We live in an age where we’re told to express our anger, but Buddha would disagree. Acting out on anger makes it easier to do so again in the future, leading to a never-ending cycle. Buddha advises us to neither bottle up nor let our emotions overflow, but to analyze them and come to understand the faulty thinking behind anger.
Buddhists might talk about love, compassion and tolerance a lot, but when even great masters like the Dalai Lama admit to getting angry sometimes, is there any hope for the rest of us? Science might say that feeling anger is totally normal, psychologists advise us to express our anger, and some religions might even have righteous anger. Buddhism, on the other hand, says that anger is always bad.
The 8th-century Buddhist scholar Shantideva described anger as the most extreme negative force, one with the capability of destroying the good we’ve worked so hard to create. Think about that. One moment of anger combined with access to a gun can completely change someone’s future from a life of freedom to a life behind bars. A more everyday example would be how anger can destroy friendship and trust that might have taken decades to build up. Ultimately, anger is more dangerous than all of the world’s bombs and guns and knives put together.
We know that anger is not a happy state of mind, but what can we do about it? Buddhism offers a range of simple methods to help us transform our minds. Be warned – there is no magic pill! Here are our top eight Buddhist tips to deal with anger:
1. That’s Life: Samsara
Buddha’s first teaching 2,500 years ago goes straight to the point: life is unsatisfactory. Guess what? Our lives will never be satisfactory.
We’re born, we die. In between there’ll be good times and bad times, and times we probably don’t even feel much at all: this never ending cycle is what Buddhism calls “samsara.” When we came into this world, no one said life would be nice and easy and non-stop fun, and that we’ll always have things go exactly as we want. When we understand our own situation in samsara, it enables us to understand everyone else’s too.
We’re all in this together. Being angry at situations, others, or ourselves is not going to make anything better. Other people say and do stuff we might not like because – yes – their lives are crap too.
This kind of thinking can radically transform our perspective. Even if each of us might seem to be the center of our own universe, that doesn’t mean that everything has to – or ever will – go exactly the way we want.