How can I deal with the exploding Anger within?
by Venerable Thubten Chodron

Q: Since the pandemic hit the world and changed how the world operates with profound impact in so many areas: world economy, work operation, domestic job market and financial trade, I have been experiencing greater anger within. How can I handle the exploding anger and bring healing to myself? – TA

A: Anger and other destructive emotions are not the nature of our mind/heart, so they can be diminished and eventually removed completely from our mind stream through the development of patience, love, compassion and wisdom. Many of the people we admire — the Buddha, Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi and others — had the ability to remain internally undisturbed in the face of harm and externally act for the benefit of others. Their anger was neither expressed nor repressed. It was simply absent, having been transformed into tolerance and compassion.

Thus, an alternative exists besides expressing or repressing anger. When we express our anger, our words and deeds can easily hurt others. In addition, expressing anger does not rid ourselves of it. On the contrary, each time we express hostility — even if it is by beating a pillow or screaming in an empty field — we strengthen the habit of feeling and acting out its violent energy. What happens if one day there is no pillow around to pummel, no field nearby to scream in and we are surrounded only by human beings?

On the other hand, repressing anger doesn’t eliminate it either. The anger still exists, no matter how much we may try to pretend to ourselves or others that it doesn’t. It may still erupt, sometimes when we are least prepared to handle it. Repressed anger may also damage us physically or mentally. Expressing anger is one extreme, and repressing it is another. In both cases, the habit of anger remains in one form or another.

Patience is an alternative. It is the ability to remain internally calm and undisturbed in the face of harm or difficulties. The Sanskrit word “kshanti” has no suitable equivalent in English. Here we use “patience,” but kshanti also includes tolerance, internal calm, and endurance. Thus patience, as it is used here, also includes these qualities.

Patience does not involve pasting a plastic smile on our face while hatred simmers inside. It involves dissolving the anger-energy so that it is no longer there. Then, with a clear mind, we can evaluate various alternatives and decide what to say or do to remedy the situation.

When speaking of both anger and patience, we must differentiate mental attitudes from external actions. For example, anger may manifest in different behaviours.

When Gary is angry, he explodes. He shouts, curses, and at times has even been known to throw something. Karen, however, withdraws. She goes into her room, closes the door, and refuses to talk. She may sulk for days. These two people are both angry, but they manifest it in totally different behaviours: one is aggressive, the other passive.

Similarly, patience may manifest in various behaviours. It gives us the mental space to choose appropriate behaviour for the situation. Sometimes we may speak strongly to others because that is the most effective way to communicate with them at that moment. For example, if a child is playing in the street and her father very sweetly says, “Susie dear, please don’t play in the street,” she will likely ignore him. On the other hand, if he speaks forcefully, she will most likely remember and obey. But internally, the parent’s mind can be calm and compassionate when doing this. The child will sense the difference between the words said when he is centred and the same words said when he is upset.

In other situations, a patient attitude may manifest as calm behaviour. Rather than retort to a passerby’s taunt, Bob chooses not to respond. He does this not out of weakness or fear, but by wisely deciding not to feed a potentially hostile situation.

A common misconception is that patience equals passivity. However, when we correctly understand the meaning of patience — noting that it is an internal attitude, not an external behaviour — we see that this is incorrect. Rather, calmness in the face of harm gives us the space to evaluate situations clearly and thus to make wise decisions. This is one of the foremost advantages of patience.

Another advantage of patience is that it leaves our mind free from turbulence and pain, and our body free from tension. This benefits our health. Many studies show that calm people heal more quickly after surgery and are less likely to have accidents. Ronda, upset by a conflict with a neighbour, was hammering together a new cabinet with ferocity. Suddenly she pulled herself up and thought, “If I continue like this, I’ll certainly hurt myself.” She breathed deeply, let her physical tension go, and resumed her carpentry with a different attitude.

Patience also enables us to live free from the pain of grudges, resentment and the wish for revenge. Because we are able to communicate better with others, our relationships are more harmonious and last longer. Instead of our friendships being ripped apart by anger, they are deepened by attentive listening and considerate speaking. We thus amass fewer regrets, so our mind is at ease at the time of death. Accumulating positive karma, we know we are on the path to fortunate rebirths, liberation and enlightenment.

Patience, in addition, directly affects the people and atmosphere around us by short-circuiting the dysfunctional ways in which people interact with one another. Before school, Ron’s daughter arrived at the car frustrated because her hair band was tangled in her hair. Instead of scolding her for doing her hair at the last minute and thus condemning both of them to having a bad day, on smiled and helped her pull out the band.

Reflecting and contemplating so will help you deal with the anger within and bring greater clarity and calmness to the mind.

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Compassion without attachment is possible. Therefore, we need to clarify the distinctions between compassion and attachment. True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason. Because of this firm foundation, a truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively. Genuine compassion is based not on our own projections and expectations, but rather on the needs of the other: irrespective of whether another person is a close friend or an enemy, as long as that person wishes for peace and happiness and wishes to overcome suffering, then on that basis, we develop genuine concern for their problem. This is genuine compassion. For a Buddhist practitioner, the goal is to develop this genuine compassion, this genuine wish for the well-being of another, in fact for every living being throughout the universe.

— His Holiness the Dalai Lama

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Ven Ji Qun (济群法师) 15.

In Buddhism, it is always encouraged for individuals to practice skilful means and wisdom, because although we might be engaged in actions that outpour compassion if the environment is wrong, then we might actually bring sadness to others. But with the tools of method and wisdom, we may be able to build harmonious and loving environments for many.

— Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche

Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche 52.


Understanding and Managing Stress
by Lily De Silva

Stress is called the “disease of civilisation”. Philip Zimbardo in his Psychology and Life traces four inter-related levels at which we react to the pressures exerted upon us from our environment. The four are: the emotional level, the behavioural level, the physiological level and the cognitive level.

The emotional responses to stress are sadness, depression, anger, irritation and frustration. The behavioural responses are poor concentration, forgetfulness, poor interpersonal relations and lowered productivity. The physiological responses consist of bodily tensions, which may lead to headaches, backaches, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure and even killer diseases. At the cognitive level, one may lose self-esteem and self-confidence, which leads to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. At worst, such a person may even end up committing suicide.

In order to understand stress, let us consider the various environmental factors which exert pressure on modern man. In this present age, the very survival of the species is threatened by the possibility of a nuclear war. Population explosion threatens humans with severe food shortages; at present even a large segment of the human population is undernourished while others are dying of starvation and malnutrition. Environmental pollution causes severe health hazards, including mental and physical retardation. Unemployment among the skilled is a growing global problem. The pace of life has become so hectic that man is simply rushing from one task to another without pause. This is really paradoxical in an age when labour-saving devices are freely available and are in use to an unprecedented degree. Competition for educational and employment opportunities is so severe that it has contributed to the increase in suicide rates. The enjoyment of sense pleasures has become so obsessive although it is akin to drinking salt water to quench thirst. Constant stimulation of the senses is today considered a necessity. Sense stimulation goes on unrestrained but satiation is far from achieved. It is no wonder that man, caught up in all this, is terribly confused and frustrated, and his life is intolerably stressful. This is the situation Buddhism describes as “tangles within and tangles without, people are enmeshed in tangles.”

While the above observations were made from the perspectives of modern studies and contemporary conditions, Buddhism makes similar observations from a psychological perspective. Man experiences stress and suffering because of five psychological states which envelop his whole personality. They are called nivarana in the Pali language, meaning “hindrances”. They hinder happiness and overcloud man’s vision of himself, his environment and the interaction between the two. The thicker and more opaque these hindrances, the greater the stress and suffering man experiences. The thinner and more sparse these hindrances, the less his suffering with a corresponding increase in happiness. These five hindrances are the desire for sensual pleasures, anger, indolence, worry and doubt. The Pali canon illustrates the effect of these hindrances with the help of five eloquent similes. The mind overpowered by the desire for sense pleasures is compared to coloured water which prevents a true reflection of anything on the water. Thus a man obsessed with the desire for sense pleasures is unable to get a true perspective of either himself or other people or his environment. The mind oppressed by anger is compared to boiling water which cannot give an accurate reflection. A man overpowered by anger is unable to discern an issue properly. When the mind is in the grip of indolence, it is like moss-covered water: light cannot even reach the water and a reflection is impossible. The lazy man does not even make an effort at correct understanding. When worried, the mind is like wind-tossed turbulent water, which also fails to give a true reflection. The worried man, forever restless, is unable to make a proper assessment of an issue. When the mind is in doubt it is compared to muddy water placed in darkness which cannot reflect an image well. Thus all the five hindrances deprive the mind of understanding and happiness and cause much stress and suffering.

Buddhism puts forward a methodical plan of action for the gradual elimination of stress and the increase of happiness and understanding.

The first step recommended in this plan is the observance of the Five Precepts comprising the abstention from killing, stealing, illicit sex, falsehood and intoxicants. Stress is greatly aggravated by guilt, and these precepts help man to free his conscience from the sense of guilt. The Dhammapada says the evil-doer suffers here and hereafter; on the other hand, the man who does good deeds rejoices here and hereafter.

Buddhism firmly believes that evil increases stress while good increases happiness. In addition to the observance of the Five Precepts throughout life, Buddhism advocates the periodical observance of the Eight Precepts by laymen. These additional precepts attempt to train man for leading a simple life catering to one’s needs rather than one’s greed. A frugal mode of life where wants are few and are easily satisfied is highly extolled in Buddhism. It is the avaricious and the acquisitive mentality that is responsible for so much stress that we experience.

The next step in the process of training is the control of the sense faculties. When our sense faculties are uncontrolled, we experience severe strain. We have to first understand what is meant by being uncontrolled in the sense faculties. When a person sees a beautiful form with his eyes, he gets attracted to it; when he sees an unpleasant object, he gets repelled by it. Similarly with the other senses too. Thus, the person who has no control over his senses is constantly attracted and repelled by sense data, as during waking life, sense data keep on impinging on his sense faculties constantly. When pulled in different directions by sense stimuli, we become confused and distressed.

Our sense faculties have different spheres of activity and different objects, and as each sense faculty is a lord in its own sphere, and as they can separately and collectively dominate man, they are called in Pali indriyas, meaning “lords” or “masters”. If we allow the sense faculties to dominate us, we get terribly confused. If we assert ourselves and control our sense faculties, we can have unalloyed pleasure (avyasekasukha), so called because this pleasure is uncontaminated by defilements. It is also called adhicittasukha, meaning “spiritual pleasure”. Whereas sense pleasures increase stress, this type of spiritual pleasure reduces stressfulness while increasing peace of mind and contentment.

The third step in the management of stress is the cultivation of wholesome mental habits through meditation (bhavana). Just as we look after and nurture our body with proper food and cleanliness, the mind too needs proper nourishment and cleansing. The mind is most volatile in its untrained state, but when it is tamed and made more stable, it brings great happiness. Buddhism prescribes two fundamental meditative methods of mind-training called samatha and vipassana, calm and insight. The former is the method of calming the volatile mind, while the latter is the method of comprehending the true nature of bodily and mental phenomena. Both methods are extremely helpful for overcoming stress.

The Samaññaphala Sutta explains with the help of five appropriate similes how meditation reduces the psychological stress caused by the five hindrances. The man who practises meditation gains a great sense of relief and it is this sense of unburdening oneself that the similes illustrate.

They are as follows: A man who has raised capital for a business by taking a loan, prospers in business, pays off the loan and manages his day-to-day affairs with financial ease. Such a man experiences a great sense of relief. The second simile portrays a man who has suffered a great deal with a prolonged chronic illness. He gets well at long last, food becomes palatable to him and he gains physical strength. Great is the relief such a man experiences. The third simile speaks of the relief a prisoner enjoys after being released from a long term in jail. The fourth is the slave who gains freedom from slavery. The fifth simile speaks of a well-to-do man who gets lost in a fearful desert without food. On coming to a place of safety he experiences great relief.

When the stress caused by the five hindrances is eliminated from the mind, great joy and delight arise similar to the relief enjoyed by the men described in the similes. The best and most effective way of overcoming stress is the practice of meditation or mental cultivation. However, as a prelude to that, at least the Five Precepts must be observed.

The cultivation of positive emotions such as loving kindness (metta), compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita), and equanimity (upekkha) is another means of conquering stress.

Strained interpersonal relations is one of the common causes of stress in household life and at the workplace.

Loving kindness is the positive wholesome attitude one can cultivate to benefit oneself and others in all interpersonal relationships. Compassion is the emotion with which one should regard and help those in distress.

Sympathetic joy is the ability to rejoice at the joy of another. It is difficult for a man of mean character to entertain this attitude as the joy of another brings jealousy to the mind of such a person. Where there is jealousy, there is no unity, and where there is no unity there is no progress. The cultivation of these positive emotions leads to material and spiritual progress.

Equanimity is the attitude to be adopted in the face of the vicissitudes of life. There are eight natural ups and downs that we have to face in life. They are gain and loss, fame and lack of fame, praise and blame, happiness and sorrow. If one trains oneself to maintain an equanimous temperament without being either elated or dejected in the face of these vicissitudes, one can avoid much stress and lead a simple life with peace and contentment.

We cannot change the world so that it will give us happiness. But we can change our attitude towards the world so as to remain unaffected by the stresses exerted by events around us. Buddhism teaches the way to bring about this wholesome change of attitude.

Lotus 292.

The forms of the central and surrounding deities… should not be protruding like a clay statue or cast image, yet neither should they be flat like a painting. In contrast, they should be apparent, yet not truly existent, like a rainbow in the sky or the reflection of the moon in a lake. They should appear as though conjured up by a magician. Clear appearance involves fixing the mind one-pointedly on these forms with a sense of vividness, nakedness, lucidity, and clarity.

— Jigme Lingpa

Jigme Lingpa 7.









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Bodhisattvas are enlightened sentient beings who are aware of all sentient beings’ sufferings, feel sympathy for others’ plight, and act to give help to them.

Bodhisattvas are those who have faith in the Buddha’s teachings and seek to practise them, who then vow to liberate themselves and others, and who can even disregard themselves in order to save others.

Bodhisattvas can be either ordinary people or noble ones. The bodhisattva path consists of 52 stages. Bodhisattvas on any of the first 40 stages before the 10 grounds are ordinary beings, whereas those on any of the last 12 stages are noble ones.

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— Venerable Sheng Yen

The Red Coat and the Teaching of Impermanence
by Reginald A. Ray

The Buddhist teachings on impermanence are usually considered primarily as an antidote to our attachment to samsara. But, as the following story suggests, when impermanence is deeply experienced it can give rise to genuine love for others and a sense of sacredness in our human existence.

Many years ago I knew a young woman who loved beauty. She was a quiet and shy person, perhaps because of much suffering in her childhood. But as a result, she had a tender regard for all those in pain and exceptional awareness, so that she could see exactly what was going on in other people, even if buried under layers of conditioning and pretence. She was so simple and unpretentious that most people who met her had no idea of the depth of her inner life.

My friend was striking, in fact, quite beautiful. Her eyes were extraordinary-dark, clear and highly intelligent. She loved clothes that were elegant and well-made, and she always made herself up with care. When she was dressed in one of her few beloved outfits you could-at least I could-feast your eyes on her for hours.

One of her favourite pastimes was leafing through catalogues, finding things of unusual beauty and imagining what it would be like to wear them. As she didn’t have much money, this was generally window-shopping, but it gave her much pleasure nonetheless.

One day, a few years into our friendship, she told me that she had not been feeling well. Fatigue and pains of unknown origin and significance had been growing lately. As was her way, humble, patient and a little too enduring, she waited some time before consulting a physician. But when she did, it turned out that she was very ill with a degenerative disease that at that time was not treatable. She received this news with a combination of acceptance and sorrowful resignation. She was not afraid of dying but she was terribly sad, for she was young and she felt she had only just begun to live her life. How could she so soon leave the beauty she saw all around her? How could she miss the experiences of marriage, children and family?

Still, as her health deteriorated she did not lose her love of beautiful clothes. In her last months in the hospital, she continued to receive her clothing catalogues and roam through them as if through paradise. When I would come to visit, which I did about once a week, there would be a little stack of catalogues on her bedside table. In each one, the corners of certain pages were turned down, marking a dress, a shawl or a jacket that she wanted to show me. She told me that she had been through many more catalogues and had saved “only the best ones” for me to see.

In the beginning, I would look at her prize discoveries somewhat perfunctorily, attempting to feign an interest that I did not feel. But as the weeks wore on, I gradually began to see them through her eyes. I found myself admiring the beautifully scalloped collar of a jacket, the gently flowing lines of a very feminine blouse, the outrageous burst of colour of a certain scarf, the delicacy of a sterling silver pin. I looked forward to leafing through newly arrived catalogues with her, delighting in whatever was perfectly fashioned, stunning and luscious. Together, we imagined how she might look in this or that outfit.

And then one day, we both discovered the red coat. It was in an otherwise unexceptional Bloomingdale’s catalogue. A spring offering, it was calf length, deep red with large black buttons, and made of a light suede. It appeared elegant and beautifully tailored, with a gently moulded collar, soft shoulders, and rounded lines throughout. We could both see that this was her coat. It had been made for her. We admired it, imagined it on her, and talked about what it could be worn with and on what occasions. The next time I came to visit her, she told me that, in spite of her limited funds and medical bills, she had ordered the red coat.

We both awaited its arrival with anticipation. One day I came in to find her sitting up in bed, her eyes glowing with anticipation. There on her bedside table was a box marked “Bloomingdale’s.” She had been waiting for me so that we could open it together. She handed me the scissors she had placed neatly by the box and I cut through the wrapping tape. She lifted out the coat, a deep, elegant Chinese red far more striking and beautiful than the catalogue picture. “Let me try it on for you.”

By this time she had become very weak, and I had to help her out of bed. Young and beautiful a few months before, she now looked like an old woman. Her skin was grey and wrinkled, her hair had lost its sheen, the classical definitions of her face were now puffy and misshapen. There was something heartbreaking in this worn and haggard woman, near death, trying on this new coat so that I could “see how she looked.”

As she shook out the red coat, the physical pride and presence of her former person animated her briefly. Over her wrinkled, sweaty nightgown she slipped the red coat. And I promise you, for one moment, she was the most beautiful woman in the world. I know that she felt it too. For a moment, she admired herself in the small hospital mirror and I could now see, perhaps for the first time, that it was the beauty of the red coat that held her attention and that gave her brief joy. I finally understood that all those years it was not her own beauty at all but the beauty of the wonderful clothes she wore that brought her such happiness.

And then the red coat was hung in the closet at the foot of her bed, never to be worn again. Now she got out of bed only to visit the bathroom; the effort was so great it was unthinkable to add the extra step of putting on the coat. But each time I would visit her after that, she would ask me to open the closet door so that we could see the coat hanging there. And then she would ask me to take it out and hold it up for her so that we could admire it together one more time.

Not long after, she died. I was not with her in her final moments, but when I heard that she had died, I thought of her and of the elegant red coat, hanging in the closet at the foot of her bed, which had brought her such happiness in her final days. I remembered how beautiful she had looked when she had put it on for me that one time.

Later the day she died, a female relative of hers and I were in the hospital room packing up her belongings. When we came to the red coat the relative commented, “What a waste that she spent money on a coat she never even wore!” But she did wear it and perhaps with more elegance and flair, for that one moment, than such a coat has ever been worn. If that is a waste, then it must mean that everything in life is a waste, which in a certain sense it may be.

A few weeks after she died, recalling the moment when she put on the red coat, I realised something about her life. Her beauty, her love of elegant clothes and the devotion with which she made herself up were her generous and selfless gifts to all of us who knew her. I also realised something else, about how brief and fragile, and also daring and fearless, life can be. How bold and brave to put on such a red coat in the face of death, to delight in it even if for only a moment, when everything is slipping away into darkness. But maybe that is what we all do, all the time, without knowing it.

It is said that the Buddha taught 84,000 gates to the dharma, to ultimate reality. For me, the experience of my friend and her red coat was one of those 84,000 gates. As long as my friend was firmly in the land of the living, I took her existence for granted. I didn’t really look at her. Instead, I experienced her through the veil of my own self-satisfied concepts and I was unable to appreciate who she was, in her own right. Yet when I realised that our time together was limited and our friendship would soon meet its end, only then was the veil stripped away.

In that moment, I saw my friend with a new and shocking nakedness. I discovered a love and appreciation for her that had nothing to do with my own personal values and preconceptions. Somehow the experience of impermanence momentarily shattered my habitual grasp on things and I was able to experience the beauty of what she was, of what is, and its sacredness. I came to a deeper understanding of why Buddhism, in every school and orientation, has always placed such a premium on realising impermanence: while it is the thing we human beings most dread, it is the most compassionate gift life has given us and our greatest resource. For, as is said in another context, only those who are fortunate enough to find their life slipping away, have any hope of finding it.

Reginald Ray 11.

It may happen sometimes that a long debate becomes the cause of a longer friendship. Commonly, those who dispute with one another at last agree.

— Sakya Pandita

Sakya Pandita 萨迦班智达 7