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Lions Roar : March 2017
The Buddhas Are Angry The buddhas are not just the love-and-light people we like to think they are. Of course, their enlightened mind is grounded in total peace, but in that open space compassion spontaneously arises. It has many manifestations. One is the pure energy of anger. Anger is the power to say no. This is our natu- ral reaction whenever we see someone suffer— we want to stop it. The buddhas say no to the three poisons that drive injustice. They are angry about our suffering and they will happily destroy its causes. They aren’t angry at us. They’re angry for us. Traditionally, it is said that the buddhas’ com- passion expresses itself through four types of energy. These are called skillful means, the differ- ent ways wisdom and compassion go into action to relieve suffering. First, the buddhas can pacify, helping suf- fering beings quench the flames of aggression, passion, and ignorance. The calm and pacify- ing buddha is the one we’re most familiar with, whose image brings a feeling of peace to mil- lions around the world. But sometimes more is needed. So the buddhas can enrich us, pointing out the wealth of resources we possess as human beings and healing our inner sense of impoverishment. Then, if need be, they can magnetize us, seducing us away from the suffering of ego to the joy of our inherent enlight- ened nature. Finally, there are times when the compassionate thing is to destroy. To say “Stop!” to suffering. To say “Wake up!” to the ways people deceive them- selves. To use the energy of anger to say “No!” to all that is selfish, exploitive, and unjust. In its pure, awakened form, when it is not driven by ego, anger brings good to the world. In our personal lives, it helps us be honest about our own foibles and have the courage to help others see how they are damaging themselves. On a big- ger scale, anger is the energy that inspires great movements for freedom and social justice, which we need so badly now. It is a vital part of every spiritual path, for before we can say yes to enlight- enment, we must say no to the three poisons. The energy of anger is an inherent part of our nature—we can no more have yes without no than light without dark. So we need a way to work with the energy of anger so it doesn’t manifest as aggression, as well as methods to tap its inherent wisdom. We need a profound understanding of where aggression comes from, how it differs from anger, and a practical path to work with it. That path begins where all healing begins. First, Do No Harm Most of us aren’t physically violent, but almost all of us hurt other people with aggressive words and harsh emotions. The sad part is that it’s usually the people we love most whom we hurt. We can also acquiesce in or implicitly support social evils and injustice through our silence, investments, or consumption habits. Buddhism, like all religions, offers guidelines to help us restrain ourselves. We may not like rules and limitations, but the morals, ethics, and deco- rum taught directly by the Buddha are guides to doing no harm. The principle of right conduct applies to acts of body, speech, and mind. Guided by the inner attitudes of gentleness and awareness, we moni- tor what arises in the mind moment by moment and choose the wholesome, like peace, over the unwholesome, like aggression. Buddhism teaches helpful meditation tech- niques so we are not swept away by the force of conflicting emotions like aggression. These tech- niques allow us to take advantage of the brief gap in the mind between impulse and action. Through the practice of mindfulness, we become aware of We discover the wisdom of anger when we have the courage to experience its pure energy, without repressing or acting it out. Right: The protector Vajrasadhu, painted by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2017 68