HOW CAN WE DEAL WITH ANGER ? by Venerable Thubten Chodron

How can we learn to accept criticism without being angry?
If someone criticizes you, don’t pay attention to the tone, vocabulary, or volume of their voice. Just focus on the content of their criticism. If it is true, there’s no reason to get angry. For example, if someone says, “There is a nose on your face,” you are not angry because it is true. There is no use pretending we don’t have a nose—or didn’t make a mistake—because everyone, including us, knows we did. As Buddhists we must always improve ourselves and so we should put our hands together and say, “Thank you.” On the other hand, if someone says, “There is a horn on your face” there is no reason to get angry because that person is mistaken. We can explain this to the person later when they are receptive to listening.
Can we meditate on our anger when it arises? How do we do it?
When we are in the midst of feeling a strong negative emotion, we are very involved in the story that we are telling ourselves about what is happening, “He did this. Then he said that. What nerve he has! Who does he think he is speaking to me that way? How dare he!” At that time, we cannot take in any new information. When my mind is like that, I try to excuse myself from the situation, so that I will not say or do something harmful that I will regret later. I watch my breath and calm down. At this time, it can be helpful to sit down and focus on what anger feels like in our body and in our mind. Just focus on the feeling of anger and pull our mind out of thinking about the story. When we are calmer and are able to practice the antidotes, we can come back to reassess that situation from a different perspective.
Patience is the opposite of anger and is highly praised in Buddhism. But sometimes others take advantage when we cultivate patience. What do we do in such a situation?
Some people fear that if they are kind or patient, others will take advantage of them. I think they misunderstand what patience and compassion mean. Being patient and compassionate does not mean you let people take advantage of you. It does not mean that you allow other people to harm and beat you up. That is stupidity, not compassion! Being patient means being calm when confronted with suffering or harm. It does not mean being like a doormat. You can be kind and at the same time, be firm and have a clear sense of your own human dignity and self-worth. You know what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior in that situation. If you are clear in this way, others will know that they cannot take advantage of you. But if you are fearful, they will sense your fear and take advantage of that. If you try very hard to please people and do what they want so that they will like you, other people will take advantage because your own mind is unclear and attached to approval. But when your mind is clear and patient, there is a different energy about you. Others won’t try to take advantage of you and even if they did, you would stop them and say, “No, that’s not appropriate.”
Is there a difference in being angry and being hateful?
Anger is when we have a rush of hostility towards somebody. Hate is when we hold on to that feeling of anger over period of time, generate a lot of ill will, and contemplate how to retaliate, take revenge, or humiliate the other person. Hatefulness is anger that has been held on to for a long time.
Hate is very harmful to ourselves and others. In addition to creating so much negative karma and motivating us to harm others, hate ties us up in misery. No one is happy when his or her mind is full of hate and vengefulness. Furthermore, when parents are hateful, they are teaching their children to hate because children learn emotions and behavior by observing their parents. Therefore, if you love your children, do your best to abandon hate by forgiving others.
In Buddhism, anger is one of the three roots of evil, the other two being greed and ignorance. Which should be our first priority to eradicate as part of our spiritual practice?
That depends very much on the individual. The great masters say that we should look inside of ourselves and see which one is stronger, which disturbs our mind most, and then focus on that and try to diminish it. For example, if you see that your confusion and lack of good judgment is the most troublesome of the three, then emphasize the development of wisdom. If attachment, lust, or desire are the greatest, then first work to diminish those. If anger is the most harmful in your life, do more meditation on patience, love, and compassion. When we emphasize reducing one affliction, we should not neglect to apply the antidotes to the other two when needed.

source: thubtenchodron


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