Helpful reflection on anger

From: Mindfulness, a practical guide to awakening; Joseph Goldstein

What good will it do to hold on to malice, anger, or resentment?

Is our main concern being right or being free?

This question presents an interesting challenge in life situations where anger seems justified. In the discourses, there is a story of a woman named Videhika, who lived in the ancient Indian city of Savatti. She had a reputation for being very kind and gentle, but her maid, Kali, wanted to test her to see if she truly was that way. So Kali began to sleep late and not do her job very well. At first, Videhika was simply displeased, but over time, as Kali continued in her errant ways, Videhika became increasingly annoyed and angry, finally striking her maid in anger.

When i first read this story, I had an unexpected response. Although not at all condoning the psysical abuse, I did feel some sympathetic resonance with Videhika’s situation. If we’re counting on someone to fulfill an agreed-upon responsibility, isn’t it quite normal and even justified to become annoyed and angry when they fail to do so simply out of laziness or disregard- and not just once, but many times?

The Buddha, in telling this story reminds us of the radical, uncompromising freedom of liberation. This is a dreedom that’s not simply about feeling good and, therefore, depending on conditions changing winds of circumstance. The difficulties that we face in our lives can become a truth-reflecting mirror of our minds. Do we get angry or upset when things don’t happen the way we would like them to? Or do we respond from a place of wisdom?

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.


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