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Lions Roar : March 2017
impulses arising and allow a space in which we can consider whether and how we want to act. We, not our emotions, are in control. I’m in Pain, You’re in Pain Without excusing or ignoring anything, it’s help- ful to recognize that aggression is usually some- one’s maladapted response to their own suffering. That includes us and our aggression. So caring for ourselves and cultivating compassion for others are two of the best ways to short-circuit aggression. We are suffering beings, and we don’t handle it well. We try to ease our pain and only make it worse. The practices of mindfulness and self-care give us the strength and space to experience our suffering without losing our stability and lash- ing out. And when we are targets of aggression ourselves, knowing it may come out of the other person’s pain helps us respond skillfully. Without Suppressing or Acting Out Fear and shame distort the basic energy of anger and create suffering. We fear that intense emo- tions like anger will overwhelm us and make us lose control. We’re ashamed that such “nega- tive” emotions are part of our makeup at all. So we protect ourselves against the energy of anger by either suppressing it or acting it out. Both are ways to avoid experiencing the full intensity of emotion. Both are harmful to ourselves and others. What we need is the courage to rest in the full intensity of the energy inside us without suppress- ing or releasing it. This the key to the Buddhist approach to working with anger. When we have the courage to remain present with our anger, we can look directly at it. We can feel its texture and understand its qualities. We can investigate and understand it. What we discover is that we are not actually threatened by this energy. We can separate the anger from our ego and storyline. We realize that anger’s basic energy is useful, even enlightened. For in its essence, our anger is the same as the buddhas’. Discovering the Wisdom of Anger We have the same power to say no that the bud- dhas do. Traditionally, it is said that the enlight- ened energy of anger is the wisdom of clarity. It is sharp, accurate, and penetrating insight. It sees what is wholesome and unwholesome, what is just and unjust, what is enlightenment and what is ignorance. Seeing clearly, we lay the ground for action. We all experience the wisdom of anger when we see how society mistreats people. When we have an honest insight into our own neuroses and vow to change. When we are inspired to say no to injustice and fight for something better. This wisdom is a source of strength, fearlessness, and solidarity. It can drive positive change. If Buddhism offers us one piece of good news it is this: in our basic nature, we are enlightened and our anger is really wisdom. The confused and misdirected aggression that causes such suffering is just temporary and insubstantial. When the energy of anger serves ego, it is aggression. When it serves to ease others’ suffering and make the world a better place, it is wisdom. We have the freedom to choose which. We have the power to transform aggression into the wis- dom of anger. There is no greater victory, for us and for the world. ♦ When the energy of anger serves ego, it is aggression. When it is wisdom, it fights suffering, injustice, and the three poisons. Left: temple guardian at the entrance to Horyu-ji temple in Nara, Japan. LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2017 71