Home » Features » Does Being Angry Break Any Buddhist Precept?

Anger at another’s true mistake
which already harms you
creates another true mistake,
which further harms you.

Stonepeace | Books

Does having anger break any of the precepts? It does not, technically, when referring to the Buddhist Five Precepts (of abstaining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and taking of intoxicants) in the letter. However, it does, when referring to the precepts in the general spirit of not giving in to any of the Three Poisons of greed, hatred (anger) and delusion. Beyond the basic precepts, according to the Brahmā Net Sūtra (梵网经), as part of the more advanced Bodhisattva Precepts, anger should be refrained from, as we can see below –

‘The Ninth [Heavy Bodhisattva] Precept [Against Having The] Mind Of Anger [And] Not Receiving Repentance: If [as] Buddhas’ [Bodhisattva] disciples, to personally have anger, teach [or urge] others to have anger, [create] anger’s causes, anger’s conditions, anger’s methods, [or] anger’s karma [intentional actions], while Bodhisattvas should give rise to all sentient beings’ good roots without contentious circumstances, to constantly give rise to the mind of loving-kindness and compassion, and the mind of filial piety [as all have been reborn as our parents in past lives], while to instead, further to all sentient beings, and even to non-sentient beings [things and thoughts], with evil speech scolding and insulting, in addition with hands [fists and palms] beating, in addition with knives and staves, [with the] thought [of anger] still not at rest, [even if] others before them seek repentance, with good words confessing [their] misgivings, [yet] still [being] angry and irreconcilable [by bearing grudges], this is a Bodhisattva pārājika [grave morally defeating] misgiving.’ (‘第九嗔心不受悔[菩萨重]戒: 若佛子,自嗔、教人嗔、嗔因、嗔缘,、嗔法、嗔业,而菩萨应生一切众生善根无诤之事,常生慈悲心,孝顺心,而反更于一切众生中,乃至于非众生中,以恶口骂 辱,加以手打,及以刀杖,意犹不息,前人求悔,善言忏谢,犹嗔不解者,是菩萨波罗夷罪。’)

In short, to even entertain, incite or support anger towards anyone is already to breach or even break the precept in both the letter and the spirit, as this is disharmonious to the Bodhisattva spirit of nurturing all that is good, as based on generosity, compassion and wisdom, which are opposites of the Three Poisons (roots of evil). Just as we would not abuse our loving parents when they do us some wrong, we should not abuse any past parent, even in retaliation, for they always deserve more kindness than cruelty, for having enabled us to attain precious human lives to advance our spiritual lives. Even if a ‘parent’ is now seriously wayward, all the more should he or she be guided patiently.

Even if not cursing another verbally, but to do so privately, to pillow-punch, or fantasise harm being inflicted without any actual physical action is to break the precept. For the anger is still anger, and any harm, even of one’s own peace of mind is still harm. The total spirit of all precepts is to protect and even to help all beings; never to harm anyone, including oneself. Recognising the physical and spiritual self-sabotage through harbouring anger, which conditions loss of peace of mind, health, sleep, appetite and mindfulness for other Dharma practices, it would be kind and wise to oneself to never nurse anger. Not only should we never be hateful, we should be ever forgiving, without forgetting the lessons learnt though.

In the spirit of the Bodhisattva precept above, once there is anger, not only is oneself not helped, the other party cannot be helped either. As this creates and sustains a lose-lose situation for both on the path to Buddhahood, anger should always be refrained from. Destructive anger can instead be transformed into constructive enthusiastic energy for discovering solutions to address the issues, upon which a win-win situation can be created. (Yes, we can be mindfully firm without literally being mad.) On our journey to Buddhahood, may we all be mindful not to strain any otherwise neutral or even positive karmic affinities with unchecked outbursts of anger, for the damage can prove challenging to repair, even with much sincere apologies and remedial actions!

Walk away from being angered,
not by walking away from those
you are angry with [repeatedly];
but by walking away from anger.

Stonepeace | Books

Related Articles:

Six Precepts
Can Buddhists Seek Revenge? (‘Out Of The Furnace’ Of Hate)
There Are No Unforgiving Bodhisattvas

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