There are those who do not realize
that one day we all must die.
But those who do realize this
settle their quarrels.
– The Buddha
(Dhammapada Verse 6)
Let’s get rid of anger’s evil; let’s purge the mind, tear out by the roots that which would grow back if any small pieces hang on anywhere. Let’s not just restrain our anger but expunge it altogether – for what restraint can there be when we’re dealing with evil? We have the power to do it, provided we make the effort.
Nothing will aid us more than the contemplation of our mortality. Let’s each say to each other and to ourselves: “What joy is there in proclaiming our grievances and wasting our brief lifespan, as though we were born to live forever? What joy in taking the days that could be devoted to honorable pleasures and devoting them instead to someone’s pain and torture? Such days aren’t disposable; we don’t have spare time to squander.
Why do we rush into a fight? Why bring quarrels on ourselves? Why take up huge hatreds, forgetful of our own weakness, and though breakable ourselves, be roused to break others? Soon a fever, or some other bodily ill, will put a stop to the enmities that we maintain with a resolute mind; soon death will intervene to halt the most bitter contest. Why do we get into an uproar and, like mutineers, throw our lives into disorder?
Fate stands over our heads and counts up our waning days, coming nearer and nearer. That space of time you allot to cause another’s death is perhaps about right for your own. Why not rather hoard this brief space of life and make it peaceful for yourself and others? Why not merit the love of all while you live and their fond regret after you’re gone?… Why do you try with all your might to destroy the one who snaps at you – a lowly fellow, much despised… Hold back a bit; look, here’s death, arriving to make you equal with them.”… Let’s instead squeeze out whatever tiny space of time is left, in quiet and calm…
Surely there’s nothing more than death you can wish on the person you’re angry with – and he will die, even if you do nothing. You’re wasting effort if you want to bring about that which is going to happen anyway… [H]ow little time remains, either for him to be tortured by paying the penalty, or for you to take your wicked joy in imposing it… Let’s not be a source of fear or anger to anyone. Let’s cast scorn on injuries, harms, insults, and taunts; let’s put up with brief annoyances. As they say, the moment we turn and look behind us, death stands right there.
How to Keep Your Cool: An Ancient Guide to Anger Management
By Seneca, selected, translated and introduced by James Romm