CREDOS : Managing anger — I

T he Dalai Lama recently answered the question, “Is there a positive form of anger?” by saying that righteous anger is a “defilement” or “afflictive emotion” — a Buddhist term translated from the Sanskrit word klesha — that must be eliminated if one seeks to achieve nirvana. He added that although anger might have some positive effects in terms of survival or moral outrage, he did not accept anger of any kind as a virtuous emotion nor aggression as constructive behaviour.

Buddhism in general teaches that anger is a destructive emotion and that there is no good example of it. Buddha taught that three basic kleshas are at the root of samsara (bondage, illusion) and the vicious cycle of rebirth. These are greed, hatred, and delusion —

also translatable as attachment, anger, and ignorance. They bring us confusion and misery rather than peace, happiness, and fulfilment. It is in our own self-interest to purify and transform them.

In the tantric teachings of Vajrayana (Tibetan Buddhism), it is said that all the kleshas or afflictive emotions have their own sacred power, their own particular intelligence, wisdom, and logic.

The late Tibetan teacher Chogyam Tryungpa Rinpoche often taught that five kleshas (in the Tibetan tradition, they are greed, hatred, delusion, pride, and jealousy) are in essence five wisdoms. The wisdom side of anger, for example, is discriminating awareness. How can this be? —