There is no punishment for anger. It is the anger which will punish you

I pondered on this for a few hours now but can't understand the meaning.

Tnx for all the help

  • 4
    "You are not punished for your anger, you are punished by your anger." ... "Holding onto anger is like holding onto a hot coal and expecting the other person to get burned"
    – sova
    Feb 6, 2016 at 22:02
  • tnx for all the answers!
    – user7062
    Feb 7, 2016 at 9:34

10 Answers 10


There's an explanation of it here, on the Fake Buddha Quotes web site: “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.”

It's not a quote from the Pali canon.

Buddhism probably does have things to say about "anger": but maybe not that. :-)

If I had to make sense of it I'd guess it's saying that anger is unpleasant and thus a kind of punishment (the consequences of angry behaviour might not be good either).

According to Buddhism, anger might be associated with aversion and perhaps with an unwise view of 'self'.

According to Bodhipaksa one of the earliest versions of this quote (from a non-Buddhist source) is,

They teach that he who hates shall be hated, and that the one who gets angry shall be punished by anger, and that all sin is punished by it and not for it. This is correct.

I guess this might also be Christian-like in origin, e.g. it reminds me of the aphorism, "He who lives by the sword will die by the sword."

Another original version of the quote is from a book about the Hindu (non-Buddhist) Bhagavad Gita,

Even more intriguing to me is the karma of our health. Again, let me illustrate one or two kinds of connection. For one, the Buddha says that we are not punished for our anger, we are punished by our anger. In other words, anger is its own karma.

Note the absence of quotation marks. Eknath is not quoting the Buddha, but paraphrasing his teachings on anger and karma.

So it's talking about, trying to say something about, karma.

That (karma) is something which the Buddha will have talked about; however starting here from a fake quote (a mis-quote) about anger probably isn't the easiest start to explaining karma, a difficult subject.


Anger or hatred is one of the two main blinding affects ("avarana-klesha" - the other one being lust aka strong obsessive desire). When the mind is affected by anger it can't understand things properly, it confuses what's a wrong action and what's a proper action in this situation. So that's what we mean by saying that you are punished by your own anger or your own weakness for pleasure - that we go temporarily insane and do stupid things, and then suffer the consequences.


What does Buddha mean by this quote?

"There is no punishment for anger. It is the anger which will punish you".

It means that when one is identifying, attaching and taking ownership of phenomena, then one gets tossed around. If one simply notes them and observes them with objectivity they will arise and cease on their own accord.

When we interfer with phenomena they tend to get sticky and grow in size and intensity.

My teacher once likened this to picking up an ember from a bonfire. If you take the ember and hold it in your hand, you will get burned. But if you take the ember and lay it on the ground, it will glow for a while and then fade out.

Its the same with anger. If we identify with the anger by saying "I'm angry" we tend to suffer a lot more. Anger and all other phenomena are impersonal and do not belong to anyone. They arise and cease on their own.

Go practice insight meditation and experience this for yourself. Only then you will truly know what the Buddha was talking about.


Peace to all....anger is the punishment for the lack of acceptance of that which cannot be controlled. Undeniably anger is a state that consumes understanding which leads to ignorance. And ignorance is not bliss....to simple?


It is very simple: he was saying there is no external god who will punish you, but the person or thing (ie a thief, the weather, your brother who hit you) you are angry at may not suffer at all, only you will. If someone steals from you, how will anger help the situation? Will it hurt the thief (unlikely). Will it bring back the stolen goods? (not necessarily) Will your anger change the fact that in life bad stuff just happens, and there is no reason for it and often no fix for it (of course not). Anger causes YOU agitation, so YOU suffer. Your anger doesn't hurt anyone else, as much as you may want it to!


As someone who has learned (after experiencing huge violence at the hands of others) to let go of anger, to forgive not only others but myself, it became clear that anger is a destructive and toxic energy that can only harm. the saying "help ever, harm never" is to be taken to heart in how we treat ourselves and others.

There is a native american story regarding this philosophy wherein an elder tells a child, "there is a battle in my heart between two wolves; a wolf who is anger and fear, and a wolf who is compassion and love." the child asks, "which wolf will win?" to which the elder replies, "the one I feed." (https://vimeo.com/152432001).

Two more quotes from The Buddha regarding anger: "holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die," and, "let go of anger, let go of pride. when you are bound by nothing, you go beyond sorrow." one way to begin this is through mindfulness, simply acknowledge your negative emotions (anger, jealously, fear) instead of feeding or fighting them. look at them as cars of a train, watch them go by. this process takes practice, but will give you the gift of freedom. i am still practicing...


The quote means that no one is going to punish us for our anger, those hellish fiery sensations which arise on our body are the punishment itself. Thus it is the anger which will punish you.

Another quote on anger makes it more clear 'Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.'

  • 1
    I think that's a fake quote too (I hope you don't mind my saying so).
    – ChrisW
    Feb 6, 2016 at 14:51
  • May be...But it seems to be Buddhist...Anyways thank you Feb 6, 2016 at 14:52
  • i apologize for downvoting your answer, but we need to be wary of quotes given without reference to their source. i will be happy to undo that once the misguided part is removed, let me know Feb 6, 2016 at 19:03

Regardless of the quote's authenticity, It sounds authentic to me.

It just means there is no punishment for anything. Karma is just cause and effect. No one is to blame by anyone but our own actions punish us as we do them. I know I can kind of feel the punishment when I get all angry and especially after I calm down.


The leading verse of the Dhammapada says (in, say, the P. Lal translation),"We are what we think, having become what we thought. Like the wheel that follows the cart pulling ox, sorrow follows an evil thought. And joy follows a pure thought like a shadow faithfully tailing a man. We are what we think, having become what we though."

Probably I have misquoted a bit as I am reciting from memory, but I think anger can be equated as an "evil thought" in this context--.

  • 1
    You're not wrong (i.e. you are accurately quoting the P. Lal translation); but "What you think, you become" is listed as another 'fake Buddha quote' ... the "P. Lal translation" is presumably a bit loose.
    – ChrisW
    Feb 6, 2016 at 17:53

Anything which is a byproduct of unconscious choice is Karma. If you are agitated mentally or emotionally you are unconscious. Therefore you accumulate Karma. Consequence of Karma accumulation is re-birth (pain and misery once again!!!) which is in itself a great punishment. If you are angry you are accumulating Karmas which will lead to re-birth. Karma theory is pretty much convoluted in West but in East you imbibe it as part of your upbringing.

Anger leads to various Heart ailments. It also effect your other organs. Lot of research has been done to establish effect of mental and emotional upheavals on health. That too can be taken as punishment.


You must log in to answer this question.