In part one of a more detailed talk on anger, Bodhinatha shares with us the effectiveness of some advice he recently gave to someone about the effect of angry episodes on the accumulated power of sadhana. He reviews the eight steps on the ladder of anger and dives into the first rung on the ladder in detail, "sneaky anger."
After I gave that talk last phase, I came across some advise on e-mail and a
response. A devotee had written back to some advise that I had given a few
months ago, on expressing anger toward a parent. The problem is that
occasionally, the devotee flares up when the parent says something, kind of
breaks out in anger and angry words on a regular basis, not everyday but at
least every week. Something is said that pushes a button, so to speak and
out come the angry words.
So the devotee wrote in for some advise, a few months ago. When I reread
the advise I gave, I said, "Gee, this is good. It should have gone in the
'Anger Management' talk. So we will add it for future versions." This was
"Thank you for sharing the details regarding your sometimes angry encounters
with you parent. I would suggest, you reflect on the seriousness of
inharmony in the home. It is taking a few steps backward in spiritual
progress. When you do sadhana, you move forward. But if anger occurs
regularly, you step backward and as a result, you could end up standing
still. It is like trying to save money for a purpose. You save each week.
Then, becoming angry is like spending what you saved the last month. It is
difficult to make the financial goal. Taking it more seriously, you are
motivated to avoid anger at all cost."
Just a few days ago, the devotee e-mailed back and said the advise helped,
it worked. Not getting angry, not expressing angry words toward the parent
anymore. So it showed that realizing how serious it is in terms of one's
spiritual progress is helpful. Some kind of analogy there, such as saving
money, where you realize your sadhana is putting money in a jar that your
anger is taking out. So consequently you are not really making any
progress. If you realize, "Gee, I am not really getting the advantages of
my sadhana. I am earning it but then I am throwing it away. So I am not
making the progress that I should be." Just have to harness that tongue,
harness those angry words and realize how important it is to do so.
Also in our talk last phase, we went through the eight steps on the ladder
of violence. To review, the first one is sneaky anger followed by the cold
shoulder, blaming and shaming, swearing, screaming and yelling, demands and
threats, chasing and holding, partly controlled violence and, last but not
least, blind rage. Most of these are self evident. But to some of us the
first two, it might not be clear as to what it includes. Sneaky anger in
particular and even the cold shoulder. So I thought we could look at those
for a minute. These are taken from the book 'Angry All the Time', that
Gurudeva drew on for his work on 'Anger Management'.
Sneaky anger is the first rung on the ladder of violence. It is a state of
mind something like this. "I am mad at you for something you did to me and I
am going to get back at you and get you really frustrated. But you are not
going to even find out that I am mad at you. I am not going to let you know
that. I am just going to get back at you and you are going to end up
really frustrated. I am going to do that not by doing something but by not
So, that is the nature of sneaky anger, very subtle. It is the not doing of
things to frustrate someone else because you are mad at them for something
they did to you. That is sneaky anger.
We have five versions, according to the book, of sneaky anger. We have a
phrase for the first four.
"I forgot". Not doing something under the guise of forgetting. A familiar
youth chore of taking out the garbage. "I forgot to take out the garbage."
How many times have we heard that? How many times is it really true? I am
not talking about the legitimately forgetting sometimes people do, to do a
simple chore. You remembered and you knew very well that you are supposed
to take it out. But, you are going to say when asked why you didn't take it
out - "I forgot to take it out. It slipped my mind." Sneaky anger, one.
Sneaky anger two. The phrase, "Yes ... But". Purposely not doing something
under the guise of an excuse. "It was raining too hard to take out the
garbage". Or, whatever. We come up with a lame excuse as to why we didn't
do it when we are asked. "You wouldn't want me to get wet, catch cold. It
was raining too hard." Note the fact that it only rains for five minutes
and stops! "It was raining too hard." Yes, ... but.
Number three. "I could not figure it out." Purposely not doing something
under the guise of not being smart enough to figure it out. "I could not
figure out whose turn it was to take out the garbage. Just could not
figure it out, there are four of us and I just could not figure out whose
turn it was. So, I didn't do anything."
Number four. "I didn't remember that part." Purposely not doing something
in part under the guise of forgetting that, that part of it was supposed to
be done. "Took out the garbage but forgot to take out the gardening debris,
sorry." As the book says, "The word sorry usually appears in this one. I
just forgot that part, sorry."
The last part of sneaky anger, whining or whispering complaints while
performing the task, is also sneaky anger. Kind of muttering under your
breath, complaining about it but not loud enough so anyone really knows
what you are saying. But clearly, you are disgruntled. You grumble,
grumble, grumble. Complaining under your breath while you do it, is
another form of sneaky anger.
That is interesting! Never would have figured all that out without the book.
But those of you who are parents are probably closer to this than the monks
are. Very interesting, sneaky anger. That is anger expressed not through
doing something but through not doing something, either fully or in part, in
all the different ways you cannot do something.