It was crowded. Two trains went by, out of service. Everyone looked straight ahead while a man further down facing perpendicular to the bulk of the crowd was yelling something political.
I decided to walk towards him. I’d been thinking about how scared people are now. Nobody is talking but there are ‘crazy people’ yelling all over the place. I didn’t know if he was one of them but I walked towards him passed all people with earbuds in, attached to iPods and smartphones listening to what they chose instead of this man yelling.
The train came before I got too far along the platform and I joined the throng getting on the train. I don’t know if he got onto another car. I put my earbuds in and selected the e-book I had downloaded from the library. It is called “Being Mortal”.
I wrote the above a long time ago. I was afraid. I don’t know what would have happened if I had gone up to him. Do people who yell in public places want to be heard? Do they even believe that they CAN be heard? But I was frightened and even a bit angry that he was subjecting us all to his ranting.
I am still learning how this machine that puts itself together as ME works and one of the cogs is anger, another is fear.
I have written many angry entries in journals and diaries and then made a ritual of blacking them out or deleting them. But I have missed the point of my own life in doing so because I was afraid my anger would turn me into a weapon, some sort of terrible uncontrollable force.
But I am not a weapon. A weapon is something you pick up to do harm to others. A human being is a Buddha whether or that human being is suffering due to contracted emotions, habitual behaviours or galling misunderstandings, regardless of whether or not they have realized it.
I like to think that I have always run from confrontation, but I have at times in my life become so angry that I have put myself in the path of confrontation even knowing I would probably suffer harm. But I was never a weapon and neither was the person who harmed me. It is a delusion to think that we can become weapons or targets or hammers or nails, but it is true we can suffer and cause suffering and in that state of congealed anger, pick up a weapon.
Anger comes as energy that can turn into action but if I try to delete it or deny it, the whole machinery of my being becomes stuck in all sorts of physical problems or worse, it gives rise to dangerous exchanges that benefit no one.
The purpose of Zen practice is to realize awake awareness as oneself and this includes being aware of anger and fear.
If we are aware we can make choices.
Being a student of Soto Zen Buddhism I can choose to direct that energy into compassionate action. If i recognize that I am afraid I can also recognize others who are fearful and in loosening its hold on myself open the possibility of the same for others. If I am angry, I can learn to see it arising and to appreciate its energy and learn how to direct it towards polishing the mirror, exerting myself to examine delusions and to realize compassion, to lean into actions that build instead of actions that destroy.
But to ignore or suppress fear and anger rather than taking each moment of recognition as an opportunity is an impediment and can only lead to more suffering. (This can be applied to all emotions that cause us to hide or become deluded as in “Love Hurts”, love that is misdirected or misunderstood.)
So I will endeavour to be aware of what I would rather not realize within myself and not let anything fester or congeal into a sense of problem that gains momentum.
And even in realizing all of the above, I must sit zazen, every day and not fall into thinking that dust will no longer accumulate on the mirror.
And even after all that: