This excerpt appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Mountain Record, “Within Light, Darkness.”
From The heart of Being:
Moral and Ethical Teachings of Zen Buddhism
by John Daido Loori, Roshi
Actualize harmony. Do not be angry.
Bodhidharma said, “Self-nature is inconceivably wondrous. In the dharma of no-self, not postulating a self is called the precept of refraining from anger.” Not creating an idea of a self frees us completely from anger. You cannot have anger unless there is a self. There is no boundless and omniscient self somewhere in the sky that created the whole universe, and there is no tangible and limited self that inhabits this bag of skin. All of reality is simply infinite dharmas that arise and disappear in accord with the laws of karma. There is not one thing standing against another.
Dogen’s teaching on this precept says, “Not proceeding, not retreating, not real, not unreal. There is an ocean of bright clouds, there is an ocean of sublime clouds when there is no anger.” Not proceeding, not retreating, not real, not unreal. When we proceed from the assumption that all things have their own being that is separate and distinct from everything else, we progress and we regress. There is truth and there is falsity. We make demands. We want things to be different. We constantly try to influence and change the course of events to fit our own preconceived notions and satisfy our endless desires.
Anger is incredibly debilitating. We come into practice searching, wanting to take care of our questions and doubts. But we carry into our practice all the baggage that has prevented our life from unfolding harmoniously. The baggage is our entangled conglomeration of ideas and positions that have worked together to cause our suffering. It is the deep-seated conditioning that has stifled us and impinged on the lives of others.
We cover the inherent perfection that is originally there with our self-created notion of separateness. When somebody gets ahead of us in the dokusan line or moves ahead of us in their practice, we feel that we lose ground, and we get angry. But if we understand that there is no distinction between the two of us, we immediately return to accord with reality, and there is no anger. Yasutani Roshi said that in getting angry we actually break all of the three dimensions of the precepts—the literal, the compassionate, and the one-mind.
If there is no self, if the action of anger is not self-centered, the energy and the content of what is being communicated becomes entirely different. The shout “Wake up!” heals. It is not for the zendo monitor’s benefit. He or she is awake. It is for the guy that is sitting there, nodding off. There is no self-centered anger in that. There is anger at the loss of opportunity to experience our enlightened nature. It is anger similar to the anger of a mother who scolds her child for running out into the road. It is there for the welfare of the child, not because what the child is doing is going to hurt the mother. Expression of such a concern can have a strong impact. There is compassion in it and it reaches people’s hearts. Sometimes it is a way of healing.
John Daido Loori, Roshi (1931-2009) was the founder of Zen Mountain Monastery and the Mountains and Rivers Order, and served as the guiding teacher there for almost 30 years. A holder of the Soto and Rinzai Zen lineages, Daido Roshi drew on his background as a scientist, artist, naturalist, parent and Zen Priest to establish a uniquely American Zen Buddhist training center.
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