Dealing with Anger

The third of my major writing projects during my year-long research leave (the first being the book about my conversion from Catholicism to Buddhism back to Catholicism and the second being a book of prayer reflections on growing in discipleship and love) is a book that adapts Buddhist meditations for Christian prayer. Many of the analytical meditations I engaged in during my time as a Tibetan Buddhist, especially those aimed at developing equanimity and compassion are easily made suitable for prayer by Christians.

As I’m beginning work on this project, I’ve been going through some of my notes from teachings I took from various lamas during the time I lived in Tibetan Buddhist communities in Nepal and India. Yesteday I came across my notes on some teachings relating to the core delusions and “antidotes” to those delusions.

Anger is one of those “core delusions” from a Buddhist perspective. Some of the things recommended for dealing with anger strike me as useful for everyone, regardless of whether they are Buddhist.

One instruction for anger is to begin by developing an awareness of the arising of anger – of the physical sensations and the thoughts that appear in the mind. Once you have the feeling, one contemplates the fruits of anger – the fact that it causes physical and mental suffering to the self, that it disturbs the peace and happiness of all around you; that it causes one to say or do things they will later regret and are ashamed of, etc.

Another invitation is to allow a strong feeling of anger to arise, recalling perhaps some recent situation in which one was very angry. Then the instruction is to apply one or more of the “antidotes.” One of those is to recognize that the real villain in the story is delusion, not the person whose act or words generated your anger. Just as you would not get angry at the stick that hit you under the control of another, if you recognize that delusion is operating, it is easier not to get angry at the person under the control of delusion. A second is to put oneself in the other person’s situation and try to consider their feelings and what was operating in them. Another is to try to view the person as a precious teacher because they allow you to practice patience. Another is to reflect on impermanence – situation will change, so why get upset.

None of these are necessarily easy. By they are worth keeping in mind. And it is worth spending some time contemplating the points during a time when one is not feeling angry, which may make it easier to call them to mind in a situation where anger does arise.