SuttaCentral

Giving in to anger, one does not practice the Dhamma


#1

In the simile of the saw, the Buddha points out that even if one were to be severed limb by limb, he who gives into anger, would not be practises his Teaching, let alone those who give in to anger because of minor issues I.e unwelcomed speech.

I believe, here, that the Buddha gives us a measurement by which to measure our progress or dedication i.e if you give in to anger then you are not practising.
Which therefore indicates the severity of the practise,or the seriousness of what needs to be done i.e the attitude that one should have.
The attitude of ‘I will not give in to anger no matter what’.

If one gives in to anger due to minor issues, it’s unlikely that when an intense situation arises that one will not do the same; and by NOT giving in to anger in regards minor issues,one can build up a resolve in the face of anger i.e anger might arise but one does not GIVE IN/ indulge it or welcome it, so that when intense situation arises one has the developed strength to overcome it,to endure it equanimous.

He also seems to suggest that , practising the Dhamma/not giving in to anger ,does not protect you physically from unfortunate circumstances but can result in equanimity in regards to the most horrific type of incidents.

Should one think that one is ‘on the path’ if one gets angry over matters e.g someone calling you an idiot, not getting your coffee on time, or having a headache etc? And if one is getting angry over trivial matters,then how serious are you about the practise?

I would have to say that getting angry or giving in to or welcoming anger,one is not serious about the practice,
What do think? Did the Buddha mean something different?


#2

Recently on Facebook, someone called me an idiot.
I was shocked.
It felt like an attack.
A few moments later, I understood that indeed my actions were idiotic (i.e., i read instructions after I assemble furniture). And then I just started laughing.

So I responded to his post:
“Yes. I am an idiot”

And that was that.


#3

We should remember that overcoming anger is a gradual process. Becoming an Arahant straight away is likely to not work as well :smiley:. While on the page the instructions look :eyes: black and white, we must factor in the time to flesh it out.


#4

Loving this:

you should train like this: ‘Our minds will remain unaffected. We will blurt out no bad words. We will remain full of compassion, with a heart of love and no secret hate. We will meditate spreading a heart of love to that person. And with them as a basis, we will meditate spreading a heart full of love to everyone in the world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will.’ That’s how you should train.

@Noahsark Thank you for pointing out MN 21. Lovely.

@Mat excellent points on gradual process of training. Thank you.


#5

Yes, learning is gradual. It will be very slow learning if one gives in to anger from time to time, but much quicker if one does not.
There is many times a day and night that unpleasant feeling or unwelcomed experiences can arise, and thus many opportunities to develop non-resistance or non-interferring non-anger.


#6

Just a friendly reminder to make sure we don’t get too angry about our anger :joy: and that we deal with it in wholesome ways, not by suppression, denial or being overly idealistic. Anger in one form or another does not disappear completely until very high stages of path realisation have been achieved. So it’s great to have the intention to abandon anger but we are bound to experience anger from time to time…

Practicing the Dhamma is working with our anger. Working with our anger is practicing the Dhamma.

Spiritual Bypassing is a premature transcendence of unwholesome states, like anger, which have been not dealt with fully or authentically by us.

Also, sometimes anger sometimes is a useful emotion that tells us that something is not right, like when someone is physically or sexually, emotionally abusing. It’s also the kind of emotion we experience when there is an injustice like discrimination, genocide or rape.

The simile of the saw relates to verbal abuse and is the ideal, but we should not think that our progress towards an ideal is less important than the ideal itself.


#7

I don’t see how anger is useful for the knowing that something is unwholesome or not right?
Anger is in regards unwelcomed unwanted unpleasant feelings, being adverse to pain, and pain is not a sign that something is unwholesome.
But maybe you meant that if there is anger then one can know that something is wrong, and that something is anger, then in that way, anger can indicate that something is wrong because there is anger , which is wrong.

In an extreme unwholesome situation such as rape, there is pain ,and anger is quite normal. However,the practise of Dhamma will uproot the anger,even if such a situation had to occur. It does not justify rape. The rape is still unwholesome.
The person then who has practised in accordance with Dhamma, who is thus free of anger, will still be able to discern the unwholesomeness of rape etc ,it will still be unpleasant, but there will be no dukkha.
Anger is never useful, dukkha is not useful, and being free from it will help one truly deal with whatever horrible situation might arise, and there will not be any lack of discernment or knowing what is right or wrong for one who is free from anger.

Progress to the ideal and arrival at the ideal,are indeed both important,but different experiences.

By ‘working with’ ,I am unsure what you mean?
Do you mean ‘using anger skillfully’, or ’ with anger one practises the Dhamma’?
What are you suggesting that one does with arisen anger, so as to practice the Dhamma or be free from dukkha?


#8

Thanks for your questions, @Noahsark. By ‘working with anger’, I mean when we experience it, we don’t try to wish it away, or pretend that it is not happening. We don’t suppress or deny it. We accept that it is there, understand it, see it’s disadvantages and let it go. We don’t pretend that we are spiritually superior – that we have attained an elevated state of non-anger we actually have not yet reached. Nor cultivativate an exaggerated detachment that is excessively neutral, compartmentalising negative emotions so that we think we have dealt with them when we haven’t. We don’t practice emotional numbing, blocking out our thoughts using forceful means or willpower. We don’t fear anger in a phobic way that shuts down legitimate issues where people have hurt, outrage, etc, and we don’t use positivity culture to mask our authentic feelings or deny the negative experiences of others. And, importantly, we don’t espouse an unrealistic ideal that we cannot actually live up to ourselves, or expect others to live up to either.

Hope that clarifies it for you. All the things I suggested avoiding above, I’ve seen people do for years on the spiritual path, or heard them recommend to others. But they still got angry :grinning: because they hadn’t approached their anger with wisdom. This is the difference between the ideal and the progress that leads there; experiencing anger and working with it wisely. Artificially pushing it away, denying, or suppressing anger actually precludes us from understanding it, denying us the opportunity to grow in wisdom so that we can truly let it go.

Edited for typos and clarity.


#9

@Akaliko it seems to me that in working with anger, there’s often a lot of deconstruction or untangling of mixed feelings, conditioning, assumptions, and self identification. Would you agree?

There’s thus seems to be a lot of opportunity in anger to make progress on the path, if confronted calmly, patiently, compassionately.


#10

Yes! @ERose you are quite right, anger is one of our greatest teachers. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t want to leave school one day though! :joy:


#11

I have found working with both has often been the best teacher. Out of every instance of suffering, there is a great opportunity to learn about samsara.

Anger is a very strong emotion. This is a very useful aspect, if one is mindful of the arising and ceasing of emotions. As such, anger can be used to actively practice work on non-self, and on impermanence, and directly feed into the gradual training of the Noble 8-fold path.


#12

Yes, leaving that school is a desire which can lead to the ending of desire / craving. And working through its exercises well can mean - only occasional Continuing Education courses from time to time, if I can extend your simile!

Re: “sometimes anger sometimes is a useful emotion that tells us that something is not right, like when someone is physically or sexually, emotionally abusing”.

Yes, I think sometimes anger can be a canary in the coal mine, an indicator that something as yet unrecognized is unhealthy. In this capacity, in my experience the anger feeling dissipates more easily, while pointing to observing things more as they are, and greater understandings.

edited for typos


#13

Having killed anger
you sleep in ease.
Having killed anger
you do not grieve.
The noble ones praise
the slaying of anger
— with its honeyed crest
& poison root —
for having killed it
you do not grieve. - SN1.71


#14

This, of course was said in response to a very specific question from a deva about killing, hence the strong language in this context. It also mentions the Noble Ones, those who have already attained stream entry and above. Quite refined beings already. :star_struck:

Here is the Deva’s question:

At Savatthi. Standing to one side, that devatā addressed the Blessed One in verse:

“Having slain what does one sleep soundly?
Having slain what does one not sorrow?
What is the one thing, O Gotama,
Whose killing you approve?”

I’d like to state for record of this thread that I don’t think anger is wholesome etc, but am concerned instead with how people approach it. As a monk, one sees all sorts of approaches to this, and a lot of them fall into the spiritual bypassing category, many of them are unhealthy and some are quite destructive. Hence my friendly advice. :slight_smile: May all beings be free from anger!

PS Bhante Sujato’s translation for the above sutta uses the word ‘incinerated’ instead of slain for ‘chetvā’ usually translated as ‘cut off’, which makes me think that perhaps the original context of the Sutta may have had to do with burnt offerings or sacrifice, of which the Buddha did not approve, hence the Deva’s question… ? But I don’t have time to check right now! :grinning:

When anger’s incinerated you sleep at ease.
When anger’s incinerated there is no sorrow.

Update it’s because of the variant readings in different editions, of jhatva, which means ‘burnt’ and chetvā which means ‘cut off’. Bhikkhu Bodhi says that jhetva is ‘certainly the correct reading’ in his notes to this Sutta, so it seems Bhante Sujato incorporated this reading into the edition he was working from, which otherwise uses chetvā.

Makes quite a difference to the meaning… But dead is dead… I guess. :coffin:


#15

Burning is a gradual progression- cutting is sudden - the Buddha often used similes to demonstrate what the practice feels like too apart from the obvious meaning and both were intentional. See Sakka’s chariot simile -

He who checks rising anger as a charioteer checks a rolling chariot, him I call a true charioteer. Others only hold the reins. SuttaCentral

…no-one can challenge a person
who’s strong, guarded by the teaching.
When you get angry at an angry person
you just make things worse for yourself.
When you don’t get angry at an angry person
you win a battle hard to win
When you know that the other is angry,
you act for the good of both
yourself and the other
if you’re mindful and stay calm. SuttaCentral


#16

One can also practice the antidote to ill-will, which is metta bhavana.


#17

Sure, killing anger is probably more about starving it to death than bludgeoning or curb-stomping it to death.

And what starves the arising of ill will, or, when it has arisen, starves its increase and growth? There is the heart’s release by love. Frequent proper attention to that starves the arising of ill will, or, when it has arisen, starves its increase and growth. - SN46.51

I will say though that the suttas often seem to use less gentle language than the modern western psychology informed dhamma teachings contain. In other words, from a purely textual perspective, in comparison to contemporary teachings. the teachings of the Buddha aren’t always as soft as some of us modern folks might prefer. Whether that’s a problem or not is beyond the scope of this post.


#18

I just spent some time reading some suttas that include discussions of how to deal with anger. The main thrust of those teachings is that short of becoming enlightened, even diligent students of Buddhist teachings are going to encounter anger in the course of their lives.

From my perspective, the key words in the subject heading of this topic are “giving in to,” as in “giving in to anger.” In English, “giving in to” could be defined as succumb to, yield to, submit to, or surrender to (I’m relying on my 1962 print version of Roget’s Thesaurus for synonyms for “give in to.”) Assuming for the moment that what is unwholesome about anger is how it is expressed (bringing harm to ourselves and others who become the target of expressions of anger), the question becomes one of cultivating mindfulness when feelings of anger arise so as not to succumb, yield, submit, or surrender to them.

I suppose this is just re-stating the problem, but Buddhist teachings provide guidance for practicing mindfulness in the face of any number of emotions to which succumbing, yielding, submitting, and surrendering bring unwholesome reactions. So I guess the answer is to meet anger the way one would meet any emotion—with the confidence, energy, wisdom, concentration, and mindfulness one would use in meditative and daily practice.


#19

I would be interested to hear more about your experiences with spiritual bypassing. I recently discovered this term and appreciate the insight it captures. From my own experience, a vital condition for anger is fear and a vital condition for fear is delight. What is fascinating to me is that the suttas make no mention of this inferred chain of dependencies. Therefore my own experience might be idiosyncratic, hence the question.


#20

I also find:
Anxiety leads to anger
Wanting things to be a certain way leads to anger
Attachment leads to anger

Pahana or wipe-out is used which suggests total cessation of anger. Anger is removed totally at the anagamin state.