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

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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

I Always Want It to Be Different



Lesson 3 – PART A. I Always Want It to Be Different

The First Noble Truth

Attachment in the Head by Fly & Ldz


A woman aspirant, a wanderer, traveling alone – in foreign territory – needed a place to sleep. A flower shopkeeper took pity on her and invited her in and offered her a small cot in his flower shop for the night. As she settled down for the night, she noticed the air was filled with a magnificent fragrance of all the flowers – but the fragrance soon became disturbing – she could not fall asleep. In her disturbance, she got up and found a barrel of rotting trash outside and dragged it in next to her bed and fell sound asleep. S. Ramakrishna



Missing the worldly smells of garbage – which is in her mind – she gets up in the middle of a bouquet of flowering fragrance and drags the familiar smells of habit, the way she wanted it, next to her bed and falls asleep attached to the world. She wanted it to be different according to her attachment. An example of limited discrimination.

The rooted attachment in and to the world rule her decision. When she chooses something other than what is, in this case, garbage over flowers, her self-interest outweighs her discriminating mind. She looks to the world for solace – for relief. Specifically, she looks to her habit.

Unlike Basho, a 17th century Japanese haiku master, who was also a wanderer – in foreign territory – needing a place to sleep. He is offered a horse stable for the night. As he settled down to sleep on a pile of hay a horse nearby urinates. Instead of wanting it to be different he writes a haiku.

“fleas and lice / now a horse pisses / by my pillow.” Basho

A third example. Many years ago, I was on retreat in a large, 18th century building. The building, although renovated, was not the usual comforts of home. As night came and I settled down to sleep the radiator in the room began to clang and hiss followed by an intermittent rattle. My first response was to get up and go over and lay down on the floor next to the radiator. I stayed there practicing being with the suffering for hours. Awake. Exhausted. Much like the radiator intermittently rattled by the disturbance. The next morning, I asked for a different room.

A final example. A Buddhist monk was brought to the US. He spoke no English but had a translator with him. He was the main teacher of the retreat. His particular lineage required that he not ask for anything – that he would accept whatever was offered. On the first night of the retreat he was given a room. The staff, however, failed to give him blankets and left the window open. During the night the temperature dropped and snow blew into the room through the open window. In the morning, the staff felt terrible. Ajahn Happy, however, laughed and laughed – he slept like a log.


The first Noble Truth is – there is suffering.

In the first example, the woman saw the world as the place to go to end her suffering. She does not yet know that what shows up in life is the manifestation of the mysterious truth of the Tathagata – it, like all things, comes to awaken. Her actions suggest she thinks peace and liberation rest in the things of the world; specifically, she wants it her way and drags garbage to her bedside. Most of us are like this woman – our first reaction is to seek help from the world of temporal things.

Basho, the great haiku master, is coming from a very different place. He, too, wandered. But he knows something the woman wanderer does not know. His response is not a reaction to the horse pissing near his head – it is an opportunity to meet what shows up as the mystery that it is. Being aware, he doesn’t try to get what he wants; he meets the myriad things of the world without wishing for something different. Able to write a haiku.

My experience shows a student effort. I laid by the radiator and off and on was frustrated and sometimes accepting. I was not awake. It was practice.

The last example, shows a disciplined monk – disciplined to the marrow. He remained obedient to his vows – he did not request another room – he did not get up and shut the window – he accepted what showed up in his life as the Way. His discipline, in part, awakened him to meet what comes in his life with equanimity. The environment did not taint his True Self which he intimately identified as his true identity.

Too difficult, we say? Are we able to face the death of attachments moment by moment that show up in our life?  If we look carefully at the examples, we are able to see attachment. Not holding an attachment is central to how we respond to our life.

We, however, get entangled in the stuff of the world, the stuff that is time-limited and unreliable. Most of us are the woman wanderer – we place our faith, our confidence on the familiar things of the world which includes others and the myriad things all around us. Time and time again we go to an unreliable source for succor. Instead of the student, Basho and Ajahn Happy respond and meet what shows up.

We, in our ignorance somehow believe that the Truth is outside of us when the Truth is actually on our doorstep. Our confusion leads us to go at the temporal things – to arrange them according to our likes and dislikes. We want things to be different than they are. It is so pervasive that we have difficulty even imagining there is another way – another direction.

The best starting point is to practice the Four Noble Truths. Do you know them? If you don’t know them by heart, please keep reading.

  1. There is suffering
  2. There is a cause of suffering
  3. There is an end to suffering
  4. There is a way to practice towards an end to suffering

Understanding suffering is a big deal. If one doesn’t understand this deeply, we risk false moves over and over again. Let’s look closer at the first Noble Truth.

  1. There is suffering.

Most of us know on some level this truth because each one of us, has one time or another experienced suffering. It can vary in degree – from frustration in a long line at a grocery store to a sudden diagnosis of cancer. Most of us, however, do not consider the frustration in a grocery store to be suffering but if we just react to it, we miss an opportunity to see the suffering in it and follow with practice. We are encouraged to look at what arises and shows up moment to moment not from our wanting it our way perspective, but as steps on the Path. Steps, that if examined, illustrate suffering in all things. When we see experience in terms of suffering, we make a turn to see the roots of it. It is easier to practice with a scratch than it is when we have been gouged in the chest.

We must see the experience in terms of suffering and not in terms of wanting to get rid of it – or fix it – or repair it – or complain about it. After all, the Buddha was asking us to awaken to where we are – and we are in a body-mind complex that suffers. If we are not awake, we suffer every day from scratches and bruises of all sorts. Unfortunately, we practice reacting to the scratches rather than going deeper with them. We also fail to see that, in fact, everything around us suffers.



All is the never-failing manifestation of the mysterious truth of the Tathagata. Bodhisattva Vow


To repeat this mantra, we begin to drink in and soak in the first Noble Truth. What was once something that puts our nose out of joint becomes an opportunity to turn in search for the roots. The worldly mind divides the world into good for me, bad for me and all the machinations that come with this dividing. The discriminating mind of an aspirant learns to trust – to have confidence in the first Noble Truth of suffering. In other words, everything worldly carries suffering to your door – to everyone’s door – to the great earth itself.

We, as spiritual aspirants either go after something in the world of our attachments to relieve our situation or we respond to what comes as the mysterious truth of the Tathagata – which leads to liberation. We may turn to repair or fix or change or tidy up – but we do it without seeking a reward for ourselves (for our ego). Our aim is liberation.

Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

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

Where Suffering Cooks UP

Pot & Lid by FLY



Although Pandora’s box was really a jar, when she, who was made of clay, took off the the lid out came all the evils and troubles for the world. We do the same thing. When we open the My, Me, Mine, I, letting the ego escape from the Pot we let all our troubles out. This pot is our very own version of a Pandora’s box. Except in this case, we, you and me take off the lid and let out the “I” (the me, my, mine stuff ) which is the source of all our troubles. Our pot is full of stuff that we’ve cooked-up. It’s hard to believe, I know but please read on. It’s actually good news for the soul which makes it good news for our lives.

In Buddhism we say, there is a way to end suffering which is a big attraction for all of us. Most of us want to end our suffering as well as help others do the same. But instead of following the teachings of our ancient masters we look into the world for the cause and the relief rather than follow the old teachings. 

That’s our first error. We are looking for the hope of help in the wrong place. Often, for years we look in the wrong direction. We think someone or something will provide what we need. Only to find out we continue to suffer.

What do we do?

What we need to do is look at where suffering begins. Stop for a moment and bring up some dissatisfaction in your life. Once you have it in mind, ask where did this suffering begin? Many of us look at the someones and things in life as the cause of dissatisfaction. Either someone is missing or someone is doing something we don’t like. It’s true for things as well. Something is missing or something isn’t quite right. This cycle of looking outward is ingrained by years and years of habit. Years of looking in the wrong direction. If dissatisfaction does not begin with someone else or some thing in the world, where does it begin?

It begins in the My, Me, Mine, I Pot. It is in this pot, dissatisfaction begins. Yes, YOU and I are the cause of suffering. 

Much like Pandora’s box, we open the lid of our desires, judgments, measures, and release the troubles into our life. Hard to believe, I know. We thought our suffering was coming from our external environment. Check it out for yourself.

Where does suffering start for you? Isn’t it when you start thinking and talking and believing what you want or don’t want? Isn’t it true that you begin by telling yourself how unhappy you are with the things and people of life? Something or someone is too much or not enough. Isn’t this what we do?

The beginning of the realization of suffering is when “I” begins to understand that the My, Me – Mine – I Pot is not substantial, but is the cauldron of suffering. We all say “I” am suffering. See for yourself. Don’t you say, “I” am suffering. You may point to your body and say ME, this ME is where suffering is. We believe it, don’t we? We see our “I” as the one who is suffering; not realizing it is the cause of suffering. It is a realization to see this truth.

We think for a very long time suffering comes from the outside. In many ways, the material world trains us to think dissatisfaction comes from the stuff of the external world. And for a very long time we try to change the people and things of our life in order to make it satisfactory. The reason for this Sisyphean approach is ignorance. Ignorance of where to look for the end to suffering. WE keep trying to rearrange our outer world to end suffering. It is a blindness (a terrible stupidity) that brings along with it pride and hate.  We are unable to see that we cause suffering when we say “I.” When we say whatever is happening is happening to ME. We react to whatever it is in many different ways. All manner of suffering comes when we hold onto the “I” and experience everything as happening to ME (the “I”). We, unfortunately, will continue to roll that stupid rock until we see otherwise.

At this point you may think what I am saying is stupid, just plain nonsense, but even if you say that it is stupid I think you will not deny it is “I” that suffers. Whatever the suffering is, it is ME or Mine or MY suffering. It is ”I” that experiences suffering. Yes, I think you can see that. I hope you can. You agree it is “I” that suffers. Not someone else. If I told you your suffering belongs to someone else, you know that is not true. You may want to blame someone else for your suffering, but that is not true either. Things outside of “I” are triggers, but not the cause of suffering. “I” the clinging identification of “I” is the cause. Look closely in your “I”. Isn’t it true? “I” suffer because “I” want something to be different than IT is. I want existence itself to be different and “I” make great effort to change existence for the sake of “I.” Can you see that?

When the lid is off the My, Me – Mine – I Pot, we suffer. It’s when we take things and others personally. Personally means according to me, the “I.”

Isn’t it true that we say things such as “If I go here, I will feel less suffering. If I go there, I will feel less suffering. If I get this thing, I will be free of suffering. If I get rid  of that thing, I will be free of suffering.” The list of “I desires” is endless. What is common in all these situations of suffering is “I”….me, my, mine. The contents (made up by the way) of the pot is where to look to find liberation. 

Suffering starts with “I” and ends when “I” is forgotten.

How else could it be? 

So it is a very useful contemplation to ask who is this “I” who starts up suffering. Who is this “I” where suffering begins and lives and continues in the oceans of samsara?

To help a little, consider what you say about “I”…..I am in trouble. I am sick of this. I hate that. I don’t want any part of this. I want that instead. I am happy about that. I want. I hate. I need. Oh just see how the “I” is the start to all the waters swirling around that brings up all kinds of suffering…..fear, worry, frustration, irritation, aggravation, intoxication, and on and on. It boils down to seeing “I” as the center of inadequacy and adequacy.

The “I” imagines the past and the future as allies of suffering in the mind and strengthens the “I” position with wishful thinking and worries about outcome.

STOP it.

Are you able to stop the “I”?

If not, the work is clear. Study your “I.”

In Zen Buddhism we STOP suffering  by looking into “I”

We must begin by looking into “I”

And when we see and know the “I” as a constructed carrier of ignorance and the cause of suffering, we begin the journey to willingly forget the old built  “I” structures. We take the “I” off the throne.

How do we do it?

We forget the “I.”

And when we forget the “I”

The wheel of wandering in suffering ends.

BUT we don’t imagine what forgetting the “I” looks like or how it should be. NO that is more of the “I”

We GET OFF the Wheel of birth and death; we don’t polish it.

STOP the spin and GET OFF.

Study the “I” of who you think you are.

And forget it. Drop it. And do this over and over again. 

Seek liberation from the “I” (me, my,mine) by relinquishing the “I” because it is there where suffering arises. Get away from the ideas of who you are. Can you do that? Or are you attached to all those ideas of “I”

Do you say stuff like “I am this type of person.” OR “I can’t help being like that… this is who I am.”

I am this, not that. I am weak here and better there. I am a woman. I am a man. I am a good person. I am a bad person. I am ok. I am — I am — I am. The suffering continues with this connection to “I” NO matter what the attachment is.

Special? Forgotten? Struggling? Blah Blah Blah

You must be able to let go of the ideas of “I.” Can you do that?

You can do it in one quick moment. Give up the “I”

All the ideas go away when you give up the “I”

But now you may feel afraid. WHO will “I” be if “I” give up this “I”

That is a ghost trying to get the “I” to go after something. And when we do that we continue to suffer.

It is to let it go. KAPUT!

It is a bit like a “natural” burial. A “natural” burial is where the “I” dies and is not embalmed.  There is no casket. The “I” is gathered up and placed in a pot and put into the ground immediately. Relinquished. It is very quick. POOF!


Where does suffering come from?

If you say it comes from the external world, keep asking the question. Study it close-up in your life. Find out for yourself.

Good luck.

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: