Tibetan Section



Tibetan Buddhist Understanding of Anger

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Buddhist meditation practice is a laboratory where, for centuries people have explored the depths of the human mind, including emotions, psychological processes, and physical feelings. All this meditation has given rise to a deep understanding of mind and the human condition.

In the Tibetan Buddhist system there is way of understanding emotions called the five energies. These are five basic psychological energies which are directly related to the five elements of the natural world.

When the mind is unbalanced by excessive fear and self protection, these five psychological energies manifest as five negative emotions. Below is a chart which shows the five elements, the five energies, and the five emotions:

Element    Energy Unbalanced emotion
Earth Fullness and richness Bloated/selfish pride
Air (Space) Openness Active ignorance
Fire Healthy passion and compassion Possessive passion
Wind Activity and movement Jealousy and paranioa
Water Clarity and intelligence Anger

When the five are freely expressed they are beneficial in that they help us accomplish our life and be of benefit to others. But when our energy is blocked by excessive fear and ego orientation, each of the five becomes a fixated, harmful emotion. Feelings of fullness become bloated pride, openness of mind solidifies into ignorance, healthy passion and compassion distort into possessive passion, movement manifests as jealousy and paranoia, and clear intelligence freezes into anger.

Anger at the Elemental Level

Clarity and anger are associated with the element of water. Think of how a calm lake or pond will reflect the trees and sky with absolute perfect clarity. Or if you have ever snorkeled or scuba dived you may remember how everything is so extraordinarily clear under water. These qualities of clarity are the same energy that underlies anger. When we allow this energy to be naturally as it is, it manifests as clarity, but when we freeze the energy it becomes anger.

Anger is a form of energy and is free of any problems, except the problems we create out of fear of that energy.

This description of anger is deep and essential. We're really looking at the root of the anger situation, at the elemental level. The basic message here is that anger is the exact same substance as the clarity, and by working with our body and mind through mindfulness meditation and other techniques, the fixation of anger can give way to the intelligence of clarity.

The Intelligence in Anger

Interestingly, this way of understanding anger is not different from anger management and other western psychological approaches. Anger management generally views anger as a protective, boundary maintaining function. Anger is there to keep us safe when there is a threat. This is very similar to the energy of clarity in the Tibetan model. In both systems, at its core anger is a form of intelligence.

Furthermore, anger management sees that anger becomes problematic when we lose our seat with anger and close down into a hardened shell of self protection. When we make anger solid, when we freeze in fear, anger no longer has any power to protect us, to clarify and maintain our boundary.

Again this is the same as in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, that the energy of clarity becomes destructive only when we shut it down from fear. Thus both anger management and the Tibetan Buddhist share similar views in regards to the nature of anger, and how anger becomes distorted.

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