February 21, 2005

Good night Irene; I'll see you in my dreams

Michael Enright interviewed Robert Thurman, a student of the Dalai Lama and teacher of Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, yesterday morning on CBC radio (The Sunday Edition). (Yes, Robert is the father of Uma.) The topic was anger. And there was a lot of laughing between the two of them about the topic. Obviously anger as a topic can be funny because we all experience it at some point and sometimes we react in very silly ways. Mr. Thurman was saying that anger comes as a result of frustration. It is important, therefore, to do something to relieve the frustration before it builds up into an explosive, aggressive situation. Intervene before you blow up, lose control.

He said it is necessary to observed our own reactions so that we know when anger will be a result. Or if we cannot change a situation, we can use the energy to get away from it, to change ourselves if we cannot change things outside ourselves. We need to cultivate the ability to be non-violent. He used the analogy of martial arts skills: when an opponent attacks, stay cool, step aside or turn the energy back onto the opponent to subdue it.

This discussion reminded me of when I had an interview with the Vajra Regent, Osel Tenzin, the day after I had taken Buddhist refuge vows, twenty-five years ago. I had been a regular practitioner and student at the New York City Dharmadhatu (now the Shambhala Centre) for about six months but had been uncomfortable about many things I saw and some of the ways people behaved. When I asked about this, about what to do when I was upset this way, he told me to respect my observations but step back from them, let the anger cool and then proceed, if necessary. When you act from anger people do not listen. It just generates more anger. No matter how much intelligence is in the observation, if there is too much heat in the expression, it is lost.

I always remembered that conversation. Having a tendency to be a bit hot-tempered at times but not having appropriate skills to make the anger useful, his words have been very helpful.

Posted by leya at February 21, 2005 08:07 PM

Yes as the old saying goes anger is one letter short of danger. Much love I enjoy reading your words so very much!
Blessings across the miles with many smiles.
Love Jeanne

Posted by: Jeanne at February 22, 2005 10:37 AM