Anger

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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one_awakening
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Anger

Post by one_awakening » Thu Nov 16, 2017 8:23 am

Anger is a common emotion and people often feel that they need to express their anger. Does anger serve any purpose?
“You only lose what you cling to”

mal4mac
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Re: Anger

Post by mal4mac » Thu Nov 16, 2017 9:25 am

I get the impression that most Theravadans would say "no" and suggest you just be aware of the anger and let it go, certainly don't express it. Tibetans (if I recall Ricard correctly) may argue that negative emotions have a positive side, and anger's positive side is *energy*. You shouldn't, of course, use that energy in negative way (beat someone up, say) but, still, you have that energy and can give it a positive twist - use the energy to argue long and hard against a person maybe. Of course, that long and hard argument should aim at relieving suffering all round.

So to answer your question: I'm not sure! I'm just sure you should avoid bringing more suffering into the world through your angry thoughts. Anyone have a definitive answer to this one? Anger good or bad? Let it go, or transform it and use its energy?
- Mal

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Sam Vara
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Re: Anger

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Nov 16, 2017 10:29 am

one_awakening wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 8:23 am
Anger is a common emotion and people often feel that they need to express their anger. Does anger serve any purpose?
In evolutionary terms, it frightens undesirable rivals away from your sexual partners and the things you need to live, and helps prevent you being at the bottom of the pecking order. Where those evolutionary pressures lessen, its purpose decreases.

Saengnapha
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Re: Anger

Post by Saengnapha » Thu Nov 16, 2017 10:33 am

mal4mac wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 9:25 am
I get the impression that most Theravadans would say "no" and suggest you just be aware of the anger and let it go, certainly don't express it. Tibetans (if I recall Ricard correctly) may argue that negative emotions have a positive side, and anger's positive side is *energy*. You shouldn't, of course, use that energy in negative way (beat someone up, say) but, still, you have that energy and can give it a positive twist - use the energy to argue long and hard against a person maybe. Of course, that long and hard argument should aim at relieving suffering all round.

So to answer your question: I'm not sure! I'm just sure you should avoid bringing more suffering into the world through your angry thoughts. Anyone have a definitive answer to this one? Anger good or bad? Let it go, or transform it and use its energy?
Any emotion or thought that comes up, if seen as impermanent, dissatisfying, and not self, doesn't harm anyone. There is no need to transform anger. We need to transform our view. Right view is the first step. It is a condition which allows harmony to unfold in all aspects of one's life. It leads to Right Intention and so forth, to Right Effort, Mindfulness, and Concentration. This is not a sectarian issue where you decide which school has the right tools. Anger comes about through causes. It is not difficult to see what those causes are if you are ready to look.

mal4mac
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Re: Anger

Post by mal4mac » Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:31 pm

Saengnapha wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 10:33 am
Any emotion or thought that comes up, if seen as impermanent, dissatisfying, and not self, doesn't harm anyone. There is no need to transform anger. We need to transform our view. Right view is the first step. It is a condition which allows harmony to unfold in all aspects of one's life. It leads to Right Intention and so forth, to Right Effort, Mindfulness, and Concentration. This is not a sectarian issue where you decide which school has the right tools. Anger comes about through causes. It is not difficult to see what those causes are if you are ready to look.
Yes, that's the Theravadan position, except I think there is a sectarian divide. For instance, do you think that the following is RIght View?:

"According to Tibetan Buddhism, there is a flip side to anger: there is wisdom in it. Normally we are too caught up in our personal struggles to connect with this wisdom, but anger actually has an integrity and a sharpness. It is a messenger that something is wrong, that something needs to be addressed. Anger’s awakened energy is said to be crystal clear, like a perfect mirror. It tells it like it is with no dissembling. Anger clears the air. It is immediate, and it is abrupt, but it grabs our attention and gets the point across. Anger interrupts our complacency and mobilizes us to take action.

When we encounter injustice being done to another, when we see violence inflicted on innocent beings, when we see the ways that humans justify almost any crazy act of violence, it is heartbreaking and makes us angry. So anger could be the catalyst that causes us to act with courage and compassion to address violence, injustice, and entrenched ignorance. "

https://www.lionsroar.com/the-poison-tr ... mber-2014/
- Mal

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Re: Anger

Post by mal4mac » Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:48 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 10:29 am
In evolutionary terms, it frightens undesirable rivals away from your sexual partners and the things you need to live, and helps prevent you being at the bottom of the pecking order. Where those evolutionary pressures lessen, its purpose decreases.
This isn't the full story. If you read the latest books on evolutionary psychology, there is a stress on the evolution of kindly behaviour. For instance, if a hunter gatherer is kind to all the others in his tribe he's likely to get a good reputation, which leads to others in the tribe supporting him 'cause he's a "good bloke". In finding himself in the "good bloke" circle he becomes part of a faction that monopolises most of the resources, including sexual partners.

The vicious and psychotic who just try and frighten rivals, and snatch any meat on offer, are exiled or killed, because the nice guys get angry at them. So nice guys can get angry, in fact, if anger increases in the nice guys then psychopaths may be dealt with more effectively. So maybe we need more anger against the likes of Trump and Bin Laden. Maybe some sects of Buddhism have a tendency to reduce anger when we actually need it?!

Of course, this tribe where kindness dominates is not a stable situation. If a really vicious ape with leadership qualities appears, and resources are in short supply, it could become a tribe where everyone fights to the death over resources and sexual favours.
- Mal

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binocular
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Re: Anger

Post by binocular » Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:54 pm

mal4mac wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:48 pm
So nice guys can get angry
So now nice and angry go hand in hand? Sounds like some monotheistic idea of a lovingly angry god.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Anger

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Nov 16, 2017 1:04 pm

mal4mac wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:48 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 10:29 am
In evolutionary terms, it frightens undesirable rivals away from your sexual partners and the things you need to live, and helps prevent you being at the bottom of the pecking order. Where those evolutionary pressures lessen, its purpose decreases.
This isn't the full story. If you read the latest books on evolutionary psychology, there is a stress on the evolution of kindly behaviour. For instance, if a hunter gatherer is kind to all the others in his tribe he's likely to get a good reputation, which leads to others in the tribe supporting him 'cause he's a "good bloke". In finding himself in the "good bloke" circle he becomes part of a faction that monopolises most of the resources, including sexual partners.
Yes, there are other evolutionary factors in play, in that anger is not our only characteristic. But I think it is the full story in that anger doesn't have any other purpose.

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Pondera
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Re: Anger

Post by Pondera » Thu Nov 16, 2017 1:11 pm

Anger and the violence which ensues from anger are likely the causes for upright homonids. If you ever see a monkey get angry, what is the first thing it does? It stands on its feet so that it can fling its arms about violently; pick ups sticks or clods of earth for flinging, etc.
I was once a cleric. I had the weirding way and I led an army of soldiers in still suits. My enemies would hear my voice and know that a wrath would soon be upon them. We fought for Dune and I had a taste for the spice. I think Jesus might have been in that army. Not sure. I know my brother Jamie was. Ahh. Those were good days.

2600htz
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Re: Anger

Post by 2600htz » Thu Nov 16, 2017 1:35 pm

Hello:

Just because wisdom teeth erupt because of a evolutionary background, doesn´t mean they are the best thing for you.
Just because someone did something bad to you, and you have the wish to kill him, doesn´t mean its the best thing for you.

Regards.

Saengnapha
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Re: Anger

Post by Saengnapha » Thu Nov 16, 2017 1:53 pm

mal4mac wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:31 pm
Saengnapha wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 10:33 am
Any emotion or thought that comes up, if seen as impermanent, dissatisfying, and not self, doesn't harm anyone. There is no need to transform anger. We need to transform our view. Right view is the first step. It is a condition which allows harmony to unfold in all aspects of one's life. It leads to Right Intention and so forth, to Right Effort, Mindfulness, and Concentration. This is not a sectarian issue where you decide which school has the right tools. Anger comes about through causes. It is not difficult to see what those causes are if you are ready to look.
Yes, that's the Theravadan position, except I think there is a sectarian divide. For instance, do you think that the following is RIght View?:

"According to Tibetan Buddhism, there is a flip side to anger: there is wisdom in it. Normally we are too caught up in our personal struggles to connect with this wisdom, but anger actually has an integrity and a sharpness. It is a messenger that something is wrong, that something needs to be addressed. Anger’s awakened energy is said to be crystal clear, like a perfect mirror. It tells it like it is with no dissembling. Anger clears the air. It is immediate, and it is abrupt, but it grabs our attention and gets the point across. Anger interrupts our complacency and mobilizes us to take action.

When we encounter injustice being done to another, when we see violence inflicted on innocent beings, when we see the ways that humans justify almost any crazy act of violence, it is heartbreaking and makes us angry. So anger could be the catalyst that causes us to act with courage and compassion to address violence, injustice, and entrenched ignorance. "

https://www.lionsroar.com/the-poison-tr ... mber-2014/
What divide do you see? Energy is not limited to anger. It is there in every moment. We bring energy when we are mindful. The energy of anger is habitual and serves the sense of self. Of course you can diffuse anger, but if there is no insight involved with doing that then there is no release from craving. What you seem to be talking about is a kind of psychology, but this is not what the Buddha was teaching. Your action is a behavioral therapy that does not address the root of suffering. Plus, anger has never been the catalyst for change. Look at the state of the world and ask yourself if anger has made any difference to violence and entrenched ignorance. Look how angry Americans are.

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L.N.
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Re: Anger

Post by L.N. » Thu Nov 16, 2017 2:39 pm

one_awakening wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 8:23 am
Does anger serve any purpose?
The Dhammapada mentions how anger can be a chariot.
222. He who checks rising anger as a charioteer checks a rolling chariot, him I call a true charioteer. Others only hold the reins.
"Kodhavagga: Anger" (Dhp XVII), translated from the Pali by Acharya Buddharakkhita. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .budd.html .
Sire patitthitā Buddhā
Dhammo ca tava locane
Sangho patitthitō tuiham
uresabba gunākaro


愿众佛坐在我的头顶, 佛法在我的眼中, 僧伽,功德的根源, 端坐在我的肩上。

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Re: Anger

Post by PuerAzaelis » Thu Nov 16, 2017 4:01 pm

mal4mac wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:31 pm
... there is wisdom in it ...
IMHO that's a view that is unbelievably difficult to put into practice, at least for me.
Generally, enjoyment of speech is the gateway to poor [results]. So it becomes the foundation for generating all negative emotional states. Jampel Pawo, The Certainty of the Diamond Mind

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LG2V
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Re: Anger

Post by LG2V » Thu Nov 16, 2017 10:47 pm

Recently, I've noticed that anger is an obvious sign that one is viewing things as permanent, satisfactory, and as Self in some way. It's picking up the reused garbage that is the 5 aggregates and replaying painful mental stories in hopes of accessing a mythical state of happiness that would occur "if only this certain thing were not here".

I still get angry pretty often, though. I want to cut through it completely :jedi:
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Re: Anger

Post by paul » Fri Nov 17, 2017 7:46 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 10:33 am
Any emotion or thought that comes up, if seen as impermanent, dissatisfying, and not self, doesn't harm anyone. There is no need to transform anger. We need to transform our view. Right view is the first step. It is a condition which allows harmony to unfold in all aspects of one's life. It leads to Right Intention and so forth, to Right Effort, Mindfulness, and Concentration. This is not a sectarian issue where you decide which school has the right tools. Anger comes about through causes. It is not difficult to see what those causes are if you are ready to look.
The above statement is opposed to the transcendent Theravada view. The aim is to actively work towards the eradication of anger (ill-will) which task is accomplished in the third stage of holiness, non-returner.

2. ILL-WILL

A. Nourishment of Ill-Will
There are objects causing aversion; frequently giving unwise attention to them — this is the nourishment for the arising of ill-will that has not yet arisen, and for the increase and strengthening of ill-will that has already arisen.

— SN 46:51

B. Denourishing of Ill-Will
There is the liberation of the heart by loving-kindness; frequently giving wise attention to it — this is the denourishing of the arising of ill-will that has not yet arisen, and the decrease and weakening of ill-will that has already arisen.

— SN 46:51

Cultivate the meditation on loving-kindness! For by cultivating the meditation on loving-kindness, ill-will disappears.

Cultivate the meditation on compassion! For by cultivating the meditation on compassion, cruelty disappears.

Cultivate the meditation on sympathetic joy! For by cultivating the meditation on sympathetic joy, listlessness disappears.

Cultivate the meditation on equanimity! For by cultivating the meditation on equanimity, anger disappears.

— MN 62

Six things are helpful in conquering ill-will:

Learning how to meditate on loving-kindness;
Devoting oneself to the meditation of loving-kindness;
Considering that one is the owner and heir of one's actions (kamma);
Frequent reflection on it (in the following way):
Thus one should consider: "Being angry with another person, what can you do to him? Can you destroy his virtue and his other good qualities? Have you not come to your present state by your own actions, and will also go hence according to your own actions? Anger towards another is just as if someone wishing to hit another person takes hold of glowing coals, or a heated iron-rod, or of excrement. And, in the same way, if the other person is angry with you, what can he do to you? Can he destroy your virtue and your other good qualities? He too has come to his present state by his own actions and will go hence according to his own actions. Like an unaccepted gift or like a handful of dirt thrown against the wind, his anger will fall back on his own head."

Noble friendship;
Suitable conversation.
— Commentary to Satipatthana Sutta

These things, too, are helpful in conquering ill-will:

Rapture, of the factors of absorption (jhananga);
Faith, of the spiritual faculties (indriya);
Rapture and equanimity, of the factors of enlightenment (bojjhanga).
C. Simile
If there is a pot of water heated on the fire, the water seething and boiling, a man with a normal faculty of sight, looking into it, could not properly recognize and see the image of his own face. In the same way, when one's mind is possessed by ill-will, overpowered by ill-will, one cannot properly see the escape from the ill-will which has arisen; then one does not properly understand and see one's own welfare, nor that of another, nor that of both; and also texts memorized a long time ago do not come into one's mind, not to speak of those not memorized.

— SN 46:55

"The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest", Nyanaponika Thera.
Last edited by paul on Fri Nov 17, 2017 2:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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binocular
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Re: Anger

Post by binocular » Fri Nov 17, 2017 9:44 am

one_awakening wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 8:23 am
Anger is a common emotion and people often feel that they need to express their anger. Does anger serve any purpose?
Among other things, anger is a way to maintain personal boundaries, a way to psychologically draw a line between oneself and others, or to psychologically push others (or other things) out of one's mental (and physical) space.

It would be dangerous to try to overcome or eliminate anger without first learning and putting into practice other ways to maintain personal boundaries.

mal4mac
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Re: Anger

Post by mal4mac » Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:27 am

The energy of anger is habitual and serves the sense of self. Of course you can diffuse anger, but if there is no insight involved with doing that then there is no release from craving. What you seem to be talking about is a kind of psychology, but this is not what the Buddha was teaching. Your action is a behavioral therapy that does not address the root of suffering. Plus, anger has never been the catalyst for change. Look at the state of the world and ask yourself if anger has made any difference to violence and entrenched ignorance. Look how angry Americans are.
If I see someone doing something wrong, say someone is drunk at the pub and says, "I'm gonna drive home, I'm not thatch drunk...", then anger might give me the energy to talk him out of it and perhaps save someone from great suffering at his hands. Does this anger make me suffer? I don't really see it, I'd certainly suffer more through not doing anything about it, and (again) someone might suffer greatly if nothing is done. I think "righteous anger" has been a great catalyst for change for the good, though of course non-righteous anger is no use to anyone.

"Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy." - Aristotle

Why have Buddhist monks & intellectuals remained so quiet under sometimes awful regimes (think of Burma?) In the UK things seemed to get better when anti-slavery protesters, suffragettes, Jarrow marchers, etc., got very angry, but in the right way, so things changed for the better. Of course, a lot of angry imperialists caused a lot of suffering around the world. George Orwell's "Burmese Days " is to the point here, the Buddhist populace don't anger very easily, or very well, and a bit more righteous anger directed against the British imperialists *and* complacent monks (& lip service Buddhist magistrates) would seem to be in order...
- Mal

chownah
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Re: Anger

Post by chownah » Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:42 am

one_awakening wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 8:23 am
Anger is a common emotion and people often feel that they need to express their anger. Does anger serve any purpose?
I like that you have differentiated between the emotion and the expression.
Anger(an emotion) is the fruition of past kamma (intention).
Expressions of anger(an action) is kamma (intention) and will lead to fruition in the future (in the future with respect to the expression).
The arising of this emotion and then the arising of intention is commonly how it happens even if the intentional aspect is only mental. So, I guess the question for the typical scenario is whether the fruition of the expression of anger serves some purpose....and I'll assume that we are really looking for some beneficial purpose. Personally, I can't see how it could.....except in some round about sort of way in an extreme narrative.
"I actually would have killed you except that I expressed my anger in a more appropriate way"....is an example of what I consier to be an extreme narrative.
chownah

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L.N.
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Re: Anger

Post by L.N. » Fri Nov 17, 2017 4:01 pm

Sometimes people express anger as a social tool out of compassion without having anger in the heart. For example, in a classroom, a teacher might speak sharply to a student, yet not actually be angry. The student thinks the teacher is angry.
Sire patitthitā Buddhā
Dhammo ca tava locane
Sangho patitthitō tuiham
uresabba gunākaro


愿众佛坐在我的头顶, 佛法在我的眼中, 僧伽,功德的根源, 端坐在我的肩上。

dharmacorps
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Re: Anger

Post by dharmacorps » Fri Nov 17, 2017 6:58 pm

Is your question really if anger serves any purpose, or is it "can we use it on the path"? Because regarding purpose, I don't know that any emotion inherently has a purpose, but all of them can become a part of the path.

I'm reminded that the Buddha said the universe in general serves no greater purpose, so I don't see why emotions we have would have any "purpose" either in and of themselves.

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