Honing the vital energy like a Vengeful Spirit

Suzuki Shōsan is one of my favorite zen teachers. I’m very happy I found him, because he speaks to the kind of practice I can relate to — focused, intent, and everyday.

Nio – The Guardians

I have an old water-damaged copy (it came to me that way, when I bought it used) of Warrior of Zen, by Arthur Braverman, which has been truly inspirational to me.

Starting on page 27 — because the first 26 pages are dedicated to explaining the context and other book formalities — it starts:


Become a Vengeful Spirit of the Buddha Dharma

One day the Master said: “Nowadays people no longer talk of the daring, immovable force of the Buddha Dharma. Though with regard to gentility, piety, and unselfishness, people have improved, no one has honed this vital energy like a Vengeful Spirit.* Hone your fearless mind and become a Vengeful Spirit of the Buddha Dharma.”

* (In the Notes) Onryō. Spirit of a departed person bent on obtaining vengeance. Shōsan uses this image as an example of the extraordinary energy one should direct toward the goal of conquering the self.


I have an observation. A suggestion, if you will.

Perhaps Shōsan’s reference to the Onryō spirit of obtaining vengeance is a bit more literal – and not just an example.

If we consider our nature to be essentially Buddha nature, which is kept from Enlightenment by the activities of our mind/ego… and if we believe that we are reincarnated lifetime after lifetime, with each set of circumstances dependent upon what our mind/ego did before… and we believe that our mind/ego can prevent our longed-for Awakening… then shouldn’t we well and truly come to our practice with a fiercely vengeful spirit that seeks to strike down that which has prevented our most desired Buddha nature from emerging?

Shouldn’t we treat what holds us back the same as we would treat a thief or a thug? Shouldn’t we muster all our inner reserves and attack what holds us back with every fiber of our being, just as we would a criminal who has broken into our home to violate all that we hold most dear?

If we are truly determined to awaken, and we want nothing more than that, shouldn’t we in fact spare no energy in attacking what has kept us back and deprived us of our rightful path so many times before, with every ounce of ferocious vengeance that we can muster?

Our losses from every prior unfulfilled lifetime must be avenged.

We must have justice.

We must overcome that which has held us back.

If we truly care about Awakening, it is our right, even our duty, to hone our fearless mind, cultivate the daring, immovable force of the Buddha Dharma, and make vengeance on the thief of our Awakening a way of life.