Chan and Modern Life

Vexed Most by the Enemy within – Our Own Mind


We are vexed most by the enemy within – our own minds. Our thoughts, feelings, attitudes and perceptions change constantly. We can move from arrogance to regret, from joy to sorrow, from hate to love, in a matter of seconds. As time passes, our point of view changes, so that we look at something old in an entirely new way. But when we are caught in turmoil of thought and feeling, we feel conflicted and powerless to make decisions. We worry about gain or loss, right or wrong. So much indecision throws us into a tumultuous, vexed state of mind. And though everyone suffers in this way, many people insist that they have no problems. Some even throw tantrums and work themselves into frenzies in their attempts to prove to you that their troubles have nothing to do with them.

“It's not me!”

I once asked someone directly why he had so many vexations. “It's not me!” he cried, “It’s the other rotten people who are making me so miserable. “ In fact, most his problems were self-created.

Chose Not to Take Part in

Recently, I was riding in a car with four people who were involved in a heated discussion. One said to me, “Sorry that we argue so much, Shi-Fu.” I replied, “You're the ones arguing; it's none of my business. “ I heard what they said, but chose not to take part in or be affected by their conversation. The following morning, one of the four said, “I cannot stand to hear people argue. The very sound of it upsets me. “Do you understand? His vexation stems from his own intolerance.

Analyze the Nature of Your Vexation

According to Buddhism, mental vexation can come in the form of greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, or doubt. Whenever you are distressed, analyze the nature of your vexation. As soon as you determine which category your vexation falls into and reflect on it, the intensity of your vexation will diminish. When you are distressed by greed, for instance, you can collect yourself by reflecting, “Ah, there's greed arising again; I do have strong desires!” Be objective and non-judgmental, and the vexation of greed will automatically diminish. Similarly, when you suffer from anger: “Why am I so angry? My distress is directly related to my anger.” In this way both the distress and the anger will subside. Look inward. You don’t need to analyze the problem; you need to examine your own mind. When you have done something foolish and feel miserable about it, let yourself see the action for what it is, and then reflect, “ I have acted foolishly.” Simply accepting your weakness in a particular situation will lighten your vexation and suffering. You should reflect in the same way on suffering caused by arrogance. Simple being aware of arrogance will help you overcome feelings of pride and self-righteousness.



Dharma Drum - The Life and Heart of Chan Practice – Part One -Transforming Suffering, p.20-22

Dharm Drum - The Life and Heart of Chan Practice