Benefits of controlling your anger – The Dhammapada

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At last the day had arrived for Sameer when he would be giving an important presentation in front of the board members. He had been working for the last one month on the presentation, tweaking and e-tweaking it, to the extent of memorising each word of the presentation. He had carefully rehearsed his lines, even the pauses at the right moment. He wanted everything to be perfect.

Dressed in his best attire, and remembering the almighty, he stepped inside the boardroom to oversee if the projector was working fine. He could feel the cold sweat going down his spine, while his hands shook in nervous anticipation, as he walked towards the podium. But, everything changed once he reached for the microphone. He was in his elements, he was ‘Sameer, the conqueror’ as called by his colleagues, who were both in awe and envy at his quick ascend. But Sameer knew better, the success did not come easy. It was his hard-work and dedication that helped him reach the podium he was standing on now.

But his reverie was broken rudely by his boss who opened the door of the boardroom.

“What are you doing here?” he asked curtly.“I thought of checking the microphone and the projector to avoid any last minute issues,” said Sameer in a hurt voice. He thought it was the right thing to do.

Maintaining the same curt voice, Sameer’s boss continued, “Well, that’snice of you. But, I need you now to concentrate on the annual report. Why don’t you sit with Jitin and charter the work for the coming week.”

“But sir, I need to rehearse the presentation,” said Sameer in a confused tone.

“Don’t worry about that. I am taking over from here. I have gone through your presentation, it is simple enough for anyone to present. I will do the needful, you concentrate on the job at hand,” said Sameer’s boss in a matter of- fact manner.

It felt as if the ground beneath Sameer’s feet was shaking. His world was crumbling, and he felt suffocated under its debris. Fighting to keep his choked voice under control, he mustered enough courage to ask his boss, “I have done so much of hard work on the presentation, working around-the- lock and perfecting the points. When you assigned me the work, you had promised that I would be the one presenting it to the board members. Then, why the sudden change of plan?”

“When did I promise you anything? Isn’t it enough for you to be even given this important task of preparing a presentation for the board members? How many of your colleagues get that honour, tell me? Besides, think of the appraisal. Certainly, this presentation is not as important as getting a good appraisal Sameer,” said the boss with an evil grin on his face.

And that grin did it. At that precise moment Sameer wanted to rip off his boss’ shirt and bare his deeds in front of everyone. He was so angry that he started shaking violently. But, before he could utter another word, Jitin stepped inside the room and asked the boss to come with him for some urgent sign-off.

As the door closed behind him, Sameer sank into a nearby chair, trying against his better will to control his temper. He threw away his mobile phone on the table, and started to stare blankly at the projector. He was seething with anger. He decided not to take it lying low this time. He was going to confront his boss.

As he started to leave the room, his phone’s messenger beeped. He had forgotten about the phone in his anger. He collected it from the table and out of habit, looked at the messenger. It was one of those automated messages sent by the mobile apps. Usually, Sameer delete such messages, but this one caught his attention. It was a quote by the Buddha, “He who restrains his rising anger as a skilful charioteer checks a speeding chariot, — him I call a true charioteer; other charioteers only hold the reins.”

Sameer was awestruck, he couldn’t move at all. It was so aptly timed. Suddenly, a maniac energy tripped him, he wanted to know the context behind the thought. He opened the browser and followed a link that led him to the Dhammapada: Verse 222.

Yo ve uppatitam kodham, ratham bhantamva varaye tamaham sarathim brumi, rasmiggaho itaro jano.

Verse 222: He who restrains his rising anger as a skilful charioteer checks a speeding chariot, — him I call a true charioteer; other charioteers only hold the reins.

Once, a bhikkhu from Alavi wanted to build a monastery and so he began to cut down a tree. The deva dwelling in that tree (rukkha devata) tried to stop him, saying that she and her infant son had nowhere to go.

Failing to stop the bhikkhu she put her son on a branch, hoping that it would stop him from cutting the tree. By then, the bhikkhu was already swinging his axe and he could not stop it in time and unintentionally cut off an arm of the child. Seeing her child being harmed in this way, the mother flew in a rage and was about to kill the bhikkhu.

As she raised her hands to strike the bhikkhu, she suddenly checked herself and thought, “If I were to kill a bhikkhu, I would be killing one who observes the moral precepts (sila); in that case, I would surely suffer in niraya. Other guardian devas of the trees would be following my example and other bhikkhus would also be killed. But this bhikkhu has a master; I must go and see his master.”

So she went weeping to the Buddha and related all that had happened.

To her the Buddha said, “O rukkha devata! You have done well to control yourself.”

Then the Buddha spoke the following verse: “He who restrains his rising anger as a skilful charioteer checks a speeding chariot, — him I call a true charioteer; other charioteers only hold the reins.”

At the end of the discourse the deva attained Sotapatti Fruition, and for her dwelling place she was offered a tree near the perfumed chamber of the Buddha. After this incident, the Buddha forbade bhikkhus to cut vegetation, such as grass, plants, shrubs and trees.

By the time Sameer finished reading, he was already calm. There was a certain knowing that filled his heart. He understood that his action provoked by anger may lead to more harm, rather than providing a solution for the situation.

He re-read the story and resolved to do what rukkha devata had done–to seek the master, and in his case, the big boss himself–the chairman of the firm.

He went straight to the top floor of the office and mustering enough courage introduced himself to the chairman’s secretary. With a humble voice, Sameer said, “Ma’am, I want to ask you for a favour. For you, it might be a small thing, but for me, it is a life changing moment. I need to meet up with the chairman for just a minute. And, I know only you could facilitate that.”

While the protocol has been stringent, the conviction in Sameer’s voice made the secretary do the unthinkable. She beeped the intercom and told her boss that an employee wants to meet him regarding today’s meeting. The chairman asked him to be sent in.

As Sameer stepped inside the plush office, the old anxiety returned. He knew if this ended badly, it might result into him being fired from the organisation.

“Yes, young man, what do you want to talk about?” asked the chairman.

“Sir, I am here to ask you if given a choice, what would you have chosen, the ultimate truth or the illusionary comfort?” asked Sameer calmly, surprised at his own daring.

The chairman was taken by surprise, but regained his composure quickly. After all, he was a man of the world, someone who has experienced many weathers. He understood that Sameer was there to tell him a bitter truth, and it had required him immense courage to take up the elevator to the top floor.

“In my experience, illusionary comfort can only take you that far, whereas,ultimate truth, how much bitter it might be, will free you from all bonds and help you reach through the eons,” answered the chairman calmly.

“Then you would appreciate what I have done today, and that I may speak freely without fear in front of you?” asked Sameer.

“Yes, my boy,” reassured the chairman.

Sameer told the chairman about the presentation, his boss’ behaviour, his reaction and what prompted him to calm down.

The chairman reflected on Sameer’s story profoundly. The meeting was about to begin. There was no time for words now. The chairman asked Sameer to follow him to the boardroom.

As everyone greeted the chairman, the shock on Sameer’s boss’ face was evident. When everyone bettled in their seats, the chairman said, “Every now and then, we are promoted to act out of anger, which could be even due to some injustice done unto. However, how we react in such a situation defines our inner-self, the basic human behaviour. This young man here, despite being cheated, did not behave angrily. Instead, he had the courage to stand against the injustice in a calm manner. That’s what we need to incorporate in our corporate goals as well. Giving a voice to our employees to stand up against injustice peacefully.”
Sameer’s boss was red with embarrassment. He stood up and went up to Sameer and said, “Any word of apology would be too small, but I still seek your forgiveness. I was envious seeing you excel and wanted to steal your thunder. Please forgive me and take up your rightful position on the podium.”

Tears almost welled up in Sameer’s eyes. His moment under the sun had finally arrived and he didn’t want to miss it for the world. He stood at the podium and awed the audience with his perfect presentation.

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