The founders of the VRA carefully chose three words to identify the work of the organization: clarity, integrity and compassion. The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all human interactions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honor the inviolable sanctity of every human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
We do not have to look far to see the chaos that exist today; there are devastating earthquakes, nuclear disasters, wars, and the prisons are overflowing because so many people are seething with anger. Yes, there are so many enraged and angry people on the planet leaving a swath of destruction behind them. What can we do with all of this rage and anger?
Let us begin with the fact that your anger is not good or bad, it's simply anger. Anger does contain energy which can be transformed into skillful and loving action. However, first you must understand your dislike of experiencing anger, or any intense emotion.
When I'm angry, I give off negative energy, and that can hurt people. That is true; when you're angry, you do give off negative energy. Are you going to stop the arising of negative energy in yourself by saying, "I'm bad to be angry?” Can you prevent a glacier from melting? Can you stop the ocean wave from crashing on the shore? Think about that a moment.
You can control your reaction toward another, but can you shut off the feeling of anger in yourself, really eliminate it? Do you merely suppress it? In terms of energy flow, if you suppress emotion, it's just as real, it's simply lurks beneath the surface. Yes, it would be well to transform it into positive energy, but such transformation will never happen through judgment and suppression. As long as you are getting rid of your anger, you are still controlled by that anger.
It is not helpful to attempt to eradicate all anger because, as long as you are human there's going to be a catalyst that arouses it. I'm not suggesting that you simply allow anger in and act upon it. Can you develop a different relationship to it? There are more than two choices. You need neither to act upon anger nor to suppress it, just bring gentle awareness to it.
When someone speaks or acts in such a way that anger arises in you, can you stop and look? What is this anger? Ask, "Does it relate only to the trigger or does it also relate to my dislike of this emotional turmoil in myself?" It is so inconvenient and uncomfortable to experience anger! You may fear you'll be driven to act on the anger, and with that fear, you judge yourself as if you had already acted. Can you see that judgment?
You feel anger arising in you. Most of you won’t react. Are you BAD for wanting to retaliate? You don't have to act on that, and you don't have to suppress it or hate yourself for it. You have been conditioned to judge yourself.
How do you find FREEDOM?
As you notice the intensity of the angry feeling, you might begin to be able to see what lies behind it. Anger is secondary. Behind it, often, is fear. Fear that your needs won't be met leads to grasping and clinging, to jealousy and selfishness. Fear that you are going to be hurt arouses a need to protect the self. In that need to protect, anger arises with its rush of adrenaline. When fear is experienced, the body reverberates with past experiences. There is the constant question: "Could I be hurt?" When you feel threatened, fear arises often followed by anger.
As you come deeper into watching that process, the solidity of the emotion changes. It's no longer a solid mass that you have to fight instead, it becomes simple anger. When you notice it early, just noticing the first tightness in your solar plexus, then you have a sense, "This is anger arising in me," and you can simply be present with it, without reacting.
Many thoughts pass through you every minute, they are not your thoughts--they are simply thoughts. To be free from reacting it's useful to SEE the arising of thoughts as part of a process, life.
Central to the teachings of the Buddha is a natural law called Dependent Origination. Simply put, for something to arise, the conditions for its arising must be present. When conditions are no longer present, that which has arisen dissolves. Even more, it's a keystone upon which you may begin to act more skillfully and to free yourselves and others from suffering.
Let's look at the process by which you move to any emotion, painful or joyful. What really happens when you feel anger, desire or even bliss? How do you move into the experience of emotion?
To experience anything, first the senses become aware. Second you perceive that the senses have become aware. At these two points there's still no attachment or aversion. You're neutral. Just hearing, seeing, feeling. If you stay in neutral you experience equanimity. If not, you move to the mental formations such as "fear," or "anger." This movement from contact to mental formation happens in a split second. It happens as the result of all your past conditioning.
What's the significance of SEEing this? When there is intense emotion and you can see how it arose with some clarity you have choices. You don't have to react to emotion or suppress it; you can just be compassionately present to it.
It seems important to state that it's your relationship with the emotion that causes the intense discomfort. To have inner peace doesn't mean you never feel, only that you are at peace with whatever arises. It is quite possible to simultaneously experience anger and compassion. Your compassion is not only for another but for yourselves. It is the judgment about your anger that separates you from the deepening of compassion. Can you be present with anger without hating that anger? When you hate your own anger, that's just more hatred.
You ask about righteous anger. You may have the thought, "I've got to teach this person not to be _____ (you fill in the blank). If he says, "That's bad," and you say, "No. It's good." You crash into each other. There's no room for communication, it can never flow from a place of hatred.
What might happen when you hear that person speak, as rage rises in you, if you meet that fear, and touch it with a bit of compassion? Then you know you are BOTH feeling fear, and see his _________ (you fill in the blank) in a new light: not "He SHOULDN'T feel __________!" but "WHY does he feel ________? What are his fears?"
Can you accept that if another’s prejudice arouses rage in you, you also have fears? Can you meet fear, not with rage, but with the openhearted question, "What are MY fears? Why does his speech arouse so much anger in me?"
As compassion leads you to hear his fear, then communication becomes possible. The basis of compassion is learning to watch fear and anger responses arise in yourself, and ask without judgment, "What is this anger?" Until you can be compassionate to yourself, you cannot be compassionate toward another. Such compassion is the only REAL basis for world peace. So this is a vital lesson that all of you are learning, to relate differently to yourselves and to each other than you have in the past, to begin to notice how anger arises, to begin to let go of the judgment of yourself for being angry.
I said, earlier, there are two different issues; the emotion itself, and your relationship to that emotion. Part of what you're learning is to change your relationship to that emotion, to feel a sense of peace with whatever is coming through. You can't control your experiences in large part.
Something wonderful begins to happen as you move from feeling anger, and self-hatred about that anger, to feeling anger, and feeling a calm acceptance. "Here's anger. It will come, and then it will have passed." We call this equanimity toward emotions.
With that compassion for yourself, you begin to see another's anger or emotions differently. That being is feeling anger. Suddenly, you no longer need to control your angry response towards them and say, "I'm not going to let myself get angry." There's a shift within you.
When you see another feeling anger, a great sense of compassion arises in you when you see the depth of their pain! You genuinely don't feel angry. You are getting free from your automatic responses and creating a new pattern for yourself, a new way of being with intense emotions, a new way of being at peace within yourself. You're learning that your inner peace doesn't depend on external circumstances, but comes from within. And that is a wonderful piece of learning.
This life is your teacher. Anger offers the most energy, when it is transformed to compassion and to recognition of your oneness with all.
You cannot transcend what you don't accept. When you find compassion for all the intense emotions in yourself, that ACCEPTANCE is what leads you to compassion for another. Then you find that the same catalyst that led to rage simply leads you to an open hearted look at the situations that confront you.
An evolution awaits all those who are willing to humble themselves and ‘let go’ of what they know. For, it is only in ‘letting go’ that one may become ‘open like a child’ and receive world-altering grace. With that said, I invite you to empty your cup of all you ‘know’, or ‘think you know’, so that you may make room for the possibility of new understanding.