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The Angry Monk
September 27, 2010 9:41 PM   Subscribe

The Angry Monk

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posted by MetaMonkey (16 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, it's a "Zen is hard" story, the bizarre American genre completely unknown in Vietnam, China, and Japan. (...I can snark all I want, but I can't last a week in a Zen temple before I turn into a twitching, sleepy mess.)
posted by shii at 9:48 PM on September 27, 2010


You only have to read any random Zen koan to know that Zen can be angry.

Goso: Who is that one?
Master Shōkaku: Kochōsan, Kokurishi.
Goso tells disciple Engo about this reply. Engo says: That answer seems to be right, but I wonder if his experience is true or not. You had better examine him once again.

Next day:

Goso: Even Shakyamuni and Maitreya are servants of that one. Who is that one?
Master Shōkaku: I told you yesterday.
Goso: What did you say?
Master Shōkaku: Kochōsan, Kokurishi.
Goso: Not right, not right!
Master Shōkaku: Why did you say "right" yesterday?
Goso: Yesterday, it was right. Today, it isn't right.
posted by blucevalo at 10:19 PM on September 27, 2010


This article, while sort of annoying in that special "I'm a Zen Buddhist, dude" tone it has, does have a very important point.

I remember when I was fairly early into beginning to do structured meditation, a teacher told me to be careful, because I would go too deeply into meditation too fast. I didn't see the harm, and continued to try to push myself.

I didn't understand why my anxiety issues started getting worse rather than better. So I just kept trying to meditate the anxiety away. It didn't work. Panic attacks, which I've always had, became first a weekly, then nearly a daily thing.

And then the teacher said, look, you need to stop meditating for a few months, and oh, here is a card for a therapist who is used to working with meditation practitioners who discover they have a major issue that meditation brings up.

So, I saw the therapist for a few months, got on some medication I really should have been on years ago, came to realize the root of a lot of my anxieties, and then, slowly, resumed meditative practice. I was more careful, and more disciplined. I listened when the teachers told us not to let everything go all at once. And, while I still had my issues - now that I knew what they were I could use the meditation to work on them, rather than having the raw pulsing nerve of my subconscious mind eating at me.

I remember hearing a study - which I can't find right now - that violence rates actually increased when a group of prisoners were put into daily yoga practices. Reflecting on my own experience, I understand why, since they were likely given just the movements and not the "teaching" as well.

Maybe the average guy on the street who takes up meditation of some sort will not have a problem, or not get much out of it. But for people who have problems, even ones they don't realize they have, meditation is a sure fire way to bring them to the surface. Only then can you start to fix them, but if you aren't aware of that happening, it can be a shock.
posted by strixus at 10:50 PM on September 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


All I think about when I read this is the guy I had as a roommate in Eugene earlier this year. He owns a taxi company and is a serious devotee of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. So much so that he sings songs about the swami at open mics across the city of Eugene and self-published a CD of devotional music. He told me that he went to a Hare Krishna center in Louisiana and after less than a day was told he was not ready to become a disciple. It must have been heartbreaking for him. He really wanted to belong. I tried to encourage him but, at the end, when I left town, he got angry that I was going away and in a tantrum declared on the street I was the devil.
posted by parmanparman at 1:08 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Swami Prabhupada, whatever else may be the case, did very good work at translating from Sanskrit to English. At least, that's the truth according to Donny the Punk, and he knew the Sanskrit himself. I had expected I'd get the opposite opinion, for whatever reason.
posted by Goofyy at 5:02 AM on September 28, 2010


I become increasingly convinced that Zen is a bit like those "colon cleanse" products -- they fill you with shit and then celebrate when it all comes out. When good things happen, it's because of the meditation. But when bad things happen, it's not because meditation can seriously mess you up - heaven forbid! It's because you had underlying issues which the meditation "brought to the surface."

Take a cue from medicine: any drug which has real benefits will have real side effects. Meditation can in some cases leave people worse off than they started, and the traditions which embrace meditation usually don't have a solution other than "meditate more." A responsible teacher will tell a student to stop, but not all teachers have that degree of perspective.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:11 AM on September 28, 2010


"Swami Prabhupada, whatever else may be the case, did very good work at translating from Sanskrit to English. At least, that's the truth according to Donny the Punk, and he knew the Sanskrit himself. I had expected I'd get the opposite opinion, for whatever reason."

this sounds like you're quoting from a Neal Stephenson novel...
posted by luvcraft at 7:19 AM on September 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


>
All I think about when I read this is the guy I had as a roommate in Eugene earlier this year. He owns a taxi company and is a serious devotee of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. So much so that he sings songs about the swami at open mics across the city of Eugene and self-published a CD of devotional music. He told me that he went to a Hare Krishna center in Louisiana and after less than a day was told he was not ready to become a disciple.


Zen Buddhism and Hare Krishnaism are sharply different from one another.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:30 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Where is my Electric Monk?
posted by m0nm0n at 7:43 AM on September 28, 2010


This guy sounds very different from what Buddhists sounded like in my head. Peculiar.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:12 AM on September 28, 2010


I dunno, sounds about right to me...
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 8:32 AM on September 28, 2010


> This guy sounds very different from what Buddhists sounded like in my head. Peculiar.

Buddhists can be as angsty and aggressive as anyone else. People often romanticize others associated with spiritual paths. For example, there's a misbegotten notion that sufis are all hippie wine drinking poetry spewers, and often people who meet actual sufis are disenchanted to learn that from 20 feet away they are pretty much indistinguishable from plain vanilla Muslims.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:01 AM on September 28, 2010


Step One: Don't have enemies.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:21 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you! I needed that! ♥
posted by Lynsey at 10:13 AM on September 28, 2010


the traditions which embrace meditation usually don't have a solution other than "meditate more."

Hardly, OA. Nearly every tradition I've encountered with serious, responsible teachers will provide solutions other than that. Buddhist contemplative structures are designed to be by far more than just meditation. Any school or temple that ONLY offers meditation is not doing it right.
posted by strixus at 12:44 PM on September 28, 2010


Zen Buddhism and Hare Krishnaism are sharply different from one another.

I was making the point that angry, unsorted people show up in every religious movement. I look back and I think it was actually quite brave of the Hare Krishnas to send away someone for a lack of something - as though they wanted to keep living on a level. It's strange, thinking back to this roommate situation, because he was still ardent about the faith and told me how he had donated several thousands of dollars to the movement. He was angry at the teachers who came to teach and then left again after collecting donations. I find clear lines of the 'wanting to find/maintain/have' in the article. The hot chili pepper of the masses is always present, whether we like it or not.
posted by parmanparman at 1:00 AM on September 29, 2010


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