Anger and War

I've been angry a lot lately. Anger may seem like a taboo subject on a blog about Buddhism, but everyone has feelings of anger sometimes, Buddhist or not. As the author of "The Secret of the Yamas" explains, if we were not violent beings, we wouldn't have to try to be non-violent.

So what's been upsetting me lately is the current Israeli assault on Gaza, and the large and brutal loss of of civilian life involved.

I have read that the root of anger is fear, and that the antidote to fear is compassion. What is it about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that I am fearful of? It's not a personal fear, for myself or anyone that I know. I think, and this is where it gets Buddhist, it's a fear that my perception of the world is incorrect. I believe that the world "should" be a certain way, most people "should" be able to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and they "should" be fair and compassionate enough to see the suffering on both sides. I want the world to be a place where fairness and justice win in the end. My fear is that the world isn't like this at all (duh), which threatens my desires, which in turn arises anger in me as a reaction to protect my threatened desires and perceptions.

In "Everyday Zen", Charlotte Joko Beck tells a story to discuss anger. Imagine that you are in a small boat, on a foggy river. You see another small boat approaching you from the opposite direction, on a collision path with your boat. You yell, you wave your arms, trying to get the idiot in the other boat to change course. Finally it gets very close and you see in the fog that there is actually no one in it, the boat is empty. It simply got loose from its moorings and floated downstream. There is no one to be angry with. You simply use your oar to push the boat aside, so it does no damage. Beck says that, in the Buddhist sense, all anger is like this.

(edited 1/12/09 for brevity)

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