“Two Kinds of Anger” or “Jesus F. Christ Part 2”

MachineGunBassBefore I begin, I’d like to invite everyone in the tri-state area to the screening of Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen tomorrow (Wednesday May 21, 2014) at 6:30pm at Drexel University in their URBN Annex screening room. That’s at 3401 Filbert St (corner of 34th and Filbert Street) on the West side of Philadelphia, PA. The Facebook event is at this link. I will hang out and do a Q&A afterwards, sign books, sign body parts, sign bass guitars, sign bad checks and generally schmooze.

Also, I’d like to thank everyone who made the events I did this past weekend in Ohio such a massive success. The benefit for my friend Logan Firestone raised more than $2000 to help with his medical bills. In spite of everything, Zero Defex played a great set if I do say so myself (and it isn’t just me in the band, so I can say that). The screening of Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen at the Cleveland Buddhist Temple the following night was a grand time too. A lot of very cool people came out for that. Finally, the meeting I had the next evening at the Akron Shambhala Center filled me with great optimism that what I proposed that night would actually come to fruition. More on that later.

*   *   *

I can tell by some of the comments the last post received that I ought to clarify a few things. It seems that a number of people thought I said the wrong things about anger and that I was violating the ninth precept, “Do not give way to anger.” This made me think I ought to address a matter that may be only tangentially related to that post.

I think that there are two related but quite different things we call “anger.” What I’m going to call Type 1 Anger is what the Oxford Dictionary defines as “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” It’s an emotional response. Some synonyms for Type 1 Anger are acrimony, rage, enmity, and fury.

The precepts warn us against giving way to this emotional response because, in most cases, it does not help anything. It makes us more likely to behave in violent and hurtful ways. But even when it doesn’t do that, it makes it very difficult to see things clearly, think reasonably and act sensibly.

But the word “anger” is often used to describe something else. For example, one might say that Martin Luther King was angry over the way African Americans were treated in America.

In this case, the anger we’re referring to is not an emotional response. I’m sure MLK sometimes got heatedly emotional about some of the terrible things that were done to people because of their race. But the kind of “anger” that really fueled the Civil Rights movement wasn’t emotional. It was a clear understanding that something was very wrong and needed to be put right. Furthermore, the need to put things right was urgent, and so decisive and immediate action was necessary. I would call this Type 2 Anger.

There is a relationship between these two things and often they get mixed together and difficult to distinguish. But the precept is about Type 1 Anger and not Type 2 Anger. I think a lot of those of us who try to practice Buddhism get confused and think it’s about both.

Here’s an example of how I did that in my own practice. I started studying Buddhism in the early 1980s when I was still a member of Zero Defex’s first incarnation. In those days we were known as an angry band, though people often commented on how nice we were off stage as compared to our ferocious presence when playing. Probably the biggest issue we were angry about in those days was nuclear proliferation and the very real possibility of a global nuclear war before the 1980s were over. People forget how close we really came to destroying the planet, not in a matter of decades through global climate change, but literally in a matter of minutes through the massive deployment of atomic weapons.

After a few months or a year of Zen practice and following the break-up of the first version of Zero Defex, I recall being in a conversation with a few people and my teacher Tim McCarthy. The subject of the nuclear arms race came up and I said something like, “I used to be angry about that. But I’m not any more.”

Tim gave me an incredulous look that I can still picture in my mind now and said, “Well I sure am!”

I was so stunned by this that I still remember it decades later. I said what I said to try to impress my teacher with my developing understanding of the dharma. I believed that it was my duty to eradicate all anger from my consciousness and to remain serene and passive even in the face of the potential destruction of the planet I lived on. With his very simple and direct statement, Tim forever changed my way of thinking about that.

We need to learn not to give way to Type 1 Anger, that emotional feeling of rage and hostility. But Type 2 Anger is important. If Buddhism was about eradicating the rational, non-emotional forms of “anger” that lead to things like the Civil Rights Movement, I would want no part of it. Certainly one could say that the Dalai Lama is justifiably angry at the treatment of Tibet by the Chinese. But this is not emotional Type 1 Anger. I don’t even think that “anger” is the proper word for what I’m calling Type 2 Anger. I’m hard pressed to find any other word for it, though. It wouldn’t matter if I did, anyway, because people will still use the word “anger” to indicate both forms.

Whether you believe my post was an example of Type 1 or Type 2 is up to you. I won’t try to justify it. Don’t worry. I do not think I am the Martin Luther King of car rental rights. But I do think it’s important to distinguish that there are two different things that are called “anger.”

I wrote an article a few years ago called Kill Your Anger about my understanding of what anger is and how to deal with it. The entire article appears in my book Sit Down and Shut Up, but there’s a long excerpt on line you can read for free.

An important fact to understand about anger is that it happens to everyone, even practicing Buddhists. The precept says not to give way to anger. It doesn’t ask us not to ever become angry. That would be ridiculous. It also does not ask us to be passive in the face of things that are clearly wrong.

One aspect that tends to get lost in discussions about the appropriate Buddhist response to anger is that there are both internal and external ways of dealing with it. It’s often assumed that Buddhists do a whole lot of internal work so that they become somehow immune to anger and other negative emotions as if they’d been inoculated against them. If a Buddhist practitioner gets upset this is seen as evidence that either they have failed to do their work properly or that the work itself is really just a scam because it is obviously ineffective since it doesn’t work perfectly every time.

Those outside the practice often fail to notice how much of our work is external. That is, we learn what our external triggers are and develop strategies to avoid them. This is why monks often live in monasteries, which are specifically designed to protect those that live in them from emotionally stressful situations. But even in the outside world we tend to steer away from situations that are likely to cause us to react.

Nishijima Roshi was interested in developing real world Buddhist practices. He wasn’t a great fan of Buddhist monasteries, even though he was a fan of Dogen who founded Japan’s biggest monastery. He taught his students to train in the real world and discouraged us from becoming full-time or even long-term monastics. He went so far as to limit his own sesshins to four days maximum because any more than that, he said, “tends to remove us too much from daily life.”

When life intrudes and anger arises this is not evidence that we have failed. Watch what happens. Is it a little better than what would have happened before you started meditating regularly? Then you have not failed nor has your meditation been an ineffective waste of time. Maybe things didn’t go perfectly. But keep on practicing and next time things will get even a little bit more better.

*   *   *

Your donations to this blog really help! They’re my main source of income these days. THANK YOU for your support!

On May 21, 2014 at 6:30pm, Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen will be shown at Drexel University in Philadelphia! I will be there the do a Q&A afterwards.

I will be hosting a five-day zazen retreat at Benediktushof in Germany (near Wurzburg) October 12-17, 2014. Contact Benediktushof directly to ask about registration.


Sometimes a movie is made to tour.

Are you interested in seeing HARDCORE ZEN with your local community? Would you like Brad Warner to speak at your university, meditation group, or personal guests?

Now you can have both. The film will screen at a location at your discretion. Simply contact booking@bradwarnershardcorezen.com with the following specifics: your location, contact info, and potential date for the event.



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152 Responses

Page 2 of 2
  1. boubi
    boubi May 22, 2014 at 4:42 am |

    The ‘yeah I’m just an asshole, deal with it’ attitude looks very much like a face-saving way to protect your hate-addiction.

    Could we consider, just for the sake of it, another statement of the kind

    “yeah I’m just a Zen Master, deal with it”?

    Would ya?

  2. boubi
    boubi May 22, 2014 at 4:59 am |

    Anyhow let’s talk about serious things.

    After a few bongs, me boubi supreme dork master and a few acolytes decided to open a channel on Youtube.

    Were’s still in the haze (this kush is good, man) about the name, but it will be about stoner’s interests.

    We’ll put a camera in front of the couch and have deep discussions about very relevant issues.

    The first installement is full of deep thoughts like “is there still intelligent life on earth?”, followed by “tin foil caps are still effective?”, “are you scared of anal probes?”, “dating a stoner” and here we will flash our cellphone number waiting for stunning Bay Watch gals calling us (you know we are on Youtube, we are getting famous, we are easy, just caaaalll blink blink ).

    We garantee hours of senseless rambling about big brained matters and anything else and if we doze off or get stuck on the loo reading comix just ring us, we’ll wake up and continue the show!

    You can also call to tell us how good we are, send a pizza, or ask our expert on important matters, we’ll be there for you.

    We’ll open a site and ask for donations, sorry we get the munchies, and our performance is valuable to the advance of the stoner era.

    We’ll invite some kids doing some street dance, the pizza guy read some Hume book and would be glad to talk about filizofy/philo-zopi whatever, it seem mind bogling.

    So just get tuned, order a pizza and light up !

    Disclaimer :
    Btw we are in Colorado in case someone having the idea of busting the door and riding our stash

  3. boubi
    boubi May 22, 2014 at 5:12 am |

    So everybody let’s carry on with our lives.

    The guy (Brad) is having a hard moment due to what a carefull reader of his blog can easily understand.

    His money bubble burst and he is confronted to real reality and to the fact to put in practice the “revelations” he had while in the bubble/monastry.

    I whish him (you) all the best.

    Go and see the guy (the “jerk”), tell him the truth, really see that you both are the same (as Dogen said and you unserstood), offer him your book about god and offer to show him how he could experience divinity.

    From now on i’ll refrain to say anything more about this “accident” of your.

    boubi the supreme dork stoner master, or was it a butterfly dreming f being a stoner on the couch ? fuck whatever, bro where’s the lighter?

  4. boubi
    boubi May 22, 2014 at 5:13 am |

    i’ll refrain to say SHOULD be i’ll refrain from say

    sorry this stuff is hitting strong

    1. Pigeon Pigeon
      Pigeon Pigeon May 22, 2014 at 7:32 am |

      Hope you enjoy your marijuana, boubi. Don’t forget though, that this has the effect of temporarily lowering the levels of dopamine you produce, and during withdrawal this will cause the conditions for excessive anger.

      Some people have constantly low dopamine levels and take drugs regularly to top themselves up, which can be the cause of many a nightmare when resistance has maxed out or there is an attempt to get clean.

      Take care.

      1. boubi
        boubi May 22, 2014 at 7:56 am |

        Dopamine withdrawal you say?

        What? Are you from some pharmaceutical company, CIA, fun repression brotherhood?

        an overwhelming amount of evidence now confirms that THC — one of the cannabinoids found in marijuana — does in fact cause a temporary increase in dopamine levels.

        Are you selling alcool by any chance?

        1. Pigeon Pigeon
          Pigeon Pigeon May 22, 2014 at 8:17 am |

          Read the paragraph below on withdrawal!

          If you use marijuana regularly, then less than 24hours later you will notice the effects of withdrawal. The temporarily high dopamine levels caused by the drug will drop and you will experience the effects of much lower dopamine levels. If you are a person who regularly takes drugs to (normally unconsciously, of course) top up your dopamine levels due to a persistently low level, then the result, even a day later can be quite severe, especially if triggered by unforeseen events that create a sudden stress and if there are also persistent stresses and pressures you are under, for which the drug is being used as self-medication for.

          Research has shown that abuse (covert or otherwise) as a child can cause a persistently low level of dopamine into adulthood. I imagine that protracted or deep traumas as an adult could effect the same.

  5. Pigeon Pigeon
    Pigeon Pigeon May 22, 2014 at 7:14 am |

    I think the only useful hypothetical distinction anyone can make on this is between the actions of one whose life practice involves taking a good look at who and what they are and between what they would have done without that practice.

    There is no need to pick a tradition or to speculate about how different utterances by some well-known practitioner/teacher squares up to one’s (mis)readings of his/her various utterances and/or the teachings of their tradition.

    However, if one wants to learn something about oneself or about a tradition/practice from the expressions of someone who has a substantial working knowledge of that tradition/practice, and how it becomes refracted in life experiences, then perhaps it would be wise to refrain from knee-jerk judgements.

    I’m not sure where the sort of ‘deep moments’ or insights you are talking about are really that relevant here. Everyone has experienced or heard of something they feel is wrong and everyone has experienced allowing their own personal shit to pollute their reactions and responses during an event and how it effects them and their thoughts/words/actions after the event.

    – “going round with a busted credit card” – human

    – “being late” – human
    – “putting pressure on others for not doing their duty” – when? in what manner? Making a considered complaint over a perceived grievance is surely better than not and the more people who do it the better. Or are Buddhist teachers with a little fame exempt from being socially engaged? And if some popularity results in extra pressure put on the company, then thank god for that. If the employers don’t have decent processes and act inhumanely to the guy and sack him, then perhaps a whole lot of folk should be engaged with that sort of thing too.

    – “telling lies about a funeral” – really? ever heard of a white lie? What’s more important: doing one’s best to fulfill a commitment that other people depend on you for and you care about quite a bit, or NOT feeding an upset person something that might help him get over whatever bug he’s got up his butt (and who’s most likely and very humanly got some negative fiction of his own he’s sucking on)?

    This is the real messy world we talking about. What happened to considering one of the main themes of Brad’s blog: that ‘spiritual’ teachers can be jerks, just like you and me, and if we keep this in mind we’re in a better position to help ourselves. And, while everyone is human, some people have taken considerable steps to realize what this means and do their best to minimize the damage they cause.

    It seems to me there are to main ways one can idealise a teacher, the second being very much like inverse-snobbery. Both set up standards that are way too high, but the second disguises itself in tough-talk and other cognates to white-knighting.

    I’m grateful to Brad for being very open in his blogs and allowing himself to be vulnerable to the pot-shots of those who sometimes or persistently choose misinterpret this as though he were some lame horse that needed putting down.

    1. Pigeon Pigeon
      Pigeon Pigeon May 22, 2014 at 7:16 am |

      Could we consider, just for the sake of it, another statement of the kind

      “yeah I’m just a Zen Master, deal with it”?

      I think my response above covers that terrain.

    2. Alan Sailer
      Alan Sailer May 22, 2014 at 10:07 am |

      Pigeon Pigeon,

      I enjoyed reading your comments. And I do agree with what you said.

      It is off-putting to see how much advice Brad gets on how he should live his life.


  6. boubi
    boubi May 22, 2014 at 7:59 am |

    No comments due to my master dork promice … promisse … heeeem promise should do the work

    1. Pigeon Pigeon
      Pigeon Pigeon May 22, 2014 at 8:04 am |

      Exercising the day after marijuana usage should help to counter some of the low dopamine levels and prevent potential anger flare ups.

      1. boubi
        boubi May 22, 2014 at 8:17 am |

        Physical exercice? I sit on my ass. Unconditionally at that!

        Look, let me explain, me and my buddies here are taking part in a top secret project study about space travel. How human adapt to particular conditions. We moved into our neighbour atomic bunker and the company (shhht we can`t write its full name) is lowering buckets of weed and munchies and we are sending up metabolites (it looks like shit to us) they use for analyses and testing some new green recycling technologies. Actually after a few buckets the munchies came in pellets with a weird smell we coudn`t identify very well.

        So you see it`s serious!

        1. Pigeon Pigeon
          Pigeon Pigeon May 22, 2014 at 8:21 am |

          I get it. I’ve done my fair share of weed in the past. Like I said, enjoy, but take care of cause and effect too!

  7. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel May 22, 2014 at 8:00 am |

    I quite agree

    1. boubi
      boubi May 22, 2014 at 8:17 am |

      Me too!

  8. boubi
    boubi May 22, 2014 at 8:07 am |

    High times, low times
    & World Domination Tour ’09

    But we can talk of other wisedom related issues (provided we don`t talk about the issue of the car rental)

    If we can learn something from doctor Spock why not from a brain busted stoner?
    as in the same site @ book-tour-and-whats-your-new-book-about.html

    1. Pigeon Pigeon
      Pigeon Pigeon May 22, 2014 at 8:19 am |

      I responded to you dopamine link above, boubi.

  9. Harlan
    Harlan May 22, 2014 at 9:04 am |

    You know you’re trippin boubi right? You got a bug up your ass for something that don’t have nuthin to do with the Philadelphia Affair. Because when it comes right down to it nobody knows what happened that fateful day, that day that will live in infamy, that day when Brad realized he might not make it to the mountaintop. No one knows what the fuck happened. Not the even the Enterprise guy or Brad. Certainly not you or me. Only Pigeon knows for sure.

  10. Pigeon Pigeon
    Pigeon Pigeon May 22, 2014 at 9:43 am |

    Since when was applying Pigeon Pigeon’s (that’s two Pigeon’s, thank you) own – albeit limited and verbose – critical faculties to the issues tantamount to knowing for sure? Reifying not-knowing can be off the mark too, in my humblest opinion. And in some cases can be used as a way to absolve oneself from social engagement or disparage those who do.

    1. Pigeon Pigeon
      Pigeon Pigeon May 22, 2014 at 9:48 am |

      typo: or to disparage those who are engaging.

  11. Harlan
    Harlan May 22, 2014 at 10:14 am |

    Sorry Pigeon Pigeon. The last sentence was a thoughtless add-on to a more or less thoughtless post. My apologies.

  12. Pigeon Pigeon
    Pigeon Pigeon May 22, 2014 at 10:42 am |

    That’s okay Harlan. I know I can be an irritant, which is why, after this thread ends, I’m going to finish off these two birds and continue my rehabilitation into the world.

  13. Harlan
    Harlan May 22, 2014 at 10:47 am |

    Good idea. I should do the same. Not finish off the two birds but maybe take up photography or something.

  14. Pigeon Pigeon
    Pigeon Pigeon May 22, 2014 at 10:51 am |

    btw, boubi, I do hope you read my response above at 8:17 am, on the dopamine thing. There’s more to it than just the dopamine thing, of course. But I think it’s worth keeping this sort of thing in mind. I don’t know you, but one also never knows too what good might come of a bit of info on such stuff. I could have done with it a few years back.

    1. Fred
      Fred May 22, 2014 at 12:06 pm |

      Even Zen Master’s living in the real world can have anger.

      It’s better to own the anger, rather than split hairs over some definition
      of anger.

      No big deal.

  15. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel May 22, 2014 at 1:43 pm |

    I’ve always had anger issues. I was quite easily targetted at elementary school just because of that. The enlightening came, as I said before, when I was screaming at the traffic and a voice asked me if that screaming helped with anything.

    I know very well it is of no use to try and repress anger when it comes. It is much more useful to learn to assess it, and decide that it’s not worth it. Because of all this, I relate very closely to Brad’s post. I quite understand that being practical with it is not at all the same as being verbose and theoretical about it.

  16. boubi
    boubi May 22, 2014 at 2:13 pm |

    So late news from space.

    It`s official we`re in orbit, methaphysically.

    They brought in a new strain they call it the Andromeda strain. Man, we`re spaced out.

    Dork 2 J here started to talk to the hamsters … they seem to listen to him, he tried with the birds, same thing, the chirping creatures came around him, sweet, until the men in black suit brought us back into the atomic shelter i told you about.

    Now they reduced the amount of food pellets and gave us some dirt and seed of that strain, never saw such a kind of weed!

    M. (cannot tell his real name) aka dork 3 became spiritual, you know, we are all one, there`s no difference between us and plants and animals, were`re all made of the same star`s stuff … he started to ramble about galaxies, multiverses, dark energy, started to place call to Control Center telling them where to look for the next gamma ray burst or supernova or whatever they are talking about.

    Me being grumpier, as any supreme dork should be, i started to fell uneasy in the stomach, as when you eat the hamburger with the stirofoam box … you know, stoned, wolfing down anything you can put your hands on. So, when i had more difficult moments and felt something churning inside things started to fall from the table, chairs moving on their own and so on.

    We all have startling lucid dreams and we realize there is no difference from the consciousness point of view between the more after some reading of 18th century english philosophers.

    More next orbit, we are loosing signal …

    1. boubi
      boubi May 22, 2014 at 4:29 pm |

      Now those 18th century brits are potent stuff, fuck!

      Dork 3 the more spiritual of us started to have such powerful dreams that his lucid dreams were visible to everybody, were we inside the same dream or were we awake seeing his production from outside?
      Whatever, Central Control sent down some techies to change the CCD cameras and installed some infrared, UV and spectroneutronos x-shit sensors.

      They kept recording dork 3 dreams, then dork 2 and me learned how to join the party … it’s a mess 24-7 shooting bullshit nonstop, WOW. Awake or “sleeping” we are pushing the envelope of human knowledge “faster than light”.

      Last week dork 2, you know the “universal morron”, had a crazy laughing, he actually started to appear in different places of the shelter, you know like in the disco with the strobe lights on, yeah but there were no strobe lights, the idiot is just zapping from place to place. I swear, the stuff they give us is potent. I’ve overheard something about another test they did in Japan with a guy called Akira, it went bad, didn`t hear anything more about.

      Me? Just smoking? No! I started to juggle, but with my hands in the pockets, it’s cool, but you know what, it’s not sooo interesting in the end. After a while you say “so what”, Ok you don’t need to stand up to go to the fridge, you make jokes “it was not me” and nobody can say he actualy saw me doing some shit … but in the end it gets boring.

      But we are advancing scence big way, we found out that an aluminium colander works better than a tin foil hat, we are going to patent it, anybody knows a good patent lawyer

      1. boubi
        boubi May 22, 2014 at 5:39 pm |

        Keeping the good shit coming bros ! Stay tuned for the last updates …. at the last bip it’s exactly your local time bip bip bip !

        So, this mind blowing stuff keeps coming by the bucket, Central Control seems rather satisfied with our progress, they are sending some concentrated extract of that Andromeda strain, they call it “the spice”, man it`s outwordly, we have no other word.

        Things are getting a bit confused down here, oh, don`t take me (?) wrong we are well beyond stoner melting point … i don’t know how to say it but it’s like we are no more “us”. … It’s weird, in the beginning we started to answer each other’s questions or joke … right before the other one opened his mouth, then things got more complicated, or rather simpler in a way. Right now i, right, “i” (?) am not so sure if the writer is dork 2, 3 or “me”, it doesn’t seem to matter very much. It the beginning we were simply exilarated, just laughing our heads out, we didn’t think it was possible. Btw our personal weirdness got shared, even shared isn’t very precise when you share with yourself ! We became a bunch of turbulent demented being zapping around (they failed in containing us in the shelter) to place we don’t even have a clue where they are, gulping spice, and laughing like a bunch of idiots.

        But man, what a beauty !

        Guys, maybe it’s the last time i/we write, we feel pulled to some love that makes the sun and all the stars go round.

        Be good

  17. boubi
    boubi May 22, 2014 at 2:20 pm |

    De Monasterio

    1. Fred
      Fred May 22, 2014 at 2:44 pm |

      “Sam Harris is the MAITREYA” , NOT.

      If Sam Harris was a maitreya, he would see the long lines of indra’s web flowing
      from the source in many ways,

      and his blowhard ego would not attempt to foist his rigid conceptualization upon
      the spiritual consumer.

  18. senorchupacabra
    senorchupacabra May 22, 2014 at 3:33 pm |

    “Jesus Fucking Christ.”

    —Me mumbling under my breath as I read the comments section to this post.

    1. boubi
      boubi May 22, 2014 at 4:11 pm |

      Right, sweet sweet Jesus !

  19. boubi
    boubi May 22, 2014 at 4:07 pm |

    De Monasterio

    What`s the function of a monastery?

    It’s to separate the subject from the external/undesirable environemental inputs in order to perform some activity.

    This function can be executed by a building, secluded location, parents, mother`s wombs, money, a state of mind, the capacity to ignore external or “worldly” stimulations/inputs.

    It’s in the best case a training ground. IMO, yogis are building their own portable monastry in vanquishing unwanted inputs like hunger, thirst, cold, heat, breath, heart beat etc, they thus totally change the perceived world (they destroy the world), the totality of phoenomena, being able to focus on what they feel like to.

    Chan, to my limited knowledge, wants to be in the world, that`s why the last image of the ox quest serie is a guy just walking to the market.

    While Yoga represents a inhuman victory over oneself, Chan wanting to stay on the middle way offers other challenges, no less difficult.

    Bringing “it” to everyday life, living “it” and forgetting to be living “it”.
    Chan doesn’t want to life in a bubble, in the wombs, however beautiful and serene it can be.
    Living it in every day life is the real challenge, since traditions/experiences have been passed along from generation to generation oraly and then written it has been known, finding it again isn`t the hardest part. It’s like swimming you have to practice.

    A great master said to his valuable pupil during the transmissin of dharma, you built a knife, now you have to sharpen it.

    Having something under our nose every day dulls our perception of what is there, that`s why i think that many truth from our own civilisation have been neglected in favor of more exotic revelations, which don’t hold much more truth.

    γνῶθι σεαυτόν being one of those, if not the one.

    1. Fred
      Fred May 22, 2014 at 4:49 pm |

      “It’s in the best case a training ground. IMO, yogis are building their own portable monastry in vanquishing unwanted inputs like hunger, thirst, cold, heat, breath, heart beat etc, they thus totally change the perceived world (they destroy the world), the totality of phoenomena, being able to focus on what they feel like to.”

      That is Carlos Castaneda’s description of what a shaman does, the totality of the
      perceived world being the tonal and the world opening to the shaman being the

      In Zen there is no one to experience the ” focus on what they feel like to “.

      1. boubi
        boubi May 22, 2014 at 5:20 pm |

        Sweet sweet Jesus !

        THIS is crap ! The guy just collected from every tradition and made some best sellers.

        A REAL “snake oil” dealer HA HA HA !

      2. boubi
        boubi May 22, 2014 at 5:20 pm |

        And there`s none home neither …

      3. Mumbles
        Mumbles May 22, 2014 at 5:54 pm |

        I read that as implying that the yogi has the option of choosing the relative or the absolute at will, just like you or I or anyone else do, Fred, when we call ourselves Fred or mumbles and post on this comment thread, or not.

        They have the option of destroying or creating worlds if they feel like it, or abiding in the nagual. Or both at once, or neither.

        1. Fred
          Fred May 22, 2014 at 6:27 pm |

          Yes John, very nicely explained.

    2. Shodo
      Shodo June 1, 2014 at 9:10 am |

      Spoken like someone who never spent a day in a monastery boubi… 😉

  20. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon May 22, 2014 at 4:41 pm |

    I don’t remember hearing about this interview.

  21. Jason
    Jason May 22, 2014 at 10:59 pm |

    And Fred said: “Even Zen Master’s living in the real world can have anger.

    It’s better to own the anger, rather than split hairs over some definition
    of anger.

    No big deal.”

    Fred, I didn’t want to be mistaken for one of the people who are really crawling up Brad’s ass about this (well, really, there’s seems to be only one person getting truly finger-pointy and mean about it–I don’t want to name any names, so let’s just call it “boubi”), so I was ready to write a rather lengthy clarification of my position on this relatively insignificant moment in someone else’s life. But you’ve summed it up with a haiku-like simplicity that I can only dream of someday attaining.

    I liked Brad’s first post about this as it seemed to be saying “Yeah, I still get pissed off sometimes even though I’m an alleged ‘Zen Master.’ So what?” That I can related to and appreciate. The second post with it’s parsing of words and disecting the meaning of the word “anger” until he’s kinda/sorta implying that the feeling he felt during an irritating customer service exchange wasn’t really anger, but was more akin to the feeling that made Martin Luther King stand up and lead the civil rights movement–that just seems like an overly complicated attempt at justifying an otherwise understandable response to a frustrating tangle of karmic circumstance.

    But really I’ve just added unnecessary words to what you just said. I don’t mean to swing from your dick, but I can only hope to someday tame my compulsive explication so I can nail it in a few simple words like you did here.

  22. Pigeon Pigeon
    Pigeon Pigeon May 23, 2014 at 12:36 am |

    If you pay attention to your anger you will be able to distinguish between the two types.

    This is a fact of my experience.

    An example: If you pay attention to your tasting you might find that the experience of the flavour dissolves. What this indicates is neither splitting hairs, nor parsing, which have more to do with representing experiences in thought and language.

    It is a truism to talk about ‘owning one’s anger. Truisms are easy to sloganise in succinct statements. And besides, Fred is very accomplished at the the sort of splitting of hairs over very similar subjects, when he feels it is appropriate. He described mumbles’ words (@5.54pm) as ‘very nicely explained’, rather than splitting hairs. So perhaps we should take all such statements as provisional, rather than dismissing or accepting too quickly descriptions of experience or modes of expression.

    Robert Aitken is with Brad on this one:


    When the community was discussing ethics after zazen one evening, Black Bear remarked, “I have a hard time dealing with my anger.”

    Raven said, “Check it out afterward.”

    Black Bear said, “What good will that do?”

    Raven said, “It might have been Great Bear’s anger.”

    Zen Master Raven (Robert Aitken)

    When I read the above a few years back, I found it related very much to my own experience, and helped me to have a little more confidence in discerning the aspects of my anger that helped and those that didn’t.

    And besides, our words won’t stop a mother from protecting her child aggressively against an abusive father. But a teaching, in words, might help her a little to deal with a very messy and potentially destructive situation with some confidence and clarity and without making it worse.

    And as a side note: You are not Fred, and your linguistic impulses might come from a very worthwhile place. So if Fred’s mode of expression has something to it:

    Even Zen Master’s living in the real world write lengthy clarifications.

    It’s better to own your linguistic impulses, rather than split hairs over some
    mode of human expression

    No big deal.

    1. Pigeon Pigeon
      Pigeon Pigeon May 23, 2014 at 12:42 am |

      The above was to Jason, btw.

    2. Jason
      Jason May 23, 2014 at 11:32 am |

      Robert Aitken is one of my teacher’s teachers, and I respect him, but to be brutally honest, he often comes off a bit pompous in my eyes. I’m not really surprised to hear that he imagines his anger to be “Great Bear’s anger.” But the same belief appears to be held by Pat Robertson, Bill O’Reilly and Osama bin Laden for that matter.

      I assume anger is a biologically hardwired response to environmental threats. These days though, most of the threats we percieve aren’t predators or invaders (at least in my meighborhood), they’re threats to our idea of ourselves. When there’s a sense of loss of control, Mr. Snarly comes out to regain that control.

      It’s been a fact of *my* experience that when we experience the fear that turns into anger, we pretty much immediately construct a dramatic narrative starring us as the heroic agent of Great Bear, and the other aggrieved party as just an angry asshole who’s somehow not an agent of Great Bear and who’s angry for the wrong reasons, as opposed to we who are angry for the right reasons. Of course, the truth is that all anger is Great Bear’s anger because everything is Great Bear’s everything, so I don’t begrudge anyone for getting pissed. My issue is with the belief in the drama, which, generally speaking, just prolongs the anger. I prefer just admitting to the anger and paying attention to it. In my case that does tend to dissolve it (eventually) the way you’ve discribed flavor dissolving, though anger is a bit more persistant than flavor.

      If, in your case, anger doesn’t dissolve, but divides into justified and unjustified anger when you pay attention to it, I’d suggest diving deeper, to the place where that distinction/judgment comes from, and staring at THAT until it dissolves like the flavor of a raisin in your mouth. Don’t worry, it’ll come back.

      Also, you needn’t be concerned about me trying to become Fred. I have my own well-established way of communicating. I just have great admiration for those who can do it simply.

  23. Pigeon Pigeon
    Pigeon Pigeon May 23, 2014 at 3:07 am |


    I can call each little unique fiery snowflake…Anger.

    Before I stop leaving my footprints in the snow, I would just like to say how much I’ve appreciated and learned from your contributions, Alan. In contrast to something you said about another comments section contributor awhile back, you strike me as just the sort of person I’d like to bump into in the real world. Which is more than I can say about myself, sometimes.

    1. Alan Sailer
      Alan Sailer May 23, 2014 at 12:53 pm |

      Pigeon Pigeon,

      A very lovely compliment. Despite my congenital ability to take a compliment (just this once) I’ll take it.

      David Foster Wallace once wrote something to the effect that self-deprecation is a defense mechanism designed so as to beat everyone else to the punch.

      In my case, that is painfully true.


  24. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel May 23, 2014 at 4:34 am |

    There are indeed some few but noteworthy people contributing to those comments whom we’d like to meet in the real world sometimes. I quite appreciated your take, Pigeon Pigeon.

    1. Fred
      Fred May 23, 2014 at 5:24 am |

      Yes Andy, I’m a provisional hair splitter.

      I just thought that it was a beautiful piece of prose explaining the nuances of
      “enlightenment” based on experience, although John would say there is no

      1. Pigeon Pigeon
        Pigeon Pigeon May 23, 2014 at 9:00 am |

        I have no problem with hairsplitters or parsers Fred (how could I!).

        Andy’s been put out to pasture. He was never into threeways. This is not a disguise (how could it be!), but a last flight on the wings of Mark’s good will on a subject close to my scars.

        My time on here has coincided with an immensely challenging time that is now bearing some fresh buds, and this space has been one of a few distracting outlets and a place to focus my mind, for which I’m very grateful.

        It’s been surprising to me how fond I’ve become of these comment section voices.

        Enjoy the foaming breakers, Fred.

    2. Fred
      Fred May 23, 2014 at 5:26 am |

      Michel, Pigeon Pigeon is in England. Take the Chunnel. He’s into 3 ways, so
      bring some lube.

      1. Fred
        Fred May 23, 2014 at 9:26 am |

        I just laid in a hospital bed with a broken and dislocated ankle for 8 days
        ( except for one pass ). There wasn’t much to do, other than focus on the ceiling.

        I have yet to feel anger since being home.

        Anger is just a bad habit. An angry self is created/recreated by situational
        conditioned reflexes, but it doesn’t have to be.

        1. Pigeon Pigeon
          Pigeon Pigeon May 23, 2014 at 9:37 am |
  25. Pigeon Pigeon
    Pigeon Pigeon May 23, 2014 at 9:41 am |

    and cheers to the yank buddhas mark & mumbles

    Sweet is the melody, so hard to come by.
    It’s so hard to make every note bend just right.
    You lay down the hours and leave not one trace,
    But a tune for the dancing is there in it’s place.


  26. Leah
    Leah May 23, 2014 at 1:39 pm |

    After reading the comments that came after the last one I posted, here’s what I’m thinking.

    Part of what annoys me (that’s anger, albeit on a tiny scale), is that I want Brad to write the way I (usually) write and the way I teach writing: with a main point aka a thesis statement. Which is completely silly, of course, and my own problem. But I keep thinking “Oh J– F-ing C–, Brad, you majored in English, didn’t you? Didn’t you ever learn a freakin 5-point essay? This has no order and doesn’t make any sense. Pffft.”

    Well, I don’t think I’ve thought JFC in this case. That’s pretty strong.

    But here’s my main point: maybe Brad intentionally writes confusing stuff to make people think, even if it means they end up thinking he’s a douchebag, at least for a day or so. Sort of koan-like, though I’m pretty sure (I think) I’ve read that Brad isn’t much for koans.

    If he wrote direct stuff like “Two definitions of anger illustrated by my experience with a car rental employee” *yawn* he wouldn’t have a zillion people reacting (emotions triggered) to what he wrote. And they wouldn’t be thinking, and they wouldn’t be coming up with their own truths or understanding.

    But to argue my own point, it does seem like Brad had a point, since he thanked someone for getting it. (cracking up here 😀

    That said, understanding and dealing with anger has been a big part of my practice for a long time (coming from a very angry family), not only the anger in myself but also in others and dealing with it (whatever the source) or not dealing with it if it’s too much for me. And mainly I follow TNH, who is (last I read) not Brad’s favorite dude. But that’s why I found these two posts so interesting.

    And after writing that, it seems completely irrelevant and inconsequential (this is Brad’s blog, after all) because I have my own opinions on the matter, and that’s why I ended my previous comment with “whatever” (which someone made note of). For me, it’s just all about knowing our anger and making choices in how we express it. Or not. Also for me, compassion and empathy are always what I dig down deep for (or allow to surface), angry or not. That’s the only thing that I know is always there though anger can dissipate. And that takes a lifetime of practice.

    1. Alan Sailer
      Alan Sailer May 23, 2014 at 3:11 pm |


      Just a few “answers” to some of your “questions”. *

      Brad’s teacher was a back to basic’s type guy, he tended to eliminate most of the ceremony of zen and stuck with just zazen and Dogen. His background was Soto, the Rinzai sect deals with koans.

      So no koans from Brad (yet).

      I don’t recall Brad expressing a dislike for Thích Nhất Hạnh, but it is possible.

      Brad has made it clear that he teaches his particular style of zen because he thinks that it is the best, not because he thinks all the other approaches suck.

      And the point of his anger post it seemed pretty clear to me. To expect that zen practice will purify you and get rid of all your “negative” behavior is delusional.

      In fact, those expectations are the problem itself.


      * Perhaps I’m being presumptuous trying and address your post. My only excuse is that I have spent a fair amount of time in his orbit (books/blog/in-person) so I am getting some idea where he is coming from.

      1. Leah
        Leah May 23, 2014 at 5:20 pm |

        Thanks Alan,

        I’ve read all of Brad’s books (though I skipped over a part in one that was just way TMI for me ;), and I’ve been following here on and off for a few years (though rarely commenting), so I have a fair idea of where he’s at. (Cherry Hill NJ re latest post lol I just moved from there.). Which is cool. And which is why I pop in from time to time when I need a dose of annoyance. Gets a person thinking. I saw this one promoted on Facebook.

        There was a big uproar here awhile back about TNH. Here it is: http://hardcorezen.info/who-is-thich-naht-hanh/163

        I think the discussion was similar to the one here: Did Brad actually say he dislikes TNH? And the angry townfolk pressed in on him like vultures, stones in hands. I think his point was that he wasn’t keen on the whole TNH cult following sort of thing (which, if I understood him correctly, I agree with. I’m not a very good “fan” or “follower” of anyone. Not even rock stars :).

        Yeah, no koans from Mr. Soto Brad. But I think I recall him mentioning why he doesn’t much like them. Or something. I don’t much like them either though I went through a bunch at a center that combined Sojo and Rinzai (White Plum lineage).

        “To expect that zen practice will purify you and get rid of all your “negative” behavior is delusional. ”

        I didn’t get that out of the post at all (though it fits with Brad’s attitude toward things). Maybe that’s because I already know that. And that’s why I put particular emphasis on certain practices (or works in progress) in my own overall general practice beyond sitting. But this is also another reason why I’ve said “whatever.” Usually if I’m not getting the point of someone’s post whatever, it only means that I’m not the intended or ideal audience.

        Sorry to talk about you in the 3rd person, Brad, if you’re reading 🙂

        Nah you’re not being presumptuous. I did say I’m only an occasional visitor.

        Cheers 🙂

  27. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer May 23, 2014 at 7:42 pm |


    “Yeah, no koans from Mr. Soto Brad”.

    I’d guess that he has a mistrust of the whole sudden enlightenment concept. Or enlightenment at all…which from my limited perspective I can see good reasons for.

    Although the number of Rinzai students actually going insane after solving a koan seems to be pretty small. 🙂

    “I didn’t get that out of the post at all (though it fits with Brad’s attitude toward things)”.

    Judging from the kerfuffle over Brad’s last two posts, a lot of people got some pretty interesting things out of it. My takeaway was mine only, your results should vary.

    Nice having a conversation. Sorry that I type so slowly (15 minutes for the above) so please excuse the brevity. In person I’m actually fairly wordy.


    1. Leah
      Leah May 23, 2014 at 9:01 pm |

      And then–what we “get out of” something and what is actually written or clearly referenced are two different things. This would be a J F–ing C situation for me in classrooms of freshman lit students lmao (I don’t teach in classrooms anymore, but I used to, and geez do they get crazy stuff out of things. But so did I at one time).

      I generally go with literal readings, common definitions, and logic, e.g. JF–ingC is an epithet used to express or convey some level of anger.

      I’d have to re-read the whole thing to see if that bit you mentioned–“To expect that zen practice will purify you and get rid of all your “negative” behavior is delusional”–is in there somewhere. But that goes back to my original frustration: what is this about? 😀

      On the other hand, yes, these two posts illustrate (even if not stating outright) Brad’s position (what I know of it–can’t go round assuming stuff) on that.

      And I’m glad he has that attitude or (as you wrote) ” a mistrust of the whole sudden enlightenment concept. Or enlightenment at all.” From what I have read, yeah, that’s the thing. And I like that; I like what he’s doing in general (with that as the backdrop) even if I take issue with some of his stuff.

      I roll my eyes at the idea of suddenly getting enlightened (if ever, whatever that is anyway) though I think we can become more aware, more conscious, less reactive, and so on.

      Yes, nice to converse. Brevity is good 🙂

  28. Randy
    Randy May 24, 2014 at 2:30 am |

    Hi, Jason, thanks for the response.

    I’m not really surprised to hear that he imagines his anger to be “Great Bear’s anger.” But the same belief appears to be held by Pat Robertson, Bill O’Reilly and Osama bin Laden for that matter.

    I wouldn’t know what those guys believe. But if they are constructing a self-serving narrative to justify what they do, then this is not what I was referring to. Robert Aitken’s pompousness doesn’t devalue his teachings.

    It’s been a fact of *my* experience that when we experience the fear that turns into anger, we pretty much immediately construct a dramatic narrative starring us as the heroic agent of Great Bear, and the other aggrieved party as just an angry asshole who’s somehow not an agent of Great Bear and who’s angry for the wrong reasons, as opposed to we who are angry for the right reasons.

    Yes, that would be the continuation of acting like an asshole by reframing a teaching to prop up one’s ego and justify being an asshole. It is my experience too that people do this. Again, this is not what I was referring to.

    My issue is with the belief in the drama, which, generally speaking, just prolongs the anger. I prefer just admitting to the anger and paying attention to it.

    Yes, I agree completely with that.

    In my case that does tend to dissolve it (eventually) the way you’ve discribed flavor dissolving, though anger is a bit more persistant than flavor.

    If, in your case, anger doesn’t dissolve, but divides into justified and unjustified anger when you pay attention to it, I’d suggest diving deeper, to the place where that distinction/judgment comes from, and staring at THAT until it dissolves like the flavor of a raisin in your mouth. Don’t worry, it’ll come back.

    I’m sorry for not being clear on the analogy I used, when talking about tasting and the flavour dissolving. It wasn’t my intention to compare flavour and anger both examples of alike phenomena we can pay attention to with the same results.

    The example of tasting was meant only to illustrate that we can experience phenomena as having, as it were, two-sides and relate that understanding, without it meaning that we are splitting hairs or bifurcating a new narrative. Anger and tasting are two distinct phenomena, with their own character. But as phenomena, and like a coin, we can discern the two sides without constructing two coins.

    So, my anger doesn’t divide into unjustified and justified. It seems that you are maintaining your own frame of understanding on this one. What I do is try to learn from my anger, whether having attempted to deal with it as it arose very much along the lines you have described or having failed to (“ Check it out afterward“). This goes too for the after effects of a situation, which may or may not include the anger arising again in some form. In this way I have gotten a little better at discerning such aspects as the traces of self-justification that pollute my anger and the distortive thoughts actions that this entails.

    In doing so, I have been better able to diminish the type of delusive ego-guff that reframes my anger as self-righteousness, and which only goes and makes the anger arise more destructively.

    Being self-righteous is the wrong’un here. But if we don’t learn to discern the aspects of good intention and compassion and necessity from the ego-pollutant, we are also allowing for more destructive anger to arise.

    This understanding has not come from a theoretical place, although the means by which I express it might be poorly refracted and filtered through the words and notions I have at hand.

    For a protracted period of my life I worked in inner-city schools as the go-to teacher for those on special measures, while at the same time struggling with a situation at home, in my new family, which I soon discovered had a tragic history of abuse that was on-going and centred on my wife. He two children were abusing her, the eldest we had diagnosed as having Narcissitic Personality disorder (covert) and the other had learned to copy his behaviour. Her father was most certainly a narcissist too and her mother a serial abuser. At this time, as luck or Karma would have it, I was covering long-term for a teacher who had had a nervous break-down. And no surprise there: not only were the kids brutally feral (chaos the norm, in which I was physically assaulted on a number of occasions), but the head of department was a nutter too, whose actions towards both students and staff were the most appalling I have ever experienced.

    In short, at home and at work, I was confronted daily with behaviours that couldn’t have been designed better to arouse outrage and anger and drain a human being in a position of responsibility, while also having to work most weekends until 2 am (sometimes through the night) and wake at 5.00 am. I was the sole income earner who took on my wife’s debt and work at that time was thin, so I couldn’t just up and leave my work.

    As my physical and mental health was worn away, so too were my tolerance levels and my normal way of coping with anger. I found often all my best intentions, my compassion, my empathy and my sense of responsibility seemingly working against me. It was through the necessity of seeing that I was adding to the problem, while at the same time apparantly doing my utmost not to
    that lead to some serious self-examination. And thankfully I started to see aspects of where I was reacting to fundamentally protect myself and where this was slipping into control issues, and where I was attempting to do my best based on love and compassion and where this was slipping into a self-righteous shit.

    As I type this, I can feel the old wounds reach up with their bony fingers! Ugh!

    If I hadn’t have gained much confidence from seeing and acknowledging the goodness within much of what moved me and seeing and acknowledging where, when and how this was being polluted by my egoistic habits, things could have… Well, I’ll leave it to you to imagine some awful outcomes, especially if you consider the neighbours from hell next door, who were drug dealers who stole and vandalised my car and smashed our windows in, and who wrongfully thought I’d ‘grassed them up to the police’ and threatened us to the point where we had to relocate.

    The last act I did as a teacher was to confront, calmly throughout, the head of department on some of the main things she was doing that were abusive to the students I taught and counter-productive and how she was undermining my ability to do my job. I was on a temporary contract. I was called by my agent that evening to say I was no longer needed. This crushed me and the demons set in.

    I’m still working through the rock and a hard place koan of that whole period.

    Great Bear’s anger (or whatever you want to call this focus) can be discerned and channeled. I don’t think I would be here typing now if I couldn’t. If the terms used to describe it lead one to think that this is just another way to bolster one’s self-righteousness, then we need to keep on working at finding a language that more skillfully deals with this. But I’m not sure if that’s possible because whatever way we try to express it is going to miss the mark and so can always be recycled into frames of thinking that see what I’m trying to express as more of the same ego-guff self-justification.

    As my understanding came through an extreme crisis and not as the result of long-term practice, I’m still trying to synthesize holistically the differing areas of my experience and understanding. But in the beginning, middle and end it all pivots, for me, on seeing what helps and what doesn’t before we apply our theoretical assumptions and speculations.

    1. Randy
      Randy May 24, 2014 at 2:32 am |

      Randy is Pigeon Pigeon, btw. I tried unsucessfully to delete my P P’s account and now it’s Randy!

    2. Jason
      Jason May 24, 2014 at 11:06 pm |

      Holy shit, dude.

      That sounds like an absolute nightmare. I’ve got my own stories of death, violence, poverty, alienation and helplessness that dug out my wellspring of rage, but I won’t go into that here. Suffice it to say that my perspective on these things also comes from experience, not so much from theories. I will say congratulations on making it through that situation without winding up either dead or in jail. I’m glad to see you here integrating your experience instead of getting sucked into the many opportunities for self-immolation your situation afforded you. I hope things are better now.

  29. Randy
    Randy May 24, 2014 at 2:49 am |

    typo: work most week days till 2.am not weekends (which were a whole other weirdness)

  30. Mumbles
    Mumbles July 31, 2014 at 4:56 am |

    This Daily Dharma quote seems germane to the topic (I know, I know, sorry!)

    Buddhism does not espouse any ascetic practice, nor does it hold a doctrine tending to a dualistic conception of existence which makes the flesh the source of evil and the spirit the foundation of everything good. The body as a material phenomenon has its limitations, as a living organism has its impulses, desires, passions, and moods; and there is nothing evil or wicked in it.

    – Soyen Shaku, The Middle Way

    Comments? Reactions?? Discourse???

  31. Mumbles
    Mumbles July 31, 2014 at 4:58 am |

    This Ocean of Dharma one also…

    Vulnerability can sometimes make you nervous. It is uncomfortable to feel so real, so you want to numb yourself. You look for some kind of anaesthetic, anything that will provide you with entertainment. Then you can forget the discomfort of reality. People don’t want to live with their basic rawness for even fifteen minutes.

    -Well known naughty Buddha, Chogyam Trungpa

Comments are closed.