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group study Anger and Its Antidote: Patience

Group study openly invites people to learn and exchange thoughts together based on premises that are always explicitly pointed out, however loose they might be. Any fixed discussion outcomes aren't called for, but the intent is in personal growth and understanding. It's good to keep mindful and respectful of both what is and what isn't relevant for discussion though.

Roots of Virtue

At Your Service
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Anger and Its Antidote: Patience​

Here we post articles highlighting how dangerous plain anger is for both aspiring cultivators and accomplished yogis. Community discussion about developing patience and avoiding anger should be had in another thread which doesn't exist as of yet but will be linked here if anyone takes up the topic.

All square bracket content is my clarifying edits.

The Shortcomings of Anger​

In order to control anger, we must reflect well on its shortcomings; how anger is extremely dangerous. The flame which comes from a match stick is so small, but it can burn a whole mountain, it can destroy all the bushes, all the trees on the mountain. One small fire spark touching a wire and burning it can destroy a whole building, it can burn the whole city. Like that, even if the anger is small, even if it has arisen for one second, the danger it can cause is unbelievable. However much incredible merit there is gets destroyed by anger arising—even the small anger that is arising for one second. It puts off generating the realizations of the path to enlightenment for many eons, so, like this, anger is so harmful to achieving the happiness, the perfection of our future life—nirvana and enlightenment.

When we are in danger of anger, we should remember especially the shortcomings of anger. When we are in danger of anger which is about to arise—when somebody is creating a situation or starting to talk in a way which makes our anger arise—when somebody is making preparation for our anger, so also we should make preparation from our own side to control the anger. If another person is making preparation to arise anger within their own mind, from our own side we should make preparation to control the anger, not to let anger arise. That is a very brave person who is able to do this; who is able to take care of his own mind, who is able to control his own disturbing unsubdued mind, who doesn’t let himself go under the control of the disturbing unsubdued mind. That is the real hero; that is the real brave person who can control his mind, who doesn’t let his mind go under the control of the disturbing unsubdued mind.

While the anger is arising, even if we cannot remember the shortcomings of anger and the remedies for anger; if we cannot remember just before the anger arises, if we are very unconscious and our mind is completely absorbed in that discussion—if we are completely concentrating on whatever the other person is saying; even if our mind feels uncomfortable, and anger starts to arise, but we are completely unconscious to control the anger; even if we are unable to remember the remedies and to control the anger before it arises—at least we should recognize it and remember the shortcomings of anger, and then apply the remedies of anger, all the meditations that are explained in the lam-rim [i.e. the graduated path to Buddhahood, a special teaching in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism] teachings and the thought training teachings.

Even if the anger is arising at the time, we should not just think, “Oh, now the anger is arising, now I am too late to control it. Anger has arisen before and I have controlled it before, but now I am too late. Let it arise because I’m too late, so let it arise. Let it go, let it arise.” However many seconds we let anger arise, that much it has destroyed all our own happiness, the perfection of our future lives, that much it has destroyed already. If we still do not try to control our anger, but we let it arise; if we let our mind go under the control of that anger, then however many hours, minutes or days—however long we are angry for, we lose an incredible number of merits and the results, the happiness and perfection of our future life. Without talking about a thousand or one hundred eons of merit being destroyed by anger, without talking about that, even if the merit that has been accumulated in one day, or even one hour or one minute, is destroyed by anger, it is a great loss. The anger has destroyed one million eons of merit and that is a much greater loss than having lost uncountable millions of dollars.

To create one merit, how difficult it is for one action to become virtue, even if we try, it doesn’t become virtue easily; it is so difficult. Remember all that merit which has been accumulated with much hardship, by putting much effort and time. Also remember how difficult it is to accumulate even one merit, how it is an incredible loss to destroy even one merit by anger.

There are many beggars who have accumulated much merit, who don’t have one single paisa on their body but have accumulated merit; there are many beggars who are millionaires of merit. After death they get reborn in the realm of the happy transmigratory beings, in the pure realms. There are many, many millionaires who have a million dollars, but have not accumulated one single merit in this life. They are millionaires having many million dollars, but after this life they will be reborn in the lower realms, having not one single paisa, just having only the bare bones. Remembering the shortcomings of anger and how difficult it is to create even one merit, it is extremely important not to lose the merit.

When anger has arisen it changes the whole room, it makes us very unhappy. The whole vibration of the room changes and becomes very negative. Even the room has a very negative vibration, there is no happy vibration. When anger has arisen like this, the mind becomes completely crazy, so there’s not much to think about, our mind is completely empty, possessed by the devil of anger.

Once anger has arisen, it is very dangerous. We feel careless and there is no fear, there’s no doubt. We are careless about killing our wife, or whoever is there; even our own children, who we have brought up. There’s danger of killing even our children or our friends. We destroy or break our material possessions, the valuable things around us. If there are cups and plates on the table, when anger has arisen there’s not one single reason for breaking them. The cup and plate are not the things that caused our anger to arise; they are not the reason, but you see, there’s no freedom, our mind becomes completely crazy with anger. So whatever is in front of us, we throw on the floor or break on the table. Whatever tools or things are around, our own mind is very careless, so we use whatever we can find around—stones or sticks, knives or guns, whatever is around; whatever we can find. The mind is very careless, very uncontrolled, so there is great danger of killing ourselves and other people. We hear and see on the television the person who kills his own family, his wife, by anger arising. So many people are killed. It happened so many times—someone killed his children, his father or mother, or outside people also. When there is incredible anger, we become very careless of our own life. If we are driving a car, then we purposely destroy another car by having an accident.

Even if someone is usually very beautiful; if his body has a very good color, good complexion, and he is smiling, very nice, speaking gently all the time, but one day when anger has arisen, that person becomes very fearful looking, very terrifying. Usually he has a very nice complexion, but when anger arises, even the color of his skin is kind of dark, kind of burned dark. His eyes become bigger, more white. That person usually has very nice looking eyes, peaceful looking eyes, but that time the eyes become very big, the face becomes very tense. Even the manner of the hands, even when the person walks, the sound of the feet is bigger, is kind of heavier. If the person is going on a wooden floor, he makes a big noise. The steps are heavier and the manner of the hands is very rude; the hands are like this, kind of putting like this to the person in front. While the anger is rising there is no respect. At that time the whole aspect is similar to a person intoxicated by wine, like that. His mind is burned by anger, so even the aspect is like that.

Source: Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche explained the shortcomings of anger at the Twelfth Kopan Course held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in 1979. This teaching is an excerpt from Lecture 35 of the course. Lightly edited by Sandra Smith. Also available at the the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive webpage titled "The Shortcomings of Anger".

Understanding Anger​

Emptiness is a remedy for the foundation of all delusions—ignorance—so all the other delusions will disappear. The minute one meditates on emptiness, anger for example, will stop. Anger arises when you believe in the false I, false object—all this which does not exist. So when one meditates on emptiness of the self and other objects, there is no foundation for anger. This is the most powerful antidote. But if it arises again, it is because there is no continuation of the meditation; the meditation, the mindfulness, has stopped. The problem is to remember the technique. Once you remember the technique, it always works. When you don't remember the technique, it is delayed and the delusion, anger and so forth, has already arisen and taken you over.

One thing I tell people is always to think about karma. His Holiness [the 14th Dalai Lama] always says Buddhists don't believe in God. This basic Buddhist philosophy helps you remember there is no separate mind outside of yours that creates your life, creates you karma. Whatever happens in one's own life comes from one's own mind. These aggregates, all the views of the senses, all of the feelings, happiness, sadness and so forth—your whole world comes from your consciousness. The imprints of past good karma and negative karma left on the consciousness manifest, become actualized. The imprints to have a human body, senses, views, aggregates, all the feelings—everything is realized at this time, and all of it comes from consciousness, from karma.

If your meditation on emptiness is not effective, this teaching of karma is very powerful for us ordinary beings. The minute one meditates on karma, there is no room in the mind for anger because there is nothing to blame. Thinking of karma is practicing the basic Buddhist philosophy that there is no creator other than your mind. It is not only a philosophy but a very powerful technique. Anger is based on believing in a creator: somebody created this problem; this happened because of this person. In daily life, when a problem arises, instead of practicing the philosophy of no creator, we act as if there is a creator, that the problem was created by somebody else. Even if we don't use the word God, we still believe someone else created the problem. The minute you think of karma and realize there is no creator, there is no basis for the anger.

We need to think: In the past I gave such a harm to sentient beings, therefore I deserve to receive this harm from another sentient being. When you get angry what you are actually saying is that you can harm others, but you feel that you should not receive harm from others. This is very illogical. So in this practice you say, 'I deserve this harm.'

Another practice is to use this situation to develop compassion: I received this harm because of my karma. Who started all this? It's not because of the other person, it's because of your own actions. You treated other sentient beings this way in the past, that is why you receive harm now; your karma persuaded the person to harm you now. Now this person has a human birth and they harm you because of something you inspired in the past. By harming you now they are creating more negative karma to lose their human rebirth and to be reborn in lower realms. Didn't I make that person get lost in the lower realms?

In this way you are using that problem to generate bodhicitta. This means one is able to develop the whole Mahayana path to enlightenment, including the six paramitas, whether sutra path or tantra path. One can cease all mistakes of the mind and achieve full enlightenment. Due to the kindness of that person you are able to generate compassion, free sentient beings from all the sufferings, to bring enlightenment, to cause perfect happiness for all sentient beings.

One can also think in this way: by practicing compassion on that person, one is able to generate compassion towards all sentient beings. This person, who is so kind, so precious, is helping you stop harming all sentient beings, and on top of that, to receive help from you. By not receiving harm from you, peace and happiness come; also, by receiving help from you, numberless sentient get peace and happiness. All this peace and happiness that you are able to offer all sentient beings comes from this person.

Similarly, one can practice patience in this way and is able to cease anger. In the Kadampas' advice, there are six techniques for practicing patience; I don't need to go over all that now. They are good to memorize, to write down in a notebook, in order to use.

Another thing that is very good is what Pabongka Rinpoche explains in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand: generally speaking one doesn't get angry at the stick that the person used to beat you. The stick itself is used by the person, so therefore there is no point in getting angry at the stick. Similarly, the person's body, speech and mind are completely used by the anger, by the delusion. The person's body, speech and mind become like a slave, completely used as a tool of the anger. The person themself has no freedom at all—no freedom at all. So therefore, since the person has no freedom at all, they should become an object of our compassion. Not only that, one must take responsibility to pacify that person's anger. By whatever means you can find, help the person's mind, pacify the anger; even if there is nothing you can do, pray to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to pacify the person's mind.

What His Holiness teaches is to meditate on how that person is kind, how that person is precious like Dharma, precious like Buddha, precious like Guru; kind like Buddha, like Guru. The conclusion is that if no one has anger towards us, we can never develop patience. If everybody loves us then we can never generate the precious quality of patience, the path of patience. So therefore there is an incredible need in our life for someone to have anger towards us. It is so precious, so important that someone has anger towards us. It's not precious for that person, but for us it's very precious. For that person it's torturous, it's like living in the lower realms. But for us, that person having anger towards us is so precious. We have a great need for this, a great need.

It's important that someone loves you, but it is even more important that someone has anger towards you. You see, if someone loves you it does not help you benefit numberless sentient beings or actualize the entire path to enlightenment. So why is this person the most precious thing to me. Because they are angry with you. To you, this person's anger is like a wish-granting jewel.

Also, your anger destroys merit, destroys your happiness, not only in day to day life but in long term happiness. As the Bodhicaryavatara mentions, one moment of anger delays realizations for one thousand eons. Anger is a great obstacle, especially for bodhicitta realizations. Therefore, because this person is angry towards me, I am able to develop patience and overcome my own anger and complete the entire path to enlightenment. One can complete the two types of merit, cease all the obscurations, achieve enlightenment, and free all sentient beings and lead them to enlightenment.

Source: During a teaching at Vajrapani Institute in Boulder Creek California on May 23, 1997, Lama Zopa Rinpoche explained various ways to deal with anger—one's own anger and the anger of others directed at oneself. This teaching appears in the July-August 1997 issue of Mandala, the newsmagazine of the FPMT. Also available at the the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive webpage titled "Understanding Anger".
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