“The only factor that can give you refuge or protection from the destructive effects of anger and hatred is your practice of tolerance and patience.” – HH Dalai Lama.
In a previous post, I discussed Master Yi and Sakyong Mipham’s thoughts on anger. These thoughts are common in Buddhism and are expanded on in the Dalai Lama’s book, “The Art of Happiness”.
In “The Art of Happiness”, the Dalai Lama discusses obstacles to happiness. One of the chief obstacles is anger. He says, “The destructive effects of hatred are very visible, very obvious and immediate. For example, when a very strong or forceful thought of hatred arises in you, at that very instant, it totally overwhelms you and destroys your peace of mind, your presence of mind disappears complete. When such intense anger and hatred arises, it obliterates the best part of your brain, which is the ability to judge between right and wrong, and the long-term and short-term consequences of your actions. Your power of judgement becomes totally inoperable, it can no longer function. It is almost like you have become insane. So, this anger and hatred tends to throw you into a state of confusion, which just servers to make your problems and difficulties so much worse.
“Even at the physical level, hatred brings about a very ugly, unpleasant physical transformation on the individual. At the very instant when strong feelings of anger or hatred arise, no matter how hard the person tries to pretend or adopt a dignified pose, it is very obvious that the person’s face looks contorted and ugly…even animals, pets, would try to avoid the person in that instant. Also, when a person harbors hateful thoughts, they tend to collect inside the person, and this can cause things like loss of appetite, loss of sleep, and certainly make the person feel more tense and uptight.
“For reasons such at these, hatred is compared to an enemy. This internal enemy, this inner enemy, has no other function than causing us harm. It is our true enemy, our ultimate enemy. It has no other function than simply destroying us, both in the immediate term and in the long term.”
Wise words from a wise man. I find when I’m practicing tai chi, chi kung and meditation regularly, I’m much more calm and patient. The Dalai Lama links patience and humility.
“The Art of Happiness” is co-written by Howard C. Cutler, M.D., psychiatrist. Dr. Cutler talks about scientific studies that show the affects of anger on the human body:
“Dr. Dolf Zillmann at the University of Alabama has conducted experiments demonstrating that angry thoughts tend to create a state of physiological arousal that makes us even more prone to anger….
“Dr. Aaron Siegman, a psychologist and anger researcher at the University of Maryland, believes, for instance, that it is just this kind of repeated expression of anger and rage that triggers the internal arousal systems and biochemical responses that are most likely to cause damage to our arteries.”
In “The Art of Happiness”, Dr. Cutler comments to the Dalai Lama: “To the Western mind, patience and tolerance are certainly considered virtues, but when you are directly beset by others, when someone is actively harming you, responding with ‘patience and tolerance’ seems to have a flavor of weakness, of passivity.”
The Dalai Lama disagreed. He said, “Since patience or tolerance comes from an ability to remain firm and steadfast and not be overwhelmed by the adverse situations or conditions that one faces, one should not see tolerance or patience as a sign of weakness, or giving in, but rather as a sign of strength, coming from a deep ability to remain firm. REsponding to a trying situation with patience and tolerance rather than reacting with anger and hatred involves active restraint, which comes from a strong, self disciplined mind….
“I think there is a very close connection between humility and patience. Humility involves having the capacity to take a more confrontational stance, having the capacity to retaliate if you wish, yet deliberately deciding not to do so. That is what I would call genuine humility…. On the other hand, being forced to adopt a certain passive response out of a feeling of helplessness or incapacitation–that I wouldn’t call genuine humility. That may be a kind of meekness, but it isn’t genuine tolerance.”
The Dalai Lama on fighting:
“Sometimes, you may encounter situations that require strong countermeasures. I believe, however, that you can take a strong stand and even take strong countermeasures out of a feeling of compassion, or a sense of concern for the other, rather than out of anger. One of the reasons why there is a need to adopt a very strong countermeasure against someone is that if you let it pass–whatever the harm or the crime that is being perpetrated against you–then there is a danger of that person’s habituating in a very negative way, which, in reality, will cause that individual’s own downfall and is very destructive in the long run for the individual himself or herself. Therefore a strong countermeasure is necessary, but with this thought in mind, you can do it out of compassion and concern for that individual. For example, so far as our own dealings with China are concerned, even if there is a likelihood of some feeling of hatred arising, we deliberately check ourselves and try to reduce that, we try to consciously develop a feeling of compassion towards the Chinese. And I think that countermeasures can ultimately be more effective without feelings of anger and hatred….
“An end result, or a product of patience and tolerance, is forgiveness. When you are truly patient and tolerant, then forgiveness comes naturally.”
If this topic interests you, pick up a copy of the Dalai Lama’s “The Art of Happiness”. He offers a much better analysis of anger and how to gain control of it than I can offer here in this brief commentary. He discusses a very useful tool of widening perspective, analyzing the situation, looking at other angles of a situation, as well as providing specific meditations one can use.