Anger and Hatred
Of all the mental poisons Anger and hatred are by far the worst, a daily diet of hatred and anger can only lead to dissolution, self pity, depression and loneliness. Anger and hatred are the driving force behind violence, human genocide and every war either religious or political. So what is anger and hatred? Where does anger come from? Why do some people get more angry than others? And what are the triggers for anger and hatred?
Everyone, if totally honest with themselves, has experience and suffered form bouts of anger and hatred at some point in their lives. Anger and hatred are the equal opposite of love and peace, with the American Psychological Association stating that “anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion” however Wikipedia tells us that “A person experiencing anger will often experience physical conditions such as increase heart rate elevated blood pressure and increase levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline.”
Anger is born out of frustration or injustice usually because of an illogical idea that something/someone, we have no control over, should be, or be happening or has happened differently than your personal requirements.
There are a few websites out there, American Psychological Association and Medical News Today, as examples, claiming that anger is a natural emotional state. I would like to disagree wholeheartedly to this and state that, Anger is an emotional response to a given set of circumstances, anger is a choice not a natural state of consciousness.
This may sound controversial but let me explain.
We in the west are scientifically minded. If an experiment using the same formulas is repeated anywhere in the world it must have the same results before it is established as fact.
If we take this synopsis and apply it to anger and hatred and on a hot day pour cold water over 10 individuals the results will become clear.
The facts of the experiment is the water is cold and the day is hot. The reaction of the individuals won’t be the same, the majority may well scream blue murder resulting in anger, however one may very well react differently, perhaps a feeling of being cooled or refreshed by the water may be the experience. Because of these variations in our human reactions, anger is present but it a choice what makes us angry, and what may make you angry doesn’t necessarily make another angry.
Yes I hear some of you cry, but that is just one trigger for anger what about other situations, like road rage, or being robbed. In each situation the individual reaction can and will be different depending on the individuals past experiences and memories.
There are so many examples where an individual has chosen love and peace instead of hatred and anger. Etty Hillesum wrote a few months before she died at Auschwitz concentration camp that “I can see no way around it. Each of us must look inside himself and excise and destroy everything he finds there which he believes should be excised and destroyed in others” the Dalia Lama had a visit from a Tibetan monk who had be imprisoned and tortured for twenty five years in a Chinese labour camp. When asked was he fearful, he responded “I was often afraid of hitting my torturers, for in doing so I would have destroyed myself”. After the bomb attack that killed hundreds in Oklahoma City in 1995, the father of a three year old daughter lost in the attack was asked if he wanted to see the instigator executed, he replied “Another death isn’t going to bring my daughter back”
The Dalia Lama says it best “Even if we allow our rage to go all the way, we will never eliminate all our enemies”
One fact about anger and hatred that is typically common to humans, is that we can spend prolonged periods of time in rage, anger and hatred. As humans we can wallow in anger and we can carry hatred with us for hours, days even years,
If we look at the other animals we share this magnificent planet with, we won’t find an angry elephant or a lion spending its day wallowing in a sea of anger, yes there are moments and displays of aggression and dominance and you may well find a grumpy elephant but never for a prolonged period of time, that seems to be reserved as a human animal trait
My most profound experience with seeing anger manifest within my own mind and then my subsequent analysis of this most dangerous of disease was when I was a Buddhist monk in north an Thailand.
We were all lined up in an orderly line for our one meal of the day. The food was all arranged neatly on the table and each monk was taking it in turns to fill his bowl, when one of the senior monks turns around to me and calmly states
“you have a lot of anger in you!”
I smiled the sweetest smile I could and calmly said
“no I don’t”
all the while inwardly I was thinking how rude! How dare you say such a thing! And generally reacting with anger. It was at this moment I caught myself, caught my mind at work, I didn’t eat that day, I walked off and sat in meditation analysing my anger and its root causes, what was it? where did it came from? why had such a simple sentence effected me so much, where in my body was I feeling anger? The answers surprised
Anger is a choice, just as we choose to be happy or sad, optimistic or pessimistic, anger is a choice only you can make.
Mahatma Gandhi once said
“nobody can walk with dirty feet through my mind without my permission”
Generally however we react with a conditioned response, learned over time by experience and memory. To respond differently takes courage and wisdom. To respond differently requires compassion and patience, to respond differently we need to see anger and hatred for what they truly are!
Now I’m going to change the pace a little and tell you a story, the story of the common household flea. The remarkable facts of the common flea demonstrate how we too can become pre-condition in our way of thinking.
The common flea has the ability to jump 200 times its own height. If you then trap that same flea under a glass jar he will soon learn that there is an upper limit, a glass ceiling, to his jumping ability. Try as he might to reach his full potential he will now hit his head every time. After many attempts the flea will now adopt a new jumping height so as not to hit his head.
The remarkable thing is when you take the glass jar away. The flea has now been conditioned by experience and memory that if he try’s to jump any higher than his previous glass jar prison he will bang his head. He will now only jump to that pre-conditioned height of just under that ceiling level.
The same story is to be found in elephants, from a young age the baby elephant is shackled by a chain around one leg, this is then attached to a large metal stake that is hammered deep into the ground. Try as he might that elephant won’t budge or pull the stake out of the ground, over time he is conditioned by experience and memory that is is useless to pull at the stake it won’t come out, and it cannot free itself. Now that same elephant only needs to be lightly staked to the ground and it won’t even attempt to pull itself free, it has learnt from past experience and memory. Even the mighty elephant can be conditioned.
If you feel sorry for the elephant in the last story, may I ask is it because you notice the same conditioning in your own life, that same conditioning that is the cause of your anger, the same conditioning that now controls so much of our lives.
We have all conditioned ourselves through our experiences and memories, maybe it’s time we pulled our own steaks out the ground, maybe today is the day we dare to jump just a little higher.
So how do we dare to jump higher, how do we gain the courage to pull our conditioned steaks out of the ground, how do we notice what conditions are limiting our abilities, and how do we change our natural response such as anger to certain given circumstances or experiences.
So now we have come full circle, We have all suffered form bouts of anger at some point in our lives, remember that anger is born out of frustration or injustice usually because of an illogical idea that something/someone, we have no control over, should be, or be happening or have happened differently to meet your personal requirements.
We also now know that anger and hatred are a choice, it is also because of our pre-conditioning that we react the way we do, we have also seen how humans can carry anger for prolonged periods of time, a trait only found with us. We have also seen different triggers for anger but that each is responsible for his or her own reaction. The question now is, how do we stop reacting with anger? How can we change our pre-conditions response?
Meditation is the only real way to notice those pre-conditioned responses, to see first hand the destructive nature of anger not to the person or object it’s directed towards, but the real deep and lasting harm it is doing to ourselves. So what is meditation?
Meditation as cited by the Oxford English Dictionary is “The action to focus one’s mind for a period of time, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation” and Wikipedia describes it as “is a practice where an individual uses a technique of focusing their mind on a particular object”.
Meditation in days of old was a passage to gain spiritual enlightenment, however today the usage of the word meditation and mindfulness can be over used by a commercial industry selling self help, relaxation and stress reduction.
Meditation is far more than just relaxation, yes it produces results of calming, compassion, equanimity and a general feeling of contentment, but if used as a regular practice true everlasting peace, contentment and wellbeing can be achieved through dropping our pre-conditioned ideals, relieving us from depression, anxiety, anger and hatred.
By following some of the simple meditation exercises within these webpages you will start to see the destructive nature of anger and hatred first hand.
All the meditations given in these pages have been handed down generation after generation for over 2500 years and were passed onto me by meditation masters when I was a Buddhist monk in Thailand. Once you see for yourself how anger eats us inside, creating hatred and desires for revenge, how it can consume us wholeheartedly taking our valuable life’s energy, then anger can be truly conquered. It takes great courage and wisdom to meditate, but meditation will take us to places you never thought possible.
The best advice to give anyone in life is to meditate, follow the breath and be present in the moment. For in the present moment there cannot exists hatred, anger, discrimination or prejudice, for in the present moment only lives love, compassion, happiness, and contentment.