By Bhante Sathi
Have you ever experience anger? Do you like anger? If you’re like most people, the answer would be “No.”
We especially don’t like anger directed towards ourselves. But, when we get angry amazingly it becomes a very reasonable anger. Then we say, “Yes I got angry because of you” or “I got angry because of this.” We are justifying our anger.
What does that mean? Who controls our anger? Who gave a chance to others to control us, to arise various emotions, and as a result, anger.
Let’s think about this. We all have experienced anger whether we like it or not. When someone doesn’t do what we expect them to do, unpleasant feelings arise within us. Our first reactions are to feel uncomfortable and disagree. Then we tend to fight against those feelings. We want others to change their way because it makes us unhappy. If we can’t control the situation our reactions will depend on the type of connection we have with that particular person. If it is not a strong relationship the first thing we do is to move away. But if we cannot leave because of a strong relationship, we fight against these situations. Again, feeling uncomfortable arouses anger. At this point anger is a simple weapon that we use to protect ourselves.
We think anger is powerful and we can fulfill our desire by getting angry. In a situation where anger is towards you, that energy also can cause anger within you.
As an example, if somebody is coming at you armed with a weapon, to get energy to face that person you think you need another weapon; a powerful weapon which you can defeat the enemy. First you get the weapon to protect yourself. To protect yourself, you want to make them scared. It is the same way that we get angry. If someone is coming at us with anger we also answer that with anger. We want to respond with a more powerful weapon. Then the other side does the same thing. When it goes above your limit you can no longer control your anger and you do whatever you feel like doing. What happens here is that you begin to create mental stories about the situation. Because of your feelings of discomfort, these stories manifest themselves into your own projected reality and now you are just reacting to the situation with a misguided.
The ordinary way of thinking is that we have to face anger-to-anger, weapon-to-weapon, and war-to-war. That is the nature of the typical human being. But that is not reality. If you really start to practice loving kindness against anger, you will realize that there is nothing to fight against.
Think about it this way: we don’t use fire to burn out a fire. We use water. As Jesus asked, “If anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn your left cheek.” That is a really good lesson in handling anger because if you turn the other cheek, the person will not feel comfortable to hit again.
Also, it helps them to reduce their anger right away. We fight against someone because we want to show we are more powerful than him or her. If we think they are not harmful then we are not comfortable to fight against them. By showing anger against anger, we are feeding their anger.
Anger starts by disagreeing with something until gradually that “something” becomes a rejection and turns into hatred. We can notice this because of all the physical and mental changes we go through when we are angry and experience hatred.
According to Buddha’s teachings, anger is processed and aroused in three ways. First, anger changes our perceptions and it arise emotions. Secondly, it changes you physically as some of the muscles in the body tense, blood pressure rises, our blood becomes warmer, hormone levels vary, and much more. Thirdly, are the uncontrolled words that come through the mouth. If we observe these changes within us when we get angry, we could see this is harmful to you even before you harm someone else with your anger.
We really become weaker by getting angry. By the time we have allowed our anger to unleash itself upon us, any teaching learned to retard anger is neither powerful nor influential. Therefore, it is best to not allow anger to manifest from the beginning. Pay attention to this well because this is a subject common and beneficial to all of us.
Poor perceptions can make us a weak person. By having emotions we are becoming powerless and unhappy. However, by practicing mindfulness it helps us to have perceptions without emotions and, as a result, we are very much in control.
We know what is happening and what we need to do. Also, we find the best answer or solution to a problem. Sometimes we can show anger without really being angry. Take the fire example. This time, instead of using water to put out the fire, we actually use fire to control the existing fire. Here we are in a state of mind where we know that fire against fire is the best solution. Our use of fire isn’t based on ignorance or hatred. Instead, it is based on intelligence.
Buddha explained this very same concept to a wise person once. The example that Buddha provided was when there is a forest fire spreading very fast with the wind, the wise will set fire to a strip that surrounds his land to save his property as fire can not spread further through burned fields. One who does this knows about the power of fire and how to use the power. He or she is aware of what they are doing. One who uses anger as a similar way does the same. It is a way of “acting” angry without the physical and mental downfalls of when one is really angry. He or she knows what they are speaking about and, as a result, their words are more powerful and effective.
We must recognize the cause of the fire. By recognizing it, we can change the cause to put out the fire. When we stop contributing to the cause, we can stop the fire. Similarly when we stop contributing to anger, we can stop anger.
Disagreements and unpleasant feelings are the main contributors of rising anger within us. The wise one will use mindfulness to realize these pleasant and unpleasant feelings. This realization will prevent anger from arousing. It helps us to realize the reality and to find a solution, a perfect solution.
We could never find a perfect solution by engaging with our emotions, because emotions contribute to arising anger within, rather than realizing the causes that brought about the original anger.