Buddhism and Anger

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Buddhism and Anger

Post by Curiousquery » Sun Mar 25, 2012 12:01 am


As I sit here in front of my computer, I can find no right words to articulate my emotions. I am not a Buddhist. In fact, I am an Atheist. Lately however, I've felt drawn to Buddhism. Moreso, the peace that so many practicing Buddhists exude. Thus, I found these forums and joined. I can only hope that some of you may have the advice I'm seeking. I have anger issues; self-deprecating, anger and depression. I can find no peace. There is this incessant fire in my chest, this burning anger, and as much as I hate it, I feel like I'm addicted to it. I hate the world around me, but moreso, because I hate myself. I am ashamed of the choices I've made in life, ashamed of my station in life, ashamed that I'm not better; richer, more handsome, more intelligent. I carry this shame with me everywhere I go. It NEVER leaves me, like a weight on my shoulders. Because I can't shake it, it turns into anger. Anger at myself and at the world.

I grew up poor with a drug addict for a mother and no father. I have been a failure all my life and at times, I feel like I was doomed from the start. I get so angry that I never had the opportunity so many people around me had. I know my life is the sum of consequences, derived of the choices I've made. Ultimately, I am responsible for still being poor. I am responsible for being the failure I am. I cannot forgive myself...no matter how hard I try, I can't let go. I don't know what to do any more...so here I am, pouring my soul out to total strangers. I am so desperate for help...for peace. I just want to be okay with the man I see in the mirror again. I don't want to hate myself any more...I don't want to be angry.

So how do Buddhists do it? How do you let go of all of this? Where do you find peace? In a river of emotional distress, where do you find still water?

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Re: Buddhism and Anger

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Sun Mar 25, 2012 1:12 am

Wow...this sounds very familiar!
You can be an atheist and also benefit from buddhism. It is not a blind-faith system. But it is a gradual process, a gentle unfolding of a clear and peaceful state of mind which is actually the mind's original state.

You really covered a lot of stuff in your post. There are a lot of ways the various things you mention can be addressed, from a buddhist perspective.

Generally, buddhists start with meditation, to help calm the mind. Even if you have a mountain of problems, you are still entitled to take a break for 5 or 10 minutes, and then, if your anger comes back, look at it, and then give yourself permission to take another break. Everyone needs a vacation, and being angry all the time sounds like a lot of hard work.

So, learn how to do mind-calming meditation which is done by focusing on the breath. A calm mind is the first step in really taking charge of your emotional state. If you need instructions, there are many places to get meditation instruction, or probably, someone here can give you some basics.

In mind-calming meditation, you practice "not holding on" to negative (or positive) emotions. they come, and they go. You watch your breath, instead of indulging in all your problems. Are the things that make you burn with anger still there? Of course they are. But outside of your own thoughts, where do they exist? So, as you calm your thoughts, those things in your past will loosen their hold on your mind. The various thoughts that grip you now will still come knocking at your door when you meditate, you will acknowledge that they are there, and then you will go back to watching your calm breathing. After a while, these negative feelings will stop coming around to haunt you.

You'll even be able to forgive the people who hurt you, because you will see that they were also unhappy, just as you are. The Buddha said that ALL people are always striving to be happy! He said that all existence is full of this constant striving to be free from the thoughts and desires that haunt us. This is why people use drugs and do other harmful things to themselves. They are really just trying to be happy. But self-destructive things don't bring lasting happiness. Only working with your own thoughts and mind brings lasting peace, because the mind is where all the positive and negative emotions come from to begin with.

We are all in the same boat. The methods the Buddha taught have been practiced over and over by millions, maybe billions of people for over 2500 years. Anger and frustration and depressing thoughts come to buddhists too, but meditation is a method for letting go of those emotions, even transforming those negative emotions into a means of seeing the natural clarity of the mind.

The fact that this negative state of mind actually bothers you should be an indicator that this is not your mind's true state!! If being angry and self-resentful all the time were pleasant, there would be no need to stop those kinds of feelings. So, this should tell you that a peaceful state of mind is there, waiting patiently. So, this is something you can feel good about. It's not as though you are going looking for a peaceful mind that doesn't exist. It is your mind's natural state.

I would start with meditation, and also, if it possible now and then, go easy on yourself.
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Re: Buddhism and Anger

Post by LastLegend » Sun Mar 25, 2012 1:57 am

It is not easy.

But hang in there.

If you suffer, there must a be a cause.

Bodhidharma [my translation]
―I come to the East to transmit this clear knowing mind without constructing any dharma―

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Re: Buddhism and Anger

Post by DarwidHalim » Sun Mar 25, 2012 3:00 am

When you are cool down, you should make use your time to train in meditation. Slowly but sure, you will get awesome concentration of samadhi. From that point, you can then go further to the advance development.

For temporary, probably you can read Shantideva's boddhisattva way of life. His technique in dealing with anger has been the classic technique for many generations.

You need a good technique that the result of practice can be felt straight away, not after we pass away. Since you are atheist, you Already have the good starting point, because you no need to struggle to fight with the imagination of god as creator.

No need to worry about what is happening right now, because everything is changeable.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!

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Re: Buddhism and Anger

Post by Curiousquery » Sun Mar 25, 2012 3:44 am

Thanks a ton guys, I look forward to applying these ideas. Any other advice?

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Re: Buddhism and Anger

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Sun Mar 25, 2012 4:27 am

The book that started it all for me is available for free (and legally) online: http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf/mindfuln ... nglish.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The problem for me wasn't so much anger, but depression. They both seem to stem from a similar issue... misplaced attention. I fixated on how things "should" be or what others "should" do. Just sitting and letting these thoughts come and go instead of constantly building them up is not our usual mode of operation. Yet if things never settle, we remain in a state of constant agitation, unable to get a handle on our own suffering. Sound familiar?

Meditation can be extremely challenging. There are no quick fixes. But if you stick with it, the rewards are inexpressible. It thoroughly transformed the worldview that perpetuated my depression.

I hope you can find the peace that is already in your hands. And I hope we see you around here more! :thumbsup: You'll find the people here are uncommonly wise, and kind.
Namo Amitābhāya

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Re: Buddhism and Anger

Post by Rakz » Sun Mar 25, 2012 4:52 am

By following the five precepts laid down by Shakyamuni Buddha and studying the three marks of existence deeply, you will find some emotional relief. I can attest to this. I would not recommend meditation for you right now as you are suffering from intense feelings and it takes a tremendous amount of patience and determination to stick with it.

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Re: Buddhism and Anger

Post by Quiet Heart » Sun Mar 25, 2012 5:05 am

A couple of things.
First of all...anger management. I've been there and it put me in the hospital. I had to learn how to deal with that from a Buddhist perspective. I'll tell you a technique to deal with that anger later...but first a small aside.
Point 1...YOU were never a "failure". Some of the things you may have done were bad choices, and therefore you had to pay for them by suffering the results of those bad choices. We've ALL been through that, it's a human condition.
If you were walking down a street, searching the house numbers for the address you were looking for; and suddenly you realised that you must have somehow gone past the house number you wanted, What would you do?
Easy, you'd turn around and go back until you found the corerct address.
So if you're life seems to be going the wrong way, just like that example, just turn around and go the other way...until you find where you want to be.
Got to be a little harsh here...but is no thing outside you making you a "failure"...and never was. All that is a self-generated illusion you created to explain your own "failures". So jettison all that nonsense, and acknowledge your illusionary "failures" are nothing more than a self-generated illusion of your mind.
In fact, ALL human beings have some things they do poorly and some they do well. It's a human condition. You're not exempt from that. What you need to do is find those things you do well and make use of them. Do it.
All those people "outside", the ones you think are "successful" compared to you're "failures" are exactly the same as you. It's your self-generated illusion that makes you think differently.
What's making you angry is that self-generated illusion that you are a "failure". Get rid of that illusion and you're anger will seem silly.
But I promised you a technique you can use to manage your "anger".
Here it is...whenever someone says or does anything that makes you angry...stop and consider the following questions:
Wait, did I do anything to make him or her say or do that thing to make me angry?
If not, why did they say or do such a thing?
Sometimes you'll see that what they said or did was a response to your unintentional actions. Okay, you say, I made a mistake there, and they got angry at me. i won't do that again...so my being angry at them for my own mistake is stupid. I won'tbe angry at them for that reason.
Sometimesyou may realise that they struck back at you in anger because you accentally hit on of their own deep fears. Absolutely no point in you getting angry at them for their reactions to their own problems. So toss away your anger there.
Basically what I'm telling you is to when you feel anger...stop and think about why you're angry. This is rather like what a Buddhist would term "Mindful consideration"...using your mind to see into the root cause of the problem and not responding with anger.
Anger is a poison...and when it is used both the user and the intended victim both suffer from that poison.
So use that "Mindful consideration" to see the rootcause of your anger.
If you can, you'll often realise how silly that anger really is.
Shame on you Shakyamuni for setting the precedent of leaving home.
Did you think it was not there--
in your wife's lovely face
in your baby's laughter?
Did you think you had to go elsewhere (simply) to find it?
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Re: Buddhism and Anger

Post by LastLegend » Sun Mar 25, 2012 5:27 am

I also agree with Ryoto.

Bodhidharma [my translation]
―I come to the East to transmit this clear knowing mind without constructing any dharma―

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Re: Buddhism and Anger

Post by muni » Sun Mar 25, 2012 8:39 am

When there is anger, the first victim hit by it is ourselves.
It is said; anger can perfectly deal with itself and arise/subside in itself without we are caught by it, and harms.
Anger is not ours.
Buddha said all is empty like my brain.
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Re: Buddhism and Anger

Post by Aura » Sun Mar 25, 2012 2:02 pm

Curiousquery wrote: In a river of emotional distress, where do you find still water?
Buddhism has a great many meditative techniques that can help you find peace. There are many different teachers, writers, words, and practices to choose from, and so the best advice is to explore Buddhist writings and see what particularly resonates with you, (as some will personally resonate with you better than others). What resonates best with you will help you heal fastest.

A basic principle of Buddhism is meditation.
Meditation is the cultivation of clarity through stillness....
Just as in nature...
If you scoop up a bucketful of water from the bottom of the river...
You see the water? It is almost completely opaque! It's all full of dark swirling mud!
But let it stand in stillness for just a bit and observe carefully....
the rocks drop to the bottom
the mud drops to the bottom
and the muddy water becomes amazingly clear.

Our thoughts, our emotions, our restlessness, our addictions, our life histories...
You, me, all of us.....
we can still close our eyes.... and hear a lifetime of screaming and the crying within us
we can still close our eyes..... and still see and feel the violence
we can still close our eyes and re-live it all, all the trauma of our lives
all the trauma of our wars...
it is all we have known and all we have ever known...
and It is all so much dark muddy water from the bottom of the river
of darkness, suffering, confusion, pain

And so you see the basic principle of meditation...
the cultivation of the stillness that brings peace and clarity.
Your life, my life, all of us.... we are each a glass full of opaque muddy swirling water
and so we sit and meditate and cultivate the stillness...
and bit by bit the heavy mud of our lives begins to drop out of the muddy waters of our lives
and settles gracefully to the bottom
and slowly we become clear and clean and the light goes through us.
Just as in nature.

What does clarity look like?
I have a small true story for you:

He had heavy hands that had knocked holes in walls....when people had managed to duck.
People had not often managed to duck.
His high school principal hadn't managed to duck.
Fellow soldiers and civilians hadn't managed to duck.
Friends, enemies, and business associates hadn't managed to duck.
His wife and kids hadn't managed to duck.

They said that he had run the black market in the army. WWII. He was always making deals, some good, some sour.
30 years later he had still kept the military crew cut hair style, occasionally running his heavy hands over it like the bristles of a brush.
It never flattened. He would smile approvingly and say: "See that? Pure meanness keeps the hair standing perfectly straight upright. Pure meanness."

By the time I met him, he was tired and worn, with scars of a lifetime of fighting, arthritic hands, and a cough that sounded under water. He had an inheritance he had blown on gambling. He had a beautiful wife he had endlessly cheated on with other women. He had children he'd ignored. He said one of them had landed some serious heartfelt punches on him the day the kid moved out and enlisted. That had impressed him.

He had quit the booze and the cigarettes some years before I met him, but they had taken a heavy toll. His doctor had wrenched him into a headlock and threatened to drop him out a 10th floor window of the hospital when he'd tried to light a cigarette next to an oxygen tank. The doctor had told him that his #$%& life wasn't worth saving.
That had impressed him.

He said I was the strangest thing he'd ever seen.
Hadn't I ever heard of baby carriages and strollers? What was with this "wearing a baby around like an Indian routine"? What was wrong with me?!
I laughed: hadn't he ever seen the koala bears at the zoo? Surely he had seen the koala bears at the zoo...
The fact that I had calmly countered him had somehow impressed him.
And so we talked.

He was a good talker. Talking was his therapy. It passed the time without cigarettes and booze. He'd gotten more honest with himself and others since the cigarettes and the booze were gone. Being dragged into the hospital kicking and screaming had helped. A doctor threatening to throw him out a 10 story window and write him up as a suicide had helped. The therapy had helped.
He was a good talker.
The biggest thing they'd ever stolen in the war was a train, you know....
(a train? How on earth does anybody steal a train?)
He said it was for a good cause. One of the better things he'd done in life. One of the few things he was proud of.

There was a lot he wasn't proud of. He didn't pull any punches in life.
He didn't pull any punches on himself either.
As I listened to him it reminded me of the lyrics of the Pete Townshend song "Behind Blue Eyes":
No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes
And no one knows what it's like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies...

...No one knows what it's like
To feel these feelings
Like I do
And I blame you
No one bites back as hard
On their anger
None of my pain woe
Can show through

But my dreams they aren't as empty
As my conscious seems to be
I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That's never free...

Those words seemed to summarize the man well.
I took the baby off and sat down next to him with the baby in my lap.
He was amazed...
How could a human being ever be that little and vulnerable.... and happy?
How could a human being ever be that cared for and loved?
He had thought it bizarre to see me wearing a baby around like a koala bear and had said that he had never held a baby in his life.
I asked him how it was possible that he had 3 kids in life... and yet had never held a baby.

He said that he had always been too big, too clumsy, to awkward...
too dangerous, too mean, too angry.... to ever hold a baby.
"Well, you're going to hold this one..."
Terror crossed his face: "No, no.... my hands are too big, too clumsy... I could drop her, I could hurt her..."
"You're not going to hurt anybody."
I held my baby with one arm and grabbed his arm with the other, placing it securely under the baby as I slid the baby across from my lap to his and wrapping my arm securely around his own. I then did the same with his other arm, such that the baby was in his arms in his lap and my arms were securely around his own.
She smiled up at him and he looked down on her with awe...how could a human being ever be so little?

I held his arms in mine as he held the baby:
"You were once this little, you know.
This was you once, in your mother's arms, on your mother's lap.
You were this amazing wondrous little creature and you came here and gave her the opportunity to learn how to love, how to care.
She didn't know how to love you. She didn't know how to love anyone. She didn't even know how to love and care for herself. She had been too broken in life."

His mother had been an addict, a violent alcoholic who used to hurl anything she could get her hands on across a room and smash it to bits. She had died leaving behind her the odd scattered remains of countless sets of dishes that she had hurled across rooms and shattered into shards.

"It wasn't your fault she didn't know how to hold you and care for you and love you
she'd been too broken in life...
and this was you once."
He shook all over and tears welled up in his eyes.
He had lived all his life with that wound and hanging on to that horrendous attachment, that anger...
and for the first time in his life he began to let some of it go.
We sat there in silence for a long time.

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Re: Buddhism and Anger

Post by Curiousquery » Sun Mar 25, 2012 5:28 pm


There is so much here to take in. I am so appreciative for everyone contributing, you guys are awesome. It will take time to digest everything, to read, to learn. But, I'm so ready to let go of everything. Thanks so much. I have to work soon or the length of this post may be longer.

I just wanted to take a few minutes this morning to say thanks for all of the support. I looked forward to meeting more amazing people here on DW, and learning from the forums, etc.


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Re: Buddhism and Anger

Post by swampflower » Sun Mar 25, 2012 5:49 pm

You may wish to try the practice of Tonglen or Taking and Giving.
Tonglen is often considered a practice for others however it can be used for ones self.

Picture that you are breathing IN all your anger. That should be easy! :tongue:

Then breath OUT a feeling of bright and light joy and compassion. :twothumbsup:

Try it!

Also there are good guides on Tonglen.
See Pema Chodron.

I was a very depressed addict. Tonglen saved me...
Oṃ Tāre Tuttāre Ture Svāhā

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Re: Buddhism and Anger

Post by Lhug-Pa » Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:32 pm

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Re: Buddhism and Anger

Post by catmoon » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:23 pm

Curiousquery wrote:Hello,

I don't want to hate myself any more...I don't want to be angry.

So how do Buddhists do it? How do you let go of all of this? Where do you find peace? In a river of emotional distress, where do you find still water?
To defeat anger, one needs to understand its source, its nature, and its results. To that end, I know of no better sourcebook than the Dalai Lama's book Healing Anger, which draws extensively from Shantideva.
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.

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