Not Getting Angry

After a short review of his recent talk on the Hindu philosophical outlook on the nature of man, Bodhinatha begins with a "Dear Bodhinatha" e-mail written in by a devotee who was having problems with an abusive in-law. Her challenge was about how to not get angry when others are abusing others, a unique expansion of the attitude of not getting angry when others abuse her.

Unedited Transcript:

This morning we are starting a new subject, a preliminary presentation of a few ideas. So it is a little bit short but interesting. It has a few stories, so that is always very interesting. Stories are the best way to explain things.

This is related to the series we developed recently on the philosophical nature of man. Is man good, is man bad? Is man inherently evil, is he inherently good and so forth. We went through all of that recently and affirmed that all men are inherently good despite their behavior. All men are divine in their essence. All people are progressing on the spiritual path toward God whether they acknowledge it or not. It is just that their actions are sometimes foolish or out of touch with their divine nature because they are young souls.

So this is a related subject. It has to do with how we relate to other people, how we look at other people, how we think about other people or react to them or judge them. This is a 'Dear Bodhinatha', like a 'Dear Abby'!

"Dear Bodhinatha, thank you also for the wonderful talks on anger. Since Gurudeva's advise and now Bodhinatha's, there are a lot of changes in me regarding anger. Several years ago, I was very argumentative. I would always let the other party get a piece of my mind if they did or said anything not nice to me. Today, I am surprising myself, that I can walk away with a smile or say something jokingly without hurting the other party. I am learning very well to not hurt others even if they hurt me." Good statement.

"But the problem is when my father-in-law does and says awful things to my mother-in-law, I get angry. He calls her names in all the worst words in the world. He breaks plates if lunch is a few minutes late. He throws things at people sometimes. The worst is the usage of words, his accusations can puncture a heart. Sometimes I don't even know the meaning of some of the words that he uses. Thank God, Tiruvalluvar is not around. My mother-in-law keeps quiet despite all this torture. But I get so worked up on the inside for a while or so, then I am okay.

How do we keep cool and not be angry when we see or hear someone hurting someone else? We can jump and protect one from being hit, but how can we sincerely be calm or even pretend to be calm when we see people abusing another? Ironically, now when people say unkind things like that to me, I can be calm. But it is funny because I cannot bear to hear or see one hurting the other. It hurts me and so I get angry. The only thing is that I don't shout or go fight with the person. My husband and I have stood up against my father-in-law for abusing both of us. Ever since we disallowed him from hurting us, he disowned us and barred us from going into his home. But, we keep in touch with the rest of the family members always and each time I hear my mother-in-law is being abused I get angry. I believe I am angry also because I am unable to stop her from being abused. I humbly seek Bodhinatha's advise for I need to do something about this special kind of anger."

So my response was, "I suggest you look at your father-in-law as suffering from an illness, which is that his consciousness is stuck in the lower chakra. Accept the fact that his experience in this and past lives have put him in that state of consciousness. You as a person, who is consciously on the spiritual path naturally want to interact with every person in the spirit of encouraging that person to raise their consciousness."

That is the theme we are developing. I will read it again. "You as a person who is consciously on the spiritual path naturally want to interact with every person in the spirit of encouraging that person to raise their consciousness. So even if they are a nasty, mean person you still want to encourage them to raise their consciousness. Wanting him to be kinder, we can express kindness toward him such as giving him a gift on his birthday or other appropriate day. Wanting him to speak kindly of others, we can speak kindly of him. Blessings."

"Dear Bodhinatha, I took time to reply on this matter because I wanted to sincerely practice the advise given. It has been two months since I have received the advise and ever since that day I stopped saying how cruel or bad he is. In fact, I do not say anything bad about him at all and if at all, I am dragged to speak of him by others, I manage by saying the good things that he had done. It is working really well and I am at much ease. For Diwali, my husband and I bought him an expensive gift hoping he will be very happy. At first, he took the gift but refused to accept it immediately after. He left it on a table and it has been there ever since. The best part here is, we are not at all angry with what he did with the shirt. We tried. We are happy that we took your advise. Somehow we are happier today than we were yesterday, thanks to the advise. We will probably keep doing this, even if it does not change at all."

That is the saga. Isn't that an interesting story? It is a real dilemma, you know, when you have people who are in-laws, in your family, people you have to relate with who act this way. They are just so nasty to other people and the natural tendency is to be critical of them and to dislike them and to not want them to do well. You know you are not wishing them good, you are not helping them improve, you are doing the opposite. You are encouraging them to be the same way or worse by your reaction to them.

It is a definite challenge, but something well worth thinking about.