Buddha – How not to accept others anger
A story that always sticks to me, that my grandfather used to tell me many times: Once Buddha was passing through a village and during his stay there he was giving a talk to the locals. During this talk, a local ascetic got very upset. He was upset as people had started listening to and following Buddha instead of him.
He got so angry that one day he came and spit on buddha’s face and started shouting. At this Buddha simply smiled. Buddha’s followers and local leaders were upset and wanted to take revenge. But Buddha stopped them saying that it was between him and the ascetic, they didnt need to do anything, and calmed them to wait.
The ascetic went home but could not sleep. Next day he came back and bowed to Buddha’s feet and said, who are you ? what have you done to me ? At this Buddha replied, I havent done anything, All I did was to not accept your negative energy when you were angry. By not accepting it, the negative energy stayed with you.
Grandfather used to end it with analogy, If I have 10 dollars and I offer them to you, but you say No thanks! then who has the 10 dollars ? I do. But if you accept the 10 dollars add to it and give them back to me then the cycle continues…
Similarly, Anger is a like a coal, a burning coal. First it burns the person who has it, then they throw it others. If the other person accepts it, it burns them. They take it add fire to it, and then throw it back …. and cycle continues.
3 Comments for “Buddha – How not to accept others anger”
This story makes a lot of sense and has proven to be true in a lot of my experiences. It is always best to control a situation early on. Once one engages in another person’s anger, the flames spread and can get out of control.
have heard that the Buddha used the coal analogy in regard to “holding a grudge.” The way I heard it is this:
holding a grudge is like picking up a piece of red, hot coal in your bare hand and throwing it at the person you are holding the grudge towards. There is certainly the possibility that you will hit ~ and hurt ~ the other person. But in order to achieve that potential end you are definitely going to hurt yourself in the process.
This seems entirely accurate from what we know today via neuroscience. Perpetuating anger within a bodymind mechanism causes biochemical, hormonal, and physiological changes that, over time, cause damage to the body (higher blood pressure, greater risk of heart attack, stroke, even possibly cancer). And, as an added bonus, the grudge-holder gets to become quite an annoying person to be around! :-)))
But if there is a grudge, that is reality. One can’t magically make the grudge disappear: acknowledging the physical and emotional harm may lead to suppression or repression of the feelings, neither of which is a wise move. Until the thoughts feelings, and, most importantly, the beliefs underlying the grudge are brought to the conscious level and seen for what they are, then the grudge persists (perhaps from generation to generation).
A grude releases when it is ready. Can it be …… helped ……along? Possibly. If there is an understanding and insight into the thoughts & beliefs behind the grudge, the conceptual notions underlying the anger, and a realization of their essential emptiness, if this is really gotten, then the grudge may dissipate much more quickly instead of perpetuating itself over and over and over (which is the only true reincarnation). To do this there must be a nonverbal, non-mental connection with the essence of the grudge. It must be met with understanding, not justification, rationalization, or mentation. Meditation is certainly one time-honored method of attempting to attain this release.
It is also possible that there is some validity behind the grudge. Then that too needs to be addressed in real time, not stewed over in one’s thoughts or shoved under a mental rug in the hopes of appearing “spiritual” and “compassionate.” Maybe the other person really did something that wounded you (regardless of whether it was or was not intentional). While meditation can put the hurt in perspective and prevent it from being blown out of proportion, real-time action may need to be taken to further resolve the upset.
I’ve heard this philosophy before and I believe there’s a lot of truth to it. In my opinion, unchecked anger and aggression is destructive to all involved. I like the analogy of the burning coal as well. Such a fire can burn indefinitely, causing suffering to many. I can see how others would benefit by not accepting another person’s anger, I can also see that, not having anyone to argue with or fuel the fire, the angry person may find his aggressive energy de-escalating more quickly. I have used this approach myself in situations involving coworkers, casual acquaintances and what Pema Chodron calls our “neutral people”; those we come in contact with throughout our day but have no emotional investment in. Waiting in a long checkout line with an inept or inexperienced cashier certainly is a golden opportunity to work with patience and has the added benefit of allowing us to practice kindness and compassion to our fellow beings. We can chose to use the time to strike up a conversation with the person next to us and really connect in the moment rather than complain about being inconvenienced or fume in silence. Such negative energy seems to feed on itself and make us even more angry and resentful as the day progresses. A simple thing like a smile when we feel like screaming can go a long way towards healing the suffering in our world; people tend to “pay it forward” and return that smile to others, generating an atmosphere of love and tolerance.
That being said, this approach doesn’t seem to work as well in intimate relationships. Smiling at an angry person often infuriates them. We need to be careful not to dismiss the other person’s feelings. Unless the relationship is blatantly dysfunctional, the anger is a symptom of an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. In my close relationships, I become incensed when my feelings are not acknowledged. Being able to share our thoughts and feelings without judgement is essential for intimacy. The actual practice of this approach is not without risks but I believe that the ability to stay with our own negative emotions is a prerequisite for tolerating our partner’s. Tibetan Buddhism teaches us that we need to develop the practice of being with our anger without repressing or indulging it. Simply observe the emotion, become curious about it, even make friends with it. If we are able to practice acceptance of ourselves, acceptance of others will follow.