Anger is the Enemy

In November we had a special guest speaker from Japan, Mr. Yoshimura, visit us for a week. I learned a lot from him during such events as the meetings, the lectures, the Q&A sessions, and the lunch meetings that took place in-between these. Through all these wonderful times, that which impressed me the most was his huge smile and his lively manner.

The time difference between Los Angeles and Japan is seventeen hours. In a time zone that is precisely the opposite to that of Japan, I think he must have been exhausted. However, he never gave the slightest indication of it; rather, he was always cheerful and full of vigor. I was so moved that I thought I should follow his example.

In my case, when I’m not in good shape, when I’m sick, or when I’m in a bad mood, I have a bad habit of showing a negative expression on my face. Although some of you readers might not be so prone to this, I have to reflect upon myself. Even in times when we don’t feel our best, or rather, especially at times like these, we should try to commit ourselves to behaving more cheerfully and vivaciously.

Here in this article we usually refer to Takamori-sensei’s books, which contain a lot of inspiring stories. This time, therefore, I’d like to mention Chapter 9 of Unshakable Spirit, “Anger Is the Enemy.” When we lose our temper, the conceit that makes us think that “I’m not in the wrong” is said to be the cause.

We think the person who makes us angry is the enemy. However, upon reading the title of this story, I must admit that it is anger that must be the enemy of my life. This is a major lesson for us. It is easy to blame others’ flaws, but instead I’d like to take a page from this Swiss philosopher’s book and become as patient as I can be.

A certain Swiss philosopher was famous for his even temper. A woman who worked as his housekeeper for ten years swore that she never saw him so much as frown in anger.

One time a prankster offered to pay her if she could make her employer, a friend of his, lose his temper. The housekeeper thought and thought, and decided what to do. Her master liked his bed neatly made, so she deliberately left it unmade. The next morning she fully expected a reprimand, but he only commented, smiling, “Say, last night when I went upstairs, the bed wasn’t made.”

One night wasn’t enough, she thought. The next night she left the bed unmade again. In the morning he said, “You know, the bed wasn’t made last night either. You must have been busy. Make it tonight, will you?” But she didn’t.

On the third morning the philosopher summoned her to his study and said, “I see you didn’t make the bed again. You must have your reasons for not doing it. Anyway, I’ve gotten used to making it myself, so from now on I’ll take care of it.”

The housekeeper had expected a thorough dressingdown. At this show of generosity, she broke down, fell at her employer’s knees, and sobbed out the whole story, begging his forgiveness. The philosopher never left off smiling. He bore this undeserved ill treatment with admirable patience.

Unchecked anger is a raging flame that devours all goodness. The following story illustrates the danger.

Once, due to a servant’s carelessness, a rich man’s dinner was eaten by a lamb. The servant received an angry rebuke, and for spite he threw hot coals onto the offending animal. The lamb’s fleece caught fire, and the animal ran in panic into the barn.

The fire spread to thousands of head of sheep, and in the end the rich man’s barn and home burned to the ground.

One person’s anger spreads out in waves without end. Know that anger is the enemy, and patience is the foundation of long-lasting peace.

He who expresses anger with his mouth is an inferior man.

He who grits his teeth and does not express his anger is a middling man.

He who shows no sign of anger even when he is boiling with rage is a superior man.

(Unshakable Spirit, chapter 9)

Nobuaki Kondo, Buddhist teacher

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #47 | 2015, Anger is the Enemy

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