I was recently emailed by a student at the Kwan Um School of Zen, where I am a senior dharma teacher. His email was asking for advice on learning humility, service, and non-judgment. He outlined that he was struggling with anger and not passing judgment on others.
The funny thing is, he said he wanted to not judge others while judging himself so much!!!
Here is my response:
You said you don’t like it when someone bosses you around and you get angry. You say you judge others and feel you know more than they do. You say you want to learn humility, servitude, and non-judgment. You have been using loving-kindness practice but you have become frustrated with yourself because anger still appears.
I say this kindly because I do it too but:
You want to learn non-judgment by judging yourself!!! You want to learn not to think you are better than other people when one part of yourself thinks it is better than another part of yourself!!! You dislike your ego but then you trust your ego when it says it doesn’t like you!!! You do loving-kindness practice for the whole world but when you get angry you don’t do loving-kindness practice on yourself!!!
Me too!! Me too!! Aren’t we funny?! We are funny human beings and all human beings are funny just like us!!! We get angry and do silly things and we get frustrated with ourselves and then we go around bossing each other and we try so hard to be better than human but still we are human!!
How do you and I know that? Because we see it in ourselves. What else can we see? That as much as we condemn our own anger and judgment, it does not go away. Condemning ourselves does not fix ourselves. Condemning others does not fix them.
When you become angry at others for being bossy, your anger teaches you something about their experience. Oh! They can’t control their behavior just like I can’t control my anger. Hahaha. Aren’t we funny people!! We are funny people together. We are the same. If you observe your anger and judgment in this way and don’t attach to it, then it is your teacher and tells you how others are suffering.
But if you are attached to your judgment and anger, then it uses you and it can cause suffering for yourself and others.
You say that you have been using loving-kindness practice. Here is one way you can use anger and judgment instead of letting them use you: When anger and judgment arise, start saying your loving-kindness mantra. So it goes like this: “God, that guy is a total jerk. He is so bossy and dumb. Oh, I’m feeling angry. I’ll say my mantra. May my boss and I be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to us…etc.”
Don’t try to push the anger and judgment away. In fact, you can use loving-kindness practice on your anger too: “May my anger be well happy and peaceful.” Notice your breathing, on your in breath, feel your anger and judgment and watch it, on your out breath, say “May my boss and I and all other funny people be well happy and peaceful. May no harm come to us….” Then breathe in your anger. Then breathe out your loving-kindness mantra.
Here’s how we fix our anger. By putting it down. Putting down anger means not being angry at anger. Not being angry at anger means loving it. Loving it means accepting it. Accepting it means not judging it. Not judging it means not knowing about it. Don’t know.
Don’t know. What a relief to finally not know, which is the truth. At the deepest part of ourselves is the mystery of our existence which is not knowing. What a relief just to accept that truth. I am angry, is that good or bad? Don’t know!
In our practice, we adopt a basic attitude of non-interference. When anger arises, we watch it from a place of not knowing. When it falls away, we watch that from a place of not knowing. When our own judgment of our anger arises, we watch that from a place of not knowing. When our judgment of our anger falls away, we watch that from a place of not knowing. This is called keeping Don’t Know Mind.
Fighting anger and judgment is trying to use anger and judgment to fight anger and judgment. Hahahaha. We are funny people, aren’t we? Me too!! Me too!! But if we don’t know, then our anger and judgment transform into understanding others. Oh, this is what it is like to be alive. This is what is like for other people to be alive too. Oh!! They don’t need my judgment. They need my help.
So our own anger and judgment turn into compassion. This is the true purpose of anger and judgment. To help ourselves and others let. Don’t judge and be angry at your anger and judgment. Just don’t know. Say your loving-kindness mantra not forcefully but with love. Let the anger go down down down all by itself and it will become a gentle love for all beings.
So… I hope you don’t know when you become angry and judgmental and soon use the anger and judgment which instantaneously becomes compassion to help all beings.
By the way, the best way to practice is with a community. There are many meditation communities. Maybe you can find one. Our in-person communities can be found here and our online community is here.
Hope all that helps. It helped me!! You reminded me to laugh at my own anger about being angry and my own judgment about being judgmental. See? Your anger and judgment are already helping!!! LOL.