What is Anger?
A perfect question. And the perfect answer, which I heard from a lama, is: “Anger is the response when attachment doesn’t get what it wants.”
But how to get to the bottom of this? How to go beyond its being a cute saying? Lama Yeshe is not kidding when he says that we need to be our own psychologists. You could argue that we’re not really Buddhists until we work on our minds.
This is logical. In the second of the Four Noble Truths, Buddha asserts that the two main causes of our suffering are our past negative actions and our deluded states of mind. These two subsume into one, the delusions. Because of these negative states of mind, we act inappropriately by harming others, thus sowing the seeds of our future suffering.
Given, as Buddha points out in the third Noble Truth, that we can be free of suffering – thank goodness! – we need to cut this cycle of madness. In relation to the two main causes, there are two main practices to be done.
The most urgent, as Lama Zopa Rinpoche points out, relates to the delusions: Initially, at the very least, don’t respond with negativity. (The second is to stop the seeds we’ve already planted from ripening as suffering; this is called purification.) But the real practice begins when we learn to identify the neuroses and remove them.
All states of mind fall into three categories: positive, negative, and neutral, but how to distinguish them? It’s not easy.
First of all, we’re not educated to look into our minds.
Second, we only notice we’re angry when the words vomit out of the mouth; or that we’re depressed when we can’t get out of bed one morning.
Third, even if we do look at our feelings, often we can’t tell the difference between the positive and the negative: they’re mixed together in a big soup of emotions – and a puréed soup at that.
Fourth, we don’t think we can change them: they’re so concrete, so real; we even think they’re physical.
And anyway, fifth, who wants to look into their mind? It’s not my fault, is it? I didn’t ask to get born! This is how we all are! What am I supposed to do about it? Everything conspires against our doing this job that Buddha recommends…
This article is an excerpt of the full article printed in Mandala