A. This is a good question. Many people have a similar question, I think. Now I will ask you back, “What makes you angry?” “I can’t control my anger when people speak ill of me for what I have never done. “I think your words make sense. The reason you mention can be a part of the cause that makes you angry. All people, like you, have their own reasons why they are angry when angry. They tend to try to evade the responsibility for being angry by justifying their anger. However, I will ask you one more question. “Are you angry when you don’t know the fact at all that others spoke ill of you?” I think you aren’t because we can’t be angry, or happy, with what we don’t know. How could you be angry with what you don’t know? In fact, no matter how much someone speaks ill of you, their act itself doesn’t lead you to lose your temper, unless you know the fact.
It means that the fact that others speak ill of you unduly is not the direct cause that makes you angry. If the fact were the direct cause, it would make you angry regardless of whether you know the fact or not. Then what will be the main cause that makes you angry? It is you that are responsible for being angry. You are angry only when you perceive the fact and feel it is undue. You won’t be angry if you don’t think it is unwarranted even though you perceive the fact. In a word, everything is up you. Whatever others may say about you, their words can make you neither angry, nor happy, if you don’t accept them as bad or good. You are angry when you accept them as names or abuse, and happy when you accept them as praises.
I remember Buddha’s answer to a question one of his disciples asked. One day one of his disciples said to Buddha, “I am very sorry and angry these days because a person never sees me without calling me names for no reason. What shall I do?” Buddha asked, “Whom does the gift belong to if you don’t accept it when someone gives it to you?” The disciple answered, “Of course, it belongs to the giver.” Then Buddha said, “Then, who do the names he calls you belong to if you don’t accept them?” The disciple was very happy to understand what Buddha said. Likewise, whatever others may say about you, their words can have no influence on you unless you accept them. After all it is not others but your discriminating mind that makes your angry. So the purpose of Zen practice is also said to remove our discriminating mind because seeing things as they are means seeing things without a discriminating mind.
When angry, never try to hold back or push down your anger. Admit that the main cause of your anger is within and not without, and trace your anger back to its root, or ask yourself what you are when your body is not you. Your body can’t be angry for itself. Ask yourself what makes your body angry and your anger will quieten down by itself. Killing two birds with one stone: practising Zen and removing anger.
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway.