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Anger management

by PHRA MAHA VUTHICHAI VACHIRAMETHI / Translated by ORAYA SUTABUTR / Photos by SOMKID CHAIJITVANIT, The Bangkok Post, Sep 29, 2009

Learning the art of mindfulness can lead to a happier life

Bangkok, Thailand -- Dharma can help manage anger. Usually we study about human resource management, risk management, time management and financial management, which are all concerned with external elements. But anger management concerns our inner self. When anger arises, we often do not know how to manage it and we become manipulated by it.

<< "We must learn the art of mindfulness because anger arises from mindlessness. If you are mindful and always fully aware of yourself, anger cannot conquer your heart"  - PHRA MAHA VUTHICHAI VACHIRAMETHI

Like everything else in the universe, anger arises and passes away, restoring the original pool of stillness. Not knowing its nature and allowing it to take over can lead to disastrous outcomes.

The symptoms of anger can range from fury, frustration and rage to a desire to destroy, and finally, attack what we hold to be the cause.

Anger may manifest itself in the following ways:

- Like a line drawn across water, anger that disappears quickly.

- Like a line drawn in the sand, disappearing when a wave washes ashore.

- Like a line carved into a stone, surviving all kinds of weather conditions over thousands and thousands of years.

Anger is not a physical entity, but once it appears, its destructive potential is far more devastating than any nuclear weapon.

During World War II, the US became furious when the Japanese Army carried out kamikaze attacks on their warplanes and ships at Pearl Harbour. The anger drove the US to attack the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs, killing more than 400,000 people. Hitler, the famously angry Nazi leader, killed more than six million Jews. King Vidudabha of India was infuriated that the Sakya who were relatives of Buddha insulted him so he unleashed the might of his army on them, wiping out the entire race. This is the power of destruction wrought by anger.

When anger appears in your heart, everything can be turned into a devastating weapon.

In terms of love, it feels marvellous when two lovers' eyes meet because the eyes are the windows to the heart. But two angry people can also burn each other with the fire in their eyes.

Family members living in the same house may start off decorating the house together all in complete agreement with one another, but when overwhelmed by anger they might start throwing the decorative pieces at one another instead.

For a husband and a wife sharing the same bed, a bedside lamp can quickly turn into a dangerous baton.

When anger takes over, a home, a family or an office can fall apart. Friends might no longer be friends, belongings can be ruined. Even lives can come to a disastrous end.

When anger arises, do not pursue it, and do not keep it in a jar like preserved fruit. Anger must be conquered before it conquers us.

There are numerous ways to manage anger. First of all, when you are angry, you must walk away from the situation which has caused it.

Next, find yourself some cool, refreshing water. Wash your face with water so that its coolness calms you down. Water can actually help us come to our senses, making us become aware that we are experiencing anger.

Do not make decisions under those circumstances. If you are a businessman, you should not write a cheque, decide on an investment or turn down a customer when you are angry. Otherwise, your business can be ruined in a matter of seconds.

If a married couple gets into a fight, you should not decide to get a divorce right at that moment because when it is all over, you may regret losing the best person in your life.

As parents, if you are angry with your children, you should not tell them to leave the house and never come back. Otherwise, they may not just walk out of the house but out of your life forever.

When angry, you should absolutely refrain from talking because, in anger, talking is like releasing waste, just as a a car releases exhaust fumes. People walking behind the car will inhale the foul, highly toxic air.

We must learn how to transform the power of anger from negative to positive. At the top of all tall buildings are lightning rods which send electricity from the sky to the ground without striking or hurting anyone.

Likewise, we must learn how to neutralise anger. When you are angry, you should not pursue it, but instead try to shift your focus to something else such as doing your chores, bathing, reading, listening to music or jogging.

Having followed the previous steps, your anger should be much less intense, without much energy left. Then you can close your eyes and focus your thoughts on the person who has angered you and follow Buddha's teachings, which say that people in the world may be different - by nationality, religion, skin colour, caste or historical and cultural backgrounds - but we are all in fact brothers and sisters. We are all humans before we are Thai, Bhutanese, Buddhist, Christian or Muslim.

In reality, we are all related because we are all humans. When we view all people as brothers and sisters, we should not be angry with anyone. If we are angry at anyone, it means we are angry with our own family members.

We must all plant the seed of love and compassion in the person who has angered us and in humanity, both in peaceful times and when they have made us angry. It is only when you interact with people in the whole world with benevolence that you will discover the truth: no one really deserves your anger.

Last but not least, we must learn the art of mindfulness because anger arises from mindlessness. If you are mindful and always fully aware of yourself, anger cannot conquer your heart. With mindfulness and self-awareness, we can outsmart any hostile element or attack.

A hostile word, action or situation, can no longer displease you if you are mindful. On the contrary, with the help of mindfulness, when anger arises, wisdom can terminate your feeling of anger. You will be left only with positive energy and liveliness.

Therefore, if we learn to breathe mindfully, anger may arise, but it cannot poison our heart. When you walk in the woods, for instance, it's a good idea to squeeze some lime on your feet. The tens of thousands of leeches may crawl up your feet but cannot hang on or do any harm because they cannot cope with the smell of citrus. The leeches are like anger. They are there but they cannot hurt you. This is because you are always fully aware of your own thoughts, feelings and actions. In today's world, democracy has spread to most countries, including the last Shangri-La of Bhutan.

In democracy, there are many key words, but one which concerns our lives the most is the word "rights". Everyone living in a democratic world usually demands the recognition of their rights.

All people in the democratic world call for human rights without realising there are at least three more rights which are given to them at birth - the right not to be angry, the right not to be miserable and finally the right not to be foolish.

Thus, by learning the art of anger management, you will be able to control yourself even in the worst situations. You will be a physically and mentally healthy person. Your face and skin will even look youthful and radiant like a blooming flower. You will always feel nice and cool inside, like an oasis in a desert.

A person who has successfully managed his or her anger will have one special characteristic: he or she will always have a smiling face. In any temple - in Thailand, Japan, the UK, France, the US or Bhutan - you will find Buddha's face always with a faint smile.

We should all be like little Buddhas always with a smile in our face because we are not disturbed by anger.

But if you do not learn to manage your anger and let it take control, you will possess a strange power to transform yourself into all kinds of monsters, not unlike renowned terrorists who have killed millions of people, a power far exceeding that of any nuclear weapon.

A smart banker puts his or her money in the bank little by little. When necessary, he or she can withdraw the money in an instant. A smart practitioner of mindfulness should do the same. Practise mindfulness little by little, but be consistent. One day, you will realise that mindfulness can do wonders in keeping anger at bay. A heart emboldened by mindfulness will hardly be hurt by anger. A heart without mindfulness always has anger waiting around the corner, ready to attack; just a little twig can start a fire.

Every time you allow yourself to focus on your breathing, it is no different from shining the light of mindfulness into darkness. Light can dispel darkness instantly. So even when anger arises in our heart, when it is met with mindfulness, the emotion will quickly disappear in the same manner.

This is an edited excerpt from a lecture given by Phra Maha Vuthichai Vachiramethi to members of the Bhutanese royal family, the honorable Gembo (former teacher of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel), politicians, business representatives, Unicef staff and guests, at the Royal Guest Hall in Paro, Bhutan, on June 28, 2007.



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