Anger is Enlightenment

Your true nature is the doorway to enlightenment.

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There is a story about a Japanese zen master who had once been a samurai in pre-modernized Japan. His much younger student once asked him why he (the student) wasn’t more like his electrifying samurai zen master, rather than a meek and quiet person with no such charismatic qualities whatsoever. His master told him (paraphrasing): “Zazen won’t change who you are. Whoever you are, that’s how your zazen and practice will be.”

We don’t see how the teachings connect up with reality until we’re actually in the middle of our own delusion, or in the middle of our own pre-programmed methods of response to our world. But the sutras and teachings handed down from our ancestors teach us that the passions themselves are enlightenment. Therefore, not only is anger enlightenment itself masked from us by seeing it through the ego, but anger is in fact the most powerful fuel for enlightenment at our disposal.

“One who enters the way with ripened causes will never leave.”

Karmic effects are enlightenment come to roost. Turning them away won’t work. That’s us we’re looking at there. Anger is a type of energy. Energy can be used to fuel all kinds of things. Great athletes don’t swear as they run down the track, or as they deadlift 500 pounds, or work their way toward the hoop, they use their anger to focus more completely. The same applies to anger in zazen. We need only recognize our emotions as ourselves, and the energy they carry as our own. Then we may accept the gift of anger as truly a gift, meant to be unwrapped and savored for what it really is, as are all other emotions at their core: the will to save all beings.

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The Economy of Karma

From the ground of being grows the Bodhisattva Vow.

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Nothing is ever wasted.

All karma is simply action. From the tiniest of amoeba, to the most grand human being or great Bodhisattva, we’re perfecting basic mundane virtues. These virtues eventually evolve into the “perfections” (the paramitas) of Bodhisattva practice. They are the core elements that form our functional world view in the Great Vehicle.

We may start with something as simple as effort (to survive) and round out a life with the (very mundane, but still generous) practice of giving (dana), by caring for a mate, cubs, baby chicks, human children, and graduate to caring for our extended clan, for our nation, or even for the entire Earth and beyond this tiny planet. All beings are practicing whether or not they are doing so consciously. Thus does Mahayana sometimes explain the Buddha Nature of all beings. Even if unconsciously, all beings (and moreover, all dharmas, or “existents”) play a role in our practice because that’s the kind of cosmos we inhabit.

Intention is also a kind of action–a very special kind of action. It is an action of the will. When we intend something, we plant a seed of intention that will grow to affect our becoming into a certain kind of being going forward from that moment. When we as Bodhisattvas vow to save all beings, we plant a special kind of intention-seed. This seed is a seed of our desire to fulfill what is the purpose of every being in this cosmos of ours. So when we intend that, we are making a major leap forward. We now choose our grand destiny. And by choosing, presumably, we can come closer, faster, and more steadfastly into our true mission on the Earth.

Why such a major leap? Because when we consciously intend to fulfill our long-range mission, this means we loosen numberless obstructions along our path from that spot in that current lifetime, in this current set of circumstances. This is like blowing up the bridges of delusion that lead the trains of our desires into a million alternate detours of becoming. We vow to live for the welfare of all beings. That’s like breathing in your past, present and future lives and saying “full steam ahead!”. Now you are like an arrow sailing straight through the air toward its mark.

Being with the vow to save all beings is one of the most precious things (really, it’s the most precious) that we will encounter as human begins. The vow not only makes the Eightfold Path visible, but brings it within reach.

The vow may start out small: “I vow it, yeah yeah…” and later grow into something more intentional and profound “I…vow…to save…all beings!” and on until it has become like an unspoken mantra in the background of every movement, every spoken word, every gesture.

This unspoken mantra is the practice itself. It is, therefore, the unspoken mantra which is the context of “just sitting” in Soto Zen tradition of zazen (shikantaza in Japanese). We sit amidst an awareness of all the suffering of all beings, everywhere. We sit down to work toward the realizing of the supreme enlightenment for their sakes.

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Style Matters

What's Your Style?

What's Your Style?


What I’m about to say may be quite shocking to some people, perhaps even to many Buddhists. And because it is shocking, and true, I’m going to say it. Please grab something if you feel the least bit unsteady.

Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are not clones from a mold.

They aren’t drones. They don’t look identical or sound identical or have the same sorts of things to say or think or teach or do. In the Flower Adornment Sutra, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are distinguished from each other by being “styled” in wildly disparate aspects. One may be skilled in demonstrating the dharma via mastering the smells of the world, another by great magical powers, another by greatly unusual forms of making music, and it just gets weirder and weirder from there.

The reason this very special sutra demonstrates the importance of the unique is because each Buddha and Bodhisattva gets to be what they are by virtue of (not despite) their unique circumstances of delusion. Without them, they could never have attained any level of realization of the Way at all. So, your delusion is enlightenment, unrealized. And when it is realized, there you have a special “style” of enlightenment–that is, yours. You might even call it your Bodhisattva “flavor”.

The Supreme Gourmet appreciates all styles and flavors in context of what they are for those who have them. However you look at it, we’re all moving towards the same goal, though all of us originate from a separate point and many of us will take numerous detours along the way, sometimes, even seeming to go backward. We’re all moving towards wearing the big chef’s hat, though by the time we wear the hat, we won’t be “us” any longer. We will be beyond who we are, which still includes who we were. Kind of a good deal.

Whatever your style, it matters that it is yours and uniquely what you feel as you. Without this “home” within, we can’t find the Way. Our personal style is the Way.

So my question today is: What’s your style?

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