Who Slammed the Door?

Sometimes when a door or window slams, do you find that someone, sometimes ourselves, would respond with a “Who was that who slammed the door (or window)?”. And if the response is “Oh, it was the wind”, then almost magically, the agitation or annoyance subsides or disappears! If it turned out to be someone responsible, then a further exchange may take place. The annoyance becomes directed to the person responsible.

We like to find people to blame (or praise), don’t you think? This tendency to do that is preceded by the habit to affix a persona behind any experience or phenomena worth noting. In a way, this habit is also driven by the need or habit to blame. So this two tendencies are mutually supportive of each other.

Sometimes when we find that there is no person behind, say the slamming door or window, we are not satisfied. We are very smart. We use our intelligent mind to further investigate. Then we ask “who left the door open without securing it?”. And if that turned out to be indeterminate, we may continue pursuing until we find someone to blame. We are so full of energy when it comes to blaming people ya?

No, we are not like that? Yes, most people are not like that usually. But when we are in this energetic mode, then all hell breaks loose. We drill and question and conduct forensic analysis, just to get to the bottom of things! “Justice must be served” we might even exclaim!

What is the purpose of this “Justice” or “Rights and wrongs” if all it gets us into is this find-someone-to-blame-mode?

Coming back to the slamming door example, consider both possibilities, where someone slammed it or where the wind blew it shut, slamming it. In both cases, there was energy imparted to the door, causing it to move. Kinetic energy from the wind did the job in the latter, while kinetic energy from someone did it in the former. Both are energy. Does the door know the difference between the two sources of energy? No. Does the door slam differently in either cases? Nope, except when the energy imparted is of a different intensity.

Does the door slam with a “Ah Beng slammed the door” or “The wind slammed the door”? Nope. Yet, we impute additional meaning to the slamming door. I’m not denying that it is either the wind, Ah Beng or some sources that did it. I’m saying that

1) if the distinction of the sources is not meaningful in our and others’ happiness, then it is not meaningful to discern and cling strongly to such distinction.

2) the distinction is imputed, because the direct cause of the slamming is basically kinetic energy!* Not some person, or a being.

Discernment #1 is easier to accept and do, and it appeals to our pragmatic wish to be happy. It, however, only mitigates one’s problem. Discernment #2 is easy to understand, but harder to recognise internally or apply directly. If one is able to do so, then one weakens the root of the problem (Sakaya-ditthi) and in due time, cuts the very cause of suffering!

Many years back, I was at the Fa Yun monastery and was having lunch one day. One of the duty person dripped gravy onto the outer surface of my alms bowl. Being the unenlightened monk, a thought arose “Aiyaya! How careless!” After awhile I caught myself and reflected somewhat mindfully and all was well. Then another time, when I was on duty serving, I dripped some gravy on my own bowl! I simply wiped it off without a second thought or agitation. Then a thought arose “HA! …. ….”

I will leave you to ponder what followed that “HA!” … ^_^

* — If one observes rupa (form) mindfully with respect to the four elements, one sees
clearly that the slamming door, the wind or a “person” slamming it are basically a function of the wind element. In modern speak, kinetic energy.

9 thoughts on “Who Slammed the Door?”

  1. “HA! I’m good! I’m not attached to dripped gravy anymore!” ^_^

    Is it that, Shifu? 😛

    Discernment #2 cuts the very cause of suffering. But it may also be misconstrued to mean “bo-chap”, i.e. apathy, which may lead one to be indifferent to good vs evil. Shifu, how can one avoid falling into this /dev/null, eh, I mean this dark dark pit?

    VCG -> Belated approval … somehow missed this comment!

  2. Dear Ven CG:

    In this case, it was an inanimate object and the cause of ‘distress’ was uncertain before the emotions of irritation/anger arose. Therefore the mind is still seeking to blame someone.

    What if the situation is different? What if someone were to see another slam the door on purpose and the mind goes into an automated mode of anger/displeasure.

    How then should one deal with these emotions?

    1) Just fume and remind oneself’s that these emotions will pass?

    2) Keep asking oneself, “Where is this source of anger coming from? To whom the anger belongs to? …..etc”?

    May I know what are your opinions and advice?
    Thank you very much for sharing. =)

  3. CH,

    The mind only appear to go into an ‘automated’ mode of response when one is unmindful. Being mindful, one will see that it is far from being automated or instantaneous.

    Please don’t just fume, that would be silly and was never suggested to be done. Pt #2 is again what you’ve been been doing, ala thinking of the question.

    Read the entry again and reflect more. Remember to read the footnote.

  4. Indeed Venerable sir, we tend to be more forgiving when we know the mis-happening is due to natural forces beyond our control, less forgiving when we know the mis-happening is due to some body’s “mistake” or negligence, and perhaps completely unforgiving when we know the mis-happening is due to someone we hate or someone we formed high expectations with.

    I think the root of it is due to our perception of right and wrong. We forgive when it is due to something that is incapable of right or wrong, we forgive less when it is due to someone but whom we care less about his right or wrong, and we forgive least when it is due to someone whom we completely care about his right or wrong.

    Actually some times we forgive ourselves least.

    It is only when we reflect upon “no self”, then we can realize the bigger picture. “No one” slammed the door, but instead it is the dominance of a set of spontaneous emotional states + intention for expression + physical ability + material opportunity that caused the slamming of the door. If we remove the person, and place the same conditions onto another person, would that person not slam the door too?

    In fact it is so natural, that it is as natural as the wind. So what is natural and what is unnatural about the door slamming?

    I think ultimately it is just anger, trying to find a ladder to climb up to the surface. Forgiveness dissolves the ladder.

    What do you think?

  5. Dear Ven CG:

    I believe that I have a rough understanding of your entry’s content. I now have to work harder to realise what your entry is talking about.

    Thank you very much for the reply/reminder.

  6. @Hongleong:

    “HA! I’m good! I’m not attached to dripped gravy anymore!” ^_^

    I’ll let you know offline … don’t want to spoil the suspense! 😉 … in a way, it is a koan, no? 🙂

    Yes, discernment #2 can be misconstrued to mean “bo-chap” even when it is not. This discernment itself can also lead one to incorrectly nullify morality, karma etc, ala / aka 恶取空者!

    One should understand, reflect, observe and realise that actions (karma*1), are empty*2, ie dependent arising (as well!), and in turn lead to arising of other dependent arising and empty*2 phenomena (fruits of karma). The Law of Karma itself, is a function of emptiness, dependent origination. It is not that LOK is another phenomena that we can void or need to void. LOK is the very expression of dependent origination, emptiness! 🙂 When one sees it directly this link between the seemingly separate ‘entities’ or teachings, one will not fall into that dark pit!

    *1: Karma used in normal context almost always points to some bad results that is experienced. Karma actually points to the earlier actions committed, while the experience itself is the dependent arising result due to that Karma (action).

    Another question frequently posed about Karma is who experiences the result if the person is empty? It is not that there is a person being reborn to experience the result. The rebirth itself is the result; whatever experience that arises is the result. There is no separate person from the experience itself. There is also no person within the experience /
    result. There is just the dependent arising experience / result / phenomena.

    Bear in mind, this is not to conclude that all experiences are due directly to karma. See this link for more on Karma

    *2: Empty, emptiness refers to the lack of substance, or inherent characteristic of phenomena. See my other entries for more elaboration on Emptiness.

    If the door slammed by itself, we would still ‘blame’ the door and probably ‘fix’ it. If it is the wind, we would still ‘blame’ the wind but can’t fix the wind – no power, so we just cower! If it was someone who left the door opened whether intentionally or mindlessly, then it is easy to blame that person and ‘fix’ him. It is not so much the desire to ‘blame’ but to find the cause of the annoyance. A mere annoyance may just solicit temporary anger or frustration. On the other hand, if someone’s finger got clipped, we have to find the ‘culprit’. We tend to forgive natural causes even if they are catastrophic. However, there is still a ‘blame factor’ – god must be angry, kamma, etc.
    We cannot easily forgive someone who caused harm, hurt, hate and hardship, especially if it was done to you. So often I heard people talking about forgiving as though it is as simple as peeing. That someone who feels hurt or loss is real not empty or some cosmic force. To forgive is divine? What does it take to forgive? Not much, a sincere sorry for the hurt caused or the wrong done. How could one do this if one is empty? How can one feel remorseful or ‘guilty’ if one is empty?
    The hardest part is forgetting. When one reach that stage of being able to forget, either he has dementia or he is empty.

  8. I’m not a Buddhist, just an ordinary person of western mind frame trying to understand mindfulness. what do you do when the person who slams the door 20 times a day – i.e. each and every time they open a door, they slam it shut. just because they don’t care about how it affects others and have a sense of entitlement. How do you accept it away when you are in deep sleep and the person slams the door?

  9. @Su, thank you for your very down-to-earth question. Indeed, sometimes we do encounter people of such ‘qualities’, who are seemingly oblivious to their impact on others.

    A similar situation occured to me during a retreat. A roommate was always knocking up a din during the resting period. I tried mindfulness noting for awhile, but it was difficult at best when the din was always happening during the rest period. Upon talking to him, it turned out that he was trying to *help* me not to rest so that I can spend more time practising. I politely declined his kind ‘help’, assuring him that I was already meditating 8 ~ 10 hours a day then and I needed the rest! That helped. For a few days.

    A few days later, he started the din again, and after all negotiations failed, I requested for a quieter place to rest.

    In my opinion, we try to use mindfulness or what practice we are doing to deal with the situation. But if the problem can be resolved directly, there is no reason why we should subject ourselves to disturbances during our sleep. Important thing is how we manage our emotions and responses while we try to resolve the disturbances.

    So, there are two main aspects we may want to look at:
    1) How we can maintain mindfulness while the slamming occurs
    2) What we can do to mitigate or resolve the slamming sound itself

    First off, I think I myself would be startled awake if someone slams the door while I am in deep sleep. Ok, sometimes when I am in deeeeeep sleep, nothing will quite startle or
    awaken me, not even the alarm ringing away inches from me, so I would not have a problem with the slamming! :p But I digress … …

    No one should be expected to be oblivious to slamming of doors 20 times a day. If it is evenly spread, that is almost like once every waking hour! I wonder if this ’20’ figure is figurative or literal, but I assume it is rather frequent.

    So the first thing to consider is whether you are already practising mindfulness meditation or have been doing so. If you are already practising, then as the slamming occurs, one can apply the ‘mental noting’ technique to note the ‘hearing process’ as it occurs. If you practise tranquility (samatha) meditation, you can use the “Returning to meditation object” technique to remain firmly with what you are doing. If you are practising pureland or mantra chanting, the slamming or the frustration that follows should trigger the chanting of “amituofo”, “om mani padme hum” or whichever mantra you use.

    A popular mantra I like to chant is “cutthemsomeslack”. If cutting them some slack for 20 times a day is too much slack, read on.

    If you’re not already on some mindfulness practice or other practices you can use, you may need to take time out to start practising so that you can learn to deal with the situation.

    In the meantime, let’s look at what we can do with the slamming itself.

    If the slamming is affecting your physical health, and there is indeed someone who is slamming the door, it may be good to first speak to that person to see if you can knock some sense into him.
    Sometimes that can work. If you are *lucky* like me, and you have a helpful neighbour bent on keeping you awake to practise, then you may need to do something further … while keeping your cool!

    If diplomacy fails, I would try to install door insulation; rubber strips around the door frame can minimise the slamming sound.

    If that still fails, I may consider sound proofing my own room.

    Lastly, if I am unable to do the above, and I may consider moving away temporarily until I am able to cope with the slamming.

    Throughout the process, important thing is how we manage our emotions and response to it (slamming). After all, while it may be easy to soundproof your door or stop one roommate’s slamming, it is not possible to soundproof all the “slamming” in the world. Better to soundproof our mind before we do anything.

    With blessings, ^_^

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