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Thread: Is anger ever justified?

  1. #1

    Is anger ever justified?

    I was reading about the precepts on refraining from anger in 'The Mind of Clover.' It appears that the author is arguing that when there is no self to defend then anger can be appropriate depending on the situation. This has got me thinking. Is anger ever justified?



  2. #2
    I think that anger can be a skilful mean, for example when a teacher is angry, it's not personal, it may be a face, a mask like a shout. After that, he can be smiling because he reacts to the situation, not your person.
    For us, not teachers, I could think that we can be angry if someone is aggressed, in this case there is no pride to be a hero (ego arising), it's compassion to save the person, even at the cost to show anger to the violent folks to say "stop", vs. anger and pleasure to hit them.

    I'm maybe wrong, just a thought


    Last edited by Myoshin; 09-15-2013 at 01:14 PM.
    Myoshin 妙 心
    "A person who receives the Buddhist Precepts enters the state of Buddha at once. They stand at the same level as Gautama Buddha. We can say they are a child of the Buddha." Jundo

  3. #3

    I am a little "angry" that you did not wait to discuss this until we come to the Precept on Anger in our Precepts study! Just kidding, but we will get the the topic in more detail then.

    I usually post the following when the topic of "righteous anger" comes up ...

    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 ...

    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. ... 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 ...

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

    We discuss the subject more during out study study of the Jukai Precepts ...
    Also this, on playing with fire ...

    [T]o fully remove these emotions from the human mind ... including potentially harmful emotions such as anger ... would rob of us of an important part of being human. We would be reduced to living in a way as emotionally numb and dull as a piece of cold wood or a stone. Some schools of Buddhism (and some other Eastern and Western religions too) have sought to completely kill or squelch such emotions within us (sometimes many other human emotions too). This has traditionally been described as pouring water on the fire until coals become completely wet and cool, and the fire is completely out.

    When Buddhism came to China, Korea, Tibet and Japan ... the Buddhist teachings on the emotions subtly changed (I paint with a broad brush, but I speak as a general trend). The fires of emotions were not seen as necessarily negative things, but they must be handled carefully and with balance. A campfire, so useful for cooking our supper if skillfully made, will quickly burn down the woods if left untended. A single candle which offers light can burn us and others, and the whole house down, if handled wrong. So it is with our emotions.


    ... Thus I say that the Precepts guide us away from excess and uncontrolled anger, greed, jealousy ... Anger at injustices in the world, for example, may spur us on to fight for change ... yet that anger should be kept in balance, and tempered with an equal dose of acceptance of life, lest it burns us to ashes too. The desire for change should not be allowed to run rampant as greed for and attachment to change from 'how things are'. A healthy dose of competition need not become jealousy and violence. We should use strong words much as we would scold a 3 year old child found playing with matches ... that is, with love and concern and understanding, not simply to hurt the child. A harsh word can be an "intervention" to shake a friend up who needs to hear ... or it can simply be a cruel and destructive word meant to hurt someone (the most famous example of "Zen tough love" may be all those old tough talking Masters administering "40 blows" of Wisdom). Thus, do not extinguish life fires ... but handle them with care and use them in constructive ways!
    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-05-2015 at 04:46 AM.

  4. #4
    I think anger is a normal emotion, just like happiness, or love. It's what we do with that anger that is the important thing. If we act upon it, raging and acting out of control, that is obviously wrong. If we bridle it, and act in an appropriate way, then no, that is not wrong. Sometimes anger is a way to protect ourselves, if anger rises up (let's say for example your child is talking back to you) you can take that anger and use it in an appropriate way by making your child stop.

    I really appreciate what Thich Nhat Hahn has to say about anger....

    Smiling At Your Anger
    Breathing in, I know that anger makes me ugly.
    Breathing out, I do not want to be contorted by anger.
    Breathing in, I know I must take care of myself.
    Breathing out, I know loving kindness is the only answer.

    ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

    Thich Nhat Hanh on Pillow Punching .....

    "Expressing anger is not always the best way to deal with it. In expressing anger we might be practicing or rehearsing it, and making it stronger in the depth of our consciousness. Expressing anger to the person we are angry at can cause a lot of damage. Some of us may prefer to go into our room, lock the door, and punch a pillow. We call this "getting in touch with our anger." But I don't think this is getting in touch with our anger at all. In fact, I don't think it is even getting in touch with our pillow. If we are really in touch with the pillow, we know what a pillow is and we won't hit it. Still, this technique may work temporarily because while pounding the pillow, we expend a lot of energy, and after a while, we are exhausted and we feel better. But the roots of our anger are still intact, and if we go out and eat some nourishing food, our energy will be renewed. If the seeds of our anger are watered again, our anger will be reborn, and we will have to pound the pillow again. Pillow-pounding may provide some relief, but it is not very long-lasting. In order to have real transformation, we have to deal with the roots of our anger -- looking deeply into its causes. If we don't, the seeds of anger will grow again. If we practice mindful living, planting new, healthy, wholesome seeds, they will take care of our anger, and they may transform it without our asking them to do so."


  5. #5
    Thanks for the response everyone. I look forward to the forthcoming precepts study.


  6. #6
    If it weren't for anger, there would've never been a women's suffrage movement, a labor movement, or a civil rights movement. India would still be a British colony, and South Africa would still be apartheid. Anger isn't good or bad; it just is. It's what we do with it that counts.
    May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind
    quickly be freed from their illnesses.
    May those frightened cease to be afraid
    and may those bound be free.
    May the powerless find power
    and may people think of befriending one another.

  7. #7
    Is there anything wrong with anger? No. Like any emotion, it is how you handle it that makes it good or bad.


    “Blessed are the flexible, for they never get bent out of shape." Author Unknown

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Piobair View Post
    If it weren't for anger, there would've never been a women's suffrage movement, a labor movement, or a civil rights movement. India would still be a British colony, and South Africa would still be apartheid. Anger isn't good or bad; it just is. It's what we do with it that counts.

    I believe that anger is hard wired into the most primitive parts of our animal brains. But Buddhism, since the start, is very much about controlling that fire, not letting it burn out of control, cooling or dousing the flames of anger as we can. We are still human beings, so we may sometimes get angry (until we are Perfect Buddha's anyway ... although I often wonder if even the historical Buddha had his "bad hair" moments) ... but it is something to be avoided. On the other hand, the Buddha nonetheless was someone who got things done and did not merely sit under his Bodhi Tree complacent. Someone like Gandhi or the Dalai Lama can work great changes and resist without indulging in anger.

    I think that one can identify an injustice or other harmful situation, feel that one must act, yet without anger.

    I once offered this talk, honoring our great Ancestor Kwai Chang Caine of Shaolin Temple, wandering the West ...


    Gassho, J

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