Monday, November 28, 2016

Skillfully Responding to Aggression

     Fear, anger, & impatience to achieve a goal, which upon deep reflection is usually seen to be self-serving rather than altruistic, seem to cause violence.
     The ego is, according to Buddhist understanding, the very last thing we release before full awakening. The Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, Mandela, Martin-Luther King Jr. etc all seemed to have been consistently nonviolent, despite severe provocation. 

     A couple of old stories:

     “Once upon a time there was a conquering army going through villages, killing and pillaging as it went. The soldiers caused terror in the hearts of the people in the countryside, and were especially harsh with the monks they found in the monasteries, not only humiliating them but often subjecting them to terrible physical torture.
     There was one particularly harsh army captain who was infamous for his cruelty, and when he arrived in a certain town, he asked his adjutant for a report about the people who lived there. His inferior reported: ‘All the people are very frightened of you and are bowing down to you.’ This gave the captain great pleasure, of course. Then the adjutant continued, ‘In the local monastery all the monks have fled to the mountains in terror. Except for one monk.’
     Hearing this, the captain became furious and rushed to the monastery in search of the monk who dared defy him. When he pushed open the gates, there in the middle of the courtyard stood the monk, watching him without fear. The captain walked up to him and asked in his haughtiest voice, ‘Don’t you know who I am? Why, I could take my sword and run it through your belly without blinking an eye!’
     ‘And don’t you know who I am?’ replied the monk, gently. ‘I could have your sword run through my belly without blinking an eye.’ It is said that the captain, recognizing the greater truth of the moment, sheathed his sword, bowed, and left.”


     “A big burly samurai comes to the roshi (Zen priest) and says, ‘Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.’ 
     And the roshi looks him in the face and says; ‘Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you?’ The samurai starts to get purple in the face, his hair starts to stand up, but the roshi won't stop, he keeps saying, ‘A miserable worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?’ Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword, and he's just about to cut off the head of the roshi. Then the roshi says, ‘That's hell.’ 
     The samurai, who is in fact a sensitive person, instantly gets it, that he just created his own hell; he was deep in hell. It was black and hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment, so much so that he was going to kill this man. Tears fill his eyes and he starts to cry and he puts his palms together and the roshi says, ‘That's heaven’."

     A skillful, evolved person may be able to disarm an aggressor, causing minimal harm, and ultimately even bring about benefit. If indeed "I am that" - how else are we to respond? If your left arm went into a spasm, wouldn't your able right arm treat it kindly?
     Coming from deep inner peace, awareness, silence, stillness, timelessness, patience, equanimity, and compassion, will result in a radically, qualitatively distinct response to aggression than when we were reacting from a fearful self-preservation reflex against "the other".

     An exceptional true story about the wise use of true power:

Thus shall ye look on all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in the stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.
Gautama the Buddha

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