That was the provocative reflection from a yogi at the end of a 10-day meditation retreat, after looking intensively at her inner experience and seeing many of her life-choices, in a brand new light. Sharon Salzberg talks about being intrigued and inspired by this reflection.
These days there are a lot of opportunities for us to be filled with anger, righteous anger for sure, in light of the suffering and the injustice that is all around us.
How can we practice skillful thinking to insure that our thoughts and intentions toward others and ourselves are wholesome. One way is by practicing loving-friendliness or metta. The main obstacle to practicing metta is anger.
“There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot.” – Plato
It has been said that speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.
The following story illustrates the Buddha’s patience when confronted by an angry person. A Brahmin, a person of high rank and authority, had a habit of getting angry, even for no reason and quarreled with everyone. If someone was wronged and did not get angry, the Brahmin would get angry at that person for not being angry. He heard that the Buddha never got angry so he decided to visit the Buddha and abused him with insults. The Buddha listened compassionately and patiently and then asked him,
“Do you have any friends, family or relatives?”
“Yes, I have many relatives and friends,” the Brahmin replied.
“Do you visit them periodically?” the Buddha asked.
“Of course. I visit them often.”
“Do you carry gifts for them when you visit them?”
“Surely. I never go to see them without a gift,” said the Brahmin.
The Buddha asked, “When you give gifts to them, suppose they do not accept them. What would you do with those gifts?”
“I would take them home and enjoy them with my family,” the Brahmin answered.
Then the Buddha said, “Similarly, friend, you gave me a gift. I do not accept it. It is all yours. Take it home and enjoy it with your family.”
The Brahmin deeply embarrassed but learned from the Buddha’s compassionate advice.
In order to overcome anger we can consider the benefits of practicing loving-friendliness. According to the teaching: when you practice loving-friendliness, you “sleep in comfort, wake up in comfort and dream sweet dreams. You are dear to human and non-human beings. You concentrate easily. Your face is serene. You die unconfused.”
These are convincing enough prospects compared to ill-will, misery and even poor health which we suffer because of anger. Remembering, restraining and practicing metta as soon as anger arises is the skillful path. I have the following tips from the great yoga master Bhante Henepola Gunaratana on my refrigerator so that I can remember and also help my children handle anger:
- Become aware of your anger as soon as possible.
- Be mindful of your anger and feel its strength in your body.
- Remember that a quick temper is extremely dangerous.
- Recall anger’s miserable consequences.
- Practice restraint.
- Realize that anger and its causes are impermanent (usually 60-90 sec).
- Recall the example of the Buddha’s patience with the Brahmin.
- Change your attitude by becoming helpful and kind.
- Change the atmosphere between you and another person you are angry with by offering a gift or a favor.
- Remember the advantages of loving-friendliness.
- Remember we will all die one day, in no particular order, and we don’t want to die with anger in our heart.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” – the Buddha