Thursday, September 22, 2011

Heaven and Hell


Mugen and I often have meaningful conversations at red lights, and may not see that it turned to green. Not long ago on my way to Karate, I had stopped at a red light. The light must have been green for 3 seconds, and some idiot behind me honked. 

That pissed me off !  I really felt like getting off my car to go punch the moron in the face.

Now what is amazing is the speed at which this happens. It is unreal ! In a matter of a few milliseconds, you switch from Dr. Jekyll to Mr Hide. (I've heard that some women have the ability to do that even faster, but this is a different story...).

No seriously, it is hard to believe, It is so fast, no conscious ego involved. Pure, Row Anger Flaring. 5 skandhas at work.
  • Form : the honking,
  • Sensation: the sound hits the eardrum;
  • Consciousness : awareness of the sound;
  • Perception : someone is not happy,
  • Mental formation - pure, row anger.

Later on the Ego becomes involved. Anger needs to be resolved - it really is not good for the body : high blood pressure, adrenaline overflows, stomach acidity...

  • Either give up to Anger and blindly act upon it : Go punch the moron's face, or just wait 5 more seconds before starting the car; (You're an ass, I can be a bigger ass), or 

  • Try to deflate Anger through reasoning : "Look, you are not going to do this, you have other things to do, you are already late for class, and moreover this guy could have a gun... and then it is not the Zen thing to do, after all, he might be distraught because his child is sick, or he just learned his wife is having an affair (too bad, he is a moron anyway...)

So here actually,  Ego is not always the bad guy. It can be a good concept, a good trick contributing to the survival of this creature and to the harmony of society. Ego has - in theory - the power to chose between blind action only triggered by emotion ("emotion" from ex-motion : out of it comes motion - or action), or to consider the consequences of various possible actions in response to a situation and accordingly chose a wiser course of action...

Great danger comes when the ego is not even involved and action is carried out without any rationalization, just on a whim.

Actually, the ability to properly act under such condition was considered positive by samurai, and is very likely the goal of training of modern elite soldiers. This is what Heijoshin is about. Instinctively knowing what to do in any situation. (read the Hagakure

It is not, however, a simple thing to do. To get to that point request years of practice. Needless to say, I am not there yet. I wish I would not have these bouts of anger (rage?), and I am thankful I am able to control them.

I'll keep training. 




Long ago in Japan, a samurai, retainer from a clan well known for their fierce (cocky...) attitude, went to visit Zen Master Hakuin. The Samurai was a big, proud man, used to getting whatever he wanted.

"Hakuin!" shouted the Samurai at the temple door, "I want a word with you right now!"

Master Hakuin rose from his cushion. He took his sweet time to stretch his legs before turning toward his visitor. The large figure of the impatient Samurai blocked the temple entrance.

"Well, monk," grunted the samurai, " They say you are a wise man ! If that is so, tell me about Heaven and Hell!"

Hakuin looked carefully at the fierce-looking Samurai and finally replied, " Did you disrupt my meditation to ask something every fool knows about? You immature fool! What kind of a second class soldier are you ? Look at yourself !You are so unkempt. Your hands and feet are dirty. Your hair is uncombed, you stink, and above all your sword - did you steal it from a kid - is rusty and so obviously neglected that it would not even slice a cucumber ! You are ugly and your mother dresses you funny. And you dare ask me about Heaven and Hell? Leave this temple right now, and never come back again!"

The Samurai was furious! No one had ever dared to speak to him that rudely. In a flash he drew his sword and raised it high above his head. "You filthy monk will die for those words!" he roared.

Hakuin quietly looked up and told him: 
"THIS is what Hell feels like..."

The samurai instantly froze, his sword in mid-air, realizing that Hakuin had risked his own life to teach him. He lowered his sword and deeply bowed to Hakuin. 

"And THIS is what Heaven feels like..." said Hakuin...



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