Sunday Sermon

For me, the last month or so has been filled with anger. Which is nothing new for me as you all know, but this has been a more focused anger than my usual. Traditionally, I am angry about a couple dozen things simultaneously and I'm prepared to rant on any of them if prodded, but lately, I've been tightly focused on a few things, and ranting on them unprovoked. It's exhausting.

To alleviate this I've been trying to meditate on letting go of the things I'm pissed about but I easily get lost in the anger - then I'm not meditating so much as spending time in quiet contemplation of possible revenges. Not particularly helpful, but it certainly can be a satisfying way to kill a half hour...

I decided to re-read Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh in search of new approaches. This fine little book was given to me by my closest friend at a time when we were at each other's throats almost constantly. Although it didn't save that friendship, it is filled with helpful ways to address anger and move past it. In the back it has a "Peace Treaty" that folks can sign with family and friends, to set guidelines and boundaries for dealing with anger. I thought it might be good to reproduce it here - not so much because I think the Flock is in need of it, but rather because typing it out might be good for me...

Peace Treaty

In Order That We May Live Long and Happily Together, In Order That We May Continually Develop and Deepen Our Love and Understanding, We, the Undersigned, Vow to Observe and Practice the Following:

I, the one who is angry, agree to:

1. Refrain from saying or doing anything that might cause further damage or escalate the anger.
2. Not suppress my anger.
3. Practice mindful breathing and go back to myself to take care of my anger.
4. Calmly, within 24 hours, tell the one who I am angry at about my anger and suffering, either verbally or by delivering a Peace Note.
5. Ask for an appointment later in the week, either verbally or by note, to discuss this matter more thoroughly.
6. Not say: "I am not angry, it's ok, I am not suffering. There is nothing to be angry about."
7. Look deeply into my daily life, while sitting, walking, lying down, working, and driving in order to see:
The ways that I myself have been unskilled at times.
How I have hurt the other pserson because of my own habit.
How the strong seed of anger in me is the primary cause.
How the other person is only a secondary cause.
How the other person is only seeking relief from their own suffering.
That as long as the other person suffers, I cannot be truly happy.
8. Apologize immediately, without waiting for the appointment, as soon as I recognize my unskillfumness and lack of mindfulness.
9. Postpone the appointment if I do not feel calm enough to meet with the other person.

I, the one who has made the other angry, agree to:

1. Respect the other's feelings, not ridicule, and allow enough time for him/her to calm down.
2. Not press for an immediate discussion.
3. Confirm the other's request for a meeting, either verbally or in a note, and assure him/her that I will be there.
4. If I can apologize, do so right away, not waiting for the meeting.
5. Practice mindful breathing and deep looking to see how:
I have seeds of anger and unkindness as weall as habit energy, which make the other person unhappy.
I have mistakenly thought that making the other person suffer would relieve my own suffering.
By making him/her suffer, I make myself suffer.
6. Apologize as soon as I realize my unskillfulness and lack of mindfulness, without making any attempt to justify myself.

We Vow with the Presence of the Buddha as Witness and the Mindful Presence of Our Sangha, to Abide by These Articles and Practice Them Wholeheartedly. We Invoke the Three Gems for Protection and to Grant Us Clarity and Confidence.

I should have signed a treaty like this with the world, a long time ago.
So, in light of today's topic, it is more meaningful than usual when I say...

Go in Peace.


Clayton said...

[insert typical jerky comment from Clay here]

Modig_Bjorn said...


If the people of this world could follow those guidelines, this world would be full of Teletubbies...but seriously, I have always found that whenever I'm feeling "irked", I either immediately take a few deep breaths and calm the F#%K down or remove myself from the conflict and go hit something, preferably non-living....damn, I said I'd be serious. My point is, sometimes it feels good to just let out the energy that is building inside, and as long as you do it in a way that is not harmful to yourself or others, i.e. foam bat, pellow, hacking to pieces a 5-6 foot card cut out of JarJar Binks with with your katana, etc.

In the immortal words of Yoda, "fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."

Mark Travis said...

I was Yoda once....

Sorry, bad joke.

The hardest concept for me was that my feelings and emotions are all mine, and that no one else can make me feel anything. It shifts focus from an us versus them scenario to a personal responsibility situation.

random thoughts that came from the post

inkandpen said...

Mark Travis,
I had the same thought, in particular, because of the phrasing in the treaty: "I, who have made the other person angry"-- so I get a flare of anger at that, thinking about the times I deal with anger in my life, and how they only very rarely have to do with the other person's behavior. And that is encorporated in the previous declaration, that one's one emotions are the primary cause, and the other person's behavior secondary... but then the bit about "making people suffer in a mistaken hope of releving one's own suffering" doesn't seem to follow.

I feel like that statement isn't logically consistent, like it refuses to take a productive position on what the sources/causes of anger are, on how responsible others v. ourselves are for our own anger and what to do with it.

Linus, thoughts?

His Sinfulness said...

The Buddhist stance is quite clear on the cause of anger; it is suffering, as outlined in the four noble truths. It is not what "they" did that makes you angry, but your deluded state that allows anger to arise.

I think the idea here is that both parties are to take full responsibility for their feelings and actions. The Buddhist world view includes the idea that everything, including anger, arises in the mind.

Buddhists also hold that everything is interconnected. If one suffers, we all suffer.

Given those two positions, it behooves both parties to do what they can to alleviate suffering on all sides. You are responsible for your own anger and they are responsible for their part as well.

Did that help?

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