Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lama Surya Das: On Dealing with Anger

Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.
-- Aristotle --

There are three basic causes of human suffering, according to Buddhist teachings: ignorance, desire, and anger. Of these, it would seem, anger is perhaps the most-readily identifiable as well as potentially the most damaging to one's self, to others and to the environment.

For most people, a certain degree of anger bubbles just under the surface of their persona, thus recognizing and learning to manage one's innate anger in a mindful manner is a readily achievable aim for each of us. Moreover, efforts in that direction forwards all of us on our common spiritual path.
"The true battlefield is the heart of man, as Dostoevsky said, not wars," Lama Surya Das points out in the attached two-part video. "Wars are not fought over borders. It's not weapons that kill people, it's people that kill people."

"So why," he asks rhetorically, "is this occurring? It is occurring from the greed, and meanness, and cupidity, and fear, and insecurity, and intolerance of people. And we see that all throughout history and all around the world today. So we live in a violent era, a volatile world, and we all see violence and hot wars - shooting wars - in (scores of countries) today. But also we have domestic violence in our homes, and in families, and children being beaten, and all kinds of violence being acted out."

"Also," he notes, there is "aggression, basic aggression that we act out almost every moment, which is aggressively trying to change things from as they are. We are always fighting with reality as it is. This is what Buddhists call 'the basic aggression' - insisting or wanting things to be different from as they are."
"I think it is important to remember that there is nothing in the Dharma that tells us never to be angry," writes Das in "Awakening the Buddha Within," his best selling-book on Buddhist practice. "Anger is a human emotion and it doesn't automatically disappear. Also it has its own logic, its own intelligence and function. If you bottle up and swallow your anger too often, you are going to make yourself ill."

"Meeting the challenge of ill will is not about denying, repressing, or suppressing anger. It's about staying up to date with anger and other emotions by experiencing and releasing their energy moment by moment rather than storing them up. It's about not carrying grudges, or blaming yourself, or turning your anger inward and becoming depressed and despondent. Ideally we should be able to be sensitive enough and aware enough not only to feel life fully but also to let it go."

[Lama Surya Das, "Awakening the Buddha Within," p. 138.]

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