Buddhist Belief — How Do You Deal With Anger?
” Let your love flow outward through the universe, To its height, its depth, its broad extent, a limitless love, without hatred or enmity. Then as you stand or walk, sit or lie down, as long as you are awake, strive for this with a one-pointed mind; Your life will bring heaven to earth.”
~~~ Sutta Nipata
In the last article we spent some time with the subject of attachment, and it’s opposite, detachment, and made an attempt at explaining it in a way that made some sense. I don’t know if I succeeded or not — only you can know that. It is a difficult topic when talking about the Third Noble Truth of Buddhist Belief. The main point I wanted to make is this: Not being attached to something doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care about anything. It doesn’t mean you have to give up anything — other than your attachment to whatever it is — and/or your expectations from it.
One of the reasons why so many of us in this culture have difficulty with the Third Noble Truth is our habit of reacting negatively to the things happening in our lives. We’re on a cycle of letting our emotions tell the world who we are. One of these emotions is anger. An interesting way to look at anger is to see it as a form of energy. That’s truly all anger is until we allow it to turn into aggression. When we reach the point where we’ve identified with the energy of our anger, and you’re trying so hard to not give into it, then you often end up being angry with yourself because you’re angry. It becomes a vicious cycle.
There’s a Buddhist term for the vicious cycle of conditioned behavior– it’s called “samsara“. The way to end this samsara – this cycle of allowing our emotions to rule — is just like it was with attachment — we have to let go. In the case of anger, when we control it and not allow it to become aggression — when we hold the anger to its original level of pure energy, what we will display will be a sharp, pointed, clear-thinking form of wisdom. Turning our anger into a positive energy will result in something helpful, not harmful. You’ll be amazed at how this anger-energy can be used for good. What we often allow to happen is we let it get out of control and we lose our mind. When we control it, we strengthen our mind and discover elements of wisdom we didn’t know we had.
One of the ways that most of us can get our emotions under control is to become more aware of what our minds and bodies are doing in certain situations. For example, there are some situations when our body’s own intelligence will control our reactions. These reactions will be instinctive. One that comes to mind is when we are suddenly faced with danger. What happens? Our heart starts to beat faster. Our muscles contract. Our breathing becomes more rapid as our bodies prepare for either fight or flight. This is known as primordial fear and is also often primordial anger. We have no control over this reaction — it is pure instinct. It is our body’s automatic response to some external, dangerous, life-threatening situation.
An emotional response, on the other hand, is our body’s response to a thought. An example of this might be if you were told that someone’s car had been stolen. Your response to that news would be entirely different than if you were told that it was your car, wouldn’t it? It makes all the difference in the world how we react to something when the “something” involved is related to “me” or “mine“. Despite the fact that our body is a wonderfully intelligent form of energy, it doesn’t have the ability to distinguish between an actual situation and our thought about a situation. When our mind, our ego, gets into the picture, we lose our ability to effectively control ourselves.
We all have anger inside of us. Those seeds of anger are looking for objects to grasp onto. Again, it’s our ego looking for some way to perpetuate itself. Letting these seeds of anger turn into aggression is a matter of survival for our egos. This is different than primordial fear or anger. It’s the ego’s way of proving it exists. Putting an end to this way of dealing with anger is up to us. We’re the troublemakers. It’s all in our hands. Here we are with those choices again. Those egos of ours are constantly looking for something, anything, to grasp onto.
Buddha recommends meditation as a way to turn this need to grasp at things around. Meditation teaches us how to rest in our natural state. Once we learn how this feels, it becomes easier and easier to stay in this place when circumstances come up to make us feel the need to react negatively, without wisdom. When meditation is working as it should, there is no wanting. There is no clinging. There is no craving. There is just the unimpeded, free, experiencing. This is the freedom promised by the Third Noble Truth of Buddhist Belief.
When we allow our anger to become the emotion of aggression, we are on the verge of hatred. This is one of the dangers of anger.
There was a vivid example of this in my own life this past week. As part of the campaigning for the presidency in the USA, there are often methods used which are closely associated with immorality. One of the organizations that support one of our political parties paid for, and distributed a documentary DVD that encouraged people to feel fear and hatred for a particular religious belief. On Friday, last week, an act of vicious hatred was carried out on members of that religion near where I live in Dayton, Ohio. Since this act of terrorism happened to coincide so closely with the distribution of this DVD, I believe the two events are closely related. (You can read more about this at my other blog: http://www.theleaderinside.com).
My point here is that hatred can only lead to more hatred. This fact has been proven over and over again throughout history. The only way to combat this energy of anger and keep it from turning into the emotion of aggression, which can easily lead to hatred, is to bring an abundance of love to it. One of my favorite people to quote is Peace Pilgrim. She said:
“This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.” – Peace Pilgrim
Next time we’ll take a look at some further aspects of the Third Noble Truth.
I have something I’d like to recommend to you. Please read on …
A question that often is asked by readers of blogs like this which relate to Buddhist Belief is this: “What do I do to become a better person?”
Obviously, my hope is that you’ll become a regular reader of this blog as it’s my goal to help us all to answer that question with some clarity.
There’s a book I’d like to recommend to you that does a great job of answering that question. It’s by Sharon Salzberg and is entitled: “A Heart as Wide as the World: Living with Mindfulness, Wisdom and Compassion“.
Basically, she says if you want to be a better person, simply start acting like one! Makes pretty good sense to me. Sharon Salzberg is one of the best selling Buddhist authors in the United States. I feel that one of the main reasons for this is because you can understand what she has to say. She’s also not afraid to use her own experiences as examples.
Buddhism, and Buddhist Belief for Sharon Salzberg, for myself, and for many others is about the day-to-day steps needed to connect with the Buddha within each of us. The first step is believing that it is possible to do so, to see “Buddha nature” in everyone, including oneself.
Meditation may be the best way to make that connection, according to many Buddhist authors, and Salzberg agrees, but her deconstruction of mindfulness, of being aware of everything as it is happening presently, may be the second most important step toward enlightenment.
To practice mindfulness, Salzberg explains, is not to place a value judgment on any experience or emotion. They simply are what they are. Besides, if everything is fleeting, there is no need to support the idea of “good” or “bad.” It’s simply a matter of time before our sensations and environments will change anyway.
Since today’s blog post is about anger, I’d like to quote from Sharon’s book:
“Anger, in itself, is not best viewed as bad or wrong. It is simply another state of mind that arises in reaction to circumstances,” she writes. “It is natural to feel angry at times … but we need to understand how anger functions and how it affects us, not condemn ourselves for feeling it.”
This book is at its best when Salzberg tells a personal story to explain the tenets she is trying to teach. Examples of when her own anger arises out of jealousy or miscommunication lets readers know she is no different than anyone else, thus leading to her appeal. In her writing she shows that there are a multitude of inner struggles to deal with on our path to enlightenment, regardless of your religious belief.
In this book, Salzberg focuses on everyone’s ability, no matter what their background or character, to become a better person. It’s about compassion! When we can learn to respect our fellow human beings and ourselves, we will grow to who we truly are and experience true inner peace.
You can get this book at this link: A Heart As Wide As the World.
Always remember this wonderful quote from Buddha ….
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Shanti everyone, … (A sanscrit word meaning, “Let there be Peace. Peace, beautiful Peace. Peace within, Peace without. Peace in this world. Peace for all beings.”)
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”
Have a peaceful day!! —
Tags: Buddhist Belief, Buddha, Buddhism, Buddhist, First Noble Truth, Four Noble Truths, Second Noble Truth, Third Noble Truth, Nirvana, inner peace, peace, attachment, detachment, anger