Working With Anger

The following article is from the Summer, 2001 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

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by Thubten Chodron

128 pp., October. #WOAN $12.95

Anger plagues all of us on a personal, national, and international level. Yet, we see people, such as the Dalai Lama, who have faced circumstances far worse than many of us have facedincluding exile, persecution, and the loss of many loved onesbut who do not burn with rage or seek revenge. How do they do it?

Working with Anger presents a variety of Buddhist methods for subduing and preventing anger, not by changing what is happening, but by framing it differently. No matter what our religion, learning to work with our anger is effective for everyone seeking personal happiness as well as world peace.

Working with Anger is a wonderful, wise, and life-changing book. Written in Ven. Thubten Chodron's characteristic accessible style, generously laced with examples drawn from daily life, the book is filled with practical strategies on how to free ourselves from anger, resentment, and envy. If you are looking for a practical guide to overcome anger and live with greater tolerance, love, and forgiveness, I highly recommend this book.

HOWARD C. CUTLER, M.D., coauthor of The Art of Happiness

InWorking with Anger, Thubten Chodron offers us a kind and genuinely helpful guide to handling one of the greatest challenges in living an emotionally intelligent life. DANIEL GOLEMAN, author, Emotional Intelligence

By presenting in everyday language the Buddhist methods for overcoming and preventing anger, Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron has made accessible time-tested practical guidelines that can be helpful for everyone. ALEXANDER BERZIN, author of Relating to a Spiritual Teacher and Developing Balanced Sensitivity

Thubten Chodron offers her insights on anger, the ways that it manifests in our lives and the ways that we can skillfully work to transform it. Both inspiring and humble in its approach, this book is sure to be a help to many.SHARON SALZ- BERG, meditation teacher and author of Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness and A Heart As Wide As the World

American Buddhist nun Thubten Chodron lives in Seattle and travels worldwide, teaching and leading meditation retreats. She is the author of Open Heart, Clear Mind and Buddhism for Beginners.

The following is an excerpt from the chapter of Working with Anger entitled Mind, Emotions and Anger.

One summer His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke to a Los Angeles audience that included a group of inner city youth in fatiguestheir camp uniformstogether with their counselors. After his talk, one of the youths asked His Holiness, People get right in my face and provoke me. How can I not fight back? She was challenging him, but quite sincere in her request.

His Holiness looked her in the eye and said, Violence is old-fashioned. Anger doesn't get you anywhere. If you can calm your mind and be patient, you will be a wonderful example to those around you. The audience clapped, but the girl remained standing, looking back at him. She wasn't yet satisfied.

The Dalai Lama went on to describe how so many great peopleMartin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, and Jesus, for example remained peaceful in the face of violence and adversity. Many , of them experienced difficulties when they were growing up. Even I, he said. My youth was fraught with conflict and violence. Yet all of these people expounded non-violence and love for others, and the world is better for their contributions. It's possible for you to do this too.

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His Holiness looked her in the eye and said, Violence is old-fashioned. Anger doesn't get you anywhere. If you can calm your mind and be patient, you will be a wonderful example to those around you.

He then motioned for the girl to come up and shake his hand. As she approached him with her hand outstretched and a nervous smile on her face, the Dalai Lama opened his arms and hugged her. The girl returned to her seat, beaming.

After the talk, one of the sponsors asked the teenagers if they would share their experience. A burly, tough-looking young man came to the microphone with a huge smile on his face. Phew, he said, You must be able to hear my heart beating from where you're sitting! I've seen the Dalai Lama on TV and in the magazines and thought he was pretty cool, but I just can't describe what it feels like to have met him! and he touched his heart.

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A Tibetan monk who had escaped from Communist-occupied Tibet just a few years earlier told me his story. His family was a wealthy, prominent one in the area of Tibet where he grew up. After the Communist occupation of Tibet in 1950 and the subsequent abortive uprising in 1959, his family's house was confiscated and made into a jail. Because his family were landowners and because he was a monk, he was arrested by the Chinese Communists. Then, he was imprisoned in a jail that had once been his home. He and the other inmates were allowed to go to the toilet outdoors twice a day, but otherwise they had to stay in the house, which now had broken windows and none of its former comforts. Most people would have burned with rage at the injustice and humiliation, but this monk told me that he tried to use his time wisely, doing his meditation practices to improve the state of his mind. Although he was deprived of all his religious implements, he silently recited the texts he had memorized and contemplated their meanings. In this way, he familiarized his mind with attitudes and emotions that lead to enlightenment and avoided the pitfalls of anger. When I talked with him, I detected no sign of resentment against the Chinese Communists. He had a profound love of life.

Stories such as these lead us to wonder, How do they do it? They are human beings just like us, and although they have faced circumstances much worse than a great many of us have facedincluding exile, imprisonment, torture, and the loss of many loved onesthey do not burn with rage or seek revenge. This book is largely a collection of Buddhist methods for subduing and preventing anger that have worked for the Dalai Lama, the monk above, and many others.

There is nothing particularly Buddhist about these methods. In fact, many of the Buddha's teachings are common sense, not religious doctrine, and common sense is not the property of any religion. Rather, these methods show us reasonable and beneficial ways to live. No matter what our religion, looking at our minds and learning to work with our anger are helpful. ä_æ

WORKING WITH ANGER

Table of Contents

Preface

7

1. Mind, Emotion, and Anger

13

2. The Disadvantages of Anger

21

3. Patience: The Alternative

27

4. Is Anger Ever Useful?

33

5. Recognizing Our Anger and Its Causes

43

6. Training in Patience

53

7. Coping with Criticism

63

8. The Blaming Game

73

9. When Our Buttons Are Pushed

81

10. Acceptance and Empowerment

87

11. Meeting the Enemy

95

12. Letting Go of Grudges and Resentment

105

13. When Trust Is Betrayed

111

14. The Snake of Envy

117

15. Anger at Ourselves

123

16. Cultivating Love and Compassion

131

17. Helping Others Subdue Their Anger

143

18. Wisdom that Relaxes the Mind

149

Appendix One: Conflict Styles

153

Appendix Two: Techniques for Working with Anger in Brief

157

Glossary

161

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