Reflections on a Dharma Talk By HH Ratna Vajra Rinpoche
One of the questions asked by a member of the audience at the public talk on The Power of Buddhism given by His Holiness Ratna Vajra Rinpoche in Bristol on the evening of Friday 26th May (full report here) was about anger. It is not easy to turn to love and compassion, the questioner said, when something has made us furious - how are we to deal with anger in such situations?
His Holiness began his reply by pointing out that for all of us anger and negative thoughts have been in our mind-stream for a very long time, not just in our current life but in countless lives before this. For that reason, anger is not easy to control.
He then went on to ask us to consider what purpose anger serves. If, for example, we have had something stolen from us, anger will not cause our property to be returned to us. Nor will it make us feel happy. Whichever way we look at it, anger does not help but only brings suffering for all concerned.
So, how should we view a situation when someone becomes angry? His Holiness referred to this as someone ‘showing us anger’. Anger, he said, can arise without any invitation, at any time and anywhere in our own mind or in another person’s mind, owing to all kinds of sudden factors, sometimes apparently quite trivial. What will be helpful for us when someone shows us anger is to remember that the person showing aggression is himself under the control of anger. We should think that it is not the fault of the person but of anger itself. This is a perfect opportunity for us to practise tolerance and avoid causing more suffering by returning aggression with more useless aggression.
His Holiness gave the analogy of being hit by someone with a stick. We don’t get angry with the stick. It produces pain but has no intention of hurting us: it is the person wielding the stick who is in control. But is the angry person truly in control? No, it is anger that is in control of the person who can be likened to the stick, simply being used to act, physically or verbally, in a harmful way by this disturbing emotion.
In conclusion, His Holiness referred back to his talk, in which he had pointed out that it is mind that gives the orders for physical and verbal actions. They are merely the servants of mind. Mind is the boss. That is why, as he had earlier explained, we need to begin the task of taming our mind, so that we will be equipped to deal with situations such as those provoked by anger when they arise.
The key to success in the twin endeavours of overcoming negative emotions and taming the mind is developing loving kindness and compassion towards all beings without exception. In his talk, His Holiness emphasised the crucial importance of these long-term endeavours; which we undertake on our Dharma path with the guidance of our Lama, who provides us with more detailed explanations on how we can gradually extend the loving kindness that we already naturally feel towards those dear to us.
This, as His Holiness said at the conclusion of his talk, is The Power of Buddhism to tame our mind.
Hear His Holiness’s talk again (and again) at this SoundCloud link.