in my anger
i became a ghost
here, in my love
i become human
Zen Parable of the Monk and the Samurai
A big, tough Samurai once went to see a little monk.
He barked, in a voice accustomed to instant obedience.
“Teach me about heaven and hell!”
The Monk looked up at the mighty warrior and replied with utter disdain,
“Teach you about heaven and hell? I couldn’t teach you about anything. You’re dumb. You’re dirty. You’re a disgrace, an embarrassment to the samurai class. Get out of my sight. I can’t stand you.”
The Samurai got furious. He shook, red in the face, speechless with rage. He pulled out his sword, and prepared to slay the Monk.
Looking straight into the Samurai’s eyes, the Monk said softly,
The Samurai froze, realizing the compassion of the Monk who had risked his life to show him hell! He put down his sword and fell to his knees, filled with gratitude.
The Monk said softly,
“And that’s heaven.”
anger in and of itself is just energy. like any other emotion. we are human and we experience anger. and when the sometimes intense, hot energy of anger is put into responsible use, it can be beneficial too! anger can be a powerful motivating force in our work to end injustice, for instance.
our experience of anger can also be an opportunity to investigate what gets under our skin and eats at us. what makes us lose our cool, how fast do we lose it? are we acting out of anger with our words and actions, adding to the harm and suffering in the world?
the celebrated Franciscan, Richard Rohr has said, “What we don’t transform, we transmit.” if we allow the experience of anger and the investigation of anger to transform us, we may find as the Samurai did in the Zen parable above, the healing energy of compassion as we connect to our own humanity and the humanity of others.
in this way, our experience of anger is just another teacher on the path to our own transforming and expanding heart, rather than the further transmission of aggression and suffering in this world.