The World of Anger

In Buddhism, anger is a state of life that can be transformed by learning to win not over others, but ourselves.

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Every day, we see news reports that point to the fact that our world today is rife with anger.

In general, acting out of “anger” means expressing inflamed emotions or losing our temper. But this differs from the Buddhist view of anger.

The life state of “anger” is considered to be one of the Ten Worlds—ten potential conditions of life that we experience at any moment. They are the worlds of: hell, hungry spirits, animals, asuras (anger), human beings (humanity), heavenly beings (rapture), voice-hearers (learning), cause-awakened ones (realization), bodhisattva and Buddhas.

Nichiren Daishonin defines the world of anger as “perverse,” or more literally, “fawning and crooked” (see The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 358). He offers the following description of the world of anger or asuras: “Since the mind of a person who is in the world of asuras desires in every moment to be superior to everyone else and cannot bear to be inferior to anyone else, he belittles and despises others and exalts himself . . . Moreover, he outwardly displays benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and good faith, and develops an inferior kind of goodness of mind, and yet puts into practice the way of asuras” (Explaining the Causation of the Ten Worlds,” WND-2, 197).

When we confront our negative tendencies, we develop empathy toward others.

And SGI President Ikeda explains this state of life as follows: “In their hearts, [those in the world of anger] cannot tolerate the existence of someone more capable or more respectable than themselves. They cannot truly respect others, because they believe that they alone are worthy of respect. A burning desire to surpass all others is their exclusive focus.

“Outwardly, however, they do not give the least hint of such an obsession. They conduct themselves as virtuous people of benevolence, justice, propriety, wisdom and fidelity. By so doing, they try to convince others that these are their true qualities, and they may even come to believe this themselves” (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 4, p. 121).

When people in power are held in this state of anger, the results can be catastrophic. They begin to view people as insignificant and eliminating their lives becomes a lesser concern.

Buddhism also teaches the concept of the “mutual possession of the Ten Worlds,” which explains that each of the Ten Worlds possesses all ten. So, for example, within the world of anger exists all the Ten Worlds from hell to Buddhahood. This concept clarifies that no matter what world one exhibits, everyone has—at any given moment—the potential to bring forth Buddhahood from within.

How can we transform the world of anger?

The key lies in shifting the tendency of trying to win over others to one in which we strive to win over ourselves through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and encouraging others to do the same. It lies in changing the desire to protect ourselves into a desire to protect and support others.

When we confront our negative tendencies, we develop empathy toward others. And through understanding the dynamics of the human heart and the deep connection we share with others in society, when we transform the negative tendencies within our own lives, we can also engender great change in society.