Whenever I'm confronted with behaviours I find potentially harmful, I get angry. One example of this is when I witness motorists speeding or otherwise making risky maneuvers (going after the light has turned red, cutting in traffic, etc.) I may be enjoying a nice calm walk in my neighbourhood and be otherwise feeling quite serene, but then a single passing car happens to accelerate too much (sometimes noisily), and then I start feeling all sorts of feelings of disapproval, powerlessness and contempt.

I feel like I should change my attitude, but I'm not quite sure what I should strive for. Clearly, getting worked up over passing cars accomplishes little. It even hurts me, since I lose focus on what better thoughts I was enjoying before. Afterwards, I'm in an unhappy, vindictive mood for a while. People I love that see me having these types of reactions often look concerned and a bit disturbed. Pretty clearly, getting angry is not the right reaction.

On the other hand, even on a rational level, I'm not sure I want to not get angry, because it seems obvious to me that these drivers are taking unnecessary risks that will invariably lead to more kids getting hit by cars, more car crashes, more noise, environments that feel less safe - harmful things. If I don't react, am I not placing myself and others in harm's way by taking part in an enabling apathy?

Please note - reckless driving here is just an example. I'm hoping to find some insight on how to deal with things that are more or less tolerated by many, either by apathy, ignorance or differences in personal values, but that are for some reason important to me. Other examples that come to mind :

  • Marketing
  • Political propaganda
  • Erosion of private life
  • The environment
  • Social justice.

How do Buddhists see disagreements where the opposing party might harm others if they continue in their ways? A "Live and let live" attitude seems problematic, since it contributes to the problem.

3 Answers 3


If I don't react, am I not placing myself and others in harm's way by taking part in an enabling apathy?

Given that anger is ineffective in that situation, I don't see how non-anger is enabling apathy.

You seem to be keenly aware of the potential dangers of unsafe driving. I presume you act on that, when you're the driver yourself, or when you're a passenger and able to communicate with the driver.

I don't see what good it does to get angry about the behaviour of others over whom you have no control, with whom you have no communication, whose driving you're unable to affect.

How do Buddhists see disagreements where the opposing party might harm others if they continue in their ways?

Doctrine like MN 8 might be relevant:

Others will be harmful; we shall not be harmful here

The first part of the sutta may imply that what's especially good isn't the, "enjoying a nice calm walk in my neighbourhood and be otherwise feeling quite serene", but is more especially the decision to refrain from unskilful action -- including anger -- even when others don't.

I feel like I should change my attitude, but I'm not quite sure what I should strive for.

The doctrine of the "Three Poisons" suggests that people feel attracted to what's attractive, repulsed by or angry about what's unattractive, and confused or ignorant about what's neither. Perhaps we're used to thinking about things being Good or Bad, and are nonplussed about what's Not or Neither.

I think that Buddhist doctrine has a lot of "not" or "non-" in it -- for example the opposite of "harmful" isn't only "beneficial" or "benevolent", it's also simply "non-harmful" or "harmless".

Similarly if you feel that anger isn't appropriate, then "what you should change it to" might be, simply, "non-anger". I like Akkosa Sutta: Insult (SN 7.2) -- it suggests you should refrain from "participating in" or "sharing" or "accepting" the misbehaviour (e.g. somebody's revving their car engine) -- not to violently stamp out that behaviour, but to see it as an attention-getting invitation which you decide to decline.

I think you described already many disadvantages of anger and why it's inappropriate (in the first two paragraphs).

I don't know how much doctrine you know already (since this is the first time you posted here), but I'd like to add two more things.

  1. One is that I'm conscious of "conceit" as being a cause of inter-personal disputes, and try to avoid both (conceit and inter-personal disputes). If I'm tempted to dispute I remind myself that conceit is hard to eradicate (but should be eradicated) -- see here for some explanation of what conceit is:

    • Māna (Wikipedia)
    • This answer associates it with comparisons, e.g. "I am better than you" (including "... because I'm selfless and considerate, whereas your actions are potentially harmful")

    I'm not trying to say that there's no difference between skilful and unskilful driving -- but perhaps I'm trying to suggest that getting angry is akin to unskilful driving -- see Chapter 17 of the Dhammapada, which includes

    1. He who checks rising anger as a charioteer checks a rolling chariot, him I call a true charioteer. Others only hold the reins.
  2. This answer suggests that getting angry or getting into disputes -- about what's ethical -- is still getting angry or getting into disputes.

  • I think a large part of the question is ignored here, and that is what should be done, instead of anger. To ignore situations one has no control over(or seemingly no control over), is what the OP is concerned about and can often times lead to exasperation and anger. Not letting the anger overtake you is the first step, but it must be followed by action that leads to change, right? This is where the answer gets more interesting. What sort of action? And how to develop that action skillfully. What about not doing anything?
    – user29568
    Jun 1, 2021 at 17:12
  • Also the answer in number 2 seems unnecessary in proving a self-evident point, but besides that to start by saying anger is ineffective and ending by saying that disputes about ethics are still anger/tendency to get into disputes, could give the false idea that you should do nothing.
    – user29568
    Jun 1, 2021 at 17:18

Anger depends on thinking in terms of the doctrine of self.

A person takes the body or that which is called mind, intellect or consciousness, as a self or belonging to self for this or that person.

There comes to be conception & comprehension 'i am', there being 'i am' there comes to be 'i am good ' or 'i am bad', because of this or that, it develops. Eventually there comes to be an evaluation of something as bad and aversion comes into play.

There is a tendency to think in terms of the doctrine of self due to dull faculties even if one has abandoned adherence to it let alone if one has not abandoned.

When one takes neither body nor mind, nor anything whatsoever to be a self, abandon it as superstition, don't think along those lines.

Think along the lines of elements as elements, do not conceive of what isn't there.

The delusion is similar to thinking that one's name is part of one's biology as an organ or whatnot.

Neither one's name nor one's self exist apart from the philosophical thought systems in the context of which they are here & there conceived as objects of ideation and it's corresponding neurological structure for biology.

One's name is conceived of in the context of the doctrine of self.

If one rather thinks that there are feelings, consciousness, perceptions, objects of perceptions, forms, ideas, a nose & aromas, delusional ideas, greed, compassion, good & bad, craving, etc

Then one can discern how these are philosophically interdependent and then it doesn't occur 'i am bad' or 'may my experience be otherwise'.

There is then mental equanimity of intellect even if experiencing sharp bodily pain.

It is understood & felt as a disagreeable feeling but it isnot like before.

Ie if a person was very superstitious before and abandoned that due to verified confidence, when seeing the thing that would before make him act on his superstition, to become scared, angry or whatnot, now having abandoned the superstition it does not occur to him to act as before even tho it will take him a while to adjust as old habitual thoughts will come up for him for a while but he wont get carried away much.

Ariya are not superstitious about the present qualities but learners more or less get obsessed by prior conditioning due to a lack of development and similarly get carried away.

A person might say 'if there is feeling, to whom does it belong?'. the question is posed in terms of the doctrine of self and invites looking for it rather than questioning whether it's there or not.

Therefore straightening one's views and being attentive the theme of one's thoughts is part of the solution.

Second part is developing wholesome themes & perceptions. These become the pathways by which thoughts travel. When frequently used these bonds become stronger and old thought pathway structures atrophy due to non use.

Electrochemistry is simply such that one must develop & strengthen healthy pathways by which thoughts travel. Thoughts are thought of not as electrochemistry but are an expression of it and neurologically electrical impulses need new pathways and they better be easy to travel as charge just follows the least magnetic resistance path and activates whatnot accordingly.

Directing the mind skillfully one becomes percepient of many pleasant distinctions which are qualified & definitive releases from the unpleasant, unpleasant mindstates, unpleasant perceptions, coarse perceptions and even the percepience of the truth of the cessation of perception & feeling which is the most spectacular attainment to enter into & emerge from.


This essay might help good householder to do not only understand RIGHT intention/resolve, but also to get out an arrow in ways of one normaly might think, not common with the Dhamma,, and will clarify much it reading with proper attention, certain confidence and respect in regard of the Tripple Gems and toward highest liberation: Wisdom over Justice.

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