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Three Meditations to be Free from Anger

Excerpt from Freedom from Anger by Venerable Sumanasara.

1. Don’t Flatter Anger

“It’s normal to get angry.”

“What’s wrong with getting angry?”

“If you don’t get angry, it means you aren’t passionate about what you do.”

The world seems to be full of angry people. I’m sure you know at least a few of them; people who use strong language and act abusively, creating uncomfortable situations for others. Some people even consider the ability to get angry to be a sign of one’s importance and power.

This is not good. Anger is not a trivial emotion of the mind that we can take lightly. “I became angry” is the equivalent of admitting, “I reacted foolishly, and I was a failure.” Anger should be considered a serious matter.

Nowadays, many people talk about their anger freely and with little concern. It seems that they have no proper understanding of the malignant and devastating nature of anger. If you let anger inhabit your mind, you have opened yourself to a life full of suffering, failures, and unhappiness. Anything can irritate an irritable person, like a man who gets upset at grass for being green.

Sharing your life with anger is contrary to the universal law of living: humans—and every living being—seek happiness, not suffering and failure. So let us spend some time together learning about anger, the enemy of joy.

2. The Urge to Get Angry is Innate

People often tell me, “I didn’t want to get angry, but somehow I just did...” The solution to this problem is very straightforward, simple, and complete: Don’t get angry. Let go of anger. Just blow it out.

It’s actually quite obvious, isn’t it? Don’t get angry, and you won’t be an angry person. There’s no other solution.

Some of you may be thinking, “That’s true! All I need to do is not get angry. I’ll just stop.” If you truly understand and believe this, then you have learned the lesson and can stop reading this book now, and go and live a happy life. Well done!

But most people who hear this advice simply reply, “I know that already, but I can’t stop. That’s why I’m asking for help.” Such people, you see, naturally give in to anger, whenever and wherever, as much as they like. But they also know somewhere inside themselves that they should not be reacting in that way, they know that to become angry is wrong, and so they look for a way to resolve this internal conflict.

Everyone occasionally feels a strong urge to get angry. But before surrendering to anger, just observe the internal conflict of your mind. If you pay attention, you’ll find that there is a warning signal against being angry, but people fail to heed it. Out of the two urges—get angry or resist anger—people easily select the first choice. Then, in order to feel better, they fool themselves and say that they didn’t want to become angry.

You can see the truth of this, can’t you? You become angry because you have given anger a free pass to overcome your other emotions whenever possible. Saying you didn’t really want to be angry is dishonest. People who truly don’t want to get angry do not. They take great care not to. They can maintain their composure. Only a very few things can upset them. Even if they do become upset about something, they immediately feel shame and correct their behavior.

Buddhism has no interest in finding tricks for disguising or diverting anger. Life is short and should be spent on working to make oneself a better person; there is no time to fool around with one’s own life. Do you seek happiness? If you do, then you should begin by admitting, “Sometimes I do want to get angry. I am not perfect.”

The next step is then to learn about anger: what it is and why it happens. Understanding the problem is the first step toward solving it.

3. Life is Governed by Anger and Love

When the Buddha taught about anger, he began by defining it clearly.

Anger, like love, is an emotion that can manifest suddenly in the mind. When we see our family or loved ones, the feeling of attachment and love quickly arises. Similarly, eating when you are hungry, or even looking at delicious food, can also give rise to immediate pleasure. In the same way, anger can appear instantly, seemingly without warning.

Our lives are defined by these two emotions: love (which can give rise to attachment) and anger. These are the motive forces of our lives; they are the two sides of the same coin. Now it should be quite easy to understand the nature of anger. Your life, like a coin, cannot stand vertically; it has to show either heads or tails.

If you want a simple test for whether you are angry at any given moment, ask yourself, “Do I feel good? Am I happy right now?” If the answer is “Not especially” or even “I’m bored,” then you have anger lurking somewhere within you. Boredom and displeasure are symptoms of anger. When you feel pleasure, happiness, or positive excitement, then you cannot be angry. A sense of well-being indicates the absence of anger.

Please think about anger in this way—not just as a definition of the word, but as an understanding of the feeling within you—for this will allow you to recognize it better when it arises.



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