Maintaining Serenity in the Face of Anger

By Yoram Yahav

With much courage, after years of self-observation and several discussions with friends from a Ninjutsu club in Japan, I have finally come to the realization that there is much anger held inside me. This understanding made me look deeper into the notion of “anger.”

Today I am convinced that one of the foremost reasons for me practicing martial arts was to overcome my inner fury. As a child, many frustrations arose in my fragile heart when I was punished for not behaving properly. In my young mind, the deep frustration and unbelievable anger created inner “storms” which made me not only shout from within, but also curse so loudly and shamelessly till no one had the nerve to punish me.

Efi Landau, a good friend and colleague, introduced me to written material on the subject of rage, some of which he wrote himself. Landau was kind enough to let me mention his insights it in this note. The ability of maintaining your serenity in the face of anger, he says, is crucial and essential for our well-being. Once rage “attacks,” we are drawn into it within seconds. Thus, the ability to take a deep breath before taking action and the capability to develop our poise are both exceedingly tough challenges.

SerenityThere is a very useful philosophy which addresses the topic of anger and how to approach it. But before presenting it, I believe it is imperative to understand the signs which precede the anger phase. Awareness is the ultimate stage in which we can observe ourselves before fury takes over us. Anxiousness and unhappiness both precede the stage of anger. When we encounter an undesirable circumstance, we are easily made unsatisfied. Similarly, when we come upon an obstacle in the process of reaching a desired goal, we are easily drawn to fury. When situations like these occur, we tend to lose balance, get frustrated, unhappy and evidently angry.

In order to develop and strengthen our self-control, we need to internalize the rational that rage does not do us any good. This rational is reflected very well in the book “The Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life” written by the 8th Century wise Buddhist master Shantideva (Eng. ‘God of Peace’).

An excerpt from the guide:

If there is what to do on this matter-
What is the reason to be angry about it?
And if there is nothing to do on this matter –
What is the benefit to be angry about it?

There is much to be written and explored on this subject. One could describe Master Shantideva’s approach to the karmic effect of anger as well as our internal wisdom and capacity to reflect and project for days. However, there is not enough space in this article to outline it all. I kindly recommend readers like yourself to take the advice of my Ninjutsu instructor in Japan: “If you are ever attacked by others, always take a deep breath, feel your essence and try to end the episode without a fight.” Anger leads us to wrong places, to poor health and to discontent. Understanding this through self-observation will only do us good in the short and long term of our lives.