嵐 Arashi: Don't Get Caught in Your Own Storm

when it rains in HK, photo by rocksee
I read a curious poem this morning in a story from Saigyō.
The Japanese poet Saigyō (1118-1190) was a Buddhist monk and lived most of his life as a traveling mendicant and hermit. His poems often relate the tension he felt between renunciatory Buddhist ideals and his love of natural beauty.
In the story I read this morning, he was caught in a rainstorm during his travels through Osaka. He tried to take shelter at a brothel. Yet he was turned away by a prostitute. But this was no ordinary prostitute. In the legend, she was an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Fugen who symbolizes meditation and practice. Knowing this, Saigyō was frustrated that someone so enlightened would  force him back out into the rain. He wrote:

How difficult I suppose,
    to reject
This world of ours.
    And yet you begrudge me
        a temporary stay.

In his frustration, Saigyō could get angry at this teacher in disguise and miss an important lesson. Do you ever get angry at your teachers? What happens after the storm fades?

I have been angry at my teachers. Or at least, thought they were wrong about something. The worst is when someone shows me something about myself I do not wish to see.

In Bujinkan training I have seen many students get angry. I have seen them quit training over it. I have had my own students angry at me. And Hatsumi Sensei has had many critics and ex students who got stuck on some point of contention.

When we get angry at our teachers, an inflection point occurs where learning stops cold. Or, if we are ready, learning explodes forward from that point to even greater understanding.

Anger at teachers happens for many reasons:
  • The teacher is flat wrong or in error.
  • You think teacher is wrong even though he is right.
  • You want your teacher to be wrong because you don't like what he is showing you.
  • You don't feel acknowledged for how well you are doing.
  • Your teacher focuses only on how badly you are doing.
  • You don't like the way a teacher runs his class or handles other students.
  • Your teacher sets a bad example.
  • The teacher fails at something.
  • What the teacher is teaching doesn't match your view of reality.
  • The teacher reflects something in you that you don't wish to see.
If you get angry at your teacher, first look at these reasons and decide what they say about YOU before you dismiss the teaching. And then, if you still think your teacher is bad, you should try to consider your history with them. Is it a history based on trust and respect? Has the teacher taught you well in the past, and is there hope of learning and growing more in the future?

For Saigyō, the prostitute in his poem responded in this way,

Having heard you were one
    who rejected this world,
My thought is only this:
    Do not stop your mind
        in this temporary stay.

A deep lesson if Saigyō was ready to hear it. Admittedly difficult to hear in the middle of a rainstorm. But the most profound lessons often show up when we are most uncomfortable.

The rainstorm symbolizes something temporary that will not last. In Japanese there is a play on words: a rainstorm - 嵐 arashi, but it will not stay あらじ araji.

For us Bujinkan students, in our training, this means we can't let our minds stop or get stuck on technique. But also, don't get stuck on points of disagreement with teachers. If you stop to argue you might miss the learning that never stops. Keep going.

It doesn't matter if you think your teacher is wrong, because your only teacher is yourself. 

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