Zen ragequit

The term ragequit comes from the gaming community, in were a person (often young adult) quite a game due to frustration or anger at some event in the game. Other references of this term, brings up the inability of the player to pass a level of challenge in the game, and accuse the game of cheating or the devs of making the game too hard!

I ponder how much ‘ragequit’ there is in zen, and how much ‘fuckery’ has gone in in the Zen temples to make the training ‘impossible’ or so hard as to drive everyone out!

A well-respected former western Theravadan monk of 30 years, commented that the ‘Monk Life’ is supposed to be the “Easy Mode” like in a video game in were challenges are limited. He said that the laymen had it much harder than monks, and that is why laymen are never expected to ‘become enlightened’ because the difficulty of the layman life is 10-fold that of a monk.

In comparing Zen Training to Theravadan training, my former monk friend pointed out that they go by the Vinaya and the Āgamas (buddhas early works), and of course the Dhammapada. He said that monks who make training intentionally ‘Hellish’ as in to intentionally inflict mental pain and suffering on others, are called out by the Monk Sangha and questioned as to what they are doing. Often this leads to monk leaving that temple and going elsewhere. In Theravadan, monks are not bound to any temple or teacher.

Though in Zen the students are also not bound to any teacher, tradition, or temple, there is this “implied loyalty” within the Western Zen Centers in that once you ordain at any level with a teacher, temple, or tradition, you are forever stuck in that temple or tradition.

There is absolutely no support historically, doctrinally, or even within the Zen lineages that support this notion, yet I hear Zen students say this and bring this up from time to time.

So, ragequit happens in Zen. I don’t always blame the student when this happens, I tend to place the issue in front of the teachers of that student as a koan for them. Did they make training too hard? Did they become ‘Sadomasochism‘? Did they really understand the student’s needs or did they just satisfy their own needs? Sometimes people make things impossible just to prove that the path or the religion is unworkable to themselves, even if they are the teacher!!!

There is also the flip-side of the coin too. The student ragequits when there is any slightest resistance to their own position of self, ego, and illusions of grandeur. This I can easily detect when a student complains about Zen are flimsy, whimsical and otherwise showing a lack of any real effort to stay with Zen. Typically this is the student who quits during a weekend sitting intensive or gets mad at a senior member for not agreeing with their ideas of Buddhism.

Many in the  Internet forums talk about “How hard practice is”, how difficult and ironfisted the teachers are, how tough the seniors are, and how stressful the training is. I wonder, is that a Zen Center or a Karate Club?

A Zen Center is to be a shelter from the world-at-large. There is not to be politics, social trend following, gossip or even an in-group of students. The Dharma Center is a place for the Dharma to be heard, for the Buddhas to speak, for the understanding to occur. Anything that hinders this should immediately be ceased. The students should have everything on ‘Easy Mode’, where they can relax, put aside the world and take a moment for the Buddha-dharma!

Remember, Zen students, nothing binds you to any Zen Center, teacher, or tradition. In old Ch’an Buddhism monks frequently changed teachers and temples. In Japanese Zen, monks would visit many temples and teachers before making any Lineage commitment, if they ever do.

If a teacher is not working for you, or the center policies and style is not working for you — then find another teacher, a different Zen Center or go on your own till you do. There is no shame in that, rather there is lots of wisdom there.


Non-aligned Zen Teacher currently living in Las Vegas, Nevada USA Youtube Channel Website

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