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When anger swells up and rears its head I wish to be rid of it quickly. For a moment of anger is said to burn a mountain of merit.

In my personal practice I have gotten quite adapt at controlling my negative emotions and dealing with them appropriately. Patience is something I used to not know at all.

Now I know patience well, and am able to keep my cool when things go sour.

Lately though, even though I keep my cool, I can feel anger inside myself. It is not controlling my actions, but it is present, and I can feel it in my pulse, and in my body temperature when I breathe.

I'd like to know if there are any practices related to this sort of anger. One that is not outwardly visible, but is present nonetheless.

  • What is your practice? – Ryan Jul 18 '15 at 8:33
  • Do a lot of Vipassana practice (based on all 4 foundations, not just e.g. body, since you want to deal with mind objects like anger directly), it wil bring stuff up, you will acknowledge it every time it arises, and slowly slowly you will be relieved. It just takes time and is mostly rather unpleasant. OTOH, vipassana is not designed to change anything, rather to learn not to react and embrace; so you will likely still have impulses to be angry, but will learn to not follow them. – eudoxos Jul 18 '15 at 9:00
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In a meditative context "anger" is one of The Five Hindrances which are obstacles to meditative progress. Anger belongs to the 2nd hindrance, i.e. Ill-will (hatred, anger, dislike, hostility, resentment etc.).

There are antidotes for these hindrances, i.e. ways to deal with them so that one can dispel of them and continue on with the practice.

In the "Majjhima Nikaya Verse 20: Vitakkasanthana Sutta: The Removal of Distracting Thoughts" the Buddha gave 5 methods for dealing with the hindrances.

I will mention the 5 methods first and then there is a quote from the Majjhima Nikaya where you can read them more in-depth.

To make this easier to understand I want to give an idea of where in the Dhamma we are located right now. Take a look at the illustration. You might have to zoom in to see it.

enter image description here

The five methods are as follows:

  1. The first method deals with the hindrance face-to-face. Let's take the example of anger. Anger cannot be dispelled by using anger as a remedy. We must use it's opposite, i.e. non-anger. Here the meditation on loving-kindness (metta-bhavana) is the tool we want to use. Repeated practice of metta-meditation will clean out anger and traces of anger in the mind.

  2. Here one uses reflection/contemplation on the hindrance. One tries to view the hindrance as being dangerous and ignoble until there arises revulsion in one. This will drive the hindrance away.

  3. Here one uses the tactic of diversion to dispel the hindrance. Some hindrances just keep coming back in one's meditation practice. One shifts the attention away from the hindrance and onto another object. One keeps doing that until the hindrance subsides.

  4. Here one uses the opposite approach from method number 3. Instead of turning away from the hindrance one turns towards it. One confronts the object and thoroughly investigate it's features and it's source. This will drive it out in the open where it looses it's power.

  5. The last method should only be used as a last resort. Here one uses suppresion. One restrains the hindrance using the power of the will. One pins the hindrance to the ground with force.

The Buddha says in the sutta that if one learns how to use and apply these five remedies then one will no longer be the subject of the mind. One will become it's master.


The Blessed One said this:

"Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu is pursuing the higher mind, from time to time he should give attention to five signs. What are the five?

(i) "Here, bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu is giving attention to some sign, and owing to that sign there arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then he should give attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome. When he gives attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome, then arty evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion are abandoned in him and subside. With the aban- doning of them his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated. Just as a skilled carpen- ter or his apprentice might knock out, remove, and extract a coarse peg by means of a fine one, so too...when a bhikkhu gives attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome...his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated.

(ii) "If, while he is giving attention to some other sign con- nected with what is wholesome, there still arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then he should examine the danger in those thoughts thus: 'These thoughts are unwholesome, they are rep- rehensible, they result in suffering. When he examines the danger in those thoughts, then any evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion are aban- doned in him and subside. With the abandoning of them his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated. Just as a man or a woman, young, youthful, and fond of ornaments, would be horrified, humiliated, and dis- gusted if the carcass of a snake or a dog or a human being were hung around his or her neck, so too...when a bhikkhu examines the danger in those thoughts.. .his mind becomes stead- ied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated.

(iii) "If, while he is examining the danger in those thoughts, there still arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then he should try to forget those thoughts and should not give attention to them. When he tries to forget those thoughts and does not give atten- tion to them, then any evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion are abandoned in him and subside. With the abandoning of them his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concen- trated. Just as a man with good eyes who did not want to see forms that had come within range of sight would either shut his eyes or look away, so too...when a bhikkhu tries to forget those thoughts and does not give attention to them...his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated.

(iv) "If, while he is trying to forget those thoughts and is not giving attention to them, there still arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then he should give attention to stilling the thought-formation of those thoughts. When he gives attention to stilling the thought- formation of those thoughts, then any evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion are abandoned in him and subside. With the abandoning of them his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to sin- gleness, and concentrated. Just as a man walking fast might con- sider: 'Why am I walking fast? What if I walk slowly?' and he would walk slowly; then he might consider: 'Why am I walking slowly? What if I stand?' and he would stand; then he might consider: 'Why am I standing? What if I sit?' and he would sit; then he might consider: 'Why am I sitting? What if I lie down?' and he would lie down. By doing so he would substitute for each grosser posture one that was subtler. So too...when a bhikkhu gives attention to stilling the thought-formation of those thoughts...his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated.

(v) "If, while he is giving attention to stilling the thought- formation of those thoughts, there still arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then, with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth, he should beat down, constrain, and crush mind with mind. When, with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth, he beats down, constrains, and crushes mind with mind, then any evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion are abandoned in him and subside. With the abandoning of them his mind becomes steadied inter- nally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated. }ust as a strong man might seize a weaker man by the head or shoulders and beat him down, constrain him, and crush him, so too...when, with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth, a bhikkhu beats down, constrains, and crushes mind with mind.. .his mind becomes steadied inter- nally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated.

"Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu is giving attention to some sign, and owing to that sign there arise in him evil unwhole- some thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delu- sion, then when he gives attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome, any such evil unwholesome thoughts are abandoned in him and subside, and with the abandoning of them his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated. When he examines the danger in those thoughts...When he tries to forget those thoughts and does not give attention to them...When he gives attention to stilling the thought-formation of those thoughts...When, with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth, he beats down, constrains, and crushes mind with mind, any such evil unwholesome thoughts are abandoned in him...and his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated. This bhikkhu is then called a master of the courses of thought. He will think what- ever thought he wishes to think and he will not think any thought that he does not wish to think. He has severed craving, flung off the fetters, and with the complete penetration of con- ceit he has made an end of suffering.

-- The Middle Length Discourses in the Majjhima Nikaya, MN: 20, Bodhi Translation

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Here are some sutta references that deal with subduing ill will and offer techniques for doing so.

  1. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.162.than.html
  2. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.080.than.html
  3. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.161.than.html
  4. http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/mahasati10.htm
  5. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel026.html#ill

Ajahn Brahm also suggests these instructions in Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond:

  1. Forgive yourself or the other completely.
  2. Hindrances occur in the space between the awareness and the object of awareness; put lovingkindness or peace in the space between the knower and what is known.
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Do not wish to be rid of your anger quickly, your anger is a very good teacher. In the same way that you might observe pain that arises in your legs when in sitting meditation, equanimously, when anger arises, know that it has arisen, know "this is anger", but do not be moved by it, let it arise and flow, feel its effects, and also observe it passing away.

As you are now seeing, so long as you are averse to anger, anger will arise, as the very nature of anger IS aversion. You must be compassionate and patient with your anger. There is nothing wrong with it at all, the only issue with it is that which arises in your mind that says "No, I don't accept this experience, it is not suitable".

You did not mention what your practice is, but to help in this matter, you may try Vipassana, which will allow you to easily recognize these states arising and deal with them equanimously. And also, you may try taking up Metta meditation, perhaps for a few minutes after Vipassana, to help develop good will and compassion alongside your insight.

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The others have covered it above. I like Ryan's answer because it would be much like my own.

I was struck by the comment on 'controlling' anger. Most of the practices that I have studied deal with acknowledging emotions and letting them go, releasing them. this is of course after they have come into being.

Not to get all western and freud about it, but controlling or suppressing an emotion holds it in place. This is different from what Sri Lanka was talking about as suppressing thoughts in their formation..

On the cushion is the best place to feel the emotions as they come up and practice letting them go...

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A student inquired, “Master, if I am eating, what should I do?” Master Li replied, “Eat”. The student continued, “And if I am walking?” Master Li answered “Walk”. The student persisted, “And if I am drowning?” Master Li answered, “Drown!”

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