Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part II, by Ven, Mahasi Sayadaw

(22) Method of reflection to subdue anger

After repeatedly absorbing in jhana that has been realised in radiating metta to persons mentioned in the foregoing, and then, by developing metta towards an enemy after arising from that jhana, if the anger cannot as yet be totally eradicated or repressed, advice is given to extinguish the burning anger by reflecting and bearing in mind the exhortation that has been made by the Buddha citing a saw as an example, etc. The manner of reflection to be done is:

“Oh, my dear indignant Yogi! Is it not true that the Exalted One has given exhortation as – 0, monk! If one, (for having suffered badly in the hands of the bandits, robbers and dacoits by being cruelly deprived of his bodily limbs, such as, hands and feet which have been cut off with a double-edged saw fixed with a handle at both ends), gets angry and has done wrong in retaliation against the villains who have ill-treated him, is, I say, a recalcitrant resisting my due admonition”.

Next, if retaliation is made in anger on provocation against a person in whom anger has first arisen or started, the raging anger which subsequently takes place in another as a reaction, is worse than the anger that has first occurred. (It is because the person who later becomes angry has knowingly followed the wrong footsteps of the first man who gets angry). Is it not true, as admonished by the Buddha, that a person who can tolerate an angry man refraining him ‘ self from getting angry, is a victor in battle which is hard to be won?”

And then, it has also been preached that if a Bhikkhu, who can remain calm or in mental peace without being angry although fully aware of the fact that the other (who provokes) is in an angry mood, may be said to be a disciplined person for the benefit of himself as well as for the benefit of the other.

Furthermore, putting it in a nutshell, out of the seven kinds (of behaviour) which the enemy would be pleased to see, the first is (1) a change in the facial expression of an angry person whose looks suddenly becomes ugly. This is one which the enemy would find it agreeable. (2) A person who is inflamed with anger will not have a sound and peaceful sleep. This is also one of the liking of the enemy. (3) A person heated with anger is likely to lose his business deal which might be adversely affected. This is one which an enemy will find it amusing. (4) A person who is dominated by anger may be lacking in riches, or rather, may not have enough of wealth and possessions. This too is one which an enemy likes to see. (5) A person who is of a fiery nature and is prone to vehement anger is likely to have a shortage in the number of personal attendants or retinue. An enemy is rejoiced to find such a state of condition. (6) A person of anger will not have a wide circle of friends. This also brings delight to an enemy. (7) A person who is sensitive to anger and is furious cannot possibly be reborn in sugati (an existence where happy conditions prevail) after his death. The gist of this admonition is the advice given to nurture the spirit of patience by repelling the force of anger so that the liking or the wishes of the enemy may not be fulfilled.

Next, is it not also true that teachings has been made thus: “Just as the firewood which is used in. disposing of corpses by burning at the time of cremation, is worthless for use in both the rural and urban areas, a Bhikkhu who is avaricious and committing vices with anger and malice being deprived of both the benefits of enjoying sensual pleasures (kamaguna), and of the accomplishment of morality, will not be worthy of respect and will serve no useful purpose in the role of a Bhikkhu both in towns and villages, i.e. in urban and rural areas.”

In view of the above facts, if you, a Yogi, is in anger, you will be regarded as a person who is disobedient to the noble instructions given by the Exalted One. You will be like a vanquished, in a battle which is difficult of winning a victory, and will also be more vicious than the person who initially becomes angry with iniquity. One should therefore reflect and think over seriously by teaching and reforming himself, and then, exercise over his anger.

If by reflecting as such, anger cannot as yet be suppressed or extinguished, do not think of and ponder upon the bad behaviours of the enemy, but instead, let your anger subside by reflecting on’ the good points in his physical, mental and verbal behaviours.

And still, if by reflection as stated, feeling of anger cannot as yet be subdued, reflect upon what is going to be stated now, and put out this fiery anger which has arisen. The manner of reflection is only mentioned in the Visuddhimagga and is not to be found in other Pali Atthakathas. The relevant verses are exactly ten in number. I shall continue on and explain these verses very briefly.