Excerpt from the “Overcoming the Hindrances” section of Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana.
Ill Will (Aversion)
Symptoms: When your thoughts reveal a motivation that is unkind or aggressive, even a little, you have ill will. In that condition you cannot appreciate the beauty of anything or anybody. When it reaches the level of grudge or hatred, you are like a pot of boiling water, very hot and confused. The thoughts are incessant and obsessive. You cannot keep your mind on anything else for long.
Nutriments: Dwelling on your angry thoughts. Ill will can start from a mild annoyance or some slight irritation. If you don’t take care of it at that level, it gradually grows into aversion, resentment, anger, grudge, or hatred. This comes from unmindful reflection on the subject of your anger. You dwell on it. You contemplate it, think about it again and again. You feed it.
Solutions: Catch anger at the outset—Be mindful of it as soon as it arises. Don’t let it build.
- Isolate anger—Isolate it in the mind as an event separate from the actions, persons, situations, or memories that trigger it. Let anger just mirror in your mind without being a person who is angry. Let it be just a pure energy.
- Talk to yourself—Give yourself a kind but thorough lecture.
- Count breaths—Count your breaths in the very special way described below.
- “Homage to the Blissful One”—Bring your respect for the Buddha and his teachings into play. Say, “Homage to the Blissful One, the Worthy One, the Fully Enlightened One.” Say it three times. Remember the Buddha’s infinite patience, compassion, and lovingfriendliness. why can’t we concentrate strongly right now?
- Remember that your temper is dangerous—and remember anger’s miserable consequences.
- Try to see the whole person—Stop dwelling only on the negative aspects of the person or situation. Remember the good parts.
- See impermanence and dependent origination—Use anger to enhance your overall realization of the truth. See that anger and its causes are impermanent. Realize that anger and its causes are impermanent. See that anger arises dependent on causes and conditions.
- Be kind to yourself—Sometimes you are angry with yourself too. Forgive yourself. Recall your good qualities and what you are striving to become.
- Remember that you will die—Do you really want to pass away with this in your mind? Remember that, when you do or say something with anger to hurt somebody, you hurt yourself first. You hurt yourself even before you hurt the other.
- Don’t blame anybody—Remember that it is just a situation. The other person has a viewpoint too and it looks as valid to him or her as yours looks to you.
- Cultivate gratitude—Use metta to cultivate gratitude toward everybody. It dissolves anger and ill will.
- Talk to the pain—Anger causes pain and pain causes anger. Talking to the pain, talking to your laziness, talking to aging, talking to fear—all these can be very useful and important.
Ill will is a very large topic. It’s not just anger that sticks to us. It’s things like sadness and fear and depression too. You can have ill will toward anything—the pain in your back or leg, the taste of your dinner, the house you live in or your salary. This section has presented remedies that apply to human relationships—your interactions with the people around you. But the general principles you have read on these pages apply to anything toward which you have aversion. I invite you to think about how you will apply what you have read to the real situations of your life—your illness, paying your taxes, and the death of your dearest friend.