Always do what is right,
but never with anger,
as anger is never right.
As recounted by Sakyamuni Buddha (in the Samyutta Nikaya), there was once a sickly-looking demon, who sat on the throne of Sakra, the chief of gods in the Trayastrimsa Heaven. Seeing this, the other gods became angry, as they indignantly (and sarcastically) exclaimed of how ‘wonderful’ it was that such a demon had taken their leader’s throne. To their shock, in proportion to their anger, the demon became better-looking, bigger and stronger. (This probably further enraged them, thus further ‘feeding’ the demon.)
Helpless, the gods went to Sakra to report of the anger-provoking and feeding demon. Sakra then went and knelt before the demon. Joining his palms towards him, he announced, ‘Sir, I’m your obedient servant, Sakra, the leader of the gods!’ As Sakra repeatedly proclaimed his humility and name, the more sickly-looking, smaller and weaker the demon became, before disappearing. (This is the power of asserting steadfast virtues.) Sakra next sat on his throne, from it teaching the gods.
As paraphrased, he explained that his mind is not easily dispirited, or distracted from the right path. He does not stay angry for long, as he does not let it abide (within his mind by bearing resentment). He does not in anger speak harshly, or proclaim his virtues (out of arrogance). Thus does he subdue himself, for the sake of his future well-being. (This is how, with his good qualities of being unperturbed, focused, patient and humble, he was able to subdue the demon, who had qualities opposite to his.)
While this might seem like a fairy tale, there are already human anger-feeding demons among us. Worse than this is that there are some who feed these demons, leading to unceasing quarrels, fights and even wars. With unrelenting retaliation, the vicious cycle of demon feeders feeding anger-feeding demons swiftly spins out of control. As the Buddha taught in the Dharmapada, ‘Hatred is, indeed, never appeased by hatred in this world. It is appeased only by loving-kindness. This is an eternal law.’
Without strong mindfulness and habitually trained loving-kindness, anger easily sprouts as angry thoughts, which become angry words and deeds. This is how we become angry demons, who feed on other angry demons’ anger, while feeding other demons with anger. Thus are there two major lessons from the story – not to feed demons with anger, and not to be demons feeding on anger. In this age of virtual bullies in cyberspace, this extends to not feeding trolls, and not becoming trolls!
Always do what is right,
and always with loving-kindness,
as loving-kindness is always right.