Thursday, 19 January 2012

Badass Zen

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There's a measure of confusion about Fudo Myō-ō, who he is, and why he's so fearsome. Over the centuries, people have tried to make him a warrior, Rambo on the Rock, the Dirty Harry of Damnation. But if he were only that, he wouldn't inspire half the terror. The fact is, Fudo never actually confronts the Devil, and if you miss that point, you're lost. He's tortured by the Devil, like all prisoners. He's also killed, on a regular basis. No different from all victims of violence, official and freelance, every second of every day. The Devil has his way with Fudo. He humiliates him, rapes him, starves and shuns and ridicules him. And then he kills him. Over and over.

It's important to understand that the Devil holds authority in this relationship.

But he never wins. Because Fudo has a single superpower: he's always reincarnated back to the same life. Aside from that, he and I are identical. Beaten, he bruises. Cut, he bleeds. When the Devil employs his scientifically-developed torture techniques, Fudo suffers exactly as I would. And the Devil throws the whole Guantanamo handbook at him. Indeed, the entire School of the Americas curriculum. Every feat of "genius" hatched in every clanging cell, every filthy backroom, every black oubliette, in all of time.

But Fudo doesn't move. You've heard of the Man of Steel? The Dark Knight? Meet The Immovable One. He's the world's oldest superhero, and he's still at it, emphatically doing nothing. He doesn't conquer. He doesn't defend. He doesn't even move. And he doesn't do all of these things, dynamically.

The Devil rains down fury. Fudo doesn't move. The Devil cuts and slashes and skins and impales. Fudo doesn't move. The Devil burns, freezes, crushes. Fudo doesn't move. The Devil isolates, suffocates, forces Fudo into "stress positions." Fudo doesn't move.

And then the Devil, enraged beyond insolence, unsheathes his cruellest weapon.

"You're all alone," he says. "No-one is coming for you. No-one cares."

And the words dance around Fudo's head, because a word, once uttered, has life.

"You're on the wrong side," the Devil intones. "If you were right, others would support you. Look around; do you see any comrades? You're arrogant, conceited, selfish. What makes you think you have the right to disobey me? You're wasting your life, down here all by yourself."

And the words swarm around Fudo like wasps, until he can barely think for their buzz.

"I'm power," the Devil continues. "Why do you think that is? It comes from being moral. Truth is power, Fudo. And I own it. If I weren't right, I wouldn't hold such high position. You've brought this on yourself. You deserve this suffering. And all you have to do to stop it is follow orders. Shovel coal like everyone else. Then you'll be happy, like they are."

And the crocodile words slither around Fudo's feet.

And then the Devil pulls out his sharpest blade. "You see, Fudo," he whispers, "You're a fool. None of this is necessary. You've got it all backward. What you call good, is really evil."

And he smiles, to see his words melt Fudo's resolve like butter before a blowtorch.

Except they don't. The instant the last syllable drops, out flashes Fudo's sword. In a heartbeat he's split every wasp, the bits flaming out like sparks from a grindstone. Before they go dark he's wheeled about and whipped shut the crocodile jaws with his rope.

Then he turns back to the Devil, with an apologetic jingle, and says:

"Sorry. You were saying?"

And such a boiling rage explodes from the Devil that Hell itself cowers. With a single rake of his razor claw, the Devil shreds Fudo's body to haggis. The bits incinerate in the holocaust, disappearing into smoke before the echo of Fudo's world-shaking scream dies away.

The Devil is still panting on the floor, utterly spent, when he hears it:

"Och, tha's sore!"

He looks up, and there is Fudo, chained to his rock.

"You've an anger problem, d'ye know tha?"

And that's why hell is hell, even for the Devil.

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo courtesy of WikiMedia.)


  1. Perfect way to start my morning. Thank you, I needed this.

  2. My pleasure, Ken. And Jordan, thanks for the typographical fudo! I believe I'll steal it from you.

  3. Another post that makes me impatient for the eventual transformation of your journals into a book.

  4. Thanks Will! I'm typing away!

  5. Thanks, Kogen! It's a teaching that puts a lot of steel in my practice.


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