Elimination of Anger
two stories retold from the Buddhist texts
Ven. K. Piyatissa Thera
© 1975 Buddhist Publication Society
ultimate goal of Buddhism is the deathless condition of Nibbana,
the sole reality. Hence, one who aspires to that state should
renounce mundane pursuits and attachments, which are ephemeral,
for the sake of that reality. But there are very few who are
sufficiently mature to develop themselves to achieve that state
in this very life. Thus the Buddha does not force the life of
renunciation upon those who lack the spiritual capacity to embark
upon the higher life.
one should follow the path of mundane advantage which is twofold,
namely, the advantage obtainable here in this very life and
the advantage obtainable in future lives, as steps on the path
to the spiritual life. Although one may enjoy the pleasures
of life, one must regard one's body as an instrument with which
to practice virtue for one's own and other's benefit; in short,
one should live a useful life of moral integrity, a life of
simplicity and paucity of wants.
regards acquisition of wealth, the Buddha said: "One must
be diligent and energetic," and as regards the safeguarding
of one's wealth, "one must be mindful and economical."
is not impossible that even the life of such a man may be somehow
or other disturbed and harassed as a result of the actions of
"unskillful" men. Although this might induce him to
abandon his chosen path, it is at such times that one must not
forget the steps to be taken for the purpose of establishing
peace. According to the teaching of the Buddha this includes
the reflection: "Others may be harmful, but I shall be
harmless, thus should I train myself." We must not forget
that the whole spirit of Buddhism is one of pacification. In
the calm and placid atmosphere of the Buddha's teaching there
is every chance, every possibility, of removing hatred, jealousy
and violence from our mind.
is no wonder if we, at times, in our everyday life, feel angry
with somebody about something. But we should not allow this
feeling to reside in our mind. We should try to curb it at the
very moment it has arisen. Generally there are eight ways to
curb or control our anger.
first method is to recollect the teachings of the Buddha. On
very many occasions the Buddha explained the disadvantages of
an angry temper. Here is one of his admonitions:
some bandits catch one of you and sever his body limb from
limb with a two-handed saw, and if he should feel angry thereby
even at that moment, he is no follower of my teaching.
Kakacupama Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 21
a log from a pyre, burnt at both ends and fouled in the middle,
serves neither for firewood in the village nor for timber
in the forest, so is such a wrathful man.
Anguttara Nikaya II, 95
we may consider the Buddha's advice to be found in the Dhammapada:
abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me of my
property. Whosoever harbor such thoughts will never be able
to still their enmity.
indeed is hatred stilled by hatred; it will only be stilled
by non-hatred -- this is an eternal law.
Dhp., vv. 4-5
not speak harshly to anyone. Those who are harshly spoken
to might retaliate against you. Angry words hurt other's
feelings, even blows may overtake you in return.
Dhp., v. 133
is the highest observance. Patience is the highest virtue.
So the Buddhas say.
Dhp., v. 184
a man remove his anger. Let him root out his pride. Let
him overcome all fetters of passions. No sufferings overtake
him who neither clings to mind-and-body nor claims anything
of the world.
Dhp., v. 221
anger by non-anger. Conquer evil by good. Conquer miserliness
by liberality. Conquer a liar by truthfulness.
Dhp., v. 223
your mind against an outburst of wrong feelings. Keep your
mind controlled. Renouncing evil thoughts, develop purity
Dhp., v. 233
by contemplating the advice of the Buddha in this way one cannot
curb his anger, then let him try the second method.
any bad person may possess some good quality. Some men are evil
in mind but speak in deceptive language or slyly perform their
deeds in an unsuspecting manner. Some men are coarse only in
their language but not in their mind or deeds. Some men are
coarse and cruel in their deeds but neither in their speech
nor in their mind. Some are soft and kind in mind, speech and
deed as well.
we feel angry with any person, we should try to find out some
good in him, either in his way of thinking, or in his way of
speaking or in his way of acting. If we find some redeeming
quality in him, we should ponder its value and ignore his bad
qualities as natural weaknesses that are to be found in everyone.
Whilst we think thus, our mind will soften and we may even feel
kindly towards that person. If we develop this way of thinking
we will be able to curb or eliminate our anger towards him.
times, this method may not be successful and we shall then have
to try the third method. Basically, this entails reflecting
has done some wrong to me and in so doing has spoiled his
mind. Then why should I spoil or impair my own mind because
of his foolishness? Sometimes I ignore support or help offered
by my relatives; sometimes their tears even shed because of
my activities. Being a person of such type myself, why should
I not therefore ignore that foolish man's deed?
has done that wrong, being subject to anger, should I too
follow him, making my mind subject to anger? Is it not foolish
to imitate him? He harboring his hatred destroys himself internally.
Why should I, on his account, destroy my reputation?
things are momentary. Both his mind and body are momentary
too. The thoughts and the body with which the wrong was done
to me are not now existing. What I call the same man now are
the thoughts and physical parts which are different from the
earlier ones that harmed me although belonging to the same
psycho-physical process. Thus, one thought together with one
mass of physical parts did me some wrong, and vanished there
and then, giving place to succeeding thoughts and material
parts to appear. So with which am I getting angry? WIth the
vanished and disappeared thoughts and physical parts or with
the thoughts and material parts which do not do any wrong
now? Should I get angry with one thing which is innocent whereas
another thing has done me wrong and vanished?
so-called 'I' is not the same for two consecutive moments.
At the moment the wrong was done there was another thought
and another mass of molecules which were regarded as 'I,'
whereas what are regarded as 'I' at the present moment are
a different thought and collection of molecules, though belonging
to the same process. Thus some other being did wrong to someone
else and another gets angry with another. Is this not a ridiculous
we scrutinize the exact nature of our life and its happenings
in this manner, our anger might subside or vanish there and
is another way, too, to eliminate upsurging anger. Suppose we
think of someone who has done wrong to us. On such occasions
we should remember that we suffer harm or loss as a result of
our previous kamma. Even if others were angry with us,
they could not harm us if there were no latent force of past
unwholesome kamma committed by us which took advantage
of this opportunity to arouse our adversary. So it is I who
am responsible for this harm or loss and not anybody else. And
at the same time, now while I am suffering the result of past
kamma, if I, on account of this, should get angry and
do any harm to him, by that do I accumulate much more unwholesome
kamma which would bring me correspondingly unwholesome
we recall to mind this law of kamma, our anger may subside
immediately. We can consider such a situation in another way
too. We as the followers of Buddha believe that our Bodhisatta
passed through incalculable numbers of lives practicing virtues
before he attained Buddhahood. The Buddha related the history
of some of his past lives as illustrations to teach us how he
practiced these virtues. The lives of the prince Dhammapala
and the ascetic Khantivadi are most illustrative and draw our
one time the Bodhisatta had been born as the son of a certain
king named Mahapatapa. The child was named Culla Dhammapala.
One day the Queen sat on a chair fondling her child and did
not notice the King passing by. The King thought the Queen was
so proud of her child as not to get up from her chair even when
she saw that her lord the King passed that way. So he grew angry
and immediately sent for the executioner. When he came the King
ordered him to snatch the child from the Queen's arms and cut
his hands, feet and head off, which he did instantly. The child,
our Bodhisatta, suffered all that with extreme patience and
did not grow ill-tempered or relinquish his impartial love for
his cruel father, lamenting mother and the executioner. So far
had he matured in the practice of forbearance and loving-kindness
at that time.
another time, our Bodhisatta was an ascetic well-known for his
developed virtue of forbearance and consequently people named
him Khantivadi, the preacher of forbearance. One day he visited
Benares and took his lodgings at the royal pleasure grove. Meanwhile,
the King passed that way with his harem and, seeing the ascetic
seated under a tree, asked what virtue he was practicing, to
which the ascetic replied that of forbearance. The King was
a materialist who regarded the practice of virtue to be humbug.
So, hearing the words of the ascetic, he sent for the executioner
and ordered him to cut off his hands and feet and questioned
the ascetic as to whether he could hold to forbearance at the
severing of his limbs. The ascetic did not feel ill-tempered
but even at that time he lay down extending his loving-kindness
and holding his forbearance undiminished. He spoke to the King
in reply to the effect that his forbearance and other virtues
were not in his limbs but in his mind. The King, being unsuccessful
in his attempts to disturb the ascetic's feelings, grew angrier
and kicked the stomach of the ascetic with his heel and went
away. Meanwhile, the King's minister came over and, seeing what
had happened, bowed before the dying ascetic and begged him
saying: "Venerable one, none of us agreed to this cruel
act of the King and we are all sorrowing over what has been
done to you by that devilish man. We ask you to curse the King
but not us." At this the ascetic said: "May that king
who has caused my hands and feet to be cut off, as well as you,
live long in happiness. Persons who practice virtues like me
never get angry." Saying this, he breathed his last.
the Buddha in his past lives, while still imperfect like us,
practiced forbearance and loving-kindness to such a high extent,
why cannot we follow his example?
we remember and think of similar noble characters of great souls,
we should be able to bear any harm, unmoved by anger. Or if
we consider the nature of the round of rebirths in this beginningless
and infinite universe, we will be able to curb our upspringing
anger. For, it is said by the Buddha: "It is not easy to
find a being who has not been your mother, your father, your
brother, sister, son or daughter." Hence with regard to
the person whom we have now taken for our enemy, we should think:
"This one now, in the past has been my mother who bore
me in her womb for nine months, gave birth to me, unweariedly
cleansed me of impurities, hid me in her bosom, carried me on
her hip and nourished me. This one was my father in another
life and spent time and energy, engaged in toilsome business,
with a view to maintaining me, even sacrificing life for my
sake," and so on. When we ponder over these facts, it should
be expected that our arisen anger against our enemy will subside.
further, we should reflect on the advantages of the development
of mind through the practice of extending loving-kindness. For,
the Buddha has expounded to us eleven advantages to be looked
for from its development. What are the eleven? The person who
fully develops loving-kindness sleeps happily. He wakes happily.
He experiences no evil dreams. He is beloved of men. He is beloved
even of non-human beings. He is protected by the gods. He can
be harmed neither by fire, poison or a weapon. His mind is quickly
composed. His complexion is serene. At the moment of his death
he passes away unbewildered. If he can go no further along the
path of realization, he will at least be reborn in the heavenly
abode of the Brahma Devas.
by every similar and possible way should we endeavor to quench
our anger and at last be able to extend our loving-kindness
towards any and every being in the world.
we are able to curb our anger and control our mind, we should
extend from ourselves boundless love as far as we can imagine
throughout every direction pervading and touching all living
beings with loving-kindness. We should practice this meditation
every day at regular times without any break. As a result of
this practice, we will be able, one day, to attain to the jhanas
or meditative absorptions, comprising four grades which entail
the control of sensuality, ill-will and many other passions,
bringing at the same time purity, serenity and peace of mind.
Two Stories Retold from the Buddhist Texts
while the Blessed One stayed near Rajagaha in the Veluvana Monastery
at the Squirrels' Feeding Place, there lived at Rajagha a Brahmin
of the Bharadvaja clan who was later called "the Reviler."
When he learned that one of his clan had gone forth from home
life and had become a monk under the recluse Gotama, he was
angry and displeased. And in that mood he went to see the Blessed
One, and having arrived he reviled and abused him in rude and
being spoken to, the Blessed One said: "How is it, Brahmin:
do you sometimes receive visits from friends, relatives or other
Master Gotama, I sometimes have visitors."
they come, do you offer to them various kinds of foods and a
place for resting?"
I sometimes do so."
if, Brahmin, your visitors do not accept what you offer, to
whom does it then belong?"
Master Gotama, if they do not accept it, these things remain
is just so in this case, Brahmin: you revile us who do not revile
in return, you scold us who do not scold in return, you abuse
us who do not abuse in return. So we do not accept it from you
and hence it remains with you, it belongs to you, Brahmin..."
Buddha finally said:]
should wrath rise for him who void of wrath,
Holds on the even tenor of his way,
Self-tamed, serene, by highest insight free?
of the two is he who, when reviled,
Reviles again. Who doth not when reviled,
Revile again, a two-fold victory wins.
Both of the other and himself he seeks
The good; for he the other's angry mood
Doth understand and groweth calm and still.
He who of both is a physician, since
Himself he healeth and the other too, --
Folk deem him a fool, they knowing not the Norm."
Abridged and freely rendered from Samyutta Nikaya, Brahmana
Samyutta, No. 2. Verses translated by C. A. F. Rhys Davids,
in "Kindred Sayings," vol. I.
from an ancient Buddhist Story
by Nyanaponika Thera
there lived a demon who had a peculiar diet: he fed on the
anger of others. And as his feeding ground was the human world,
there was no lack of food for him. He found it quite easy
to provoke a family quarrel, or national and racial hatred.
Even to stir up a war was not very difficult for him. And
whenever he succeeded in causing a war, he could properly
gorge himself without much further effort; because once a
war starts, hate multiplies by its own momentum and affects
even normally friendly people. So the demon's food supply
became so rich that he sometimes had to restrain himself from
over-eating, being content with nibbling just a small piece
of resentment found close-by.
as it often happens with successful people, he became rather
overbearing and one day when feeling bored he thought: "Shouldn't
I try it with the gods?" On reflection he chose the Heaven
of the Thirty-three Deities, ruled by Sakka, Lord of Gods.
He knew that only a few of these gods had entirely eliminated
the fetters of ill-will and aversion, though they were far
above petty and selfish quarrels. So by magic power he transferred
himself to that heavenly realm and was lucky enough to come
at a time when Sakka the Divine King was absent. There was
none in the large audience hall and without much ado the demon
seated himself on Sakka's empty throne, waiting quietly for
things to happen, which he hoped would bring him a good feed.
Soon some of the gods came to the hall and first they could
hardly believe their own divine eyes when they saw that ugly
demon sitting on the throne, squat and grinning. Having recovered
from their shock, they started to shout and lament: "Oh
you ugly demon, how can you dare to sit on the throne of our
Lord? What utter cheekiness! What a crime! you should be thrown
headlong into the hell and straight into a boiling cauldron!
You should be quartered alive! Begone! Begone!"
while the gods were growing more and more angry, the demon
was quite pleased because from moment to moment he grew in
size, in strength and in power. The anger he absorbed into
his system started to ooze from his body as a smoky red-glowing
mist. This evil aura kept the gods at a distance and their
radiance was dimmed.
a bright glow appeared at the other end of the hall and it
grew into a dazzling light from which Sakka emerged, the King
of Gods. He who had firmly entered the undeflectible Stream
that leads Nibbana-wards, was unshaken by what he saw. The
smoke-screen created by the gods' anger parted when he slowly
and politely approached the usurper of his throne. "Welcome,
friend! Please remain seated. I can take another chair. May
I offer you the drink of hospitality? Our Amrita is not bad
this year. Or do you prefer a stronger brew, the vedic Soma?"
Sakka spoke these friendly words, the demon rapidly shrank
to a diminutive size and finally disappeared, trailing behind
a whiff of malodorous smoke which likewise soon dissolved.
gist of this story dates back to the discourses of the Buddha.
But even now, over 2500 years later, our world looks as if large
hordes of Anger-eating Demons were haunting it and were kept
well nourished by millions slaving for them all over the earth.
Fires of hate and wide-traveling waves of violence threaten
to engulf mankind. Also the grass roots of society are poisoned
by conflict and discord, manifesting in angry thoughts and words
and in violent deeds. Is it not time to end this self-destructive
slavery of man to his impulses of hate and aggression which
only serve the demoniac forces? Our story tells how these demons
of hate can be exorcised by the power of gentleness and love.
If this power of love can be tested and proven, at grass-root
level, in the widely spread net of personal relationships, society
at large, the world at large, will not remain unaffected by
Based on Samyutta Nikaya, Sakka Samyutta, No. 22
The "Norm" or law (dhamma), here referred to, may
be expressed in the words of the Dhammapada (v. 5):
by hating hatred ceases
In this world of tooth and claw;
Love alone from hate releases --
This is the Eternal Law."
by Francis Story]