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Thread: A question on Anger

  1. #1

    A question on Anger

    Can there be Righteous Anger? Is there a time when anger is acceptable, and not simply justified? Or as Buddhists who cultivate peace and hold to the Bodhisattva Vows that say Do not hold on to anger, are we to always try and put aside the anger in favor of compassion and peacefulness?

    :evil: or 8)

  2. #2
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: A question on Anger

    Are you angry?

    Chet

  3. #3

    Re: A question on Anger

    Are you angry?

    Chet
    Not at the moment, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that it is an issue I sometimes have. My patience is short more often than not and I tend to get upset.

  4. #4

    Re: A question on Anger

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Can there be Righteous Anger? Is there a time when anger is acceptable, and not simply justified? Or as Buddhists who cultivate peace and hold to the Bodhisattva Vows that say Do not hold on to anger, are we to always try and put aside the anger in favor of compassion and peacefulness?

    :evil: or 8)
    This is an interesting question. You have probably seen, in Tibetan Buddhism, images of "wrathful" deities who turn their "pure anger" toward such causes as the protection of the Dharma and the saving of all Sentient Beings ... their wrath is directed at fighting evil, fire with fire ...

    http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/d ... eities.htm



    Anger is also a natural part of being human ... like sadness and fear ... and we should not be angry about sometimes getting a little angry (or sad about sometimes being sad, etc.). That's just how our animal brains are wired.

    HOWEVER, unlike sadness (which is just part of the scenery of life, rainy days following sunny), or fear (which may even serve to keep us safe and out of harm's way if held in moderation) ... anger is truly fire & TNT, and has potential to do great harm. It is more likely to end up as a fight in a bar, a broken relationship or starting a war than it is to do any positive good. As well, there are other emotions and perspective which can accomplish the positive goods more effectively.

    So, for example, calm reflection, looking for a constructive solution and keeping one's head as much as possible while taking effective action is an approach more likely to solve a problem in this world or in one's life than tossing more fuel on the fires of hate. (For example, the best way, I would say, to combat the hate and anger of 'terrorism' is to not add hate and anger and revenge on top of hate and anger. The taking of effective action, even some violent action ... if called for ... to end the problem is not dependent on our anger). Perhaps, "righteous indignation" or "tough love" (if a parent ... even the Zen Master's "30 blows" are more of this kind) or "a firm hand with a calm mind" may be justified by a situation (throw the bad guys in jail and throw away the key, even as one knows that they are also just sentient beings victims of their own anger and hate) ...

    ... but I would say that anger is rarely, if ever, an appropriate response.

    You can read more in our threads on this subject for study of the Jukai Precepts ...

    Most Buddhist teachers who spoke on the issue after 9-11 felt, for example, that some military action might be necessary, the taking of some lives to prevent a greater loss of life. However, I can think of none who spoke in terms of anger and revenge.

    viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2176

    Gassho, J

  5. #5

    Re: A question on Anger

    Here is a story that happened to be in the news today ... anger, jealousy, a family demanding revenge ...

    It makes me think that anger, even in small amounts, is rarely if ever the answer ...

    http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/crime/ ... cnn&hpt=P1

    A 12-year-old could be tried on charges of murdering his father's pregnant fiancee.

    On a chilly morning in February 2009, state police found 26-year-old Kenzie Houk in her bed with a bullet though her head. She was eight months pregnant.

    The search for her killer ended with the most surprising murder suspect residents of Wampum, Pennsylvania, had ever seen: 11-year-old Jordan Brown, the son of the victim's fiancť.

    He is one of the youngest suspects in the country to be charged with homicide, legal experts say. There are two counts of homicide, one covering the fetus.

    He pleaded not guilty to the charges in May.

    In Pennsylvania, there is no lower limit for the age someone can be charged as an adult with criminal homicide. If convicted, Jordan, now 12, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

  6. #6
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: A question on Anger

    I think that anger can be very wise, especially when it points to injustices in our lives or the lives of others. Anger, when it arises, can alert us to conditions that need to be addressed and/or changed. It can also reflect, and arise out of ignorance, and false stories we tell ourselves.

    The problem is, as Jundo pointed out, even when our anger is a wise or righteous anger, when we are being totally shit on and treated unfairly and "deserve" to raise our voice, acting in an angry manner is rarely constructive. It is also hard to assess a situation accurately when you're angry. In a state of anger, one is more invested in "me" and "my story." I find "doing the Byron Katie" thing helps defuse things a bit (asking myself in response to a thought or story, "Is this true? Can I absolutely know this is true? Who would I be without this thought/story?" And then turning it around and considering if the opposite could be true). Because I rarely am as certain of a story as my anger would convince me I am.

    So what I've learned is that anger is OK in the sense that it is my mind and body trying to tell me something. I need to listen to it, look where it's pointing and assess what it's alerted me to when I've cooled off a bit. But it's rarely going to serve my or anyone else's purposes to act or speak while in a state of anger.

  7. #7
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: A question on Anger

    The biggest problem with anger is that, like drunkeness - it causes heedlessness.

    Come to think of it, the very worst and most hurtful things I've ever said to anyone were done while either drunk or angry.

    Chet

  8. #8

    Re: A question on Anger

    Thank you all for your responses.

    Now, if I may, another question:

    When a thing happens that triggers that angry response, when you begin to feel the :twisted: coming out in you; what do you do to come to a place where you can put the anger away and take the more constructive path?

    For example:

    I have kids, three now, all boys. One of them is inquisitive, not mean or anything and never purposfully destructive. Some years ago, while working in Radio Shack, I helped a gentleman of Egyptian decent with a problem he had. He was very appreciative, so much so (perhaps this is a cultural thing?) that he gave me a papyrus with a beautifully painted scene of a pharoh hunting ducks on it. I kept it for about 4 years, but never got around to buying a frame for it. I came home the other day and found it torn almost in two.

    :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil:

    I had to stay away from the boy, because if I didn't calm down first, I knew I would yell at him and probably send him to his room. After calming down I remembered that Hey, he's 4. He probably didn't mean to break it.

    The place I would like to get to in my practice, is where I can see something like that and....I don't know....remember the impermanence of the thing anyway, or something where that initial feeling of anger is replaced by understanding or compassion. I believe that what everyone has said is true, Anger is a fire. I guess I'm tired of getting my fingers burned by it. I know it isn't constructive to get so worked up, and that's why I'm looking for an alternative.

    Thank you all again for your teachings.

  9. #9

    Re: A question on Anger

    Hello all,

    Christopher - you've brought up a really great topic here! Having said that, and with two very active boys myself, I feel I can relate well to your second posting.

    The first thing I do when I feel the temper, the heat, rising is acknowledge it.
    Remove myself temporarily from the situation...get some space from your child and the incident. Sometimes a quick call to a friend just to vent and get the initial anger out, is all we need to gain perspective.
    Ask yourself some questions...This was an accident, right? What was my child trying to do or see? What is the most important piece here, your child or the object? Obviously your answer is your child...but sometimes a reminder of what's truly important helps you find your grounding.
    Then I go and (calmly - at least we try to shoot for 'calm') talk to my child and use this experience as a teaching moment (sometimes I'm the one who gets the lesson). I always tell my children that people are always more important than "things". I also tell them that if they break something, or do something they know is going to hurt someone else, that they should go to that person and apologize. My kids are a little older, so I stress that taking responsibility for doing something wrong is so much better than hiding it and the person finding out later.

    I hope my rambling helps on some level.

    Wonderful and very useful advice here from everyone!

    Gassho,
    Kelly - Jinmei

  10. #10
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: A question on Anger

    Hey Christopher,

    I agree with Jinmei...very good topic! I have some thoughts but am tending to my two own boys right now, so I will post again later. However, it made me think of this thread:

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1730

    I think you may find it relevant and of interest, assuming you haven't already seen it.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  11. #11

    Re: A question on Anger

    Hi,

    Buddhist Practice is usually described as flying upon the twin wings of ?amatha (calming thoughts and emotions, illuminating and dropping body-mind) and awareness and understanding of vipa?yan? (insight and awareness primarily into the nature and workings of 'self' and mental functions). That is true in Zen practice no less than most other forms of Buddhist practice.

    In a nutshell, Vipa?yan? might be described as insights and awareness, based on Buddhist psychology, as to how the mind works and plays it games. It is an understanding of the Skandhas (form, sensation, perception, mental formation, consciousness ... those words always sung in the Heart Sutra), how our thoughts and emotional reactions arise, how we label and divide the world. We should also understand the Buddha's ideas about how suffering arises within us, which is intimately tied to all that.

    Unlike some schools of Buddhism, in Shikantaza we do not pursue any particular practices --during-- Zazen itself in order to cultivate such vipa?yan? insight ... and much insight naturally arises from Zazen as "Zazen does its thing". Perhaps we might say that, just in "just sitting" Shikantaza ... dropping thoughts of this and that, thus quieting the mind's "mind games" ... we develop a natural sensitivity and understanding of the mind's "mind games" (much like one first comes to really appreciate what "urban noise" is when one first drives out of the city to the middle of the desert or some other truly quiet place).

    Apart from "on the Zafu" sitting times, however, in the rest of our Buddhist studies and practice, it is good to contemplate and develop such insight, and come to identify the workings of the Skandhas and such within us day to day.

    Anyway?to cut to the chase ...

    We need to develop a sensitivity to how anger arises within us, the triggers which tend to set it off, the first feeling of it starting to arise and the cycle it follows until vanishing. We need to catch ourself more and develop the ability to say, "I am feeling the emotion of anger now, but it is only the mind created theater which is present in this moment ... it need not be so." We need to see it as a story the self writes for itself, "catch it" and thus not be "sucked in" and fooled as much. (Most people who feel anger do not realize it is just a mind created bit of theater which can be replaced by something else ... it is not the way things "have to be". E.g., most people think, when they become upset, that they have "reason to be upset, and it is true and justified", not an optional response to the circumstances). That realization and understanding of how our inner theater works is a step to developing the ability to "rewrite and change the story" at will.

    For example, if you feel an angry or jealous thought arising within you during your day, it is very helpful to identify that as a "bit of temporary mind theatre" and "just the self judging and conflicting with another perceived self". That gives us some distance from the passing emotion, and we no longer see the emotion as quite as inevitable and "true" as we might have before.

    Also, I so much agree with Stephanie. There is a great difference between (1) feeling anger and (2) acting upon that anger. There is also a great difference between thinking (1) I am angry and it is justified, the only way to feel right now, and (2) I am feeling angry and it is just one way too feel right now, and is created by the mind which need not feel just this way right now.

    Gassho, J

  12. #12

    Re: A question on Anger

    Thank you again to everyone. I will use the "mind-theater" visualization. I tell you truly, though, sometimes it is hard. But then, Musashi Myamoto in the Book of Five Rings said, "At first it will seem hard, but then, at first everything seems hard."

    On more question, not on anger, but more on reflection:

    Apart from "on the Zafu" sitting times, however, in the rest of our Buddhist studies and practice, it is good to contemplate and develop such insight, and come to identify the workings of the Skandhas and such within us day to day.
    What is the best way to go about this study of self? In today's world, we have jobs and responsibilities, I also go to college at nights, kids, family, etc. Since, on the zafu, we return to the "clear sky mind", how and when should one reflect on the skandas, koans, sutras, principals, Precepts, the Eightfold Noble Path, etc.? Should you set aside an hour a day or something to reflect, not in meditation but more actively? I know that I need to identify the skandas and their affect on me, the attachments I have developed, and conceptions I have created, and work to break free of them, but I'm not entirely sure how to go about that process. Or, is it not so much a process per se, is it more of a question of "just sitting" and letting the effect of shikantaza peel away the layers that hide buddha-nature?

  13. #13

    Re: A question on Anger

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    What is the best way to go about this study of self? In today's world, we have jobs and responsibilities, I also go to college at nights, kids, family, etc.
    I would say primarily just by being observant of how your mind works, how it makes the "theater", when in your job and responsibilities, dealing with college, kids, family, etc. Become observant and a student of how you react and behave in various situations during the day. Start thinking about your thoughts and emotional reactions in Buddhist terms, e.g., "this is just my self in conflict with its image of circumstances". Instead of saying to yourself "I am angry and this situation is the cause and it cannot be easily changed", learn to say to yourself, "this is just my mind creating a momentary feeling of anger because the self is not satisfied with these circumstances ... and it need not react so ... let me try a little Shikantaza attitude right now instead" .... In other words, Study Thyself, Know Thyself!

    Since, on the zafu, we return to the "clear sky mind", how and when should one reflect on the skandas, koans, sutras, principals, Precepts, the Eightfold Noble Path, etc.?
    It is important to understand these basic Buddhist concepts (I am starting a series on the "Eightfold Path" today on the sit-a-long), but it is not so hard to get a basic understanding of the concepts. Anyone reading a few books of basic Buddhist philosophy and psychology will come to some familiarity with these things. The tricky part, however, is putting them into practice, and the "Know Thyself" part. Reading about Buddhist psychology does not take too much time or effort, but seeing how you behave in Buddhist terms is a lifetime study.

    Or, is it not so much a process per se, is it more of a question of "just sitting" and letting the effect of shikantaza peel away the layers that hide buddha-nature?
    It is that too. It is on and off the cushion, which are not apart ... a whole.

    Gassho, J

  14. #14

    Re: A question on Anger

    In my case, just call me Jundo or or Rev. Jundo (or Rabbi) or Cap'n Jundo. Maybe, in a few years, you can start calling me Admiral Jundo. Call me Roshi or Sensei. My father from Brooklyn used to say, "Call me whatever, just don't call me late for dinner"
    Just so you know.....you said we could call you Roshi, a term which to me conveys deep respect. If you keep answering my questions like you did this one, you're just going to have to deal with me calling you Roshi. :lol:

  15. #15

    Re: A question on Anger

    Some martial arts schools can really help with directing anger in useful directions.

  16. #16

    Re: A question on Anger

    I'd love to do martial arts again, but I wouldn't be able to for a few reasons.

    I hurt my back pretty good in the military and am trying to get them to pay me so I can get to a chiropractor (not covered under my insurance :evil: ) and until then, I'd be affraid I'd hurt myself worse.

    And second, Master Dogen has said that before you can truly understand Zen, you must first know poverty. While I don't think I quite qualify under his exact meaning, let's say that I'm not too far off. :lol:

  17. #17
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: A question on Anger

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Are you angry?

    Chet
    Not at the moment, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that it is an issue I sometimes have. My patience is short more often than not and I tend to get upset.
    Do you realize, then, that at this very moment you are talking about an imaginary event?

    Chet

  18. #18

    Re: A question on Anger

    Chet,

    I guess the best way to answer this is that I do know that, but I find I don't always remember it. Perhaps that's the key, mindfulness. As Jundo said, about the mind theater and the essay from Thich Nhat Han (Man I hope I spelled that right) maybe I'm not being mindful enough of it. Not remembering that it is really something that I have created and can uncreate just as easily. Plus, I suppose it has alot to do with the attachement I have to things, like that papyrus, or the book I'm reading that was "lost" today when my wife cleaned the house.

  19. #19

    Re: A question on Anger

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Do you realize, then, that at this very moment you are talking about an imaginary event?

    Chet
    Hi everyone!

    I think Chet his pointing at something quite important here!
    I would like to add the idea that there is also the fact that this is a spiral kind of thing.
    "First" you feel Anger, or you realize Anger. Then the Fear of that anger showing his "horrible face" again...
    And then you find yourself stuck in something very tricky were Anger and the Fear of the future moment of Anger
    is just a big blend ...

    Well, i suppose I don't help much with that but that's what comes to my silly mind ... :roll:

    Deep Gassho,
    Luis/Jinyu

  20. #20

    Re: A question on Anger

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Chet,

    I guess the best way to answer this is that I do know that, but I find I don't always remember it.
    I believe that may be the lifetime, ever changing, 'Study Thyself, Know Thyself' face of the practice. Turning theory into practice.

    As with the martial arts, that too will get easier with practice ... although we may never be perfect at it (not until we are Perfect Buddhas anyway ... just ask my ever suffering wife right after a little husband-wife kafluffle).

    In the meantime, we just take it day by day, case by case. Studying thyself, trying to realize (in the meaning of "make real") Wisdom and Compassion in this life. Mastering the art as all too human Bodhisattvas, even if not 'perfect' like a Perfect Buddha.

    Gassho, J

  21. #21

    Re: A question on Anger

    I just thought of this from Seinfeld ... which can sometimes resemble my "Buddhist Practice" more than I care to admit ...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5513mXmQbw4[/video]]

  22. #22

    Re: A question on Anger

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I just thought of this from Seinfeld ... which can sometimes resemble my "Buddhist Practice" more than I care to admit ...
    Aha as a fellow Seinfeld fan, I knew there must be a reason I was so attracted to your teachings! Interestingly that episode came from a real life experience of one of the writers whose father was actually using the technique of saying "serenity now" when he became upset. The writer found his father yelling this at the top of his lungs and thought that it really was not meant to be used in that fashion. This does bring up a good point of not trying to repress or ignore anger. Just telling yourself "I am not experiencing anger" will usually not work out that well. As mentioned above in this thread contextualizing your anger can be much more useful.

    I guess one point I would add is we should not be too hard on ourselves. As JohnsonCM brought up kids...they can really push your buttons. I found myself losing my temper on more than one occasion, but tried to leave the situation when the anger got in the way of making sound parenting decisions. My dad has a really bad temper and thus I learned some bad habits from him. Nevertheless, I never used physical punishment, never said anything hurtful, and when I did blow my top I would apologize. Sometimes I would catch myself in the act of yelling and just stop...say I am sorry and cool down.

    If I know that I will be facing a difficult conversion with someone and have time, I will do a bit of zazen beforehand. Doesn't always work, but in a number of situations it has been invaluable.

    Gassho,
    Jisen

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