by Ven. Thubten Gyatso
I once read that, after a domestic argument, an angry husband rented a bulldozer and reduced his family home to rubble. Can you imagine what was going through his mind? And can you imagine how he felt when he calmed down and realised the folly of his action?
Anger is the most destructive force in the universe, it destroys our inner peace and causes us to inflict irrational verbal and physical abuse upon our family and friends, to destroy our possessions, and even to destroy our own bodies through excessive drinking, smoking, reckless behaviour, or suicide. Anger makes even the most handsome face look ugly, it harms our physical health and leads to isolation and loneliness because nobody can bear to be near us anymore. Buddha taught that the worst effect of anger is not immediately obvious: anger destroys our accumulated virtue, thus preventing any chance of future happiness, and it leads to future lives of misery.
Contemplating the faults of anger is the first step in overcoming anger, which is defined as an agitated state of mind that intends to inflict harm upon another living being, upon oneself, or upon an inanimate object. We must be convinced that anger is utterly evil and there is no justification whatsoever in wishing harm upon any of these three objects, no matter how much harm we receive from them. The worst an external enemy can do is take our life; the internal enemy of anger can do that with its hands tied behind its back, and it can also throw us into the misery of hell, something that no external enemy can accomplish.
Once anger has erupted it is difficult to control, emergency methods are required such as separating ourselves from the object of our anger - go for a walk - or, if we can, stop the waterfall of angry thoughts by turning our mind into a block of wood or distracting it like a mother who stops her children fighting by producing a cake. Of course, the relief is only temporary, as soon as one child sees that the other has a slightly larger slice of cake the feud is on again. So, once we gain a brief respite from our anger we must then apply further antidotes.
The main antidote to anger is patience - that wonderful ability to remain calm and not retaliate in the face of provocation. For most of us, our patience is woefully undeveloped but at least we have something to work upon. The deepest source of anger is the self-cherishing ignorance together with the seeds of anger that we have inherited from our past life. Although some forms of anger, such as racism, are acquired within this life, nobody has to teach our babies to be angry, they manifest anger at a very young age because they already have the seeds of anger in their minds. The ultimate solution to anger is the wisdom realising the emptiness of self, but this takes time to cultivate, in the meantime, we must practise patience to overcome the immediate source of anger - unhappiness.
When we are unhappy there is something about our friends, ourselves, or our world that we do not like, and our mind is in danger of becoming angry towards these things. Before that happens, we must deal with the warning sign - unhappiness itself. The great Indian yogi, Shantideva, said that we should ask ourselves, "Can whatever has gone wrong be fixed? If so, what is the point of being unhappy? And, if it cannot be remedied, what is the point of being unhappy? You are just rubbing salt into the wound and exposing yourself to the greater harm of anger."
We should take this advice and react to unhappiness as we would to a rustle in the bushes when walking alone through a jungle infested with man-eating tigers. We know that the weapon to protect us from being eaten alive by our anger is patience; where do we find this weapon? Patience can only be developed in adversity, so the proper way to regard the person or the thing upsetting us is that they are our greatest ally because they give us the opportunity to practise patience and thus overcome our worst enemy - our anger. Think about it: to develop patience we NEED things to go wrong. Also, the person upsetting us is suffering terribly from their own anger for which, indirectly, we are responsible, and if we do retaliate with hatred it will only make them more angry. The only sensible solution to our dispute is to forgive, apologize, and become friends.
Thinking like this transforms
the situation, our anger is defused and we are able to love again. Then
others will love us and our resulting happiness will further reduce our
anger until it is finally extinguished by wisdom.
This teaching is by the Venerable Thubten Gyatso (previously Dr Adrian Feldmann), an Australian monk and old friend now working in Mongolia. One of the senior students of Lama Yeshe, Lama Zopa Rinpoche (and also Geshe Roach) he is currently teaching at the FPMT centre in Ulaan Baatar. These teachings originally appeared in his local English language newspaper in Ulaan Baatar and arereproduced with his permission.
Diane Olander (firstname.lastname@example.org),
these teachings first appeared on
the Internet on the website (http://www.gepeling.org/) of
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