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Buddhadharma : Summer 2010
65 summer 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly back: “Listen you! In a universe that wastes nothing, where does the butthead energy go when you lose your temper? What form does it change into?” In about a week she got her answer. One morning, this troubled monk we’ll call “Tirade-san”—towering over six feet, girthy, garbed in his turquoise stretch pants and a T-shirt with a picture of the cosmos and an arrow indicating You Are Here—exploded at the densu (monastery greeter) when she forgot to fetch a student from the airport. She in turn barfed a curdled remark on the tenzo (cook), after he misplaced her laminated chant sheets. The tenzo then went Vesuvius on the shoji (zendo mother) when she innocently swung through the kitchen door to brew some green tea. “Knock before entering!” the normally mild-mannered Pisces roared. “Have a fucking cow!” the grandmother of three and part- time caregiver blasted back. As shika (head monk), I felt like Bill Paxton in Twister, chasing the tornado of devastating emotion as it touched down from one end of camp to the next. Later, when I pushed through the sutra hall’s great double doors for the monks’ nightly meeting, I could feel T-san’s glare frying the hairs on the back of my neck. Turns out, I had forgot- ten to give the densu the flight details in the first place, which oversight set off the whole Great Hissy Fit chain reaction that day. T-san bent his body language my way, trying to get my eye, like a boxer intimidating an opponent before the opening bell. Unable to meet his gaze, I studied my toenails—which, to top off the shameful matter, were badly in need of trimming. Per meeting protocol we circled up, bowed, and took turns voicing the various petty and passive-aggressive concerns that arise when a group of people with anger issues decide to engage in a practice that deprives them of sleep, comfort, per- sonal space, protein, and even their hair. I nodded with great interest and jotted these concerns in my head monk notebook, where they languish unaddressed to this day. Meanwhile, Evil Monk would soon have the floor, and I imagined him with a little toothbrush mustache, howling in German. I would get a chance to rebut him because the head monk speaks last, and believe me, I had every word—every last syllable—planned. You can only take so much shit for so long! I trembled inside, my sphincter clenched about as tight as the hydraulics in those machines that make artificial diamonds. Finally, it was the man-ape’s turn to speak. I turned and bowed to him, and for the first time that day I looked him dead in the eyes—half expecting to see two hollow black holes, brimming with the souls of dead children. And wouldn’t you know it, he was smiling. He laughed lightly and bowed that mammoth wrecking ball atop his shoulders, indicating that he had nothing to say. In that moment the hate seed fell out of me, dead like a stone—petrified in its own uselessness like an insect fossilized in amber. He put his great meaty hand on my back on the way out of the room. That’s all it took for me to break Study with Our Faculty of Outstanding Leaders Angeles Arrien Ram Dass Norman Fischer Charles Garfield Frank Ostaseski Rachel Naomi Remen Ange Stephens Frances Va u ghan CULTIVATING P RESENCE PROFESSIONAL TRAINING Annual 6-day retreat on compassionate care of the dying. August 6–11, 2010. San Francisco Bay Area. Develop clinical competencies. Strengthen capacity for compassionate service. Enhance spiritual development. END-OF-LIFE PRACTITIONER PROGRAM Unique 9-month course offering profes- sional development, spiritual practice and innovative approaches. Six residential sessions. Next course starts January 2011. Information and application: www.mettainstitute.org 415 331-9600 ➤