President’s Monthly Message

President’s Monthly Message

President’s Monthly Message

Anger Harms Both Mind and Body

Nichiko Niwano
President, Rissho Kosei-kai

How Should We Suppress Anger? 

reed, anger, and ignorance, according to Buddhism, are three delusions that poison the human mind. They are also said to affect the body as well as the mind. More specifically, it is scientifically proven that anger—feelings of rage, hatred, and resentment—has an adverse effect on the body.

Getting angry disturbs the balance of the autonomic nervous system, causing an increase in heart rate and blood pressure that in turn worsens blood flow and heightens the possibility of arrhythmia, heart attack, and stroke. In other words, someone who tends to get angry is at great risk of contracting serious health conditions and medical emergencies. The Native American Hopi Tribe has a saying, “Do not allow anger to poison you,” which succinctly tells us that our feelings of anger harm ourselves.

The real nature of anger is self-centered and based on the small ego that gets angry when things do not go as you wish, you are mistreated by other people, or you envy or resent someone. According to Shakyamuni, that anger is “more intense than a raging fire,” harming one’s own body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others.

However, as the phrase “righteous indignation” suggests, at times anger can come from the desire to improve our country or society and motivate us to take action that helps many people.

Therefore, it is important that, instead of trying to get rid of our feelings of anger, we learn how to control them.

When people experience anger, it seems to take a few seconds for the brain to start functioning to cool the anger off. Anger peaks six seconds after you get upset, and during that time, you can suppress the anger by shifting your mental focus to something else. In previous issues, I have mentioned several methods of calming anger, and they are all actions that take about six seconds. For instance, when you get mad, try slowly taking a deep breath and holding it for a moment to slow down your breathing, or try chanting a Shingon mantra-like phrase to yourself, on niko niko hara tatsumaizoya sowaka, “Smile, don’t lose your temper, svāhā.” By knowing how to use these simple and effective ways to control anger, I hope you will be able to spend every day with a smile on your face.

Receiving Virtue from “Losing”

“The Bodhisattva Regarder of the Sounds of the World as Universal Gateway,” chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra, says that “If those with much hate-filled anger always keep in mind and revere the Bodhisattva Regarder of the Sounds of the World, they will be freed from their anger.” That is, in the moment you feel angry, by calling to mind the Regarder of Sounds, you will be able to turn toward the buddha within you and realize that you are one with the Buddha, so your anger will subside by itself.

Even so, once anger has been ignited, how do you quell its raging flames? How can we deal with the phenomenon of getting angry so that we free ourselves from the anger that arises from our decisions about what is advantageous and disadvantageous to ourselves, or free ourselves from our attachments to pride and avoid doing physical and mental damage to ourselves and others?

The I Ching, or The Book of Changes, contains a teaching called “Lose like a mountain stream.” We usually think of losing as something disagreeable, but in this case, the word “lose” means to be humble or to give in; in other words, it means to feel satisfaction from being considerate of other people and putting them first. The mountain stream described cuts across the foot of a mountain, and the deeper the stream, the higher and more beautiful the mountain looks. This passage from the I Ching teaches us that although it may seem as though we are “losing” something when we suppress our anger and desire by taking some hardship upon ourselves to help someone else, doing so increases our own virtue. Simply stated, such “losing” brings us joy and peace of mind. Even following the principle of weighing advantages and disadvantages, it is still much healthier, both physically and mentally, to accept “losing” and yield to others willingly than to chase after greedy desires with bloodshot eyes. In other words, accepting “losing” is an advantage.

In the past, I have said that the wisdom of a religion that wishes for peace is “to be able to accept losing” in conflicts with other people. Occasionally accepting “losing” can be one form of mentally preparing ourselves so that we are not attacked by anger. This is the wisdom of living together tranquilly.
The name of the Hopi Tribe I mentioned earlier means “peaceful people.” We should all hope for such a way of life.