Showing posts from April, 2011


Two cocks were fighting and a monk asked:
"Why do they do this?"
and the master replied:
"It is because of you."

You are Hell, as Sartre would say. You disturb the placid stream of awareness that is my own limpid dream. You want me to see you but I’ll fight to the death for you to see me first.

But how quickly my rage melts into the mirror of your gentle consideration, reflecting back an image that is faithful to how I want to be seen. And then You are Heaven. To know me is to love me.

Attunement, acknowledgement, validation.

The Shaolin monks train to be impervious to You, to become like the well-trained cock whose eyes, according to Chuang Tzu, “do not even flicker when another bird crows. He stands immobile like a block of wood. He is a mature fighter. Other birds will take one look at him and run”.
In her book Start Where you Are, Pema Chodron recounts an incident when her desire to help a student was frustrated by his relapse into an addiction. She felt quite angry and disappointed about it and went to her teacher Chogyam Trungpa for advice. She quotes him as saying to her that, instead of having any expectations of people, she should “just be kind to them”. Her point is that helping behaviours, while appearing to be altruistic, are often “really about wanting success for ourselves” i.e. self-serving.

I have heard several Buddhist teachers echo this observation. They are pointing to a kind of moral activism latent in spiritual seekers, a covert form of intrusiveness motivated by the compulsion to rescue. Moral activism of this kind is neither loving nor compassionate. Rather, it is an attempt to exercise one’s power over a person or situation. And it is aggressive. By penetrating another’s space or violating his boundaries, separation is resisted rather than transcended.