Monday, August 30, 2010

Perfecting Patience is Our Path

Anger–The Problem

To end anger, one of the three poisons, and perfect patience, the third of the six paramitas, we must first recognize that anger is always destructive for us, for those around us, and for the world, and that its antidote is the diligent practice of patience.

Anger and Meditation

What we learn from meditating, from sitting still and seeing our minds, is that all anger is a defilement–an emotion that hinders us from seeing clearly and making appropriate decisions. Anger is, without a doubt to a meditator, the one of the strongest and most destructive emotions. We also learn from simple observation that defiled behavior can only lead to more defiled behavior; being angry cannot make us peaceful, acting angrily does cannot make this a better world.

For Buddhists or anyone who practices mindfulness meditation, anger is anger, anger is always a defilement, an afflicted emotion, and there is no such thing as righteous anger. And, “anger management” is an oxymoron. It is not about “managing” our anger, meaning making better use of our anger, it is about eliminating anger.

Anger is one of the most common and destructive defilements, it afflicts our minds almost all the time, whether it is in its least weighty forms, as uneasiness or irritability, or in its full-blown forms, as rage/fury and combat.

Ending Anger

To reduce and ultimately eliminate anger, we need to understand it and to develop wisdom, patience, and discipline
·       We need to recognize anger and how and when it arises in our mind.
·       We need to understand that for anger to arise, we must concoct a story about some perceived injustice;
·       We must acknowledge how anger is always harmful, never beneficial, to both us and others and the world.
·       We need to see that patience is the antidote for anger, and
·       We need to understand the benefits of being patient in the face of difficulties.
·       We then need to apply practical methods in our daily life to reduce our anger and even to prevent it from arising at all.

This is called leading a disciplined life.

Patience–The Alternative

Patience, the practice of patient acceptance, is the antidote for faulty frustrated desires (greed, the I-wants and shoulda-hads) and unwanted occurrences (negative greed: the I-shouldn’ta gottens, shouldn’t bes). We need to make the perfection of patience an omnipresent practice; not just a fallback position to use in desperation when screaming fails to accomplish our goal.

Patience is a mind that is able to accept fully whatever occurs. It is much more than just gritting our teeth and putting up with things, that’s the tolerance/intolerance thing. Being patient means to welcome wholeheartedly whatever arises, having given up the idea that things should be other than what they are.

When patience is present in our mind it is impossible for anger to gain a foothold. As we know from the cushion, since we can only have one thought at a time, if there is patience there cannot be anger.

It is always possible to be patient; there is no situation so bad that it cannot be accepted patiently, with an open, accommodating, and peaceful heart.

We start training ourselves to be patient meditation, then we take it off the cushion and practice patience by learning to accept the small everyday difficulties and hardships that arise without complaint. Gradually our patient mindstate increases and we remain peaceful in the face of our imagined adversities.

·       If we practice the patience of voluntarily accepting suffering (which is all imagined and unreal), we can maintain a peaceful mind even when experiencing difficulties.

·       If we maintain this peaceful and positive state of mind through mindfulness, angry minds will have no opportunity to arise. (You’re always breathing, so you can always return to your breath, even when someone is screaming at you). On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to dwell in aversive thoughts there will be no way for us to prevent anger from arising.

·       By training our mind to look at frustrating situations in a more realistic manner, we can free ourselves from anger and a lot of other unnecessary mental suffering: If there is a way to remedy an unpleasant situation, what point is there in being angry? On the other hand, if it is completely impossible to remedy the situation there is also no reason to get upset either. This line of reasoning is very useful, for we can apply it when we feel ourselves just becoming angry and thereby move to patience.

Being patient doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do something to improve the situation. If it is possible to remedy the situation, then of course we should; but to do this we do not need to become angry. Simple awareness will do. For example, when we have a headache take a pain reliever, but until the tablet takes effect just accept whatever discomfort there is with a calm and patient mind.

As long as we are alive, we cannot avoid unpleasant, difficult situations and a certain amount of physical discomfort, but by training our mind to look at frustrating, anger-producing situations in a more realistic manner, we can free ourselves from a lot of unnecessary suffering.

Instead of reacting blindly through the force of emotional habit (anger), we should examine the situation. We should not become angry just because things do not go our way. We must break that old habit of ours if we are to progress past anger and move meaningfully forward in our quest for peace and happiness.

In reality all of our problems are nothing more than a failure to accept things as they are–in which case it is patient acceptance, rather than attempting to change externals, that is the solution.

Lessening and managing the anger is not the point on which we practice. The point is to patiently accept things are they are and to let go of all our fabrications about how they oughta be/shoulda be.

Problems do not exist outside our mind, so when we stop seeing other people and things as problems they stop being problems. No anger.