The World of Anger
"The key to the transformation of the world of Anger lies in self-mastery-channeling the energy that has formerly been directed toward winning over others into winning over oneself. This begins simply with the humility to respect and admire what is praiseworthy in others."
The willingness to learn from others and the readiness to self-reflect are qualities that define us as human beings, the means by which we develop ourselves and become happier. What happens when we lose or neglect these abilities? The frightful consequences of this are what Buddhism describes as the world of Anger. The word "anger" is likely to make us think of someone losing their temper or becoming enraged or furious. This is a natural and sometimes necessary reaction to situations we encounter. Such anger can often function positively, when it is directed against injustice or irresponsibility, for example.
There is a difference between this and the ego-obsessed world of Anger described in Buddhist theory. Anger here is one of ten "worlds" or conditions of life, which, according to the Buddhist concept of the Ten Worlds, are inherent in all people. We experience these at different times in different ways depending on our responses to our circumstances and the strength or weakness of our inner-motivated efforts to improve ourselves. They are: Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Humanity, Rapture, Learning, Realization, Bodhisattva and Buddhahood.
The chief characteristic of the world of Anger is envy, the kind where one cannot tolerate the thought of anyone being in any way better than oneself. It is a burning need to be superior to others, a belief that one is fundamentally better than other people.
As a Buddhist text describes it: "Since those in the world of Anger desire in every instance to be superior to everyone else and cannot bear to be inferior to anyone, they belittle and despise others and exalt themselves, like a hawk flying high and looking down on the world. At the same time, outwardly they seek to display the virtues of benevolence, justice, propriety, wisdom and fidelity."
Nichiren, the 13th-century founder of the Buddhism practiced by members of the SGI, characterizes Anger as "perversity." This is because of the great disjuncture between the inner and outer worlds of someone in the state of Anger. One's intense competitiveness is masked by a show of virtue and by obsequious behavior designed to elicit the acknowledgment from others that is so essential to one's sense of superiority. The aggressiveness of people in this state belies their insecurity. Arrogance, contempt for others, a highly critical streak and a powerful, conflictual or competitive urge are all aspects of the world of Anger as it manifests in our lives.
When people in positions of power and authority become caught up in the snares of Anger, or when this world begins to predominate in society, the consequences can be catastrophic. As SGI President Ikeda describes, to one in this state, "everything appears as a means or a tool to the fulfillment of egotistical desires and impulses. In inverse proportion to the scale of this inflated arrogance, the existence of others-people, cultures, nature-appears infinitely small and insignificant. It becomes a matter of no concern to harm or even kill others trivialized in this way. It is this state of mind that would countenance the use of nuclear weapons. . . People in such a state of life are blinded, not only to the horrific suffering their actions wreak, but to human life itself."
The SGI movement aims to bring about a transformation in society through the transformation of the heart of the individual, based on an understanding of the dynamics of the human heart and the profound interconnection of the individual, society and the cosmos itself.
While every person strives to be happy, the misguided efforts of people in the world of Anger only drive them deeper into misery and a sense of isolation. Paradoxically, however, the sense of self-awareness and self-importance characteristic of the world of Anger is also a gateway to empathy with others. The acute sense of one's ego can be a basis for the realization of how important and precious each person's life is to them, and of the shared difficulties of existing happily in the world.
The key to the transformation of the world of Anger lies in self-mastery-channeling the energy that has formerly been directed toward winning over others into winning over oneself.
This begins simply with the humility to respect and admire what is praiseworthy in others.
[Courtesy October 2010 SGI Quarterly]