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Submitted by Meredith Arena on Wed, 3/7/2012, 3:10pm
Yesterday a friend of mine asked me about action that comes from ‘righteous anger’ and it’s place in Buddhism. I am still thinking about this question, but here are some thoughts.
Definitions of righteous from Merriam Webster: (1) Acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin. (2)A: morally right or justifiable <a righteous decision> b: arising from an outraged sense of justice or morality <righteous indignation>.
In Buddhism, we have “right action”, part of the eightfold path. “Right” here can be understood as correct in the context of the situation, assuming the action comes from an actor who is not confused as to the myriad of interdependent results for herself and others that may arise from the action. “Right” also involves intention. What is the intention behind your act? Does it benefit others? Does it hurt others? Maybe a mix of both, as with most actions. Which result is greater? How does the act affect our own mind-state? This complex series of questions will slow your spontaneous act and transform it into a thoughtful one.
Please still listen to yourself. Anger as experienced by someone is never “wrong”. It is simply your experience at the moment. When acting from anger, the question we can ask ourselves is “is this feeling controlling my perspective of reality right now? Am I defining this situation solely from my perspective? Am I acting for others or myself? Where am I in this? Where is the person I want to be?”
For many of us, anger is how we access knowledge about the violence that has been perpetrated against us by individuals or systematically through class, race, gender and sexual oppression or, more likely a combination of both. We are both victims and survivors of multiple forms of aggression, both physical and psychological. When we begin to access our natural wakefulness, this may become apparent. I learned about these things through feminism. Feminists, especially writers like Audre Lorde, bell hooks and Marilyn Frye helped me to see myself within an interdependent system, which greatly affected my opinion of myself and of others. My ideas were not my own. This makes me angry. I learned, mostly from media that as a woman, I will never be worthy of love and that I have to do something to myself to become loveable.
Wikipedia says this about righteousness “It is an attribute that implies that a person's actions are justified, and can have the connotation that the person has been "judged" or "reckoned" as leading a life that is pleasing to God.” I do not believe that there is a God to judge my actions. I think, as lonely as this feels, that I am the only being who can judge my actions.
So is there a place for your righteous anger to manifest? Where will you act it out? For how long? What will be the consequence? How will you influence others?
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