We traveled for two uneventful weeks begging for food at villages on the way. I was doubtful that the farmers would respect our endeavors, but surprisingly we were warmly welcomed and regarded as men of integrity.

As we were strolling along one day, I found myself thinking back to my confrontation with the three warriors. I was wishing I could somehow change myself from being so aggressive and quick to kill. A John, the mind reader, glanced at me, “You will never change by trying to change.”

“What do you mean by that,” I responded.

“Trying to change doesn’t work in the long run.”

“Okay,” I said sarcastically, “I’ll just stay the way I am!”

“No, no, no. That is not good either. Then you are trying ‘not’ to change.”

“You are talking in riddles again, a John!”

“You will never succeed at changing yourself by trying to change yourself directly. It must be done indirectly.”

“Indirectly?”

“Yes. Indirectly. That means watching your anger instead of trying to rid
yourself of it. You have to accept it and admit that you are an angry man.”

“How do I watch my anger when I am in the middle of it?”

“First, be aware of the physical sensations - the rising blood pressure, the adrenaline rush, the flurry of thoughts, the extreme desire to act - and notice how anger cannot arise without thinking internally - either in images or words. Then carefully observe how that anger, if you feed it with thoughts, might affect not only you but everybody around you, and not only for now, but for years, lifetimes down the road.

“Anger is what you are in that moment, it cannot be denied. You must not deceive yourself by thinking it is otherwise, or that you are better than that. In that moment of anger the king is gone. There is only the anger. That is the crux of it. When you see this for yourself, even if only once, you leave yourself with no choice but to surrender to what you are - anger.

“The result will be humility and surrender, not aggressiveness, or a call for action or a desire to change things. Attempts to aggressively change ourselves into an ideal is not being honest with ourselves. Until we embrace our anger, we will never embrace ourselves. Until we understand anger for what it is, we will never understand ourselves; and until we can understand ourselves, we will never be able to free ourselves.

“Please do not misunderstand my words,” a John added, “I am talking about deep-seated tendencies from past lifetimes. Key seekers have a word for these tendencies – we call it ‘kamma.’ Changing these tendencies, these habit patterns, this kamma is not the same as changing yourself from a student to a skilled physician by studying in school. A kammic change involves touching Infinity and breaking ingrained habit patterns that have followed you around lifetime after lifetime like a hungry animal.

“Eventually, as your inner work develops, you will see the difference between ambition, on one hand, and doing only what needs to be done on the other. Ambition and aggressiveness must eventually surrender to non-action if deep seated kammic anger resulting from past lives is to be overcome. All acceptance of things as they are is the doorway to Infinity.”

“But I’m inclined toward action, not surrender,” I insisted, “and this passive ‘watching’ sounds indecisive and weak. What's holding me back?"

A John didn’t answer; apparently inviting me to think all of this through for a while.

We walked into a village the next morning at sunrise. We were greeted by the familiar smiling faces I was becoming accustomed to, when unexpectedly I found myself overwhelmed with emotion! It was like a huge peace attack! I assumed it was because of my interaction with a John, but maybe it was because of these wonderful people that took strangers under their protective wings, offering us food, as well as medicine when we required it. Or, could it be a result of the inner Work?

We ate our meal in the shade of a Pipal tree and afterward a John talked to me about my anger again.

“What's holding you back from observing your anger is that you are proud of your anger. What are you going to do about that?"

“I don’t know. Is there a problem with not doing anything?”

“You will never find your key.”

“Oh. . . . Okay, so what should I do?”

“Attack anger in a passive way that will destroy its root. End it forever instead of just toying with its symptoms. Do you think that you can do that?”

“I’m not sure that I have the patience. On the battlefield, that kind of passive attitude would have gotten me killed.”

“And on the battlefield with the Dragon of Atta where you now find yourself, your anger will never defeat him. It will only make the dragon more powerful.”

“OK. Then I’ll stop myself from becoming angry.”

“No, that’s not so good. The problem with violently forcing yourself to change is that you never change. You just think you have changed. The first time your ego is challenged or you are disrespected; the anger will rise up again. Once the root of anger is cut, however, no situation can ever bring anger up again because within the expanse of Infinity, you will understand the futility of anger.

“Without cutting anger’s roots, anger will remain within you silently concealing itself. It deceives you by convincing you that you are very peaceful, so peaceful in fact that you might even go as far as displaying some kind of saintly exterior. But have you really changed fundamentally? No. You merely became a good actor, convincing yourself, deluding yourself that you are now calm.

“So what is the solution, King? How can you be strong enough to actually see what you are, and then accept it? And accept it with understanding and humility without taking any direct actions to escape from what you are? This means your failings remain visible. This is a very courageous and effective thing to do.

“Think deeply about everything I have just said about your anger, king. Your life will depend on it.”

A John had a knack for telling the future, and he was now strongly cautioning me. Something was going to happen regarding my anger – and my fate would hang in the balance depending on how I handled it.