Monsters to Madness. All Sorts of Foul Play

Monsters by Fly 2019


Let’s begin with a chant – albeit a silent chant but one worth reading and yes, one worth memorizing. Before I share it, I want to give a speed ball pitch to memorization.

Everyone has a particular level of aptitude and ability to memorize – but even those of us who struggle with memorization can find a few lines or even a phrase from ancient texts of wisdom to remember. I encourage all of us to take up the practice of memorization no matter how small or big it is. If it is difficult to memorize, post up parts of wisdom texts where the teachings are easily seen. Put them up in every room, if need be.


Now the chant. As mentioned, if you are unable to memorize the whole chant, select a phrase or sentence that speaks to you – jumps out at you. Write it down. Memorize it. Post it up. It’s a guardian for your practice.



Little thoughts, subtle thoughts when followed, stir up the heart.

Not comprehending the thoughts of the heart, one runs here & there,

The mind out of control.


Comprehending the thoughts of the heart,

One who is ardent, mindful, restrains them.

When followed, they stir up the heart.


One who is awakened, lets them go…without trace.



Our minds are full of thoughts already. Many of us have had 12 years of compensatory education, have families where ‘family’ propaganda is passed down and of course, there are all the various inputs from books, online networks and contact with others.

It is an endless array of information that is in the library of the mind. Spiritual adepts need to be able to sort through the mess and organize it in such a way that it supports our spiritual journey.

When we don’t sort out our thoughts, we are easily out of control over every little thing that comes into our life.

But…when we focus and sort the thoughts out in such a way that we don’t go along with the story, we strengthen our ability to restrain the thoughts that become monsters. This ability requires a keen interest in what shows up in the light of our brain pan. We have to watch for the monsters to pop up.

We have two habits that we need to be alert to…

  1.  Our habit to go along with the monsters that show up in our mind over and over again and
  2.  Our habit of not watching for the monsters in the first place.

Many of us just go along with what thoughts, images, ideas, imaginings that come up the moment we wake up from a night’s sleep. Whatever monster comes, we go along with it. This happens because we have relied on the monsters to rule the mind. This reliance has made us limp and flaccid making us easy prey for the monsters.

The very first step is to begin to see the content of the mind as monsters. To look at each thought, idea, imagining, image as a trap popping up to distract, upset, jumble, and stir up something that either happened in the past, a wish for something to happen in the future or a loss or fear of something that has not yet happened.

It is worth a clarification. The stuff of the mind is an array of monsters.  When we acknowledge this truth, we restrain the monsters. Restraint prepares us to renounce what we once were loyal to and are at last able to



turn without grasping for and against, without stopping to glue your view into a peg hole, without marvels of wordiness[1] – all of which is for our awakening.



We recognize the monster of for & against, the leaking of fixed positions and marvels of wordiness as the mind taken captive to foul play of those very monsters. Our views of for & against, our fixed positions and our wordiness (repetitions of  pontification) may be directed to the inner world of ourselves and directed toward the outer world of things (people, places and things). In either case, we do well to bring our attention to the monsters that arrive like popcorn in the head in such a way we are eager to comprehend the foul play they bring upon us and others.  We must turn away without grasping them, pegging them or pontificating them. We let them go without regret or worry or any entanglement.

We need to build strengths that protect the mind from the monsters that lead us into misery and suffering. We need to be able to discern which thoughts will stir up the mind and which thoughts strengthen our efforts on this spiritual path. A strengthening aide to seeing the monsters is memorizing wisdom texts. We replace the old habitual texts in our mental library with wisdom texts – and we do this without being for and against, without thinking we are right or wrong and without posturing a dogmatic speech to ourselves or others. We settle in “don’t know” mind as a strength of Truth and we continue our spiritual practice.

Dongshan’s teaching leads to the path of silence. When we recognize the stuff of the mind, for the most part, is the palace of the monsters, we let go of our thoughts and views and ideas as we would the fleeting wind. We note the breeze but don’t get blown by it.

Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue


Image credits: Fly, 2019

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[1] Dongshan, Caodong. Go to link: Leakage

The Dharma of the Rat’s Ass


Credit: Fa Ming Shakya

In Memory of Venerable Ming Zhen Shakya

My teacher, more times than I can remember, would say to me at the end of a teaching, “I don’t give a rat’s ass.” It was a teaching that overshadowed whatever she had said beforehand. That’s how powerful it was. That’s how important it became. Today and every day it remains a radiant guiding light for how I live in the Dharma. Let me explain.

Delivered with zeal and at the end of an array of spiritual truths, she’d say,  “I don’t give a rat’s ass,” which remains a long remembered and potent teaching on its own. What it did and still does, is it allows the teachings to be given free of any Zen stink. The teachings are in their own right liberated from any persuasion or hook of the teacher. But a teacher can taint them. The Dharma of her punctuated saying, “I don’t give a rat’s ass,” is a clearing of taints and was given in the most direct, intimate way. Said in such a way, my teacher demonstrated and exemplified a cornerstone of Zen practice. What is that cornerstone?


Don’t get entangled.


She, her ego was not invested in me, my ego in any way. She was not trying to sell me, persuade me, engage me, convert me, flatter me, deceive me, trick me or convince me. No inveigling. It is much like the old idiom, “take it or leave it.” It gave the message that this is the Dharma and there’s nothing else to say. Leaving me free to decide, to choose to hear, to study, to continue or not. It was the Zen message of “Don’t seek from others, (not even me) because if you do, you’ll be further away from who you really are. It is the ultimate teaching of Chan Master Dongshan, “You go it alone now. You are not IT. IT is actually you.”

MIng Zhen Shakya was enormously generous both in her availability to give the teachings and in her delivery of the Zen Dharma. There was a certainty in the direction of the teachings presented but never a confining, imprisoning one. She, long ago, had gone beyond the opposites of right and wrong.


Anytime I was wobbling she’d give me a royal fleur de lis of teachings from the Buddhas and ancestors and would wrap it up with this one from her. “I don’t give a rat’s ass.” After so much generous, erudite and affable Dharma she’d wind it up with telling me she didn’t give a rat’s ass whether I took the teachings to heart or not. It may sound cold-hearted, but it wasn’t. It was an intimate way of making the teaching free. She had no hooks or claws into me of wanting me to be this or that. She neither pulled on me nor shoved me away; she was without entanglement. She lived the Dharma of the not giving a rat’s ass. All for the benefit of those who were lucky enough to make her acquaintance and seek her wisdom.


We all tend to have ideas of what a Zen teacher should be or say, such as lofty, well versed, kind, compassionate, gentle ( the list is endless); but in every case it is some deluded image we conjure up. Meeting an awakened teacher is not the same as our imagined or deluded image of a Zen teacher.

If anyone thinks or believes of her as coarse or crude, you’d be likely to hear her say, “I don’t give a rat’s ass.” That is a piercing arrow through your deluded image of how you think a Dharma heir should be.

The Dharma of the Rat’s Ass is quite a mouthful of Dharma; it pierces delusion.

Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog. If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching, please contact the editor at: