These are part one of the Retreat Notes from our recent Anger and Reconciliation Retreat
Anger, from the Buddhist Perspective
Whatever my virtuous deeds may be,
Venerating Buddhas, generosity and so on,
Amassed over a thousands eons–
All are destroyed in a moment of anger.
–Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva, Chapter Six
In this retreat we will
· Examine how we create anger
· Learn how to stop creating it
· Practice burning off old habitual anger responses
In this retreat we will
· Develop patience and a patient mind as the antidote to anger.
· Explore and practice reconciliation as the primary methodology for living without anger
Mild Irritation-----------------------------------------Rage and Wrath
From mild irritation to rage and wrath, anger pervades our lives. Even when we are unaware of it, anger lurks in the background causing us to run the emotional gamut from unbalanced, unsettled, and uneasy to full-throttle fury.
Anger arises when irritation, annoyance, disapproval, and so forth suddenly burst into an action of body, speech and or mind in respond to that false and fictitious feeling.
There is no evil as harmful as anger,
No discipline as effective as patience,
Thus by all possible means I should
Cultivate patience with intensity
(In each and every single moment, with each and every single breath)
Most important, we will learn to reconcile ourselves to our lives, here now, as they are, so that we live patiently, calmly and with a warm open heart instead of angry minds. And we will learn to use reconciliation when we have differences with other or when a genuine wrong-doing occurs.
Key Buddhist Understandings:
Anger arises from the way an untrained mind works; responding spontaneously and without consideration to the assigned affinities and aversion of the second aggregate.
Nothing external, no one and nothing can make you angry. You make yourself angry but concocting an anger story in response to a sense contact.
There is a single source for all our anger: not getting what we want. And we are always trying to get more of what we like and want and think we should have, and get less of what we don’t like, want, or think we should have. And this is the origin of anger. Always wanting things to be other than what they are.
Anger is not stored, it cannot be vented. It must be created and recreated from moment to moment. Neuroscience tells us that the maximum we hold onto our anger is 3 minutes without rewriting and exaggerating the story. Usually it is only a fraction of a second.
To understand this process, we need to look at the 5 aggregates and the 12 links (below). As we see, anger arises from “feeling,” the affinities and aversions that cause us to want more in a way that cannot ever be satisfied, and from ignorance which leads to our stories, which cause us to consolidate new behaviors along old greedy and angry lines.
That’s the bad news: anger is pretty much always with us. See it, hear it, taste it, touch it, smell it, think it, and we’re, at least on some level, annoyed. But it is also the good news: knowing this, we can teach ourselves how not to be angry.
Bullets About Anger
· False: There is nothing you can do about anger.
· False: Anger is part of the human condition, without it there would be no happiness.
· False: Anger is something we must learn to manage.
· False: There is good anger and righteous anger, as the early.
· False: Anger cannot be totally eradicated.
1. Once we see that cooperation is the fundamental nature of the universe and everything it in, we see anger as an aberration.
2. In Buddhism, anger is seen less as a painful emotion and more as an unwholesome mindstate, a vice.
3. Anger arises from not seeing our connectedness to everything.
4. Our biggest decision in life, according to Shantideva, is to realize that anger is my real and worst enemy.
5. Once we see that anger always harms, its opposite needs to become our most important practice.
6. When I eliminate not-wanting, I eliminate anger.
7. Why do we prefer anger to patience, generosity, modest and humility?
Why be unhappy about something
If you can do something about it?
If nothing can be done,
What does being unhappy help?
It is much easier to suffer than to be happy, as the causes of suffering are much more plentiful, until you realize that they can all be converted into opportunities for patience and happiness! Ultimately, they will no longer be there, and will no longer be needed. Patience and happiness will arise from within, not from externals.
Moving from Anger to Patience and Peace, The Practices
1. The absolute first step, from a Buddhist perspective, to addressing anger is to realize (not just learn or understand) that anger only begets anger; it is bad, wrong, fundamentally unwholesome in the worse of ways.
2. Defilement to antidote: replace anger with patience, generosity will also work.
3. Ask what was it about the situation that made you angry. The answer will always be: you didn’t get something you wanted. Then ask: “What was the something.” Look at your answer. Is it realistic or a bit silly? Being it will never be realistic or even sensible, then laugh at it and let it go.
4. Look at the anger and say to yourself: “This is not me, this is not mine” exercise. Why, because when you don’t identify with the anger, it dissolves.
5. Notice: “There is anger.” Observe it: watch how it starts, how it changes from mental to physical and back, and at each juncture in the observation, let go and look at the next aspect. This will melt away the anger.
6. Deconstruct the anger:
· Identification and Appropriation
7. Do L-e-e-e-t-t G-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o ten times. It will send a mind body signal through the brain stem to the amygdala to reduce the intensity of the response.
8. Chant the metta sutra (below)
9. Realize that our inability to always get our way is the source of anger. Examine that thought. What is so wrong with my life and my family and the world that I am never satisfied, always demanding more/better? Consider that here now, just as it is, is as perfect as it could possibly be.
10. Exercise moral discipline–don’t act out on the anger when you notice it: don’t yell, don’t drive aggressively when you’re upset.
11. Weak as they are, distraction and even suppression may help. Really furious, out of control, leave…go see a movie; even better, go buy your wife a big present.
12. Read: Chapter Six, The Way of the Bodhisattva by Shantideva (Padmakara Translation Group)
May I be free from anger and hatred.
May I be free from greed and selfishness.
May I be free from fears and anxiety.
May I be free from pain and suffering.
May I be free from ignorance and delusion.
May I be free from negative states of mind.
May I be peaceful and happy.
May I experience peace and tranquility of body and mind.
May those whom I love, those whom I like, those who have angered or done harm to me be free from anger and hatred.
May those whom I love, those whom I like, those who have angered or done harm to me be free from greed and selfishness.
May those whom I love, those whom I like, those who have angered or done harm to me be free from fears and anxiety.
May those whom I love, those whom I like, those who have angered or done harm to me be free from pain and suffering.
May those whom I love, those whom I like, those who have angered or done harm to me be free from ignorance and delusion.
May those whom I love, those whom I like, those who have angered or done harm to me be free from negative states of mind.
May those whom I love, those whom I like, those who have angered or done harm to me be peaceful and happy.
May those whom I love, those whom I like, those who have angered or done harm to me experience peace and tranquility of body and mind.
May all beings be free from anger and hatred.
May all beings be free from greed and selfishness.
May all beings be free from fears and anxiety.
May all beings be free from all pain and suffering.
May all beings be free from ignorance and delusion.
May all beings be free from negative states of mind.
May all beings be peaceful and happy.
May all beings experience peace and tranquility of body and mind.