Understanding No Self

Often we get angry with friends who are never punctual, or colleagues who continue to disappoint us and cause inconvenience. We hit the roof when workmen do not turn up in time or deliver the wrong item or produce unsatisfactory results. And we’re devastated if our new car receives scratches in a car park due to another’s negligence in taking care when opening their car door.

There is nothing wrong with being angry. Anger releases our inner emotions and can promote well being. However, it is not healthy if we allow anger to build and in turn affect people around us. It is good to let go of anger by telling friends or family members of our frustrations, but we shouldn’t persist with our complaints.

It is natural to be upset when you are misunderstood, It is not realistic to expect the whole world to understand our point of view. I learnt from my mother a long time ago that there is no chance of explaining one’s innocence to everybody. She said “As long as the heaven, the earth and our conscience know – it is enough”. As long as the people who matter the most to us understand and accept is, we don’t need the whole world to be sympathetic.

One way to control your anger is to tell yourself that the party or the incident is not worth wasting your emotions on. We cannot matter to everyone and not everyone matters to us.

When I was younger, I use to even argue over space in a car park and often behaved as if I was related to the Godfather. I would frequently blow my top when others didn’t live up to my expectations. My friends tell me I have mellowed with age. I don’t think it is simply a question of age but also of learning how to respect others. Everybody has the freedom to behave badly but it is really their own problem. Why should we allow others to affect us? Having the last word and walking away is not even necessary or gratifying – just walk away!

Harper Lee wisely wrote in “To Kill a Mocking Bird “…you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it…”. I think this is profound and I try to calm friends who get upset with people over the smallest things. Mostly people react or behave the way they do because there is more to the story. After all, we are who we are. If we look beyond the issue and deeper into the other party, we will always find a side that explains their actions and will help to erode our anger.

My friend runs a furniture retail outlet and often complains that her customers frequently ask for discounts. She’s constantly angry with them, complaining “My prices are not high and they still want discounts. Some waste so much of my time and end up spending little or no money! . My response is “ Why not? ” She may not agree to reduce her prices, but customers reserve the right to ask because they are spending THEIR money. It may be a small or large purchase but as retailers, we have to respect our customer’s budget and preference and not measure time by the purchase value. I told my friend that she should leave the retail business if she cannot understand this principle. She should not allow her anger to rule her every day. I only truly understood why other have turned to religion after extreme disappointment of anger, when a business partner betrayed me. Each night, in between my tears, I would tread through the teachings of Buddha. They gave me the strength to get up each morning and face another day.

One of the most memorable principles I learned was “No Self” (literal translation). You shouldn’t think of how badly you were hurt or treated, how sorry you feel for yourself, how you were short-changed or how deprived you were. Once you stop thinking “I, I, I…” you will feel much better can look at things from a different perspective. At the time of betrayal, I dreaded bumping into my former business partner. It was not out of fear but because I was worried that I would be overwhelmed by my anger and be unable to control my actions. I told myself that if it happened I would imagine the glowing body of Buddha ( it could be Jesus or another religious icon) walking next to this person. He would be smiling at me with his finger waving gently, signaling me not to get angry. Of course it was only psychological therapy but it worked! We did cross paths (with Buddha next to her) and I managed to walk right past with my head held high. I was still very angry but I managed to control it. Of course my father’s advise also helps.

He believes that it is not our job to punish people who do us wrong. Any bad deed is recorded and it is up to God to handle the person.

Can we really practice “ No Self ?” It is not easy but you can try to eliminate the “I, I, I” or “Me, me, me”. It’s better than hyperventilating and counting to ten. Try it the next time you get angry. It really works. And if added support is needed, draw on your belief, in Buddha or God, for help.

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