It is not easy for us to control our anger when we are hurt by someone. He insulted me, she had taken advantage of me, they mocked me, etc. These mental impressions of us being disadvantaged or bullied by others can drive us mad with rage.
Our thought process is extremely quick and our monkey minds simply throw flashes of scenarios, words that we heard, concepts that we picked up, imaginary situations like a jeering face, etc; Then we found ourselves losing all sanity and lashing out as if possessed. After our violent episode, we wondered what had possessed us and we couldn’t believe we had done what we did,
My most serious case of rage was punching my classmate for saying something insulting. It was so insignificant that I cannot even remember what he said now. I can only recall the shock on his face, blood at the corner of his mouth, and the entire classroom of students looking at me with shock on their faces. Everything happened so quickly. I cannot remember my rage but I can remember a deep sense of defiance, shame, and regret after that.
At that time, I had already taken a serious interest in Buddhism and had been reading about peace, meditation, patience, etc and my uncontrolled rage made me extremely shameful of myself. I did not know what possessed me to act in that manner then but now I do.
When we flew into a rage, we act on impulse. We feel that we are being wronged and we want to correct that situation. In my case, I wanted my classmate to shut up and since it wasn’t the first time he said something that offended me, I wanted a way for him to shut up forever. Unfortunately, I lacked the education to react appropriately. Instead, my mind had been programmed to act “macho” and be a man. Images that flashed through my mind were those of violence. Once the monkey mind latched on to the feeling of hurt, it takes delight in that euphoria of energy produced by anger. It recollects that situation repeatedly. It magnifies the degree of hurt and anger by dwelling on the “past” and projecting unfounded fantasies. Our body reacts with a faster heartbeat and without wisdom, we mistakenly feel “alive” and “excited”.
SO let us examine the above situations backward.
We feel wronged and want to do something about the situation.
As Buddhist practitioners, we should understand our feelings and thoughts in our minds. In my example, the anger or hurt, or unhappiness from being insulted. That feeling of unhappiness is taking place in my mind. In other words, the cause for feeling unhappy is within ourselves and not outside of us. When we are “triggered” by someone or some situations, we blame those external factors for triggering us.
However, that is the wrong understanding. We were taught to be “triggered” by the unenlightened society.
In my case, I was “taught” or “programmed” by movies, TV, families, friends, etc to understand insults and also be angry with them. Otherwise, I would be stupid, a coward, a sissy, or a weakling. Therefore, we were taught to defend our egos, and make a big deal out of other people’s words or actions.
If we think carefully, we will realize that we were taught and we had to learn about what is offensive. For example, we were taught to be offended by the middle finger? Can we “unprogramme” ourselves and be freed from these lessons? That is exactly what Buddhism is trying to teach us; Free ourselves from man-made “truths”
Therefore, the next time we feel triggered by someone or something, it is more enlightening to search within our minds and discover who implanted that notion in our minds. Then it is interesting for us to decide how we want to be freed from those indoctrinations. Should I be offended? Should I be angry?
Naturally, we need to have mental skills and strengths for the above. That is why mind training is very important, Otherwise, we will not be able to catch our monkey minds.
When our minds cannot be caught, they will continue to boil.
Once we allow ourselves to be caught in the boiling lava of angry thoughts, our minds will start feeding themselves with more angry thoughts. Imagery and concepts of violence will bubble up. It could be a scene from our favorite movie whereby a hero punches a villain. It could be a memory of someone slapping another for saying the wrong thing. Our minds will recollect and project these images. It is almost like our minds suggesting various actions for us to take. If our mental control is weak, we will act according to those images of violence.
Once we understand all the above, we should realize that everything is within our minds. Therefore, it can be within our control and we can choose not to be violent.
How do we stop ourselves from being angry?
We need to understand that being angry is not our original mind. Anger is a corruption of our minds and was taught to us by a world under the influence of greed, hatred, and ignorance. Since Buddhism teaches about past lives, our mental inclination for anger could also be a habitual tendency from our past existence.
Anger is bad mental energy that harms us and we should not embrace it in any way.
Conquering our mental impulses is nobler than conquering others.
When we master ourselves, others cannot anger us. That way we will not be the victim of anothers’ taunts and insults. You won’t be offended by a screaming monkey in the trees right?
Whatever triggers our anger has already happened and is in the past. Therefore, don’t repeat those incidents in our minds. Recollecting those momories is self-punishment.
Instead of feeling angry, a Buddhist replaces it with compassion. We look upon our tormentors with compassion because they are creating bad karma for themselves. We hope they will have wisdom too and that they also find peace in this very life.
Even when we know all the above, it is still difficult to stop anger. This is because our minds had been programmed to behave in that manner. It’s like a programming virus that is self-copying and deploying itself in our minds. Our practice is like that anti-virus patch that goes around cleaning the virus in our minds. The more we practice, the better we get.
SO instead of replaying the memory that makes us angry, we repeat our mantra and let go of our negative thoughts. We re-program our minds to celebrate kindness, tolerance, and patience. In that manner, we will progress steadily on our Dharma Path.
May all be well and happy.