Phần 4 – Anger and Malice
– Anger and Malice
– Ingratitude and Arrogance
– Envy and Meanness
– Deception and Hypocrisy
– Impertinence and Vanity
– Conceit and Excessive Conceit
– The Humility of Venerable Sāriputta
– Pride and Heedlessness
Anger and Malice
In the Dhammadāyāda Sutta, Venerable Sāriputta enumerated sixteen defilements in eight pairs. I have already described the first pair — greed (lobha) and aversion (dosa). The second pair is anger (kodha) and malice (upanāha). These are implicit in aversion. According to the commentaries, the pursuit of material goods leads to greed. If greed does not attain its objective, it gives rise to aversion, and if it is satisfied, greed for other objects arises. Non-gratification of greed makes us miserable. Aversion creates hatred of those who do not give us what we want. It infuses greed into the nine unwholesome states of consciousness rooted in craving. The nine unwholesome states are: 1) pursuit of desire based on craving, 2) getting the object of one’s desire, 3) deciding how to use it, 4) taking delight in the decision, 5) excessive attachment, 6) keeping the object of attachment, 7) miserliness, 8) guarding the object, 9) disputes, physical conflict, slander, and deception that arise from guarding possessions.
Again kodha is anger while upanāha means malice. The unwholesome state of consciousness begins with aversion, which later on leads to malice. If a person does not get the desired object, he or she will feel resentful of anyone who does get it. If this resentment is dwelt upon it becomes malice. It is hard to understand these subtle differences explained in the Commentary.
Suffice to say that, in general, all kinds of craving and desire may be regarded as greed and all kinds of hatred, frustration, and ill-will may be regarded as aversion. Anger and malice are specific forms of aversion and both arise from the pursuit of objects of desire.
Anger and malice are inferior and ignoble. We are angry in the face of any unpleasant sense-object. Anger is like a cobra that hisses and raises its hood when it is provoked. Even those who have gentle manners are sometimes so sensitive that they give vent to their feelings when they hear something offensive to them. Such an outburst of temper may become the cause for shame and regret. It may lead to loss of friendship and damage the reputation of the person concerned.
Some are likely to bear a grudge against anyone who has offended them. We may bear grudge against a person because we think that 1) he or she has jeopardized our interests in the past, or 2) is jeopardizing our interests in the present, or 3) will jeopardize our interests in the future. We may hold a similar view regarding his or her relation with someone whom we love. Again we may believe that a person has done something good for our enemy in the past, is doing good for our enemy in the present, or will do good for our enemy in future. Thus there are altogether nine reasons for our spitefulness.
Then there are some people who express their annoyance without there being anything to justify it. They would get annoyed with the sun, the wind, the rain, or other non-living objects because of their frustration, or any accident. Thus they would curse a material object for their discomfiture, e.g. a tree root for causing them to trip. Some might give vent to their annoyance by kicking it. This is an ugly outward sign of gross irritability (aṭṭhanakopa), a characteristic of short-tempered people. It is ignoble and damages one’s reputation.
The way to uproot anger and malice is the middle way of the eightfold path. There are some things that we can do to overcome them. If, for any reason, we become angry, we should not allow the anger to find an outlet in words or deeds. We should reflect on the evils of anger. If such reflection fails to remove it, then we should consider that the person who does or said something offensive to us is merely psycho-physical phenomena that have already passed away in common with our own, which are also extinct by the time that anger arises in us. Moreover, it is the offender who will have to suffer for unwholesome deeds or speech. if we take offence, then we too will have to suffer the same fate.
A better way to overcome aversion is just to note it. This practice is the method of the eightfold path. The best way is to note just “hearing, hearing,” as soon as we hear something offensive, thereby ruling out the arising of anger. The meditator tries to be mindful of every psycho-physical phenomenon at the moment of seeing, hearing, etc., in order to head off the arising of defilements from sense impressions. If this practice fails, he or she will have to remove aversion through reflection or mindfulness of the emotion.
If anger is so violent as to manifest in facial expressions or verbal retorts, we should check it through reflection or contemplation of mind and matter at that moment. Failure to nip it in the bud usually results in uncivilized behaviour, threats, abuse, and other emotional outbursts that damage our reputation and friendships. Anger often bedevils those who are close to one another and more often than not it is the close friends or relatives who help us in our crises. So if what a man does or says is offensive to us, we should exercise forbearance in view of what he has done for our good in the past. We should note the unpleasant words and practise self-restraint. Once, a meditator said that he remained calm and unruffled through mindfulness when he was reproached by his father-in-law. This accords with the Buddha’s teaching: “Sute suta mattaṃ bhavissati — when you hear, just know that you hear it.”
Ingratitude and Arrogance
The third pair of evils is ingratitude (makkha) and arrogance (paḷāsa). Ingratitude fails to acknowledge indebtedness to one’s benefactor. There is no doubt about the deep debt of gratitude that we owe to our parents, yet some young people are loath to acknowledge their gratitude, saying that it is the duty of every man and woman to care for their children or that their parents’ concern for their welfare is due to their own good kamma in the past. Some deny their indebtedness to their teachers or elders for their education and attribute it to their own effort. In fact, we should thank a person even for a slight contribution that he or she has made towards our welfare, and it is incumbent upon us to do something in return for any service rendered. According to the Buddha, even a lifelong and whole-hearted commitment to supporting our parents will not suffice to remove the debt of gratitude that we owe them. However, if a parent is a non-believer in the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha, it is possible to repay the debt by doing something for their spiritual welfare. So ancient teachers describe gratitude to parents as infinite and immeasurable.
Those who are preoccupied with the pursuit of material welfare are often unmindful of their gratitude to their teachers. In the lifetime of the Buddha the monk Kokālika tried to acquire material goods by taking advantage of his association with the two chief disciples — Venerable Sāriputta and Moggallāna. Later, when he failed to achieve his aim, he made false charges against his benefactors. He turned a deaf ear to the admonitions of the Buddha and so had to pay dearly for his evil deeds. According to the Saṃyuttanikāya, he died of a terrible disease, and landed in Avīci hell.
Prince Ajātasattu’s killing of his father for the sake of the throne is another case of flagrant ingratitude. Today there are people who will not hesitate to wrong their teachers or other benefactors because of their evil desires.
We should be aware of our indebtedness to others and try to repay their benevolence as far as possible. In the time of the Buddha an elderly brahmin named Rādha wanted to join the Saṅgha, but there was no monk who would assume responsibility for his ordination. Then in accordance with the Buddha’s instruction Venerable Sāriputta ordained him by way of repayment for a spoonful of rice that the latter had once offered to him. Venerable Sāriputta’s sense of gratitude is highly praiseworthy and exemplary. Even if we cannot repay another person’s good deed we must be wary of doing him a bad turn. If we are tempted to be ungrateful we should remove such ill-feeling through wise reflection or the practice of mindfulness.
The other evil is arrogance, the desire to consider oneself on a par with those who are morally or intellectually superior. Some people make unjustified claims to morality, learning, or spiritual attainments, and rank themselves on a par with or above those who do possess those attributes. It is not hard for them to find followers among credulous people. In ancient India there were some deceitful teachers who made pretensions to the enlightenment and wisdom of the Buddha and they gained the credence of ignorant people. Arrogance is a gross evil that we should overcome through the middle path of the Buddhadhamma.
Envy and Meanness
The next pair of evils that Venerable Sāriputta denounced is envy (issā) and meanness (macchariya). It is the tendency of human beings to envy a person who surpass them in respect of wealth, beauty, education, status, reputation, or other praiseworthy attributes. We harbour meanness when we do not want to see a person in possession of something similar to what we have or when we do not want other persons to have anything to do with the object of our attachment.
There are five kinds of meanness. 1) Meanness regarding accommodation (āvasa-macchariya). This especially concerns the monks. It is meanness to monopolize a communal monastery and deny good monks the right to dwell in it. However, it is not meanness if we refuse to admit immoral or quarrelsome monks. The same may be said of buildings meant for the community of meditators at meditation centres. 2) It is meanness in regard to followers (kūla-macchariya), to claim the exclusive attention of one’s followers, and resent their association with other monks. It is also meanness for a layperson to have the same kind of possessiveness regarding friends or relatives. However, one should not be charged with meanness if one wants friends or followers to have nothing to do with foolish or immoral persons. 3) The desire to possess material goods exclusively is called “lābha-macchariya.” However, it is not meanness to deny them to immoral monks or to refuse to give something that one needs as in the case of the bhikkhuṇī Uppalavaṇṇā who rejected the monk Udayī’s request for her bathing-robe. 4) “Vaṇṇa macchariya” is unwillingness to acknowledge in others admirable qualities such as beauty that one possesses. 5) “Dhamma macchariya” is reluctance to share one’s knowledge of the Dhamma with others.
All these kinds of meanness lead to the lower realms and evil kammic consequences after death. Envy and meanness serve no useful purpose — on the contrary they make people unhappy in the present life and hereafter. In the Sakkapañha Sutta of the Dīghanikāya, Sakka, the king of deities, asked the Buddha why people are not free from danger and have to suffer although they seek happiness, peace and security. The Buddha said that the unhappy plight of all living beings is due to the two fetters of envy and meanness.
There is no doubt about the truth of the Buddha’s statement. Because of these two evils people quarrel with one another and make themselves wretched and miserable. Of the two evils meanness is clearly apparent in the behaviour of dogs. When a piece of meat is thrown to two frolicking dogs, they will bite each other, consumed by the meanness for the exclusive possession of the food. There is no need to elaborate since we have described envy and meanness at length in the discourses on the Sakkapañha Sutta and Sallekha Sutta.
Still we should like to point out the harmful effects that these two evils may have on Buddhism in Burma. The monks who love only material possessions do not want to share their sphere of influence with those who surpass them in some respect. In the case of a monastery where there is no abbot, it is up to them to tell their lay followers to install someone who is noted for his learning, observance of Vinaya rules and devotion to insight practice. However, most of them do not want such a person to be among them because they are jealous of their followers and they envy anyone who outshines them in the knowledge and practice of the Dhamma. If we have a high regard for the teaching of the Buddha, it is our duty to welcome and give whole-hearted support to those who can effectively contribute to the spiritual uplift of the people.
According to the Commentary on the first section of the Majjhimanikāya, those who faithfully and steadfastly practise mindfulness attain Stream-winning when their insight is well developed. The path of Stream-winning and its fruition ensures the total extinction of the six defilements including envy and meanness. This attainment means the permanent deliverance from the dangers of the lower realms, and the final attainment of Arahantship and nibbāna after a life-cycle of seven rebirths at most in the human and celestial realms. So we urge our disciples to be heirs of the Dhamma by trying to attain at least Stream-winning.
Deception and Hypocrisy
The next pair of defilements that we have to deal with is deception (māyā) and hypocrisy (sāṭheyya). We use deceit to hide our faults and pose as an innocent person. Hypocrisy is making pretensions to qualifications that one does not really have. There are hypocrites who pretend to be learned, devoted to the practice of austerities, to have acquired psychic powers, or to have attained some higher insights. They resort to subterfuge to impress the foolish. Once a monk who was preaching said, “Hey! The woman over there! Beware! Do not let your mind wander!” Of course most people lack concentration, but every woman in the congregation thought that the monk was speaking to her and his remark served to increase their faith in him as it gave them the impression that he could read their minds.
The way to overcome the evils of deceptiveness and hypocrisy is the practice of the eightfold path. Those who do not practise mindfulness are likely to hide their failings and become pretentious.
These two character defects are to be found especially among those who have them as hangovers from their habits in past existences. Anyway, it is necessary for the meditator to remove them if they have set their heart on nibbāna and liberation. Indeed freedom from deceit and hypocrisy is an essential qualification that the Buddha required of his dedicated disciples when he declared as follows:
“Etu viññū puriso asaṭho amāyāvī ujujātiko, ahamanusāsāmi ahaṃ dhammaṃ desemi.” (Udumbarika Sutta, D.iii.55)
“Let anyone who is not hypocritical or deceitful, but intelligent and sincere come to me. I will instruct him. If he follows my instructions, he is assured of gaining Arahantship within seven days or seven years at the most.”
The meditation teacher can guide the meditator effectively only if the latter is free from deception and hypocrisy. The teacher can do nothing for his spiritual progress as long as he is deceptive and hides his faults such as talking and sleeping most of the time instead of practising diligently. The teacher cannot properly guide such a meditator any more than the doctor can cure a patient who denies his illness. Nor can he help the meditator who pretends to be doing well in his practice and to have attained insights. Such a deceitful meditator will fail to make progress just like the patient who pretends to have recovered from his illness. The meditator should therefore watch the mental process carefully and guard against deception and hypocrisy. With the development of concentration and the attainment of knowledge of arising and passing away the mind becomes free from these two evils. Once a woman who was overbearing and insolent in her relation with her husband practised mindfulness and became repentant. She confessed her defects and vowed to get rid of them. Thus the practice of mindfulness and the eightfold path is very helpful in our effort to overcome the defilements that cause suffering, undermine our integrity, and prolong the cycle of life.
Impertinence and Vanity
The next pair of evils that we have to consider is impertinence (thambha) and vanity (sārambha). Impertinence means lack of respect for objects and persons who are worthy of reverence. Some people are loath to show respect for Buddha images, shrines, elders, and so forth by gesture or speech. Vanity is the desire to do an improper thing just to outshine others. This is exemplified in the case of a man who spends money extravagantly outdo others in respect of almsgiving. However, it is not vanity if it is pure, sincere, and unselfish motives that make a man practise generosity, morality, and mental development in a way unmatched by others. The characteristic of vanity is insincerity and egoism, and is not to be confused with the desire to do cultivate the spiritual side of life — a desire that arises from wholesome states of consciousness.
These two evils of impertinence and vanity do not usually occur to meditators who practise sincerely and diligently, but they become extinct only at the stage of Arahantship, so the meditator should be constantly on his guard against them.
Conceit and Excessive Conceit
The next pair of defilements that deserve our attention is conceit (māna) and excessive conceit (atimāna). Conceit may have its origin in one’s good family, wealth, physical appearance, intelligence, or number of associates. Conceit is of three kinds: 1) A sense of one’s own superiority (seyyamāna) in respect of family, social standing, etc. This superiority may be true or false. The false sense becomes extinct at the stage of Stream-winning, and the true sense only at Arahantship. 2) A sense of equality with others (sodisamāna). The sense may be true or false, the false sense becomes extinct at Stream-winning, but the true sense only at Arahantship. 3) A sense of inferiority in respect of something (hīnamāna). It is a feeling that forms the basis not for humility or reverence for other people, but for conceit and arrogance. Ironically, it makes someone defiant and scornful of what superior people think since one considers them as totally alien. He or she is conceited, being less inhibited than those who are superior in some respects. Again one can overcome the false sense of inferiority at Stream-winning, but the true sense only at the Arahantship.
“Atimāna” means excessive conceit. One may, at first, consider oneself equal with others, but later this may develop into excessive conceit, that leads to a highly exaggerated opinion of oneself. Excessive conceit is a common character trait of government officials, religious teachers, leaders, and others who pride themselves on their authority, special qualifications, knowledge, skill, ability, or achievement in some fields. However, their conceit is so excessive that it makes them haughty in interpersonal relations. They betray their overweening pride in their writings and conversations.
This excessive conceit bedevils some meditators when they attain certain spiritual levels such as knowledge of arising and passing away. They may think that they are making more spiritual progress than their teachers. So we should practise insight to overcome false conceit at the Stream-winning stage and we should try to attain Arahantship to do away with the conceit that we may seek to justify by virtue of some special qualifications that we really do possess.
The Humility of Venerable Sāriputta
The humility of Venerable Sāriputta should be a lesson for us.
On one occasion the Buddha’s two chief disciples, Venerable Sāriputta and Moggallāna, took leave of the Blessed One and went on tour. On seeing Venerable Sāriputta accompanied by many monks, a certain monk became envious. So he approached the Buddha and reported falsely that Venerable Sāriputta had brushed against him and gone his way without making an apology. The Buddha knew the truth, but sent for the elder and told him about the complaint of the monk. Venerable Sāriputta said that it was possible for an unmindful person to have done such a thing, but he was always mindful of his body. Then he referred to the forbearance which he practised by comparing himself with certain objects.
1) Venerable Sāriputta likens himself to the earth which serves as the dumping ground for all kinds of rubbish, both clean and unclean. It receives all sorts of filth, excrement, pus, phlegm, and so forth without complaint or disgust. He exercises the kind of forbearance that is so characteristic of the earth.
2-4) Again filth is dumped into water. It is disposed of by fire and air, but water, fire, and air neither complain nor show disgust. In the same way he practises forbearance to an extraordinary degree.
5) He also acts like a foot-wiping cloth with which one cleanses one’s feet of dirt. The cloth is patient and free from complaint and so is he.
6) He adopts the attitude of low caste man towards the high caste Brahmins. When a low caste man enters a village, he has to rap with a stick by way of warning others of his approach, so that they may be able to avoid contact with him. Venerable Sāriputta said that he has the humility like the self-abasement of these low caste men.
7) He is like a bull with broken horns, which is docile and does not attack any living being.
8) He loathes his body. He is not pleased with it any more than the young men or women who have bathed and adorned themselves will be pleased with a rotten carcass hung round their necks.
9) He feels that he is bearing the burden of his body which is like a pot of animal fat with many holes for dripping.
When Sāriputta thus told the Buddha about his forbearance and humility, the monk who had falsely accused him was stricken with remorse and apologized to the elder for his misdeed. Venerable Sāriputta forgave him and also asked for his forgiveness.
Venerable Sāriputta’s humility is exemplary. Many people may not be able to practise humility to such a high degree or even to get rid of ordinary conceit, but we should try to overcome excessive conceit (atimāna).