Monday, December 1, 2014

Patience - Counting to Ten When Angry

                So far, we have covered two of the Six Paramitas taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. Each paramita is a virtue that we practice by doing good deeds. Keeping a paramita in mind each new day, we remain focused on doing more and more good throughout our lives. In doing this and listening to the teachings deeply, we come closer to knowing our True Self

                Now the time has finally come to go over the third paramita of... patience.

1.)    Generosity

2.)    Discipline

3.)    Patience

4.)    Effort

5.)    Self-Reflection

6.)    Wisdom

                         Below is the Chinese symbol, Nin, meaning patience. Can you see how this pictograph is trying to communicate that idea? Hmm...

Original Photo by mliu92 available on


                    This rather complex-looking kanji character above can be divided into two smaller parts. The top one is a sword. You can almost see a handle on the left with the large blade slightly curved at the right end. The bottom portion is made of three dots and a swerved line that together represents the concept of the mind or heart.

Original Photo (edited with labels) by mliu92 available on

                     The exact meaning of these ideas can seem a little vague at first. With some imagination, it can be interpreted as "a mind that waits with strength and calm under the anticipation of a coming sword's advance." Perhaps this made more sense to a Samurai or a skilled Chinese warrior.

  But how do we exactly go about getting more patience 
in this modern, fast-paced world?

                      To know the answer to this question, we must know what our nature is very, very well. Buddhism tells us that we, human beings, consist of 108 worldly passions and nothing else.

                   Of these, there are three worldly passions that trouble us the most. They are known as the Three Poisonous Passions: Desire, Anger, and Envy/Ignorance. They plague us constantly night and day. These worldly passions cause us to commit all sorts of bad deeds all the time, whether we realize it consciously or not.

                    Desire is the desperate longing for something we don’t yet have. It is also that recurring craving for more of something we already have. 

                   We all want something really tasty to eat from time to time. Everybody dreams of having the cash to buy a luxury car or a nice, big house.

Original Photo by Kurtis Garbutt available on


                   Deep down, we all want to have romance in our lives or to feel a closeness with someone special. Everybody likes being at least a little bit popular, and for the room to be all smiles when we enter. At the end of the day, don’t we all desire a good night’s rest in a cozy bed?

                    All these things are known as the Five Desires in Buddhism: food, money, love/sex, fame, sleep

                    **Even if we have billions of dollars at our command, still our desires persist for something more, something new, or something greater.**

                   Anger occurs when our Five Desires become interfered with, and we can’t get what we so desperately wanted. Our emotions get hot like a fire, and we unleash all our wrath and fury, “It’s all because of that jerk!” or “She’s the one responsible!” and even “Aaaaggghhhh, I can’t stand this situation anymore!!

                 We get angry and blame others hoping that rage will somehow bring us our desire faster. "I deserve what I want, and I want it now!!" We want anger to scale down whoever or whatever is in our way. This venomous ire cuts all our enemies back down to the level where we think they belong. Anger that gets this out of control can quickly escalate to violence as we see on the TV news everyday.

Original Photo by Za3tOoOr available on


                           Envy / Ignorance is when we can’t show this anger directly because it’s socially unacceptable for us to so. We are unwilling to express it because it is inappropriate given our standing. It festers, hidden away inside us, becoming dark and twisted in our private thoughts.

Original Photo by Ferran Jorda available on


                   Our partner seems to be flirting with someone we don’t like, but given the situation we can’t say anything about it without appearing meddling. Or our boss becomes unfair at work, and we’re unable to go against his or her final decision. Our friend is thriving at his business, and we feel that this success should actually be ours instead.

                 So envy is really just anger that has been concealed within. The one who harbors these feelings of hatred within is the one who receives the most of their destructive effects. Others, however, may feel the effects of envy indirectly through a jealous person's attitude. Grudges only become more and more self-tormenting with time.

                 However, once all that silently-kept hatred reaches the breaking point, we then show it outwardly as anger. Whenever this happens, we put blame on whatever bad situation we are facing in the moment. Fuming with anger, we have no right mind to reflect accurately on how our own past actions may have contributed to our situation. 

                 Instead we falsely believe the current misfortune came to us because of someone else's deeds or some mysterious external force like bad luck. Some incorrectly perceive it to be all the work of misaligned planets within astrology. Always looking for the next external thing to put fault on, we deny any possibility that such a negative event occurred to us because of something we ourselves have done.

                  And so when we finally lose our patience, we are letting “that @!#$ person” know, as well as the world around us, that we’re not happy, and we’re not gonna take it any longer. Honestly, haven't we all done this? In our anger, we've said to others firmly, “HEY! YOU better listen up! I’m getting sick and tired of this, and now, I mean business. You’re going to give me exactly what I want or else.” We sound a lot like robbers when we're mad, don't we?

                    Our own unfulfilled desire is the underlying motivation for all the fuss.

Original Photo by Pedro Vezini available on

                    Spewing with fire, our angry mind feels that threatening words or harming others in some way will make them better understand us. We think it will make them obey our wants and demands. This is an awful, foolish way of thinking, don’t you think? Anger never makes things any better… doesn't it only make matters worse? And yet when we’re mad, we’re not thinking about what’s positive or productive, are we? No, we aren't. When we’ve lost our temper, we've lost our ability to think rationally.

                     Justifying our anger, no matter how reasonable we think it is at the time, is completely useless. Even responding to someone else in anger serves no real purpose. A story from Something You Forgot Along the Way shares an insightful and historical moment when one man became very mad at the Buddha.


Abuse That Is Not Accepted
Shakyamuni and the Heretic

                  One day a young heretic approached Shakyamuni and began to heap abuse on him. Shakyamuni listened silently, and when the heretic finished, asked gently, ‘Do you sometimes invite your relatives over to your home on festival days and entertain them?’

                    ‘Of course I do.’

                    ‘What if they didn’t eat the food you served them? What would you do then?’

                    ‘Nothing. The food would just be left over.’

                    ‘You gave me much abuse just now, but if I decline to accept it, whose will it be?’

                    ‘Even if you decline to accept it, it is still yours, since I gave it to you.’

                    ‘No, for if I do not accept it, you have given me nothing at all.’

                    ‘Well then, explain what it means to accept or not accept.’

                    ‘Accepting what is offered means yelling back at someone who yells at you, returning anger for anger, hitting back when someone hits you, or fighting back when someone picks a fight. If you remain indifferent, then you have not accepted anything.’

                    ‘Do you mean that you never lose your temper, no matter how you are abused?’

                   ‘Solemnly, Shakyamuni replied with a verse:

“The wise man knows no anger;

Though storms may rage against him

His mind is placid and calm.

Answering anger with anger is for fools alone to do.”

                      ‘I was a fool. Please forgive me.’ The young heretic [kneeled] in tears before Shakyamuni and swore to follow him.

(Something You Forgot Along the Way, p.49)


                          When children get angry, parents can make them go sit in a corner until their rage gets a bit cooled down. But unfortunately as grownups, no one can tell us to go into a corner. We couldn’t tell really angry people around us, "Excuse me... you uh. Um yeah, I'm sorry. You actually need go to into the corner for a little while." That would only make anyone who is ticked off even more upset!
                          The best thing for us to do is carefully step away from any person who is really, really upset until they can resolve themselves. We should try to give ourselves and people who are angry around us time and patience in heated situations. Do as the Buddha instructs us:

“Don’t respond to anger with anger.”

Original Art by Tommaso Meli available on


                         But why is it that despite knowing this... we still get angry when we're in a jam? It is the work of those pesky 108 worldly passions boiling and churning inside us.

                      Our suffering from not getting what we really wanted in that very moment, right there and then, foolishly leads us to believe that anger is the best remedy. In selfish desperation, we feel blowing up will do the job. But trying to fix our problems using anger just leads to our own downfall. In the end, it injures everyone we know and most especially, ourselves.

                      To help us better understand anger, the Buddha teaches us about how our karma functions within the Law of Cause and Effect.

Good deeds bring good results.

Bad deeds bring bad results.

Own deeds bring own results.

                     Since anything we do in the fit of anger is a bad deed, we shouldn’t do that. So what should we do instead? 

                      Deeply learn this wisdom...

The opposite of anger is patience.

                      We are encouraged to practice patience as much as possible within the 3rd paramita. It is a very good virtue for us to focus on because it treats and remedies our poisonous anger in the best way.

                       When things get rough, rather than react quickly, we must try to be patient. Sometimes, we got to just put up with those super-annoying people or bothersome chores in our life. When things don't go according to plan in our lives, anger is not the solution. It's only adds more to the existing problem.

                     But we’re not angry all of the time, we think. "It's not such a big deal right now, so I'll work on my temper later." It becomes less important on our to-do list, and so we forget and it happens again.

                     Now let’s read a story from Something You Forgot Along the Way that sheds light on just how difficult it is to perceive our own anger and why it's something that needs to be evaluated in the here and now.


Change Irritation to Appreciation

Born with a Short Temper?

                   A man went to call on a priest for advice. ‘I was born with a short temper,’ he confessed. ‘They say getting angry only makes matters worse and they’re right. After I let off steam I feel rotten, and I regret hurting other people’s feelings, but by then it’s too late. Is there anything I can do to rid myself of my short temper?’

                 The priest smiled genially. ‘Well, well, you certainly were born with an interesting item,’ he said. ‘If I am to fix it, though, I need to examine it. Do you have it with you now?’

                ‘Well, no,’ said the man. ‘I have nothing to be upset about now, so I can’t show it to you.’

                ‘That’s odd,’ said the priest. ‘Since you told me just now that you were born with it, it must be somewhere on your person. Don’t be shy, just go ahead and bring it out for me to see.’

                ‘No,’ repeated the man, ‘it’s not here.’

                ‘Then where is it?’

               ‘When you put it like that, I don’t know what to say. Right now it isn’t anywhere.’

              ‘Of course it isn’t. No one is born with a short temper. The next time you start to blow up in irritation, ask yourself where that fit of temper came from. The answer is, it came from you yourself. To say you were born with it, as if it’s not your fault, is shirking responsibility.’

              Patience doesn’t just happen, but must be cultivated, It is all a matter of attitude.

             Change irritation to appreciation.”

(Something You Forgot Along the Way, p. 42)


                   Through looking within ourselves deeply (5th Paramita of Self-Reflection), we learn that our own anger makes us think up very terrible, terrible ideas. At times, we can think absolutely horrifying things about others. This anger, unchecked, causes us to actually do those things we will regret the most in life. After it's all over, we feel really bad about what we said and did.

Original Photo by BK available on


                        So what is something practical that can be done about this? You’ve probably heard the answer before, but never really counted on it when you were really mad. A story from the book Something You Forgot Along the Way reminds us of this timeless advice.


Count to Ten When Angry

Or You May Find Yourself Weeping Alone

                    A zoo hippopotamus became pregnant. Her keepers waited eagerly for the birth, but when the time came, to their great disappointment the baby hippopotamus was stillborn. In searching for the reason, they found that when the mother was transferred to a different room during her pregnancy, she had for some reason gone berserk with anger, and this episode had resulted in the death of the fetus. I remember being shocked on reading this account of needless tragedy in the newspaper. Anger, it seems, releases toxins into the system that can destroy physical health.

                   The effects of anger on humans are just as disastrous. One often hears accounts of street quarrels that turn into fights in which someone collapses in rage before even landing a blow. And there is a famous story of an eminent priest who spent forty years reciting the Lotus Sutra, only for all the merit so painstakingly acquired to be lost in a moment’s angry outburst.

                   When blood rushes to the head in a fit of anger, we may say and do things we would never dream of ordinarily – and as a result find ourselves standing alone in a charred wasteland, weeping bitter tears. But if in the moment of anger we take a second to think why we are outraged, what it is that so upsets us, our indignation often melts away.

                   If you have been [criticized] even though you are in the right, there is no need to blame your [accuser]. Eventually he is bound to come round and beg your forgiveness. No one is a match for the truth. If you discover that you are in error, then follow the proverb, “It’s never too late to mend.” Take swift steps to correct the matter and improve yourself. To defend yourself furiously even though you are wrong is the height of folly.

                    The aftermath of anger is dreary emptiness. So when you get angry, count to ten, and when someone else gets angry, steer clear of him or her. This is the wise counsel of ancients.

(Something You Forgot Along the Way, p.84)


                      So when our blood pressure shoots up, we have to take our own personal time out and really examine ourselves when we get really upset.

“What exactly is making me so angry right now?”

Just doing this step is already half the battle.

                      Normally when we’re very angry, we’re not making sense. So the more you think deeply about what exactly is making you angry, the more that anger has a chance to evaporate. Then you can reflect more accurately from the other person’s point of view.

                    Next time when we’re really, really fed up and angry, let’s actually count to ten. Here’s a sample exercise so you can learn for yourself how the cooling down process works.







Original Photo by Pablo Ullola available on

10… 9…

I can’t stand that @!$%*!! I’m gonna show him!!

8… 7…

He’s just some rich jerk who thinks he owns the road or something.

6… 5…

I can’t stand people who drive like that, but I shouldn’t get so angry about it.

4… 3…

At least I wasn’t injured or anything. He really should pay attention for the safety of others.


I wonder if that person is rushing to the hospital, or is having a terrible day from bad news.


I wonder if my driving contributed to his behavior in some way. 


Have I ever cut someone off another driver 

and not realized it?

                    This countdown process gives us time to cool down our thoughts. Our introspection helps us get back on track again. Then when our patience isn’t as boiling anymore, perhaps it’s only at a simmer, we can start to think, “Hmm, is what I am angry about really worth getting this worked up over? Isn’t there some other kind of solution or compromise? What can I do to make this situation better in a positive way next time?”

Be a hero...

Count to ten whenever you get angry.

                   We do this counting to remind ourselves that anger doesn’t bring us closer to what we really want. Counting to ten is really easy. Sometimes even children less than two years old can do this. But it takes real maturity as an adult to remember to count whenever you get really mad or feel stressed out. Ten simple numbers can keep us away from misfortune or disaster.

Good deeds bring good results.

Bad deeds only bring bad results.

Our own deeds bring our own results.

                   Doing wrong actions in the throws of some uncontrolled, childish tantrum only puts on display for everyone to see that our mind is going completely against reason and the Law of Cause and Effect. This is a senseless mind. We’re planting the wrong kind of seeds. But when we're ticked off, we don’t understand that a negative result will come to us from our angered words and clenched fists.


Our own deeds bring our own effects.

Yet we can’t agree with this 

when we let ourselves get too angry!!!


Original Photo by
周小逸 Ian
available on

Others' deeds brought this bad result.

"Obviously, it's ALL that person's fault. I'm not responsible for anything.

Since both the statements above 

go against the Law of Cause and Effect, 

they must be ruled out from our thoughts.

                   The Law of Cause and Effect is not a truth that was made to suit our human convenience. It's not something that turns on and off whenever we want it to, like a light switch. It is a universal truth that permeates the Three Worlds (all time) and the Ten Directions (all places). The following is a passage from Unshakable Spirit that explains this lesson clearly in just a few lines.


Hurry Up and Be Patient

"The Law of Cause and Effect holds true

throughout the universe.

Until cause and condition come together,

the effect will not emerge. 

It's important to wait patiently 

until then.

Hurry up and plant the seeds, and then wait

without any impatience."

(Unshakable Spirit,  p.88)


                  Buddhism says that we have been transmigrating since the beginning less past, planting a countless number of karmic seeds. There are so many karmic seeds stored in our Alaya Mind that we cannot begin to even fathom everything that's inside our karma.

                  We are not able to understand the relationship between all the causes and effects within our lives with this human mind made solely of worldly passions. And so we often doubt the Law of Causality of the Three Worlds whenever it brings us a suffering so severe that we don't understand where the cause came from.

                   We think that our anger in an unpredictable tragedy is justified. Yet when we truly think deeply... after a long inhale and exhale... any kind of anger never brings any true form of solace or happiness.

                     When we are angry at life, we feel "It's no more Mr. Nice Guy. I gotta get even, because I've been so taken advantage of." But these are more bad seeds that will only bring us more misfortune in the future. When we do this, we are doubting the Law of Causality. We should instead be planting good seeds all the more, as soon as possible!

A seed not planted will never grow.

Every seed planted will surely grow.

Original Photo by f2b1610 available on

 If we plant orange seeds, we get oranges.  

If we plant cucumbers, we get cucumbers

You can't plant the seeds of orange and in your right mind expect to harvest cucumbers.

Would you buy cucumber seeds if you wanted to grow orange plants?

That wouldn't make any sense.


Bad deeds NEVER produce good results.

 Good deeds NEVER produce bad results.

Yet when we're angry, we are desperately wanting to eat an orange...

while we ourselves are planting cucumber seeds.

Choose the right kind of seeds 

for the happiness

you wish to plant 

in your life!

                     This in turn means that when we are feeling adversity, we must, to some degree, accept that what has happened to us is because of our own karma from ages past. Of course, some traumatic experiences especially early in life are still beyond our capacity to accept. This is only natural. 

                     And yet, as we reflect over all the various evils that we’ve done in this life alone… do we have an accurate count? Is it really possible for us to fathom exactly how bad our own deeds are from our own perspective? We are a little bit… biased. Aren't we? With time, don't we forget and lessen the severity of what we've done wrong?

                     What did you eat for lunch today? Was it tasty? How about yesterday's breakfast? Maybe it wasn't all that fulfilling because you were in a rush. But what about what you had for lunch two weeks ago today? Do you remember the taste? ... How about five years ago? ... Ten years ago?… Our memory gets more and more hazy as time keeps on ticking. We can't keep accurate tabs of what we did wrong or right. And yet, why is it that our mind has such precise accuracy for what others did wrong to us?

                     Buddhism challenges us to examine our own mind, first and foremost. It encourages us with the Law of Cause and Effect to reflect on ourselves and our own deeds.

                      Bad things must have happened to us for a reason. Sure, we may not comprehend the cause of it from the narrow span of this lifetime, but however terrible that event was, it still drove us toward this precious moment where we are listening to the teachings of Buddhism. Because of our past experiences, we have become open and searching for life’s true purpose in the present. This is a tremendous blessing!

Original Photo by Crystal Coleman available on

                       We can assign at least some percentage of responsibility on tragic events that befall us, however small. We can start with as low as 1% my responsibility, and work our way up later to 10% and 25%. Then in other cases we might start to think… maybe it was mostly my fault.

                        A story from Unshakable Spirit demonstrates the transformation that occurs when you reflect positively and make amends amongst catastrophe.


The Window Frame Hurts Too

A Winsome Mother and Child

                    This happened once when I was riding a train on my way to give a speech. The car interior was spacious us and quiet, with many unfilled seats. Feeling relaxed, I spread myself out and opened up a book I’d brought along. After a while, tired from reading and lulled by the rhythmical vibrations of the train, I began to nod off – only for my dreams to be shattered by an ear-splitting whistle and the metallic screech of brakes. Apparently the driver had found an obstruction of some kind at a crossing.

                    The shock of the sudden stop threw me forward, but I managed somehow to stay upright. In the same instant, the shrill sobs of a little child rang out. I saw then that the seats across the aisle in front of me were occupied by a young mother and her child, who had apparently been amusing himself by sitting with his forehead pressed against the windowpane, watching the scenery fly by. When the train jerked to a stop, the tot’s head banged sharply into the window frame. His wails grew louder and more frantic. Afraid he was hurt, I jumped up, but to my relief there was no sign of injury. Then I witnessed a scene so heartwarming that I was deeply touched. 

                     As the child’s pain lessened, he gradually quieted down while his mother rubbed his head reassuringly and murmured soothing words: “Sweetheart, that must really hurt. I’m so sorry. I’ll rub it for you and make the pain go away. But you know, you weren’t the only one who got hurt. The poor window frame did too! Let’s run it and make it feel better, shall we?” The tot nodded, and sure enough, he and his mother began to pat the window frame.

Original Photo by Andre Mouraux available on

                       I felt ashamed of myself, for I had assumed she would say something more along these lines: “That must really hurt. I’m so sorry. It’s all the fault of this naughty window frame. Let’s spank it and teach it a lesson, shall we?” Such a scene is common enough, giving a toddler a vent for his rage and allowing the moment to pass.

                        All too often, when faced with difficulties, we cope by searching for someone else to blame for our suffering. Perhaps, I reflected, we  implant this response in our children without meaning to. The child is father of the man, goes the saying, and surely parents have enormous influence in shaping the character of small children.

                         People who think only of themselves and cannot empathize with others, end in darkness. The act of making others happy itself brings happiness. Those who would set their sights on the Pure Land must keep to the high road of benefiting others as well as themselves.

                         I left the train wishing true happiness to that mother and child with all my heart.

(Unshakable Spirit, p.48)


                            By taking ownership of everything that happens to us, it does not mean we become masochistic and take everything out on ourselves. It is not some critical form of self-punishment. It's ownership of one's destiny. We become more responsible in the present because we know our actions will tremendously impact our future.

                             We may not always understand the cause of a bad experience, how it came to us, or where it came from. But we can accept that tragedy has now occurred to us… so what should we do about it? We must start planting good seeds so that we can reap good results.

Original Word Art by AuthenticAng11 available on

                           By being patient, we are believing deeply in the Law of Cause and Effect. “Even though misfortune is all around me, I am going to keep doing what is right.” This comes from knowing that good seeds bring good results deeply. However, this is a very, very difficult to do. But still it can be done. I know you can do it. (I'll try my best too!)

                            To conclude this post on patience, here are some insightful words from my Buddhist teacher, Mr. Takamori Kentetsu and his book Unshakable Spirit.


                             Once a monstrous typhoon made a direct hit on Japan. Inside a country school, pupils and teachers sat in mortal terror as the building swayed and creaked. No one knew what to do.

                            Finally the teacher jumped up. “Everyone, go out and face the wind!” The children obediently ran outside – only to be blown about at the mercy of the wind. Instinctively, they tried to walk downwind.

                            “No!” shouted the teacher. “Crawl into the paddy, hold tight to the rice stalks, and head INTO the wind!”

                             Surprised at the ferocity in the teacher’s voice, the children did as they were told. Soon the school building downwind from them collapsed with a great crash, but luckily no one was killed or injured.

Original Photo by Vinoth Chindar available on

                               Life is like that. We know it’s important to face trials head-on with calm and courage, but doing so is hard.

                               Even little things can be grating. From the time we get up till the time we go to bed, one thing after another gets under our skin. The tap may be too cold or too hot, the coffee too strong or too weak. Weather is seldom to our liking, and people at home or work can be impossible to get along with. On top of it all, disasters and tragedies befall us. Life brings suffering, sadness, and pain. Happiness is rare.

                               The way to deal with life’s frustrations is to face them individually, head-on, in the moment. “Get through this somehow.” When you face a trial, tell yourself, “Just get through it,” and the burden will ease. When you are suffering, and showing kindness to others seems impossible, tell yourself, “Just get through this,” and you can do it with a smile. When courage is needed, tell yourself, “Just get through it,” and find strength to forgive. Walk forward step by step into the storms of suffering, telling yourself, “Just get through this!”

(Unshakable Spirit, p.185)


                             This story can be interpreted many ways, but it contains within it the very spirit of patience.

                             We must face the storm of our own anger and troubles in life with calm and look within to find strength. If we let the wind of our anger sweep us away, we lose our tempers and get lost in the storm.

                              If we instead go INTO THE WIND, and face that direction that is challenging us head-on with patience, we find come to know ourselves more deeply while at the same time make our way to safer ground. As hard as things may be around us, we must first take the initiative for the change occur from within.

       Let us strive to interpret everything in a positive way.

                 - Takamori Kentetsu                        

                               Some people wait around miserably for happiness to just come along by itself magically with intentions alone. This is not the right kind of patience. Some things in life no matter how hard we try just prove to be impossible. The best choice is to walk away or avoid conditions or people that are bad for us.

                               But the key is that throughout it all, our minds are what shape the way we perceive the world around us. Thinking negatively, our words and actions will also be negative. Everyone around us will then react negatively to us. Suddenly, we blame them for how they treat us, and we become even more pessimistic.

                                 A pessimist is someone who publicly proclaims that they have given up on trying to do good. They feel the world is too negative to ever get any better. So they go about their lives never making a true effort themselves. They discourage those around them from even trying to do good. Stop trying is motto for life. Does this sound like a healthy, solid plan for your life?

Original Photo by ARMLE available on

                                 Conversely, an optimist is someone who faces the adversity that life dishes out with a smile. They smile even when it hurts, and seeing this, the people around them want to help such a special person.

                                 We must make the best of our life in the present moment in order to build toward a better future. Patiently choose hope and positivity everyday, but remember also to put in the work (4th Paramita of Effort). We will cover this next time.

                                Keep on listening to Buddhism patiently as well as practicing its teachings, and for sure, in no time, you will become the happiest person in the universe.

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