requited injury

Continuing with the Bodhidharma Anthology by Jeffrey Broughton: Entering by practice.

This is the second way to enter the path.  Having established ourselves in the practice through principle, we have four ways to enter the path through practice.  The first is the practice of requiting injury or (Red Pine) suffering injustice.

I don’t like this practice.  It requires me to give up my self-rightness.  You read that correctly.  I am frequently right.  And when I’m not, I use all my left-brain power of data crunching to baffle-gab you with statistics so that you can’t deny that – at the very least – I am a formidable foe.  Some time back a friend sent me this amazing photo.  It pretty much sums up my reaction to being unjustly treated.  Don’t you just love it?  I know you’re not like that at all.  You probably meet injustice exactly the way Bodhidharma says you should, by letting go of  – unrequiting – the injury.

Actually, of the two translations, I do prefer Jeffrey Broughton’s version to Red Pine’s “suffering injustice.”  It feels less like I’d run the risk of being a doormat.  And in that little snippet is the truth of needing to defend madly against injustice (perceived or real).  There is a fear that if I let this one in, a legion of injustices will rampage through the door.

However, to face the injustice, to look deeply into its causes and conditions reveals things about me that I may not want to know.  Bodhidharma teaches that the cause of present injustice lies in the myriad unknowable actions I partook of in the past.  I’m not much of an adherent to the theory of direct karmic consequences but it is worth while reflecting on the ways in which I was one of the motley characters in the drama of my ego’s demise.  

The sutra says: “When you meet suffering, do not be sad.  Why?  Because you comprehend the underlying reason behind it.”

That opens up many doors of discernment, doesn’t it?  The underlying reasons can be as simple as blind dumb luck or being in the wrong place at the right time to learn a lesson about mindfulness.  In my case, it’s more likely being delusional about the level of power I hold that seems to confer a sense of invincibility or rightness to my actions.  

When (the above) thought arises, one is yoked with principle.

You remember “principle” from yesterday’s post: all beings are “identical to the True Nature” and we are blinded to this by the dust storms in our heart; that is supposed to mitigate our choices of the wrong-headed path.  However, it’s probably more likely that because we are blinded to the reality of our interconnections, we act in ways that create injustice and suffering.  Regardless, the arising of a perception of injustice is a powerful mindful bell of this reality of interconnectedness.  

The take-away lesson is that if I don’t learn this the good karma way, I will get a chance to learn it the tough karma way.

did you know you’ve already been chosen?

In response to yesterday’s post about hiding under a bushel and hoping to be chosen, my dear pal posted on the 108 Zen Books Facebook page, “perhaps you just haven’t realized that you have been chosen….”  I posted back a smart-ass comment but she’s right.  About the same time, I was reading a practice tip post by Ken McLeod about our reactions to adversity.  Some respond with gratitude and some with bitterness.  Why?, asked a reader.  McLeod’s response is here.  In essence he says it’s normal to react with “Why me?” which leads to all forms anxiety in the absence of a good enough answer.  In the end it comes down to accepting that you may never know why something happens to you.  Then he writes that through acceptance we find a way to be with the event with equanimity:

In the case of cruelty, you recognize that, however cruel and vicious your assailant, you understand, even though it makes no rational sense. Yet you have no sense of moral superiority or righteousness. 

The last sentence was a heart-opener.  I had shared with a colleague the frustration of seeing someone “get ahead” despite what I saw as all his shortcomings.  And digging into the raw truth I said, Why not me?  Somewhere along the back-and-forth of our conversation he used the word “jealous.”  While it didn’t feel right, it made me sit up and listen to my tone, examine my intention, and dig deeper.  Was I really jealous?  Was it about belonging in a place and space to which I was not entitled?  Was it greed?  Unearned assets?  I’m going to need a convoy of backhoes and bulldozers to get into this one!

When I tie in McLeod’s statement of being released from a sense of moral superiority and righteousness, I can get a glimmer of what might be happening.  True, I react strongly to injustice.  But is righteousness the appropriate response to injustice?  Is there even such a thing as a personal injustice or is that just a euphemism for self-centered?  Oh dear.  Pants down again!

Practice tells me that the path out of this is one of gratitude.  Accepting that there are many places I will never enter.  So being grateful for all the millions of hectares of space I can enter is important to see and practice seeing clearly.  I’ve already been chosen.  There is nothing more to add.  Nothing more to demand.  But it doesn’t stop there.  These friends, colleagues, and teaching moments are just ingredients for the meal.  They are wasted left in the fridge and no more nourishing than the poison of all hindrances.

Time to get cooking!