Anger has been one of the most destructive things in the animal kingdom. Time and time again, it has brought humanity down from its pedestal of being the non-animalistic animal, to give rise to conflict and strife.
Anger is the root of all violence. Something ticks inside the mind that causes it to come unhinged, making it erratic. Even scientifically speaking, anger is when the body is most stressed; it leaves one with higher-than-usual blood pressure and a stressed out heart rate and a general sense of emptiness.
The emptiness is because of the fact that anger is the steady opposite of empathy; the quality that makes us human. It clouds all kinds of judgement, self and other, and makes fools of scholars and animals of saints.
No wonder all major religions hold anger as a vice to be feared. In Christianity, it is one of the seven cardinal sins, to be avoided at all costs. It makes people say things that they later regret.
In Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, it is one of the ‘ripus’ that one has to conquer, in order to gain moksha (release from the cycle of rebirth impelled by the law of karma.), nirvana and ‘kaivalya(detachment)’ respectively.
Today, we will talk about Lord Buddha specifically.
In the Iron Age, self-assessment and self-introspection as modes of meditation and explorations of humanity arose all over the world. People like Confucius, Lao Tzu, Socrates and others were preaching the message of the middle path, of abstinence and austerity; ‘simple living and high thinking’ as Gandhi would preach centuries later, inspiring the likes of Dr King.
But the most famous one of these preachers was of course Siddhartha Gautama, also called the Buddha, the prince of the kingdom of Kapilavastu, who would renounce all his lordships and property along with a young wife and son, to practice austerities and find answers to the pathos of the human condition.
And all of this started with the prince going out one day, and seeing the three great sights: an old decrepit man walking by the road, hobbling; a sick man coughing up blood by the roadside with no one to wipe the blood off of him and finally, a funeral procession.
These changed the once effulgent prince and made him a seeker of truth. After years of austerities, he reached the highest form of knowledge under the Mahabodhi Peepal tree in modern day Bihar.
One of the many adventures he had, concerns the emotion we are discussing today, and that is anger.
Lord Buddha, who had subdued all his human vices, met someone who was especially angry. This happened on one of his many journeys spreading the word of the Eight-fold path.
A young man approached him as he walked into a village. The young man was uncouth, with no respect for the great Tathagata (that is what the Buddha called himself; it literally translates to one whose coming and going are all the same). He started insulting the Buddha, full of anger and hatred. “What gives you the right to strut away, preaching to people, you pathetic beggar? You are no better than the rest of them!” said he, as the Buddha looked at him with his benevolent eyes and slightly smiling face.
After this angry tirade went on for a while, the Buddha smiled a little more and in his own way, touched the young man’s shoulder and asked, “Son, if you buy a gift for someone and they do not receive it, tell me whom does it belong to?”
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The young man, flinching and shoving Buddha’s divine palm away, said with all the disgust he could muster: “If I bought the gift with my money, of course I will be the owner! Only an idiotic beggar like you could ask such an idiotic question!”
The ever-smiling Buddha with his divine grace said: “How knowledgeable you are kind sir! That is indeed the answer. What you do not know is that it is the same way with your anger.”
The anger you show at someone who is calm and serene at the face of it will only stress you out, because they obviously have no part in it and its wake of destruction.
“The only way”, said Buddha, “that this cycle can be broken is by turning your anger into love. That way, even if there is no one receiving it, everyone, including you, is loved and happy.”
Leaving another humbled individual, who joined the sangha later, the Buddha walked away.
Buddham Sharanam Gacchhami