Skip to main content

Zen and the Art of Not Snitching

I'm so sick of karmic consciousness squirting projecting phenomena like silk out of a worm's ass! Quickly, a cocoon encases reality with imagination and I'm left grasping at my reflection in the mirror like a kitten, milk warm on its breath.

I can understand why the ancestors turned their fingers into candles and let them burn as offerings to the Thus Come Ones. I can understand why they burned 3,6, and 9 circles into their scalps. What good is truth if it burns the mouth so quickly and thoroughly we're not sure we tasted it?

Triggered. My partner and I now live on a hill above the temple in a rustic, bare bones cabin. You have to shit in a hole, but the sunlight that pours through the pine and redwood trees is surreal. However, it's considered fertile temple grounds. And I saw someone rolling a joint there as I peed in the woods. Rage came up, I changed out of my robes, and into my running gear and climbed to our 1,000 foot ridge that over looks our valley of dharma and vegetables, our creek that opens up to salmon waiting out there in the sea. I ran through the rolling hills, the Golden Gate just peeking above before San Francisco. Triggered.

I ran. I ran. The problem is not the pot, not him, not the breaking of our temple shingi, our guidelines supporting practice, but the problem is this mind. This mind that accumulates karma, this mind that projects phenomena and attaches. Even better, this mind that never was separate from phenomena, from karma.

I could tell this man, please, you don't know how this triggers me, that I can't separate pot from coke from my uncle from grandma being stabbed in that family house tossed down the stairs milk poured down her throat with aspirins tumbling from her lips because they we were afraid grandpa had killed her for her protest. I could say, please and I'm sorry, sorry we hurt.

Just thoughts; abide there, and I'll get sick. So what?

Suzuki Roshi said give your cows a large field and observe what they do. I'm not a Roshi, nor do I have a field of cows. And this man I saw breaking the shingi is my senior dharma brother and I've never liked him because he doesn't come to the Zendo and I can't wait to help him pack up. But this is why I could never snitch, because I'd be too happy to see him go. And what do I know?

What's my dharma position? Anja. I make tea for the abbess, I clean her bowls, I sew her setsu. I'm a farmer. I just grow food. And I sit, bow, and chant. I never vowed to police this temple. But I did vow to study the self, this self righteous "look good" self endowed with bottomless karma. And this suffering didn't arise with me, him, or drugs, it started when I saw him.

So I left it alone.

The next morning, I saw the baker, who is a a quiet lay dharma heir, and who is calm, and wise, and warm. Before Zazen, I went into his bakery, got some raw dough on my hand and said I need to talk to you before I do something stupid and get people in trouble. He said go wash your hand. Then the han called us to Zazen.

After Zazen I checked in with him again and said it felt better but might still help to talk about it, but I didn't want to implicate him in having to report something that might get someone asked to leave. It was time for class, so away I went.

The next day I missed breakfast in the Zendo. I was busy working all morning and I was starving. The same person I saw up at our cabin found me and carried a heavy tray of food, filled my bowl and poured me some juice he had made that morning.

No trace of the trigger, I thought of Dogen-Zenji and how he once saw a monk stuffing his face with meat in the kitchen, but felt that it was okay because he wasn't really feeding himself, just the demons that were crawling all over his back. And that was that for me, this man fed demons that crawl all over my back.


  1. Kogan,

    I read with great interest today, your blog entry from 1/15, and it seemed to perfectly pair up with my study this morning, of the 6th Bodhisattva Precept, which states:

    "A disciple of the Buddha must not himself broadcast the misdeeds or infractions of Bodhisattva-clerics or Bodhisattva-laypersons, or of [ordinary] monks and nuns -- nor encourage others to do so. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of discussing the offenses of the assembly. As a Buddha's disciple, whenever he hears evil persons, externalists or followers of the Two Vehicles speak of practices contrary to the Dharma or contrary to the precepts within the Buddhist community, he should instruct them with a compassionate mind and lead them to develop wholesome faith in the Mahayana. If instead, he discusses the faults and misdeeds that occur within the assembly, he commits a Parajika offense."

    A closer look at your entry showed me that you were actually speaking to the existence of the Karmic demons that seem to plague us all.

    Is it perhaps true, that the 6th Precept is there as an admonishment to to abstain from "snitching" on the infractions of our Sangha members… because to do so would just serve to feed those very demons…dukka...theirs and ours…and therefor create the karmic conditions which only serve to feed this arising?

    Thank you for sharing your story and your relationship to the deeper meaning of what the experience held for you. Deep Bows to you for sharing this understanding…and in this instance, for keeping the 6th intact.

    Ms. Zen Chic


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Boredom and Buddhism

To say I feel bored feels disrespectful. How could that be? I have a three month old daughter, I'm training for a demanding job in the temple, I'm a wilderness medic responding to incidents every 4 days or so, and I'm sewing my priest robes for ordination. And I have this sense of disinterest.

I have a few theories as to why I feel bored. One could be the natural come down from having the baby and becoming stable in our schedule. Another come down plays out in the adrenaline crash after responding to a medical emergency or the general up keep work I do at the temple when compared to fixing something crucial to operations. When I hear there's a fire in the area I'm pretty excited to be mobilized for stay and defend duty. I feel pretty guilty about that, too.

So I read Beyond Boredom and Depression by Ajahn Jagaro and I was reminded to be careful about looking outward by this passage:

So what is boredom? It is a subjective experience that occurs when the mind is not i…

Goodbye Green Gulch Sama! Hello Tassajara!

About two years ago I left Mid City Zen in New Orleans. I feared I was leaving something, and now I'm about to leave Green Gulch and that same fear has arisen. I imagined there was wealth, a sort of freedom, and a lot to "renounce."  I had a car (a fast one!), a playstation 3, many books, many articles of clothing, and as I look around our little cabin, that same perception has arisen- I have too much stuff! And I like it!

My book collection that I sold or gave away in New Orleans has somehow manifested out here. And I have quite the collection of farm hats and farm boots. Rubber ones, Redwings, Ropers, Bogs to the ankle, Bogs to the knee, a navy seal Solomon for the wet spring weather. Most of them are fit to throw away, glued back together and stitched with fishing line, and just so smelly, so smelly my wife won't let me keep them in the cabin, so I hide them all around Green Gulch.

So I started packing, and while that fear of renunciation has arisen, it's not …

Vows and Compass

Being in new Orleans reminds me that my way seeking mind ripened here. Maybe it was the level of maturity my father's recovery actualized. Maybe it was the Ben Wren book I found at Beaucoup Books on my lunch break. Maybe it was my step mom's copy of things fall apart by Pema Chodron sitting in the bathroom.

Later I would witness the host of suffering post-katrina offered to a young public school teacher. How could I help? I took my first set of vows not really knowing where they would lead, like the old black metal compass my dad put in my Christmas stocking when I was about ten. Beautiful to hold, difficult to understand.

Now, years later, I feel a bit subdued as form,sensation, perception, impulse, and thought tag everything, beckoning some purchase for the price of belief. I'm home, but a home leaver. People wonder when I'll move back and being a home leaver means being ready to leave home again and again, which could mean coming back.

How will I actually engage all…