Vows, commitments and modern life:  Defeating our greatest enemy

Do not get angry. 

If someone behaves in an unpleasant manner towards us, we should not respond with anger. Cultivating this attitude is one of the best ways of gaining peace for ourself and others.  If everyone practiced training the mind, everyone would love everyone, and so there would be no basis for war or conflict.  If there is to be real universal peace, Dharma must flourish throughout the whole world.

There is no more destructive delusion than anger.  Anger destroys all of our relationships, it burns up all our merit, and it throws us into the deepest of hells.  Anger destroys our peace of mind, so even if we get what we want we still can’t enjoy it or be happy.  Anger causes others to lose respect for us, so even when we have something useful to contribute, they reject what we have to say out of hand.  Our anger engenders rebellion against whatever we ask.  People naturally resist somebody who is angry, and this can become the habit of our relationship with somebody.  Even when we are not angry at the other person, because we have gotten angry in the past, they resist what we have to say even when we are requesting something entirely reasonable.  Anger causes others to fear us and want to flee us.  Angry people often find themselves abandoned by all those that they know and love.  When our anger doesn’t work to get what we want, we feel like we have no choice but to escalate our anger until we do, and suddenly we find ourselves to be an abusive person.  In the short-run, we may win compliance because the other person has no choice, but the first opportunity they have they will either run away or try get us back.  This leaves us trapped in a dynamic where we must continue to inflict harm on and invoke fear in the other person, otherwise they will attack us back.  We spend our time disgusted with all those around us, hurling insults at those we see on television, brewing inside.  We sometimes lose control completely, and find ourselves acting like a raging lunatic.  We are unable to form stable and close relationships with others, because as soon as they see our darker side they want to have nothing to do with us.  Anger is the root of all war and conflict in this world.  How many people have been injured or killed by anger?  How many children have been emotionally shattered by their parent’s uncontrolled rage?  No good has ever come from anger, and no good ever will.  It’s only function is to harm.

We should recall that the main point of training the mind is to generate great compassion, and that anger is the opponent of compassion.  Anger is a mind which mistakenly identifies something external as a cause of suffering, and then seeks to harm or destroy that.  Love and Compassion are the opposite of anger.  Love wishes that the other person be happy, compassion wishes that the other person be free from all harm and suffering.  Wishing to harm and wishing to free others from harm are exact opposites.  Anger is rooted in two principal mistakes.  The first, is it thinks the external thing is an actual cause of suffering, when in reality our experience of any object depends only upon the mind with which we experience it.  The second is it thinks the other person is “not us,” they are somehow separate from us, when in reality we are all equally waves on the same ocean.  When the false duality between ourselves and others falls away, it becomes just as impossible to harm another person as it would be to harm ourselves.

We usually get angry at those who we see as harming us in some way.  We feel that if we get angry at them, we will deter them from harming us again.  If we succeed in deterring them, they will still wish to harm us but be unable to, so their resentment will only grow and they will bide their time until they can.  If we don’t succeed in deterring them, then we invite immediate retribution as they strike back at us.  Sometimes we encounter people who themselves are angry people and for whatever reason do want to harm us.  When this happens, we should ask ourselves, “why is this person angry at me?”  Quite likely we have done something to cause them to get angry, so we should try to make immediate amends.  If we are unsuccessful, then we should view this other person as a karmic echo of our own past anger towards others, and take it as a powerful reminder that if we don’t want people harming us in the future, we need to stop getting angry at others now.  Finally, we need to realize that the person who is behaving unpleasantly towards us has no control over their actions, but are a slave to their delusions and anger.  When our anger is active in our mind, we have no control over our behavior.  Others are the same.  Delusions function to render our mind uncontrolled, we become a puppet on the strings of our delusions.  Very often we will say or do things while we are angry that we later regret when we calm down.  Others are no different.  When somebody gets angry at us, we should realize it is not them talking, it is their delusions.

If we want to get angry at something, we should direct our anger against our own and others delusions.  They are the real enemy, they are the real cause of all harm.  We should blame the person’s delusions, not the person themselves.  Indeed, we can view the other person as the victim of their delusions, and in the future they will have to suffer the karmic consequences of their actions.  We should adopt the view of Buddhas, who love everyone and have compassion for them seeing that they are trapped and tormented by their delusions.

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