Anger in Buddhism

Anger in Buddhism (Things You Need to Know)

Anger encompasses a spectrum of emotions, from minor annoyances to intense rage.
It is a normal human feeling and an inherent aspect of being human. The issue is not the emotion of anger itself, but rather how we respond to it.

This blog post will examine anger from a Buddhist perspective and address frequent inquiries related to the topic.

Anger is one of the three root causes of suffering according to Buddhism. It is considered one of the worst emotions and can cause harm to those who dwell on it.

It is said to be the source of all other negative emotions. It’s also one of the hardest emotions to overcome.

But there is a lot of confusion around anger and why it is such a negative emotion. Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Anger in Buddhism?

Anger is a mind state which is characterized by aversion or dislike for someone or something and a desire to harm or seek revenge.. 

It’s a mental state that causes a powerful physical reaction. Buddhism holds that anger is responsible for many unwholesome actions. It creates an obstacle to developing loving-kindness and compassion.

Anger is a klesha, a Sanskrit word for ‘defilements’ or ’emotional afflictions,’ that are the root causes of suffering. Anger is the natural consequence of hatred, aversion or ignorance.

In other words, anger is an emotional reaction to an unpleasant experience. Anger arises when we are attached to a particular outcome, self-centeredness. 

The Buddhist View of Anger

We all know that there are many ways to interpret anger. It is an unpleasant emotion, a mental state, a strong feeling, a strong desire to seek vengeance, a provocation, an insult or displeasure, a contest or competition, a riot, a dispute, a quarrel, an argument, an offence, etc.

Anger has many forms and levels of intensity. It can be mild irritation, dislike, resentment, grudge, jealousy, resentment, hostility, hatred, rage, and wrath.

Anger is considered one of the greatest negativity in Buddhism. 

You cannot remove anger with anger. The Buddha taught that we need to let go of anger and blame, and develop the mind of loving-kindness and compassion to diffuse our anger and also to help others.

It is hard to control anger and we all get angry from time to time. However, we can try to control our anger, and we can learn to relax and practice mindful breathing and meditation to calm our mind.

Just as the Buddha said:

The mind is everything. What you think, you become.

Gautama Buddha

If we think angry thoughts, it is inevitable that our mind becomes tense and irritated. By changing the way you think, you will accomplish the things that anger has kept you from doing.

The doctrine of Buddhism teaches us to overcome anger by overcoming our ignorance and anger is the greatest negativity.

As per Buddhist doctrine, anger impedes us from becoming enlightened. Buddha’s followers were taught that anger comes from ignorance due to our lack of understanding of the true nature of the world.

The concept of anatta, or non-self, is used to show our ignorance of the true nature of things.

The problem with anger is that it gets the best of us. Our goal is to not only overcome anger, but to live in peace with the world. 

What Does Buddhism Say about Anger?

Buddhists believe that with anger comes suffering.  All beings with anger cause suffering to themselves and others. In Buddhism, anger is therefore not permitted.

Anger refers to any counterproductive state of mind. It hurts us because it makes us act in ways that are harmful to ourselves and others.

The Buddha said that anger is the cause of all evil. It is the reason why the world is so full of hate, why there are so many wars.

Anger causes so much destruction because it is powerful, it is an extremely potent energy. And when it is unleashed it can cause so much pain and suffering. 

Video: A Short Buddha Story To Let Your Anger Dissapear

Is There a Righteous Anger?

As per biblical faith, there are two types of anger: righteous anger and sinful anger. Righteous anger is considered the only kind of anger that is not sinful. 

The only kind of anger that is righteous is anger that is directed at injustice or harm.

Righteous anger can occur when a person feels they have been wronged or betrayed or when they perceive that a person or group of people is being treated unfairly. 

Buddhism: Righteous Anger

Righteous anger is a feeling of intense displeasure and hostility directed at someone who has done something perceived as a wrong. It is similar to outrage, but includes a moral component. 

In some Christian traditions, righteous anger is seen as a positive force that can be harnessed as a force for change. 

However, anger is actually an intense emotional reaction to a perceived provocation, frequently characterized by aggressive behavior. It is a negative emotion.

It would be wonderful if we could channel our righteous anger into creative and productive energy. But, eventually anger gets out of control and people become enraged, resulting in hatred, enmity, division, grief and anger.

Because of this, Buddha considered anger to be always bad and never permitted it.

Buddhist Teachings on Angry Emotions

Buddhists believe that there are great dangers of being controlled by anger. Anger can damage the person physically, mentally, and spiritually. So it is important to control anger.

Buddhism teaches some practices to control anger. With the right understanding, you can let go of your anger. 

Since your mind is a powerful thing, you should start to change your thinking process and develop a more positive outlook on life.

If you can develop a more positive attitude toward life, you would be able to think about working on your anger issues without feeling too overwhelmed.

We should always be aware of our own emotions. We should watch our negative emotions arise, and then watch them dissolve. Buddhists believe that by observing our own emotions, we can gain insight into the nature of the mind.

Sadness, fear, desire, envy and even affection or love can be distorted into anger. The key to controlling anger is to understand that all negative emotions come from self-centeredness. 

Buddhism teaches that the only way to rid oneself of anger is to never view anything in personal terms; all things happen according to the law of cause and effect.

Since everything is under this law, it is fruitless to be angry or to take revenge.

How to Deal with Anger (Buddhist Approach)

Anger is one of the most common negative emotions, and it can cause confusion, hatred and suffering – all of which are things you want to avoid if you want to live a good life.

Buddhism offers specific guidelines on how to handle anger so that you can be happier and less stressed.

So, how to deal with anger? The first step is to learn how to conquer anger by non-anger. Anger is a kind of fire that burns your body and as a result you suffer.

So, the Buddha suggests that instead of pushing this ‘fire’, you can try to use ‘water’ to extinguish it. When you feel angry, you should use the power of loving kindness (metta) instead to stop the anger. When you practice, you will find it easier and easier to deal with anger.

Buddhist teachings on anger encourage control of anger through non-anger. By being mindful of your anger, you can notice when it arises, and start to analyze it before it grows out of control. 

Buddhist believe that all worldly beings are suffering from three root causes of suffering or “Three poisons”.

These are the three root, or deepest, delusions that are based in insecurity, fear and unhappiness. These three poisons are greed, hatred and ignorance.

These are all thoughts, and can be changed. Anger is tied to ignorance, which can be changed by gaining greater knowledge. By gaining this knowledge, the anger dissipates, because the root cause has been found, and resolved.

Anger is the root cause of much negative karma, which results in killing, stealing, making sexual misconduct, telling lies, engaging in slander, abusive speech, hurting others, gossiping, harsh speech, or wrong views. So, conquering anger is very important. 

In Buddhist teachings, anger is described as a poison that must be drained from the heart for a person to find satisfaction. 

The mind’s luminous quality is ruined by the anger, and this is why Buddhists are so adamant on avoiding it. 

Anger destroys not only ourselves but also those who are near us. 

We all want to be happy and we all want to avoid suffering, anger is just another form of suffering. 

The world is full of anger and we live in the world and we all suffer due to this anger and we can make ourselves and our world a better place by dealing with our own anger and the anger of the world around us.

he wise and compassionate way of dealing with anger is to let go of it and find things to replace it with. Infact, anger is like a knot in the heart that we need to open. How do we open the knot? By training in non-anger. And we do that by making friends with those who are angry.

We make friends with our enemies! Yes, this is the tradition of Buddhism.

Anger is a symptom. It is a signal that something is wrong. We need to look a little deeper and identify what has caused the anger. It is important to guard against becoming angry.

We need to be mindful. Through mindfulness we realize that we are not our anger, but that we have anger. Anger is a reality, but it is impermanent. 

Anger can have a range of negative effects on your health and the way you interact with other people.

Anger is a terrible thing to have to deal with as it is, but if we don’t deal with it as soon as it arises it will soon grow out of control.

Video: Dealing with Anger from a Buddhist and Therapeutic Perspective

How to Control Anger (Buddhist Approach)

Anger is a mental state that is characterized by aggression, hostility and reproach and accompanied by other unpleasant feelings such as guilt, helplessness and sadness.

Anger often gives rise to aggressive behavior and an angry individual may feel an urge to yell, throw objects, hit another individual, or engage in other violent actions.

The creation of anger does not arise from anger itself. Anger can come from other things, such as ignorance and lack of understanding.

If one truly wants to ‘beat’ their anger, that person must seek to find why they are angry, and then work to change that root cause into something that they can be happy with.

One dangerous tendency that contributes to anger is to want to blame others for our circumstances. Develop the habit of reflecting on your own actions and looking for ways to improve.

Then, even when circumstances may be beyond your control, you’ll still have the ability to control your reactions to those circumstances. In other words, make a change from the inside, as opposed to expecting a miraculous change from the outside.

Every negative emotion we feel, whether it be anger, jealousy, envy, greed, fear, concern, hatred, irritation, or sadness, is born from a misunderstanding. It is the result of warped, negative thinking about situations and events.

Understanding how we feel and why we feel that way is what helps us to manage those feelings. If we don’t, they will eventually burn us out. Anger, in particular, is one of the most destructive emotions.

It can have a major impact on relationships, health, happiness, achievement, and more. Your thoughts cause anger, so they are what you need to address.

If you can treat anger with tenderness, it will feel better to you and you will be more able to cope with it.

While the others are trying to solve their problem by fighting, it’s better to be patient, try to find out the cause of anger, reflect it and analyze the situation.

Anger often comes out of our ego, jealousy or greediness.

If you are angry, try to be mindful of your anger, realize that your body is feeling angry, realize that your mind is thinking angry thoughts. We must learn to separate the anger from the cause.

In order to prevent your mind from being burned by anger, you need to understand the root of anger.

Anger can be a stress reaction as well. You are not really angry at the other person, you are reacting to your feeling of being controlled, overwhelmed, or frustrated. Often you are reacting to your own internal contradictions.

So, you are angry at your mother, but you are really angry at yourself for not being able to manage your own life. If you can catch hold of that, you will have taken the first step.

Anger is hard to master. But, if you master it, the reward is great. You will have control over your mind, your thoughts, your actions, thus you have control over your whole life.

Buddhism: Overcoming Anger

Buddhism teaches that human anger comes from our own perceptions which are often skewed from reality. The truth is that if we were to step back from our anger, we would see that anger is, in reality, a big waste of time.

When we let anger dictate our actions, we suffer because anger rarely solves a problem with a positive result. 

Buddhism has a simple but yet a very effective solution to anger. The solution is to have a sense of control over your thoughts. One should be able to control one’s emotions and thoughts to prevent anger from happening. 

Buddhism practice helps people to confront and work through their anger and disappointment by cultivating patience and compassion.

We’re all human and we all have hot emotions and we’re all going to be angry and we’re all going to make mistakes. But if we investigate those mistakes and try to learn from them, if we try to be kind to one another, if we try to forgive, then we’ll make progress as human beings.

The practice of Buddhism can help us to deal with those emotions, those difficult states of mind, those difficult situations in a way that is beneficial to ourselves and to others.

Anger is never useful. Our anger is just like our pain/suffering. Both are just negative feedback. They are just telling us that something is wrong with us. They mean that something is not right inside of ourselves. 

According to Buddhism, anger arises from an egoistic attitude, which is that someone or something is either desirable or undesirable. This attitude can manifest as attraction or repulsion towards something, or it can be directed towards oneself as pride or self-disdain.

When someone acts with pride and anger, it is because they think they know better than others and they don’t need to listen to someone else’s advice or suggestions.

Buddhism says that anger is pointless because it is a sign of lack of self-control.  It is important to be patient with others, to avoid unnecessary conflicts with them.

Buddhism teaches us to cultivate altruistic love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.  The practice of these four virtues helps us to overcome anger.  

When two people become angry with each other and try to harm each other, a vicious cycle is created. To break the vicious cycle, we must stop. Therefore, the Buddha repeatedly advised replacing anger with compassion and loving-kindness. 

Although this may seem like an extravagant suggestion, if we dig deeper, we realize there is no better way out of the vicious cycle of anger.

It is important to understand that others are just like yourself. Because they have the same desire to be happy and free of pain, you should not hold anger against them.

If you are angry with someone, stop and think how you would like to be treated if you were in their situation. This exercise can help you curb your anger.

Meditation is also an effective way to overcome anger.  By maintaining calmness, you will be able to keep your anger under control.  

Learning to breathe slowly and deeply will help you relax. It will help you deal with problems calmly and will help you become more patient. It also helps you to release the tension in your body.

Buddhism against Anger

In Buddhist sources, anger is characterized by its uncontrollable aggressive nature. 

Anger, if not destroyed at the outset, soon engulfs all of the other senses and hurls man towards destruction.

If we let anger take hold of us and we don’t deal with it right away, the longer we wait the more powerful it grows and the more destructive it will be to our lives and the people around us.

It is a basic rule of human psychology that emotions play a large role in how we interact with each other and with our environment; however, some emotions can be destructive if not controlled. Anger is such an emotion.

One of the most destructive aspects of anger is how it can lead to violence. Hostile actions and violent reactions speak of a deep-seated anger; people who lash out in anger often carry some kind of grudge that they refuse to let go. 

Anger and violence go hand in hand. With anger, one can become easily swept up in a feeling of hatred and aggression that clouds their judgment.

And that is why anger is often likened to a ‘raging elephant’ in Buddhist teachings.

We compete and compare when we are angry at someone. We are ultimately motivated by a feeling of inferiority when we do this. 

The most important thing is to realize that anger is a sign of our own weakness. If we are angry, it means that they have somehow gotten under our skin. It means that our ego has gotten wounded.

As a result, we are gradually surrounded by various negative emotions like incompetence, depression, fear, and regret.

When angry, people become the object of other people’s control. It gets to the point where his only goal is to provoke the person he is angry with and to chase him down. 

Your state of mind is certainly distorted if you focus all of your attention on one person, regardless of so much going on around you. Get out of this situation as soon as possible. 

Because of all these things, Buddhism does not consider anger to be a normal emotion. Anger is just the name of a psychosis in Buddhism.

Buddhism: Anger in the Mind

Anger mainly arises from our thoughts and attitudes about life and the people. We must step back and let our rational mind take over. We can do this by focusing our attention on something else, such as mindful meditation.

We can also gain a new perspective on the situation through the help of a friend, a counselor, a family member, a yoga session, or a diversion that takes our mind off the anger.

When people get angry, they often make decisions they would not make if they were not agitated.

Anger is an emotion that is experienced by almost everyone. 

But we all have the ability to be at peace and to maintain happiness. We can control our reactions to situations. 

If we understand the root of our anger and how we feel, we can change our thinking and manage our feelings.

Understand where your anger is coming from. Understand why you feel angry. Understanding why you feel angry is the only way you will be able to manage those feelings.

In the mind, anger is an intense emotional state. When your mind is strong, you won’t give anger the power to control you.

Buddhism: Anger and Suffering

Buddhism views anger as a negative emotion that leads to suffering. 

Suffering and anger are closely related. When anger arises between two people, both suffer. I experience mental instability when I’m angry, and the person who’s angry with me also experiences the same thing.

When we become angry with someone, we lose our peace of mind. 

Now, instability of the mind is one of the greatest types of suffering a person can go through.

The First Truth says that life has suffering in it. This suffering comes from the three poisons of attachment, aversion, and ignorance. These are the root of all suffering. Now, it is ignorance that is at the root of anger.

Understanding that our opponents or people who are angry with us are in the same boat will make it much easier to calm our minds.

Those who are angry at us are going through the same things as we are. This will allow us to be more able to express loving-kindness (metta).

Buddhism: Anger Management Techniques

Anger can be attributed to frustration, helplessness or resentment caused by an external influence. The attributes of anger include the feeling that it rises from an internal source and that it consumes the individual.

Anger management is the reduction or elimination of patterns of angry behavior.

There are many anger management techniques, but what you need to understand is that they are techniques. Techniques are not magic pills that once you learn them, you will never again experience anger.

The real secret is to change your attitude and view on the situation.

Listed below are some simple and easy to follow steps to calm down anger after it arises. The steps outlined here are mainly from the Buddhist tradition but there are a few general guidelines as well. 

Mindfulness, awareness and compassion are the bywords of Buddhism. By embracing these, you can begin to understand why it’s so important to control your anger.

As a matter of fact, Buddhism is about reaching mental character so that you can be happy whatever the situation you are in.

The objective of anger management in Buddhism is to let go of our mental bondage. The best way to do this is by practicing mindfulness.

The reason these miracles are so powerful is because it shows all of us how our limitations are self-created and self-imposed, and therefore how we have the power to transcend these limitations through the practice of meditation.

Buddhist meditation is now widely accepted as a method for handling anger and aggression. It comes in handy in all types of anger management techniques.

The first step is to relax the mind and body. The way your body reacts can tell you a lot about how you’re feeling. If you’re not breathing deeply, you’re probably feeling some tension, which is a good time to start breathing deeply. Even smiling a little can help.

When you lose your temper, take a walk. Breathe deeply. Count to ten. When angry, don’t speak too much, for anger tends to bring on more anger. Try to be a good listener.

Buddhist anger management techniques require you to be able to identify anger from a distance. It’s a form of insight meditation.

Observe how anger feels in the body, and see if you can separate it from the other emotions it usually comes with. You can train yourself to feel anger while being relaxed and unconcerned.

It is important to control our anger with wisdom since it is a destructive emotion and there is a great danger in giving in to it.

Furthermore, when we feel angry, we can do some kind of physical work. Work in itself is a good way to vent anger and energy. By engaging in physical labor an angry person can release energy and control his anger.

Lastly, here are the 3 simple steps I personally use to control my anger:

  • STEP 1: When you find yourself becoming angry, take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and then let it out slowly. The key here is to get your breathing slowed down. This helps you to regain control of your emotions.  
  • STEP 2: After exhaling, take a few moments to reflect on what is bothering you. This will help you to identify the source of your anger, which you will then be able to deal with more productively.  
  • STEP 3: Make a conscious effort to find one way each day in which you can be helpful to someone else.

Do Buddhists Get Angry?

Yes, everyone gets angry at times. However, the real question is how to manage such emotion. If you go through Buddhist practices such as meditation, you will realize that anger does not take over your mind.

It is just there in the background and you can control it. If you practice, you will find it unimportant and irrelevant in your life.

In Buddhism, it is considered unwise to act when angry. It leads to unwise action. 

Feelings are natural, but to understand them is essential. All human beings feel anger, but there are people who only lose control when they do. And there are people who are able to control their anger even when they are provoked.

The key is practice. If you are not able to control your anger, use your meditation practice to learn how to do so.

If you are interested in Buddhism, then I would say don’t worry about it, you are already accepting that being angry is part of human nature.

You can look at anger as a tool to learn about yourself, to see what you are made of, what your values are, where your passion is. Buddhism actually doesn’t advocate suppressing anger, it advocates understanding it, and acting wisely.

Anger is an emotion, and since Buddhists think that all emotions are illusions, they have to be controlled just like other illusions.

When anger is present, Buddhists try to look at how it oppresses them, at how it makes them unhappy, at how it makes their body tense, etc.

Buddhism always emphasizes the importance of self-liberation. It is impossible to drive the mind to higher thoughts without letting go of worldly attachments. Anger, however, hinders one’s self-liberation. 

This is why the meditations on the breath are designed to calm oneself down. This is why remembering impermanence is so important. Being calm and serene is what allows us to be at one with the universe.

Buddhism Quotes about Angry Feelings

As we can see in the Buddha’s teachings, he often shed light on anger and its reasons in many places. In his analysis of anger, he explained why anger must be eliminated in order to attain liberation and nirvana. 

Moreover, he discussed how viewers could get out of anger and see the world in a neutral and open way.

As an example, let me quote a couple ‘sutras’ below in which anger is mentioned:

  • Chapter XVII of the Dhammapada
  • The Akossa Sutra
  • The Vitakkasanthaana Sutta
  • The Madhyama Agama No.25

A famous Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, said in this context:

According to the Buddha’s teachings, the most basic condition for happiness is freedom. Here we do not mean political freedom, but freedom from the mental formations of anger, despair, jealousy, and delusion.

Here are some selected Buddhism quotes about angry feelings:

Whoever doesn’t flare up at someone who’s angry wins a battle hard to win.

The Buddha

Dhammapada (translated by Max Mueller):

For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule.

Verse 5, Dhammapada

He who holds back rising anger like a rolling chariot, him I call a real driver; other people are but holding the reins.

Verse 222, Dhammapada

Let a man overcome anger by love, let him overcome evil by good; let him overcome the greedy by liberality, the liar by truth!

Verse 223, Dhammapada

Beware of bodily anger, and control thy body! Leave the sins of the body, and with thy body practice virtue!

Verse 231, Dhammapada

Beware of the anger of the tongue, and control thy tongue! Leave the sins of the tongue, and practice virtue with thy tongue!

Verse 232

Beware of the anger of the mind, and control thy mind! Leave the sins of the mind, and practice virtue with thy mind!

Verse 233

Buddhaghosa in Visuddhimagga IX, 23: 

By doing this you are like a man who wants to hit another and picks up a burning ember or excrement in his hand and so first burns himself or makes himself stink.

Buddhaghosa

Raja Vishupadi:

To be angry is to let others’ mistakes punish yourself.

Raja Vishupadi

An outside enemy exists only if there is anger inside.

Raja Vishupadi

Lama Zopa Rinpoche:

When it is impossible for anger to arise within you, you find no outside enemies anywhere. An outside enemy exists only if there is anger inside.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche

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