The Real Enemy

Rimpoche Nawang Gehlek exhorts us to let go of anger and take charge of our minds.Nawang Gehlek Rimpoche

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Part of the Tricycle 9/11 Special Section. View the complete series here.


Rimpoche Nawang Gehlek on Anger and Patience

Think of anger. Anger is the mind that wishes to harm and hurt. Patience is the mind that holds back from harming or hurting. Anger is most difficult to deal with; patience is most difficult to develop. Patience is the only thing that defeats anger.

Don’t be disappointed if you can’t do it right away. Even after years of practice you may find that you’re still losing your temper. It’s all right. But you will also notice that the power of anger has weakened, that it doesn’t last as long, and does not as easily turn into hatred.

If patience comes easily to you, wonderful. If not, how do you go from anger to patience?

When negative emotions are strong they tend to overpower you; you could never take suggestions, never be able to apply an antidote. You need time and space. First, find out if you’re willing to see whether your anger is valid or not valid. If you are not willing to see that, then take a break. Walk outside. Go to a nice place where there’s a beautiful view. Divert your attention through something neutral, like nature. In Tibet, many of my teachers liked to go up on a high mountain overlooking the valley, the river, and the mountains. They let their disturbing thoughts fly away—if they had them at all—and took in the fresh air. Certain traditions even recommend that you watch the sunset from a slightly high vantage point, stand lightly, bouncing gently on your toes. Breathe out gently three, nine, or twenty-one times, using breath as a vehicle to carry your thoughts away. Let your heavy thoughts go with the setting sun and bid them goodbye.

When a thought of violence pops up very strongly and you divert your attention to a neutral level, by doing so, the force that was pushing you to do the wrong thing is weakened. Once it has been weakened, there’s the opportunity to do something else. Also, give yourself ample time to dwell in the feeling of the nice cool breeze . . . long enough so that any disturbing impulse cools, not physically, but mentally—only don’t catch cold. ▼

Adapted from "Good Life, Good Death: Tibetan Wisdom on Reincarnation" by Rimpoche Nawang Gehlek. Riverhead Books, 2001. Used by permission.

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jackelope65's picture

I did not feel anger but shock. It took a very long time to believe that it was really happening, unlike the innocent bystanders and brave first responders who can see, that it really was happening even today. I was surfing a hurricane swell at Point Judith, Rhode Island, when a surfer paddling out said: " Its had to believe we are surfing when buildings are falling down in New York." I just wrote it off as insanity. However, whenI paddled in, my surfing buddy was watching buildings falling down on a portable TV in my van. All he could do was shake his head. Because I was not there it continues to have an unreal quality, like a dream. No matter how hard I try, I cannot see that reality play back in my mind. If I was there anger may have come more quickly. Throughout the world, bullies keep people in fear and impoverished in all aspects of being, and that is where we start compassion, as bullies breed in those conditions and that is where we have some hope. We stop the Bin Laden's when they need our help the most. We don't go after the wrong country to lash out with hatred; then kill their leader whom we in the USA put in place. I cannot debate what happened to Osama Bin Laden. Our compassion needs to be directed at helping people regain their dignity by necessary donations, education,not propaganda on what to believe, and most of all,loving kindness, compassion.