, whack! whack! I hate that!

People who like the kiyosaku will go on and on endlessly about the benefits. How it stimulates the nerves and spurs concentration and blahblahblah... Once I was at a retreat where some kiyosaku lover went on and on like that to Nishijima Roshi. Nishijima just listened politely and when the guy was done he said, "That may be true. But I think it's better to wake up by yourself."

Still, if the only place in your area is one that uses the kiyosaku when students ask for it, I'd just go. The masochists generally get tired of it within the first few minutes and the rest of the sitting is peaceful and quiet. Plus if you never ask for it, you never get hit!

55 comments:

Harry said...

I rule!

You suck!

dougsamu said...

I'm stupid. You're not.

Harry said...

Ruler Buddha!

Sucker Buddha!

Stupid Buddha!

Let's fight!

Where's tha dude?

Mysterion said...

Suzuki story... with the stick.

Suzuki witticisms.

Jinzang said...

Here's a story about meditation and anger.

I met a guy at a Tibetan Buddhist center and asked him how he became involved in Buddhism. He said that one night one was feeling tremendously angry. So angry that if he went out, he knew he would hurt someone. He knew the mother of the woman he was dating was Buddhist and called her up for advice.

She told him to lie down on his bed and count his breaths from one to ten.

"Oh, yeah?" he asked, "What's that going to do for me?"

"Nothing," she replied. "Isn't that what you want to happen right now?"

So he followed her advice and eventually fell asleep. And that's how he became interested in Buddhism.

Anonymous said...

I forgot how I'd wale into the dashboard when I was angry!
Thanks for the reminder!

grisom said...

My tradition doesn't use the kyosaku any more, although they used to. I was told that the main reason for it was that if you do zazen for long periods, your shoulders and upper back can get tense and sore after a while — which in my own experience is hella true. Apparently being whacked with a stick can relax the muscles in that area.

Shasta Abbey stopped using it because they found that when the person in charge of administering the kyosaku was angry about something, they would sometimes hit a little too hard...

Buddha Said: said...

"I decree that the world would be a better place if people were beaten with sticks more.......just kidding."

pkb said...

I'm one of those that go on and on about how great the stick is. I wish I could teach my wife to hit me correctly with one while I sit. The sesshin at my center consisted of 10 hours per day of seated zazen and the stick was a godsend. I found the sound of hitting distracting at first too. Eventually, you learn to find it no more bothersome than the sound of traffic, dogs barking or your own breathing. I highly recommend it if the stick-wielder knows what they are doing. Of course it isn't absolutely necessary...but then neither are koans, lotus posture or even having a teacher. Just very helpful. It has nothing to do with masochism. I never found it painful at all and I'm a wuss about such things. I hate pain...it hurts me.

Rick said...

I'm a practicing Catholic. On Ash Wednesday, at mass, our priest was talking about what we could give up for Lent.

Sure, we could give up cheeseburgers or candy. How about something a little more meaningful though? How about anger, or impatience? Not a bad suggestion.

Chico Inflamo said...

Blogger Rick said...
"I'm a practicing Catholic. On Ash Wednesday, at mass, our priest was talking about what we could give up for Lent."

How about giving up Catholicism for Lent?

Jinzang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dumpster said...

Shogun comes up from time-to-time.

WILL ADAMS: Gilligan's Samurai . The man the apanese called Anjin San (“Mr Pilot, Sir” or the “Honourable Pilot”) was a guy named Will Adams. PDF

When I met James Clavell in 1979, I told him that, with better historical research, his Novel Shogun would have been a much better read. Shogun is, at best, just another historical fiction.

Wayne Coyne said...

Happiness:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7572601

Prick said...

I'm a practicing Catholic. On Ash Wednesday, at mass, our priest was talking about what we could give up for Lent.

Sure, we could give up cheeseburgers or candy. How about something a little more meaningful though? How about giving up priests who molest little boys, or the idea that using birth control is ungodly? Not a bad suggestion. But hey, that wouldn't be catholicism now, would it?

Harry said...

That's quite funny, Prick.

I was brought up an Irish Catholic... but I was only joking about the fighting earlier.

Where I was brought up the ashes-on-the-forehead translated into a cruel type of target to alert bigger, Protestant kids that there were smaller Catholic ones available for a good, seasonal slapping. We didn't find religion funny back then.

I'm not bitter, and no Catholic priest ever hit me with a stick (or got romantic, or touchy-feely even), but we did get a good talking to about contraception... it put me off the idea of sex for a few years, but I caught up in the end when some raging hormones suggested other interesting realities.

Oh yeah, baby!!! (go wah-wah go)

Harry.

Mysterion said...

I am of the opinion - half serious - that ash Wednesday is an attempt by Rome to smudge out the 'third eye' of Buddhism which is, in fact, behind this myth we refer to as christianity.

jumbo shrimp said...

"I don't feel a whole lot of anger anymore. Not like I used to, anyway."

Brad, I don't recognize this guy.. When did you quit feeling anger? Or did you just come up with a different name for the anger you do feel? My bullshit detector is going off..

Judo Codpiece said...

I'm not like that guy! He's wrong! I'm right!!

I'm not like that prick, Genpo. He's a fraud. I'm an authentic zen master!!

Ah. Teenager Zen, so cute.

s.c said...

Zazen is not avoidance -- nice truism.

(So much better than "an egg is not a toilet-plunger". I guess I'll have to work on my composition skillz)

Of all things, I never thought of Zazen as being a potential response to anger. Neat, it is.

Bassho-bassho-smasho, in the vein of previous comments.

A-P said...

About the kyosaku, my tradition has also this tool in use. The idea is that people will ask for it in the regular weekly sittings, but in sesshins it is given to all (you can specifically ask for not being hit with it if you wish to).

The symbolic meaning of kyosaku is Dana paramita. So it symbolizes pure and selfless giving. You could say it's like the helping hand of Kanzeon boddhisattva.

As somebody said here in the comments, you get used to the sound of it so that it doesn't bother "your zazen" any more than life itself. The same thing happens with flies for example. At first you are really irritated of the fly flying around your head, sitting in your nose and walking by your cheeks. After few days you become more united with the fly. It isn't your enemy anymore, but more like an old friend visiting you as you sit.

Yes. The Kyosaky is an old friend of mine. But of course you don't have to like it. You might get to know him if you'd like though.. :)

proulx michel said...

grisom said...

I was told that the main reason for it was that if you do zazen for long periods, your shoulders and upper back can get tense and sore after a while — which in my own experience is hella true.

pkb said...

I'm one of those that go on and on about how great the stick is. (...) The sesshin at my center consisted of 10 hours per day of seated zazen and the stick was a godsend.

I have found out that the stiffening in the shoulders and the back is directly a consequence of letting thoughts rage uncontrolled. If, when you feel tense, you just shrug and get back into your posture, you don't need the stick nor need to have others disturbed.

Plus, a kyosaku during a normal half an hour session is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

i love the abuse!

Anonymous said...

The Kyosaku -
Some like it. Some don't. Some don't know (never experienced it).

The Lotus position -
Some like it. Some don't. Some don't know (never tried it).

Brad Warner -
Some like him. Some don't. Some don't know (never met him).

If you don't know, why say you do?

Anonymous said...

Judo Codpiece said...

"I'm not like that guy! He's wrong! I'm right!!

I'm not like that prick, Genpo. He's a fraud. I'm an authentic zen master!!

Ah. Teenager Zen, so cute."

I hear your anger, Cod. I hear your indignant reaction to Brad's hypocrisy, his immaturity...

Without doubt, Brad believes Genpo to be a fraud. That's his opinion. He thinks it important to say so. And to explain why he thinks it's so important. You don't have to agree. But Brad has never said he believes himself to be "an authentic zen master." You may think he thinks it. That's a very, very different thing.

Roguebuddha said...

I didn't know there were Buddhist Dominatrixes or is it Dominatrixi?

(((whack))) You WILL sit zazen! In your Lotus, NOW!

Mysterion said...

Who is Genpo?

Did he pick my pocket or break my leg?

If Genpo jumps into a still pond
and disturbs the frogs,
then his karma will be like
waves upon the shore.

In time, the waves too will pass.

pkb said...

"I have found out that the stiffening in the shoulders and the back is directly a consequence of letting thoughts rage uncontrolled."

You found that? I have not noticed any such correlation. I have noticed that monks and teachers who have been doing zazen for many decades also ask for the kyosaku. It isn't reserved for beginners.

On a side note, for me zazen isn't about controlling thought (or letting them rage), but rather being choicelessly aware of thoughts and feelings as they arise and pass. They usually quieten of themselves.

I was only suggesting that zen students should try the stick themselves before dismissing it so quickly.

Flor de Nopal Sangha said...

"Nishijima just listened politely and when the guy was done he said, "That may be true. But I think it's better to wake up by yourself."

A modern Zen story! =)

Anonymous said...

I, too, have sat with a group that explained to use of a stick to help relax the shoulder muscles. A gentle whack will to it quite well. Of course shrug or few rotations of the shoulders will do as well - but I think some people frown upon moving around too much when you're supposed to be sitting.

Nothing to do with pain or control or thoughts though. Just your good old body acting all stiff.

dfunk said...

Tolerance People,Tolerance.Even of those horrible Catholics.Ever heard of the Catholic Worker's ?Loaves and Fishes House feeds and shelters people in need.The Bike Cave dumpster dives for parts and makes bikes for those in need of transport.There is good in every tradition.
TOLERANCE PEOPLE!

proulx michel said...

pkb said...

On a side note, for me zazen isn't about controlling thought (or letting them rage), but rather being choicelessly aware of thoughts and feelings as they arise and pass. They usually quieten of themselves.

I never talked about "controlling". I said "letting". Not the same (although one might well think that me knowledge of Beurla is not that good).

I was only suggesting that zen students should try the stick themselves before dismissing it so quickly.

I have tried, and I have dismissed.

Mysterion said...

From the floating world,
to the floating world.
There is one pause.
If it rains, let it.
If the wind blows let it.

(1424) IKKYU = One Pause

after

floating world approximates Ukiyo-e

Jinzang said...

Watch out for the Zen Boyfriend.

john the fisherman said...

"Tolerance People,Tolerance.Even of those horrible Catholics.Ever heard of the Catholic Worker's ?Loaves and Fishes House feeds and shelters people in need."

hunger and homelessness are great weaknesses to twist for worldwide dogma deliverance. who better for a morning 'free' breakfast sermon than a derelict starving after a night spent going through delirium tremors because the shelter wouldn't allow alcohol into it's x-tian atmosphere. the fisherman catches little fish without an appropriate hook.

tattoozen said...

I used to punch stuff in the name of 'venting" til I realised that I didnt feel any less angry after punching a wall, just angry and silly.

besides how can you 'vent' an emotion?

Anonymous said...

Brad, you are such a fucking asshole.

Anonymous said...

oh that's so cool. you so cool. so cool. so zen. so fucking buddha. fucking zen. zoocool.

Anonymous said...

I gam a prgraticzm cadolic.

dfunk said...

John the fisherman.....You don't know about the Horrible evil Catholic workers.Open mind son,Open mind.They are about feeding and housing people,not about any message 'cept love.But I see alot of people here only capable of seeing one way.
TOLERANCE PEOPLE,THE WORLD IS BIGGER THAN WE CAN KNOW.

Not-Mysterion said...

Zen Boyfriend - How we can use the appearance of Zen to avoid ourselves and the more difficult parts of life.

Anonymous said...

Catholic Workers rock! I was on a peace protest with them a while ago. I don't dig their religion, but I totally dig their faith. They live it, on the street, keeping it real.

john the fisherman said...

romans killed jesus.
catholics killed jews.
roman catholic priets
diddle boys in the pews.

Anonymous said...

Fisher-jon...Don't let the truth kick you in the intolernce on the way out the door.
I', glad to see the Catholic Workers living peace in there way.
TOLERANCE,LAD TOLERANCE

Jinzang said...

Brad, you are such a fucking asshole

You sound a little angry. Have you tried zazen?

Jinzang said...

Why's everybody hating on the Catholics?

Anonymous said...

ok jinzang. fuck the METHODISTS and their famous covered dish suppers.

Mysterion said...

Blogger Jinzang said...
"Why's everybody hating on the Catholics?"

Nobody 'hates' catholics. Some people are just not impressed by them.

Catholicism has been outed in modern times as a "cult." They have been known in the past for doing strange things (e.g. the inquisitions) and they are at present involved in strange things (e.g. opus dei) and they are little more than a parody of themselves.

Zen Monks 'gone western' too can become a parody of themselves. We must forever maintain our sense of amusement lest we actually start to give a rat's ass.

Anonymous said...

"Nobody 'hates' catholics."

Mysterion, You have said a lot of ignorant things here.. But that was the topper.

john the fisherman said...

A farmer was doing some plowing one day, when his young son came
running up and said, "Dad, there's a man coming down the road to the
house, looks like a preacher."
"That's okay, son," said the farmer. "Now you go back and find
out what denomination he is. If he's a Methodist lock up the
chicken house, cause he'll want some fried chicken. If he's a Catholic
priest, lock up the wine, cause he'll be fond of the grape and if he's
a Southern Baptist, sit between your mothers legs until I get there."

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Anonymous said...

Hello Mike,

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Yes. I'll do it. Hold on...

floating_abu said...

What's interesting is that there is that stage where there is anger but you are not angry

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, it's kyosaku, not kiyosaku.

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