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Anger is a veil over sadness
December 15th, 2014
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illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Anger is a veil over sadness

   No worry, I'll spare you the fake buddha quotes on anger. You can always check fakebuddhaquotes.com/holding-onto-anger-is-like-drinking-poison and fakebuddhaquotes.com/fake-buddha-quote-holding-on-to-anger-is-like-grasping-a-hot-coal and also fakebuddhaquotes.com/you-will-not-be-punished-for-your-anger-you-will-be-punished-by-your-anger if interested.


   « When you sit, just sit. When you eat, just eat. When you clean, just clean… » This classic advice is about mindfulness of action, but also of speech, of intention, of whatever is going on.

   Thích Nhất Hạnh would say that if, while doing the dishes, you think of the nice tea that is to come after doing the dishes, then you're unlikely to appreciate the tea when its time comes. Because you'll then be thinking about what comes after the tea! You're cultivating the tendency of 'planning' rather than 'being present'.

   The classic advice might, of course, be extended: when you communicate something, just communicate just this thing! And when you're sad, just be sad!

   Anger is a veil over sadness. Sadness often arises when we see what the ego never wanted to see. Anger is the veil the ego uses to recover.
   The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan taught that aggression is a psychological defence against threats of fragmentation. This echoes well with the buddhist analysis of the five aggregates.
   We're aggregates of diverse processes over which we have little authority, and we still develop a coherent identity based on these. The "unified personality" that arises is an illusion that hides our essential vulnerability and fragility. And so, when anything or anyone threatens us with the truth of our essential nature (e.g. by introducing a disparity between some anticipation and the associated observation… a disparity that highlights the aggregate nature  of our thoughts, a disparity that also says "you were wrong" and creates sadness / suffering), the common defence is aggression, or projection of power.
   It's not so hard to adjust our thoughts, so it's not so much about their content or object: what we struggle with is contradiction, disparity, mismatch between thoughts (e.g. anticipation vs. observation). What we struggle with is selflessness, lack of unity, lack of certainty, lack of permanency! What we struggle with is our frailty, our vulnerability, our lack of safety. This is why concentration meditation can be experienced as peaceful and blissful: it suppresses contradictions for the time it lasts.

   The teaching of Dependent Origination explicitly guides us to be mindful of not falling into automatic, causal cycles; ultimately it also tells us that not paying attention leads to suffering, and that paying attention allows us to disrupt cycles at key points such as the grasping of stimulus (hence "guarding one's senses") or the ignorance (hence "complete / right views").

   Since anger is on a chain reaction, preceded by sadness, « when you're sad, just be sad »  is not just some 'caricatural' Zen.
   It is the actual work, the "real deal" of engaging with sadness in order not to fall into automatic cycles of violence (turned outward or inward).


   And yes, « if you're angry, just be angry » i.e. stay with it, don't let it automatically turn into words and actions! It's still possible to cut the cycle of Dependent Origination: each moment, you have a choice to embody a tendency or to disrupt the flow and change the conditions. Enquire into the anger, find its conditions for arising and its conditions for perpetuating, find what vulnerability it hides…


#Buddhism   #Dharma   #Zen  
Photo: staircase (possibly by © Niki Feiken)