Anger is sneaking in

Now that I decided to move on to a new topic, karma, my mind seems to not want to let go of reflecting on destructive emotions. I decided I better give my mind some space and let it do what it wants, … at least for a little while.

Yesterday I reflected on anger and aversion. I have been noticing lately when I feel angry, my first reaction is to label the anger as “bad.” I see it as something unwanted and want it to go away. In other words, I am reacting with aversion. While being angry is clearly not good, to react to it with aversion is the worst possible thing I could do. It is like trying to put out a fire by pouring oil onto it.

I have been trying to remember teachings with advice on how to change this habit. One advice that came to my mind was to remember that I do not need to feel bad about myself when I have a negative emotion, because I am not my emotions. I am simply having an emotion. The emotion is not my true nature. It is not what I am. It is simply an arising coming about because of many causes and conditions.

Another advice that came to my mind was to see it as blessing when I have negative emotions. Whenever I hear this statement, my first question is: Why?

Geshe Langri Thangpa

As a follower of the teachings of the Buddha I want to become free of being controlled by destructive emotions. In order to be able to succeed in this task there are two aspects. I need to first learn to identify the problems that are left in my mind and secondly I need to work with them to remove them. Whenever I have a negative emotion it gives me an opportunity to work on these two aspects.

Firstly, I need to be able to see the problem. When all is going well it is easy to think that I have no problem with anger. Only when I feel anger it shows me where it is still latent in my mind. From this point of view I need to be grateful when something triggers my anger because it shows me what is still in me. Without having a chance to see how anger is arising in my mind, I wouldn’t be able to work on freeing myself from it.

If I look at it this way I can see why the teachings say that I must be grateful to people who harm me. In the The Eight Verses for Training the Mind by Geshe Lagri Thangpa, it even says: “Even when someone I have helped, or in whom I have placed great hopes mistreats me very unjustly, I will view that person as a true spiritual friend.” Clearly this is beyond what I am able to actualize right now, but definitely something I can work towards.

Secondly, I can’t expect to become free of the destructive influence of negative emotion just by understanding they are harmful. I need to actually change my habitual ways of reacting. There are many practices to work with this. I especially like Shantideva’s advice to be like a block of wood in the face of anger. He isn’t saying to suppress the anger but simply not to move, not to listen to it, and not to act on it. This, or whatever practice I may choose, again requires training and working with my mind. How could I possibly expect to master this without opportunities to practice? Another reason to be grateful when I feel anger. I should say to myself, the more opportunities to train, the better!

These are some of the reasons why it is said to consider it as a blessing when negative emotions arise in my mind! I hope I will have some opportunities to remember and apply this. Since it is better not ask for more than I can handle, lets say some teeny, meenie, little things to start with, until my practice gets stronger.

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