The Urban Dharma Newsletter... March 9, 2004


In This Issue: Buddhism and Anger

0. Humor...
1. Anger
2. Transforming Anger
...Lama Surya Das
3. Anger Management --Buddhist Style
...Jeffrey Po
5. Temple/Center/Website:
Los Angeles County Coroner - Gift Shop
6. Book/CD/Movie: Working With Anger
...by Thubten Chodron


0. Humor...

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.
Chinese proverb

Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think.
Niels Bohr (1885-1962)

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.
Charles Mingus

1. Anger - a strong emotion; a feeling that is oriented toward some real or supposed grievance

2. Transforming Anger ...Lama Surya Das


Even the Dalai Lama gets angry. The trick is what you do with it.

Q: What did the Buddha teach about anger, specifically righteous anger? Is any anger acceptable in Buddhism?

A: The Dalai Lama recently answered the question, "Is there a positive form of anger?" by saying that righteous anger is a "defilement" or "afflictive emotion"--a Buddhist term translated from the Sanskrit word klesha--that must be eliminated if one seeks to achieve nirvana. He added that although anger might have some positive effects in terms of survival or moral outrage, he did not accept anger of any kind as a virtuous emotion nor aggression as constructive behavior.

Buddhism in general teaches that anger is a destructive emotion and that there is no good example of it. The Buddha taught that three basic kleshas are at the root of samsara (bondage, illusion) and the vicious cycle of rebirth. These are greed, hatred, and delusion--also translatable as attachment, anger, and ignorance. They bring us confusion and misery rather than peace, happiness, and fulfillment. It is in our own self-interest to purify and transform them.

In the tantric teachings of Vajrayana (Tibetan Buddhism), it is said that all the kleshas or afflictive emotions have their own sacred power, their own particular intelligence, wisdom, and logic. The late Tibetan teacher Chogyam Tryungpa Rinpoche often taught that five kleshas (in the Tibetan tradition, they are greed, hatred, delusion, pride, and jealousy) are in essence five wisdoms. The wisdom side of anger, for example, is discriminating awareness.

How can this be? Anger makes us sharp and quick to criticize, but anger also helps us see what's wrong. Our feelings and emotions are actually serving like intelligence agents, bringing in news from the field of our experience. We should not dismiss, ignore, or repress them.

In Tibetan tantric iconography, moreover, not all the Buddhas and meditational deities are pacific. Some are surrounded by flames and wear fierce masks symbolizing the shadow side of our psyches. Yet it is always taught that the wrathful buddhas and "dharma protectors" have peaceful Buddha at their hearts. Perhaps this is connected to the modern, Western notion that righteous anger can help drive compassionate action to redress injustices in the world.

Sadly, in our increasingly uncivil, fast-paced, and competitive society, there are plenty of contributing causes of anger. Violence in the media, permissiveness about expressing oneself, accelerating change, and lack of an ethos of personal responsibility are coupled with a growing sense of entitlement and dearth of family and community connection.

But the Buddha said that no one can make us angry if the seed of anger is not in our hearts. The truth is, we all have some anger in us. Even the Dalai Lama says he gets angry as does the Vietnamese Zen master and peace activist Thich Nhat HanhThe difference is that these two sages know what to do with their anger. Intense angry feelings don't automatically become unhealthy or destructive or drive negative actions.

The Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, I believe, have learned to constructively channel the energy that can turn into anger. Through opening the heart to that energy rather than repressing and suppressing it they have learned how to recognize its essential emptiness and transitory nature, and then transform and release it, or direct it creatively.

"The ghosts of the past which follow us into the present also belong to the present moment," says Thich Nhat Hanh. "To observe them deeply, recognize their nature and transform them, is to transform the past."

Ultimately, I believe that anger is just an emotion. We needn’t be afraid of it or judge it too harshly. Emotions occur quickly; moods linger longer. These temporary states of mind are conditioned, and therefore can be reconditioned. Through self-discipline and practice, negativity can be transformed into positivity and freedom and self-mastery achieved.

A clue to anger is that a lot of it stems from fear, and it manifests in the primitive "fight or flight" response. I have noticed that when I am feeling angry, asking myself, "Where and how do I hurt? What am I afraid of?" helps clarify things and mitigate my tempestuous reaction. After cooling down, I ask myself, "What would Buddha do; What would Love do in this situation?" This helps me soothe my passions, be more creative and proactive instead of reactive. In that state, I can transcend blame, resentment, and bitterness.

As Thich Nhat Hanh has written, "Our attitude is to take care of anger. We don’t suppress or hate it, or run away from it. We just breathe gently and cradle our anger in our arms with the utmost tenderness."

This "embracing" of our anger is an important part of the practice of lovingkindness: learning to accept and love even what we don't like. The Dalai Lama has said: "My religion is kindness." The cultivation of lovingkindness is an inner attitude that embraces all in a way that allows no separation between self, events, and others, and honors the Buddha-nature or core of goodness at the heart of one and all.

Lovingkindness is the root of nonviolence, the antidote to anger and aggression, and the root of mindfulness practice, in that it requires the same non-judging, non-grasping calmness and clarity that is at the heart of Buddhist meditation practice.

When anger surges up in you, try cultivating patience, lovingkindness, and forbearance. When hatred rears its head, cultivate forgiveness and equanimity, try to empathize with the other and see things through there eyes for a moment. If you are moved towards aggression, try to breathe, relax, and quiet the agitated mind and strive for restraint and moderation, remembering that others are just like you. They want and need happiness; they are trying to avoid pain, harm, and suffering, too.

The following is a very simple strategy to apply in the moment that anger arises:

1. First, "I know that I’m angry--furious, livid, etc."

2. Breathe in deeply, and while breathing out say, "I send compassion towards my anger."

Practice this mantra, and observe how it magically interrupts the habitual pattern of unskillful, thoughtless reactivity. This practice can provide--on the spot--a moment of mindfulness and sanity. It helps us take better care of ourselves and heads off negative behaviors we know we don’t want to perpetuate.

3. Anger Management --Buddhist Style ...Jeffrey Po


Like other human emotions of love, patience, hatred, jealousy, anxiety and so on, anger is a normal emotional experience also. It is described as an intense feeling of irritation, displeasure or dissatisfaction. Anger by itself is not something to be feared about but the way and manner it is expressed can affect others and us. This is something that we ought to be concerned about.

The Lord Buddha Gotama, recognized the emotions of anger in humans and He had made remarks in this direction:

"There are three types of people in the world. What three? One who is like carving on a rock, one who is like scratching on the ground and one who is like writing on the water. What sort of person is like carving on the rock? Imagine a certain person who is always getting angry and his anger lasts long, jut as carving on a rock is not soon worn off by wind, water or lapse of time. What sort of person is like scratching on the ground? Imagine a certain person who is always getting angry but his anger does not last long, just as scratching on the ground is soon worn off by wind, water and lapse of time. And what sort of person is like writing on the water? Imagine a certain person who, even though spoken to harshly, sharply, roughly, is easily reconciled and becomes agreeable and friendly, just as writing on the water soon disappears".

--Anguttara Nikaya I/283

Anger is therefore inherent in humans. Though a natural expression of emotion, Buddhists consider it as "akusala" (unwholesome, unskillful) action. Buddhists do not subscribe to notions such as "righteous anger" or "justifiable anger". Anger lasts for a period of time and with varying depths and intensities. Anger when directed at others shows up as aggression and when turned inwards towards us leads to frustration, irritation, and anxiety and eventually to depression. Both situations are surely "dukkha" (unsatisfactory). It is therefore looked upon a destructive emotional expressions.

Anger originates from the mind and often gives rise to other unwholesome (akusala) tendencies such as malice, hatred (dosa), ill will (vyapada), revenge. In Buddhism, anger is taken to be synonymous to hatred (dosa) which is one of the three unwholesome roots (mulas) that has to be eradicated if one wishes to attain the state of Nibbanic bliss. It is a defilement (kilesa) of the mental faculties. Its long-term effects are usually detrimental to oneself and others. As a mind-force, anger arises from two sources - external and internal to the person. External situations and issues (arammana) such as those from the speeches, behaviors and body languages of others, received through the 5 sense-doors (panca dvara) stimulate the arising of the anger emotions. Internal stimulations of anger can arise from thinking and ideations about those situations and issues be they from the present, the past or even the future. From whatever way(s) anger arises and in whatever form, it is mostly destructive and seldom constructive in consequences.

Since anger originates from the mind, it can also be removed if the mind can be trained in methods to firstly manage it and finally to remove it. In psychology, the usual counselling technique employed is the Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) or Cognitive Therapy. This involves the slow process of modifying and altering the mindset, attitude and worldview of the person. It means redrawing the mind map so that judgments passed and decisions derived at, do not cause the stimulation of anger. It also means correcting any cognitive distortions that are held.

To assist the redrawing of the mind map the following pointers can be helpful:

a. Select a Role-model:

For Buddhists the excellent role-model is the Lord Buddha Gotama. Just be familiar with His life story and His constant admonishment for peace, calmness and tranquility. Read the Jataka stories concerning His past births - for instance when as the Bodhisatta, born as Samkhapala, a serpent, maintained perfect peace and tranquility of mind though He was beaten and pierced with sharp instruments (Jataka story 524). Again, inspite of the many attempts by Devadatta to create a schism within the Sangha, He did not harbor any thoughts of malice and ill-will against the former. If this selection is uncomfortable then a choice of a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni or any other that one has affinity with is helpful.

That the Lord Buddha Gotama is the perfect role-model is undeniable. The Dhammapada verse 387 shares:

"The sun glows by the day; the moon shines by the night: in his amour the warrior glows.
In meditation shines the Brahman.
But all day and night, shines with radiance the Awakened One"

b. Be Mindful:

Most times anger arises unconsciously and instinctively. It simply flares up. The cultivation of the state of mindfulness (sati) is considered as the best guard against anger and all other unwholesome states of the mind. Mindfulness (sati) is "pure awareness"; the presence of mind; realizing and knowing clearly any happenings at that moment of time. Usually one is unaware that anger has arisen until after a period of time. By then the angry person is all red in the face; feeling hot; lousy; huffing and puffing and the mind is speeding like a run-away train. Persistent meditative practices to note the arising of anger can eventually lead one to detect the arising of anger before it arises (and erupts). The moment anger arises one need to quickly recognize it and perhaps say to oneself, "Aha - anger, anger". Also it is worthwhile to note that Right Effort (Samma Vayama), the sixth factor in the Noble Eightfold Path states:

"What now, O Monks, is Right Effort?

If the disciple rouses his will to avoid evil,
demeritorous things that have not yet arisen...

If the disciple rouses his will to overcome evil,
demeritorous things that have already arisen...

...and so forth..."

This clearly shows that with mindfulness, one can really detect any sort of unwanted or unwholesome thinking that is about to arise and through sheer training, curb it.

c. Substitute Anger:

The mind can be trained to substitute emotional expressions. Constant recitation of short "catch phrases" is embedded in the mind. Habit eventually forms to become instinctive responses. Here the Buddhist concept of Loving-kindness (metta) comes handy. Short phrases connected to it are useful substitute. Whenever anger is about to arise, those phrases spring instinctively to the mind and replace the anger expressions. The recommended stanza is:

"May all beings be free from harm and danger
May all beings be free from mental sufferings
May all beings be free from physical sufferings
May all beings take care of themselves happily".

Or one might simply recite again and again to oneself:

"May all beings be well and happy".

d. Looking into ourselves:

As one saying goes, "It takes two hands to clap". Anger situations are usually provoked, though on most occasions parties are unaware of those provocations. As much as others are blamed, sometimes upon reflection we share some blame also. According to the Lord Buddha Gotama, no one is blameless.

"This, O Atula, is an old saying;
it is not one of today only:
they blame those who sit silent,
they blame those who speak too much.

Those speaking little too they blame.

There never was, there never will be, nor does there exist now, a person who is wholly blamed or wholly praised"

--Dhammapada verse 227/228

e. Think of Harmful effects on yourself:

Undeniable, expressions of anger affect everyone. They are unpleasant, distasteful and wretched. So, before an outburst, just consider the aftermath. Why get into it the first place? The Ven. Buddhaghosa reasons:

"Suppose an enemy has hurt you in his own domain, why should you annoy yourself and hurt your mind in your own domain?

Suppose someone, to annoy, provokes you to do some evil act, why allow anger to arise and thus do exactly as he wants you to do?"

--Visuddhi Magga

f. Live and Let live:

Think of death. Consider that one day all will die. Life is short. Why go walking around with thunder and lightning above our heads? Would it not be better and beneficial for all if more congeniality and pleasantness ensues? Thinking is this manner one could perhaps cool down and decide against getting angry. The Lord Buddha Gotama reminds:

"Life in the world is unpredictable and uncertain.
Life is difficult, short and fraught with suffering."

"When the fruit is ripe, it may drop early in the morning.
In the same way, one who is born may die at any moment".

--Sutta Nipata 574/576

g. Adopt Forgiving Nature:

Hate is the end product of anger. To stop hating, the expression of love is the substitute. To love is to forgive. Ignore the faults and mistakes of others. Do not look for motives to justify one's anger. Just forgive and be relieved from the situation. The very act strengthens both the spiritual and moral character of the forgiver. Once again the Lord Buddha Gotama remarks:

"By three things the wise person may be known. What three? He sees a shortcoming as it is. When he sees it, he tries to correct it. And when another acknowledges a shortcoming, the wise one forgive it as he should".

--Anguttara Nikaya I - 103

h. The Law of Kamma:

Buddhists are familiar with the workings of the Law of Kamma. It is one of the 5 Niyamas (natural laws). As such it is worthwhile to remember that one is the owner and heir of one's deeds. They will surely ripen one day either in this life or in future lives. Therefore be wary of one's actions and be wise to remember:

"Not to do any evil, to cultivate good, to purify one's mind, this is the teaching of the Buddhas".

--Dhammapada verse 183

Having said thus far, would it mean that all expressions of anger are to be entirely removed and forever eradicated from one's nature and personality? Living in the modern society such directions may backfire and result in stress and anxiety for the individual instead. Today, it is recognized that "anger" consciously deployed to reinforce another emotional expression such as being stern (mother chiding her child) or to discipline (instructor bellowing at recruits) is healthy as it reveals the emotions of the "angry person". The other party is able to follow-up the cue. The episode ends. However uncontrollable and prolonged outbursts; fuming inside; unreasonable yelling and shouting; challenging others (or oneself); instinctive flaring up - they constitute "angry" emotional responses and expressions that are considered unhealthy mental stances that ought to be recognized, restrained and finally removed.



Below is a summary of various approaches to anger. They obviously will be most efficient when used with a calm and concentrated mind, either during meditation or at the moment you realize that something needs to be done about your anger. Obviously, the problem during an actual difficult situation is to have a calm and concentrated mind - a regular meditation practice can be of great help then! One of the best ways to really make progress with understanding and changing the functioning of our own mind is to try out analytical meditation, combined with these clues.

ANTIDOTE 1 - Patience.

Patience is the main antidote to anger. As common wisdom says: just count to 100... During this time, any of the below methods can be effective. The most effective method will depend on the actual situation. Especially in our age of rush and intense change, patience may not be seen as a positive quality, but take a minute to think impatience can easily give rise to a general feeling of anger.

ANTIDOTE 2 - Realisation of the Noble Truth of Suffering.

Once one understands that problems and frustration is a basic fact of life, it can reduce our impatience with our own unrealistic expectations. In other words: nothing is perfect, so don't expect it.

Because of my belief that things are or can be perfect, it is easy to feel hurt.

ANTIDOTE 3 - Understanding Karma.

As explained in the page on Karma, the real reasons for our problems are our own actions, which are in turn caused by our own negative states of mind. If someone makes us angry, it has a sobering effect if we dare to think that the real reasons for this situation are our own past actions, and the person is just a circumstance for our own karma to ripen.

ANTIDOTE 4 - Changing or Accepting.

Basically, we can find ourselves in two types of unpleasant situations: ones we can change and ones we cannot change.

- If I can change the situation, I should do something about it instead of getting all worked-up and angry. Not acting in such a situation will cause frustration in the end.

- If I cannot change the situation, I will have to accept it. If I don't, it will only lead to frustration and a negative and unpleasant state of mind, which will make the situation only worse.

For some reasons unclear to me, Westerners (including myself) appear to have big problems with accepting unpleasant situations which we cannot change. Could this be a result of impatience (a form of anger) with imperfection (an unrealistic expectation)?

Do consider the wisdom in the following remarks (from an online discussion - forgot the writer.):

"How does this effect my Buddhist practice?
It doesn't.

These reported events are like an arrow shot at my heart but it lands at my feet.
I choose not to bend over, pick it up, and stab myself with it."

ANTIDOTE 5 - Realistic Analysis.

For example: someone accuses me of something.

- If it is true, I apparently made a mistake, so I should listen and learn.

- If it is untrue, the other person makes a mistake. So what? Nobody is perfect. I also make mistakes, and it is all too easy to label the other as "enemy", in which case a helpful discussion or forgiving becomes difficult.

It may also be worthwhile searching for the real underlying reason of the problem. Of special importance is to evaluate one's own role in the situation: my own fears, insecurity, being very unfriendly, or not being blameless (like leaving home much too late for an appointment and blaming the 5 minutes delay of the train).

ANTIDOTE - Realisation of Emptiness.

To summarise it briefly, if one deeply realises the emptiness of inherent existence or interdependence of the other person, the situation and oneself, there is nothing to be angry about. The realisation of emptiness is therefore the ultimate means of ridding oneself of unrealistic negative emotions like anger.

ANTIDOTE 7 - Equanimity.

Equanimity means that one realises the basic equality of all sentient beings; others want happiness, just like I do. Others make mistakes just like I do. Others are confused, angry, attached just like I often am. Is the other person happy in this situation, or just struggling like I am?

ANTIDOTE 8 - Openness

Be prepared to be open for the motivation of others to do what causes you problems. Talking it over and being prepared to listen can suddenly make a problem acceptable.

Did you ever notice the difference when a plane or train has much delay and nobody gives any reasons for it? People very quickly become irritated and hostile. Then when the driver or pilot explains there is a technical defect or an accident, suddenly waiting becomes easier.

ANTIDOTE 9 - Relativity.

Ask yourself if this situation is actually important enough to spoil your own and other people's mood. Is this problem worth getting upset in a life where death can hit me at any moment?

ANTIDOTE 10 - Change Your Motivation.

In case a situation is really unacceptable, and another person needs to convinced that something is to be done or changed, there is no need to become upset and angry. It is likely much more efficient if you show of understanding and try to make the other understand the need for change. If one needs to appear angry for some reason to convince the other person of the seriousness of the situation, one can think like a parent acting wrathful to prevent the child from harming itself.

In general, to be really effective one needs to reflect on quite a number of aspects in one's own mind like; forgiveness, peace of mind, fears, self-acceptance (no acceptance of others is really possible without self-acceptance), habits, prejudices etc.

ANTIDOTE 11 - Watch Your Hands.

An interesting suggestion from Jon Kabat-Zinn, from 'Wherever You Go, There You Are':

"All our hand postures are mudras in that they are associated with subtle or not-so-subtle energies. Take the energy of the fist, for instance. When we get angry, our hands tend to close into fists. Some people unknowingly practice this mudra a lot in their lives. It waters the seeds of anger and violence within you ever time you do it, and they respond by sprouting and growing stronger.

The next time you find yourself making fists out of anger, try to bring mindfulness to the inner attitude embodied in a fist. Feel the tension, the hatred, the anger, the aggression, and the fear which it contains. Then, in the midst of your anger, as an experiment, if the person you are angry at is present, try opening your fists and placing the palms together over your heart in the prayer position right in front of him. (Of course, he won't have the slightest idea what you are doing.) Notice what happens to the anger and hurt as you hold this position for even a few moments."

ANTIDOTE 12 - Meditation.

Last, but certainly not least, meditation can be the ultimate cure to completely eliminating anger from your mind. In the beginning, one can do analytical meditations, but also meditation on compassion, love and forgiving reduce anger as well.

Ultimately, the realization of emptiness eradicates all delusions like anger.

5. Los Angeles County Coroner - Gift Shop



The shop, called 'Skeletons In The Closet', has been operating since September 1993. With the declining tax revenue, other concepts had to be considered to help off-set monetary losses. The intent was to use monies raised to offset the costs associated with the Youthful Drunk Driving Visitation Program (YDDVP), which uses no tax dollars as support.

This marketing effort is an outgrowth of a coffee mug and tee-shirt that had already been used to complement an annually sponsored professional Coroner conference.

Skeletons in the Closet features a complete line of quality souvenir items, such as beach towels, tee-shirts, tote bags, baseball caps, coroner toe tag key chains, boxer shorts called "undertakers," and more. Each item displays a unique Los Angeles County Coroner design such as a skeleton in Sherlock Holmes attire, a chalked-out body outline or the L.A. County Coroner seal.

Response to this marketing program has been overwhelmingly positive and has received worldwide interests, particularly throughout the United States and Canada. Customer awareness has been generated through much publicized newspaper and magazine articles, as well as radio and television appearances.

A worldwide mail order business has been established with over 30,000 names of people interested in receiving the annual Skeletons in the Closet catalog. Customer names are constantly being added to the mailing list throughout the year from visitors to the shop, and daily telephone requests.

6. Working With Anger ...by Thubten Chodron


Amazon.com - Reviewer: Midwest Book Review from Oregon, WI USA ...What are the advantages and disadvantages of anger? Is it ever useful? Working With Anger considers various forms of anger in response to various life conditions, revealing the circumstances in which anger can serve as a catalyst for change. An excellent survey and self-help guide.

Amazon.com - Reviewer: from Sacramento, CA United States ...This was an AWESOME book. Thubten Chodron knows what it's like to be in the shoes of an American living in the millennium. And more! She gives wise, yet practical, perspectives in how our perception is what stands in our way 100% of the time. Of the many choices we have in reacting to any given situation, anger is but only one, and Thubten clearly illustrates how it only serves to pave a destructive path for ourselves and others. I initially bought this book in the hopes of finding a few answers for personal situations, and I found myself feeling transformed within the first 30-40 pages! For those who are naturally introspective, some of this book will serve as an effective reminder for what you already know. Most of it, however, will offer a refreshing new view to take with you as you approach your day. One does not need to be religious to benefit from this book, and you don't need to spend a chunk of your day in a meditational state to make use of it. A definite must for those who want to evolve in a difficult world.


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