The beast, and other representatives of the darkness...

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  • Stephanie

    The beast, and other representatives of the darkness...

    Been doing a lot of introspection over the last few days, questioning again, wondering why it seems that a lot of the answers that religion provides don't satisfy... Priests and teachers will say, "You're just not enlightened yet," or "You haven't been saved," but maybe they don't have the answers either? One of the more fascinating explorations I've made in Buddhism is the difference between the ideal that even the more "open" and "down-to-earth" teachers present, and the actual content of their lives...

    Was briefly involved with a (perhaps self-appointed) "Zen teacher" who had just about every demon imaginable ranging through his closet... and he tried to repress it, hide its face, but that Beast came out, oh boy... the peace and happiness he claimed to have found often seemed little more than a veneer over a deep, stormy layer of inner torment, a seething cauldron of violent rages, bottomless lust, self-loathing, misanthropy... all those tasty things that more of us wrestle with more deeply than we publicly acknowledge...

    He might be the most "egregious" example of a dichotomy between public persona and private demons I personally know of, but so many other teachers I deeply admire have eventually disclosed, willingly or unwillingly, consciously or subconsciously, that the darkness lives in them too... Who says you have to be a rock star to cash in on sex, drugs, and rock and roll? Putting yourself in the position of "guru" or even mild "teacher" is a nice way to get that power, that charisma. And maybe you start out decent, mild, but maybe that's just because nothing has yet cast the scent that stirs the Beast... But as soon as people start giving you that attention, even that adoration, out it comes...

    It's in me too, and I know it. The darkness, the Beast... and I've had an uneasy relationship with it for as long as I can remember. The religious stories tell us that this is Bad, and we must resist or overcome it, but what if the Devil has something to teach us, to tell us? About who we really are? And what this world really is? And I'm not just talking about the "reptile brain," the basic sex and aggression drives, but something more, something deeper... That precipice of existential terror, that soul-bleakness that drags you under? What is that? Is it just a melancholic personality thing? Or do we all have it in there, in us, somewhere? What Freud called thanatos?

    All this seems to me to tie together somehow. All of those things we tend to file under "the dark side." Why is it so appealing to us, even as we are also drawn to ideal moral images? Why might we like to sit zazen and help old ladies cross the street but then delight in violent films and music that mines the nether regions of the soul? What's up with that? When we get religion or get Zen or whatever, are we only half alive, or in denial, or liars, if we try to deny the appeal of the darkness? Is it all just a big mind game with no nice 'n' tidy conclusion? What if 'happiness' isn't enough? What if a 'decent, good, sensible' life really, honestly bores us? Can we really be happy if we try to shut out Eros--not just desire, but desire, the range of animal hungers that really gets us going, even if we might not feel comfortable talking about what gets our animal awake and on the prowl in polite company?

    Any thoughts on this? Anyone else out there have an intimate acquaintanceship with the Devil? The Beast? The http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-ednnJsOq4[/video]]darkness?
  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39441

    #2
    ... little more than a veneer over a deep, stormy layer of inner torment, a seething cauldron of violent rages, bottomless lust, self-loathing, misanthropy... all those tasty things that more of us wrestle with more deeply than we publicly acknowledge...
    Dear Steph,

    You obviously have had a bad experience or two down the line. But not everybody fits that image. Some very nice people are Zen teachers, some brilliant folks too. Unfortunately, there are bad apples and troubled, abusive people too who pop up here and there (same everywhere from Catholic Priests to Rabbis, same for any profession really).

    Can I make you a promise year by year, or better, month by month or day by day or moment by moment? If you find ANYTHING very threatening about me or this place, run (don't walk) away. I will be on the Sit-a-long everyday, I will be here everyday ... If you detect anything really off or abusive about me or this place, run fast. Okay? Don't even wave goodbye.

    You have been around here a couple a weeks. Don't be looking so fast for the "Beast" or the "Devil". Be more open, less defensive, less suspicious (until the point something truly gives you cause to be).

    This Sangha, like any place, is not perfect. Nobody in it is. But, we are coming up to the end of our first year (8 more to go!) and there have been no big scandals (no small ones either save an email I wrote to Brad Warner telling him my opinion on some things), no abuses, no sex or financial scandals, no crimes or misdemeanors. Jundo (me) is a basically harmless clown, not a bad teacher, and most of the folks here are kind and helpful.

    Relax ... if and until you have something you can point to otherwise.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS- I want to entertain the notion of some kind of group reaction today that upset several folks simultaneously, one person igniting the next. But I truly am stumped at the cause(s) so suddenly. Can anybody point out the trigger? Anything I can do?

    PPS - Okay, I admit to the bottomless lust ... but I keep it in check. My wife has two blackbelts in Karate and Aikido.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    Comment

    • Ankai
      Treeleaf Unsui
      • Nov 2007
      • 910

      #3
      I think there're reasons for the striking similarities between the New Testament (and Genesis) acounts of Satan as a tempter, and the way Mara is presented within Buddhism.
      Temptation... the willingness to "sin..." comes from within entirely. And that's where the battle rages- internally. People can claim to have it all under control, they can say they have a grip on their own inner evils, but usually it's a matter of self delusion, because everyone has SOMETHING in their lives that can make that monster pop right up to the surface.
      And, I've found that the people who sem the most under contol, the folks who claim to have found THE WAY to peace and harmony with life are almost always the pones who, when the beast rears his ugly head, are the most shocking and unrecognizable. And when THAT is the face that becomes the recognizable one... yikes!
      Gassho!
      護道 安海


      -Godo Ankai

      I'm still just starting to learn. I'm not a teacher. Please don't take anything I say too seriously. I already take myself too seriously!

      Comment

      • Jun
        Member
        • Jun 2007
        • 236

        #4
        Originally posted by HezB
        I don't know about causes and all that. But I was reminded how powerful and creative the human subconscious was last night.

        I dreamt that I was on a bus tour organized by Nishijima Roshi. It was like a camping holiday stopping at various camp sites. We got into the bus and I sat in the seat next to Gudo. I was a bit self conscious to be sitting beside an elderly Japanese man, I didn't know what to say so I just sat there.

        After a while I noticed Gudo looking intently at my head: "You have nits you know" he said (nits= head lice). I can't remember what I said in reply, or if I replied, but he said "stay still" and he started to pick them out for me.

        Monkeys, being still, nit-picking.... all the themes where there.

        I hereby confess to Dogen Sangha Universal: I have nits.

        Regards,

        Harry.
        The question is whether Nishijima roshi ate them or not?
        Gassho
        Jun
        The life and teachings of Suzuki Shõsan Rõshi - http://kongoshin.blogspot.com/

        Comment

        • Stephanie

          #5
          Jundo, I appreciate your sincere and kind-hearted reply.

          But I think I must not have communicated too well what's riled my curiosity of late... It isn't some tormented feeling of victimhood. It's a sharp-toothed hunger of my own. My own "animal" pacing back and forth. My issue isn't that I'm afraid of the devil; my issue is that I kind of like the devil. I find it boring when someone doesn't seem to be demon-haunted in one way or another. What I saw with this "Zen teacher" with whom I was involved just seemed to me to be honest; not everyone would have his particular kinks and issues, but I think everyone's got their own Beast, whatever it is. And I'm saying that maybe all that more innocuous-seeming people do is repress or shut up the Beast, but underneath it all, it's still there. And again, this thought doesn't scare or upset me. It fascinates me.

          And perhaps you're generally a "nice, decent" person, but I suspect if one dug around in the halls of your subconscious long enough, they'd find your Beast too. And what I'm saying, is... maybe it's not so bad. Depending on what it is. I get bored and cynical when in a room full of people trying to be "nice." Don't get me wrong--I deeply value gentleness and kindness, but I value the instinctual side too, the wolf. I feel gratified when I see it come out in people in positions of religious power, because it supports my hypothesis that no one ever fully tames it. And again, that's not a lament... I think wolfishness has its place in the world too.

          Comment

          • Stephanie

            #6
            Originally posted by KvonNJ
            And, I've found that the people who sem the most under contol, the folks who claim to have found THE WAY to peace and harmony with life are almost always the pones who, when the beast rears his ugly head, are the most shocking and unrecognizable. And when THAT is the face that becomes the recognizable one... yikes!
            Yes, I've seen this too. But then sometimes the Beast isn't so shocking. Sometimes it's just like... a dog licking itself. I mean, yeah, some people find it gross, or unseemly, or whatever, but... it feels good to the dog, and who is it hurting? Would one really want to live in a crystal lotus Pure Land where no one had the urge to lick themselves...?

            Temptation... the willingness to "sin..." comes from within entirely. And that's where the battle rages- internally. People can claim to have it all under control, they can say they have a grip on their own inner evils, but usually it's a matter of self delusion, because everyone has SOMETHING in their lives that can make that monster pop right up to the surface.
            Agreed 100,000%. Except I wonder... What is "sin"? It's a bit of a different perspective in Buddhism, not so much sin, but still the idea that having "worldly desires" is somehow ignorant or unenlightened. So far in my practice, developing deeper awareness of the cyclical nature of samsara has led to detachment, and a different relationship to desire, but it hasn't made the desire go away. And nor would I want it to! But I often wonder... this truth that I hunger for... is it to be found in the cloud palace of detached celibate renunciation, or on the streets, in sweaty sheets, full-on dancing with desire and its attendant mysteries?

            What of Dogen's lifestyle, and then what of Ikkyu's? Did Dogen get something that Ikkyu didn't? Did Ikkyu get something that Dogen didn't? That's what I wonder. Because for all of the other things I do and don't want, my deepest hunger is to know the truth, in whatever way I can know it. I have the courage and willpower and training to go either way--I could go to the monastery and live austerely; I could wander the world and let my animal come out more... like I sometimes think I should... but what is the right way?

            Am I just being tempted by the Devil here, should I be saying, "Get behind me Satan," or is it more complex than that? What if God and all his angels don't have a monopoly on the truth? What if to really know it all, one has to walk with the Devil too?

            I think of Blake here:

            Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason usurps its place & governs the unwilling. And being restrain'd it by degrees becomes passive till it is only the shadow of desire.

            ...I was walking among the fires of hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and insanity...

            Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.
            The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
            The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
            The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
            The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
            Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.
            The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man.
            The fox condemns the trap, not himself.

            ...I have always found that Angels have the vanity to speak of themselves as the only wise; this they do with a confident insolence sprouting from systematic reasoning...

            Let the Priests of the Raven of dawn, no longer in deadly black, with hoarse note curse the sons of joy. Nor his accepted brethren, whom, tyrant, he calls free: lay the bound or build the roof. Nor pale religious letchery call that virginity, that wishes but acts not!

            For every thing that lives is Holy.

            Comment

            • Jundo
              Treeleaf Founder and Priest
              • Apr 2006
              • 39441

              #7
              People can claim to have it all under control, they can say they have a grip on their own inner evils, but usually it's a matter of self delusion, because everyone has SOMETHING in their lives that can make that monster pop right up to the surface.
              And perhaps you're generally a "nice, decent" person, but I suspect if one dug around in the halls of your subconscious long enough, they'd find your Beast too. And what I'm saying, is... maybe it's not so bad. Depending on what it is.
              Not only should you suspect I have my inner "Beast", "inner evils", you should know it and I hereby confirm it. I am a hair's breadth short of my internal Pol Pot, Charlie Manson & Seung-Hui Cho (the human being who killed 32 other humans and wounded many more at a Virginia University this past year), all combined. I am not joking, I can taste it sometimes when I am pushed to the limit. Not very deep inside, I am a pornographer and embezzler, sadist and thief. Damn right, and I truly mean that.

              I read "Lord of the Flies" as non-fiction. I see a picture of a Nazi and, as a Jew, I realize that it could have been me on either side of the concentration camp walls. There, but for a small change in birth and circumstance, I would stand.

              I mean that for me and every other ordinary human being who, somehow, despite the potential for evil, keeps it in check and gets through his or her life without killing or raping anybody, managing to hold down a job, feed their family, being a reasonably good father, brother, sister, husband and citizen despite the inner devil. It applies to me, every member of this Sangha, the Buddha and all the Buddhist ancestors, every Christian Saint, every Homo Sapien on this planet.

              Steph, do not confuse the potential with the actual. Get over it.

              Somehow, for every madman in this world, 99.99% of its people get up in the morning, head to work, smile sincerely at their neighbors, do their job decently, help an old lady cross the street, embrace the people they love and head to bed. Most human beings are not tempted to kill other human beings (on most days anyway), do not abuse children (though some of our brothers and sisters do), do not crash planes into buildings.

              Our Buddhist Practice recognizes the "Dark Potential" in all of us. Thus, the first lesson, is to drop anger and envy, greed and clutching, forsaking violence and harmful acts. And ANYONE who tells you that Buddhism can be practiced otherwise is a liar or a fool. We recognize our evil energies, and channel them (without repressing them) into healthful directions. "Just Sitting" does that, the Precepts are meant to do that ... a partnership.

              We all are apes with lice, and we should learn to keep ourselves clean and cooperate to groom each other.

              Steph, you talk too much. I mean that sincerely and lovingly. You head is full of crap. Don't worry, it is not just you but most people on this planet. Your emails are filled with "issues" and philosophical positions and ethical dilemmas and clever ideas that only exist cause you throw words at them. I want you to write no more emails for awhile longer than 30 words. And you need to actuate being less defensive, less negative, less aggressive ... these are all states of mind you create in your own head. Try being open, accepting, cooperative for awhile.Otherwise, Zen Practice is not for you. Try something else.

              Harry, you too. I think you are full of it. Give it a rest or get off this bus. We keep ourselves well groomed here so as not to infect the other passengers with our vermin. We do not pick fights in the back that the driver needs to stop. We have a long trip, many people here are trying to enjoy the scenery, talk, listen and ... most importantly ... sit quietly. If not, you and all the other "angry Buddhists" can get off at the next stop.

              Gassho, The Driver
              ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

              Comment

              • Gregor
                Member
                • Apr 2007
                • 638

                #8
                Harry,

                I have to disagree with you here.

                I'm sorry but I just don't see the anger in Jundo's words that you are finding there.
                Jukai '09 Dharma Name: Shinko 慎重(Prudent Calm)

                Comment

                • Jundo
                  Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                  • Apr 2006
                  • 39441

                  #9
                  Hi Harry,

                  There is one true rule here ... be kind to each other. It says it at the doorway to the Forum. It is the only one I enforce.

                  Gassho, Jundo
                  ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                  Comment

                  • Stephanie

                    #10
                    Originally posted by Jundo
                    Steph, you talk too much. I mean that sincerely and lovingly. You head is full of crap. Don't worry, it is not just you but most people on this planet. Your emails are filled with "issues" and philosophical positions and ethical dilemmas and clever ideas that only exist cause you throw words at them. I want you to write no more emails for awhile longer than 30 words. And you need to actuate being less defensive, less negative, less aggressive ... these are all states of mind you create in your own head. Try being open, accepting, cooperative for awhile.Otherwise, Zen Practice is not for you. Try something else.
                    I was about to applaud you for what I thought was an excellent post until I came to this.

                    You think the words cause the problems, but you don't live inside my head or my heart, honey... you don't know. The words are how I articulate, or try to articulate, the wordless struggle that consumes me. The emotions come first. And they don't come from hypotheticals. They come from the lived-in, actual experience of desire and desolation, and the yearning to come to grips with it all. I know that an intellectual formulation will not satisfy or assuage the yearning, but I am not looking for one to do so; I am simply looking for a map, a hint, a pointer. So far, you have been devoid of such a "turning word," but I temper that by saying you join a host of otherwise respectable people who have come up similarly... empty.

                    I feel like the first post of this thread did not come from a place of negativity at all. It's rather more... celebratory, fascinated, interested. I'm not disgusted by the muck of the world. I love it and I just wonder if I should roll around in it more. I'm glad that some honest people out there have shown me and others their demons, not in some abstracted way, but in a real, visceral way. I've learned a lot more from that than I ever did from people who were easier to idealize as pure. I don't see the wolf as impure, I see that there is something holy to it... but I also see that there is something to teachings that warn us about it.

                    Maybe this all seems abstract to you because you haven't lived it; you offer some generic words about how we all have the potential for "evil" in us, but you offer nothing personal, nothing of substance about the particular nature of your Beast or how you struggle with it. Which is to be expected; most of us don't put that sort of thing out there for mass consumption. Even I wouldn't lay bare all of it.

                    You contradict yourself, Jundo; one moment, you tell me to stick around and explore, the next you tell me to shut up, imply that my character and contribution here is mainly negative, and state not just that this place might not be "for me," but that "Zen Practice" as a whole might not! All I can say to that is, What is wrong with you?

                    I've been very honest here. I've laid a lot out on the table, including my alienation and yearning to find a community where I can express myself honestly among like-minded people and find some degree of acceptance. What you just said to me invites one of two responses: conform to your demands or leave. And you should know by now which of those two I would choose... so basically, in one breath, you're questioning why people are leaving, and then telling me to leave... I think you may be confused.

                    Comment

                    • Gregor
                      Member
                      • Apr 2007
                      • 638

                      #11
                      Steph,

                      It's not a question of your character or telling you to shut up. It's just that Zen practice is not about intellectualizing everything, it's not about the words in your head. It's about quieting those words. That's what the Zazen is about. That's what Jundo is trying to point out. Please continue to stick it out, but don't take all of this personally, consider it his attempt to help you see things in a new way, he's just pointing to that.
                      Jukai '09 Dharma Name: Shinko 慎重(Prudent Calm)

                      Comment

                      • Stephanie

                        #12
                        Every sentence someone posts here is an intellectualization. It's how we communicate non-intellectual things. I actually try to present some of the things I talk about in a more poetic style so that it communicates more of a feeling than a theory for these reasons. But maybe I'm not much of a poet. Either way, words are what we got, especially in an online sangha.

                        Again, I reiterate that if it seems that my struggles are purely intellectual in nature, either those who perceive them that way have not been paying enough attention, or I have not communicated well enough. How can I express my subjective experience in a way that transcends the intellectual? Perhaps if I was more of a poet, I could convey the yearning, the hunger, the loneliness and alienation, the feeling of 'unreality' and feelings of despair and meaninglessness that sometimes creep in, but then the exhilarating joy and freedom of wondering about it all...

                        These feelings are churned up by real experiences, and real ethical dilemmas. If I did not think, or wonder, I would have no wisdom, no ethics at all. Thinking is not evil; it just needs to be seen for what it is. And that is a big part of what zazen practice is about for me. But there are questions and hungers and yearnings that transcend the verbal intellect, and come back again and again...

                        And perhaps Jundo is right, that this is not the right forum for them. I'm not simply interested in talking about how great zazen is and pretending we're on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. But my questions, and hungers, and yearnings, do have a place in Zen practice and study. And maybe there is not a teacher out there who can meet me where I am without a host of Zen platitudes, but nonetheless I will continue to search and hunt and look wherever I have to until I find an honest man (or woman) who can meet me there.

                        And maybe you think you're teaching Zen, Jundo, but to me, you're just another man telling me to shut up and be nice, and all I have to say to that is, YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!!! :lol:

                        Comment

                        • Ankai
                          Treeleaf Unsui
                          • Nov 2007
                          • 910

                          #13
                          You reserve the right to be the prime Alpha "Angry Buddhist" on this site with your telling people they are full of it and your angrily lording your moral stances over us and your dharma brothers. That behavior seems to be reserved for just you here... because you're more enlightened or something, right? This is clear now, thank-you.

                          Harry, what you're describing just isn't there, but it does seem vry much as if YOU have been wandering this forum just ITCHING to pick a fight with any percieved stance of authority anyone takes. Ever. On any topic. Perhaps it's the guy in the mirror that needs to drop the "expert" self identity and take a look at anger issues? You're coming across lately like an Amish kid in a schoolyard yelling, "Oh yeah!? Well I'm TEN TIMES more humble than you!!"
                          Gassho!
                          護道 安海


                          -Godo Ankai

                          I'm still just starting to learn. I'm not a teacher. Please don't take anything I say too seriously. I already take myself too seriously!

                          Comment

                          • Gregor
                            Member
                            • Apr 2007
                            • 638

                            #14
                            Stephanie,

                            It's not a question of honesty.

                            No one can answer all of those questions for you. As long as you look outside of your self, you'll never find satisfaction.
                            Jukai '09 Dharma Name: Shinko 慎重(Prudent Calm)

                            Comment

                            • Stephanie

                              #15
                              Gregor~~I'm not looking for someone else to hand me the answers to these questions. I'm looking for someone else to, if anything, help point me in the right direction. It's happened before, so I know it's not impossible.

                              What I'm really interested to hear is not a host of people telling me what my experience is or means or how to "fix" it, but rather, to hear if others have wrestled with similar things, and if so, how they have done it and what the outcome of it was. Not because I could simply do exactly what they did, but rather because, again, it might help orient me to my own context in a useful way.

                              But what Jundo did was exactly the former: to assume he knows my own subjective experience and then tell me how to "fix" it. Not helpful at all, just ignorant and insulting.

                              Comment

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