Filed in Vajrayana, Lojong

Awakening to Anger

Ken McLeod

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A teacher, translator, and disciple of Kalu Rinpoche speaks with Tricycle about how the Tibetan lojong or “mind training” teachings can shift the soil in which anger grows

© 1989 Peter and David Turnley

Lojong is usually translated as “mind training,” but “mind refining” is also an accurate description. In the Mahayana tradition, mind training doesn’t try to “deal” with the problem of anger. The whole Mahayana bent is on dealing with the present. Anger is the fastest and probably the most powerful reaction to the fear of not existing, of having your sense of self bashed by the opposition you’re facing.

Mind training is about learning and knowing that you don’t exist the way you think you do. Anger ceases to arise because there’s nothing to defend. In anger, you destroy your relationship with whatever is threatening. But if you can stay present with the whole experience, you can circumvent anger.

Suppose you’re at a meeting and you put forth your opinion on a subject and someone contradicts you. If you’re identified with that opinion, you suddenly feel you don’t exist—your identity, your sense of self, has been negated. If you’re not able to stay in the present moment, anger takes over—that fast. What you do is destroy your relationship with being contradicted. It may mean leaving the meeting, or blasting the person who contradicted you, or shutting down your feelings. Those angry reactions destroy your relationship with what you experience, and move you right out of the present.

How does mind training help? It works in two ways, which are the two components to Mahayana practice. One, they help cultivate compassion,and two, they help cultivate an understanding of emptiness.

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alica450's picture

This morning I received an email from one of the guys who are going through what has been a really productive ten-Plus program. This message began as an interesting discussion that I had to share the details
angry status for facebook

jjwalker7730's picture

According to the tibetan wheel of life, the Human realm is the realm of anger. You are not alone.

claudeb's picture

"For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."  Shakespeare

Good article on how to manage the physiological state of anger once it has arrived, but may I suggest that it is eminently possible to derail the psychic movement towards anger by employing techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Albert Ellis' Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) offers an elegant, powerful model that is highly complementary to meditative practice.

Most simply, our interpretation of the perception of an event, in this case another's "stupid" behavior, usually contains a demand; a MUST.  (Also present here is the needless global condemnation of the other as stupid.)

The thought that we likely, uncritically, buy-into is something like "He MUST not behave that way".  This strong absolute belief is untenable: we have no control over another's behavior, and are so bound to be emotionally disturbed by the failure of the world to meet our irrational demand.

Try replacing the the demand with a preference:  "It would be better if he were able to be act more thoughtfully";  "It is unfortunate that this person is behaving rudely"; "I wish she were more skilled at this task."  The softer internal language will engender a softer emotional response.

Best -

ereynolds's picture

I have had to struggle with the anger at what is labeled "stupidity" in others.   But I have come to realize that “stupidity” is a false and anger-inducing label. 

Everyone is at different levels of understanding or enlightenment on the infinite subjects of life.  Each individual has different abilities, techniques, experiences and distractions that contribute to their rate learning or ability to expand understanding in these various subjects.   Desire to learn and interest in the topic is a big factor.

We may see someone behaving stupidly or become frustrated with their seeming inability to comprehend our point of view.   We must recognize the anger is not with the other person but it is anger at ourselves.  It is our failure to understand where that person is coming from and what approach we need to adjust to meet the needs of the other to understand.

There is a quote commonly attributed to Albert Einstein, “ Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Yet how often do we find ourselves and others repeating a position over and over in the same words, angrily frustrated that our AUDIENCE doesn’t “get it”.


frankalan's picture

Great article - thanks.

Have you ever read any of Brad Blantons work regarding Radical Honesty?

He posits that anger and the subsequent ego-centred lieing about the anger is one of the major causes of spiritual sickness amongst our human race. Radical Honesty is the process of burning off all the anger before it festers into something more via telling the truth, being present with your emotions etc.

Over time, anger was less and less effect on you, as do the lies. But it all starts with the acknowledgement that your mind does (well, thinks it does) control you. From there, we start to free ourselves from the prison of the ego and its ridiculous and petty anger.

Check it out - he can be pretty abraisive, but it is a good read. As with all things, take what is useful and discard the rest.


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