Sunday, April 11, 2010

Five Ways of Putting an End to Anger

Anger . . . not a day goes by, without feeling its heat, usually in reaction to some other person's unkind words, or actions. 

Here are excerpts from sutta reading we did while at Bodh Gaya, during India Buddha pilgrimage with Shantum Seth - from Madhyama Agama 25, in Thich Nhat Hanh's Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book: Discourse on the Five Ways of Putting an End to Anger -

When someone's bodily actions are not kind but his words are kind, we should not pay attention to his unkind bodily actions, but only be attentive to his kind words. This will help us put an end to our anger . . . 

With someone whose words are not kind but whose bodily actions are kind, do not pay attention to that person's words. Only be attentive to his bodily actions in order to be able to put an end to your anger . . . 

When you see someone whose bodily actions and words are not kind, but where there is still a little kindness in her heart, do not pay attention to her actions and words, but to the little kindness that is in her heart so that you may put an end to your anger . . . 

When you see someone whose words and bodily actions are not kind, and in whose heart there is nothing that can be called kindness, give rise to this thought: 'Someone whose words and bodily actions are not kind and in whose heart is nothing that can be called kindness, is someone who is undergoing great suffering. Unless he meets a good spiritual friend, there will be no chance for him to transform and go to realms of happiness.' Thinking like this, you will be able to open your heart with love and compassion toward that person. You will be able to put an end to your anger and help that person . . . 

When you see someone whose bodily action are kind, whose words are kind, and whose mind is also kind, give your attention to all his kindness of body, speech, and mind, and do not allow anger or jealousy to overwhelm you. If you do not know how to live happily with someone who is as fresh as that, you cannot be called someone who has wisdom . . . 

This reading made a great impression on me. So simple, so practical. A real gem.

I dedicate this post to my paternal grandmother, whose chronic nastiness I despised so much as a child. She died twenty five years ago. For the first time, I think of her with compassion, and I see her as another human being, not an evil witch. And I use the power of understanding, and loving kindness, to let go of my long held resentment towards her. 

4 comments:

  1. Very nice. I especially liked the last line: "If you do not know how to live happily with someone who is as fresh as that, you cannot be called someone who has wisdom . . . "

    Letting go of the attachment to ill will may be one of the hardest things to do. Anger really can be a prized possession.

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  2. Your dedication reminds me of the Brooke Shields episode of "Who Do You Think You Are" series, which is on hulu now. She too had a nasty grandmother whom she didn't understand, but upon learning how difficult her grandmother's life was and the great losses that visited her, Shields found compassion in her heart. We simply don't know the causes and conditions which have brought a person to the place they are today. It's a difficult, heartbreaking world we live in.

    thank you for this lovely, insightful post.

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  3. Thank you Paul. Yes, agree that we are so conditioned to holding anger. The more mindful though, the greater the realization of the cost and suffering associated with that. Gil Fronsdal's talk on Five Hindrances was a turning point for me.

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  4. Thank you Susan. Indeed, wisdom and mindfulness are such incredible gifts, as they can lead to compassion, and hence freedom in one's heart.

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