Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verses 22-23

Transglomeration: [22] So, I do not get angered and enraged when my body feels out of sorts, such as jaundice of the liver (which is inanimate), even though they are a major source of quite intense sorrow; then, why get angry at those (things which happen to be animate, sentient beings)?   They too are impelled and provoked by circumstance and conditions.   [23] Just as acute pain comes about, although in no way wanted or expected, so anger (and the other damaging kleśas) are strong and quick to arise in beings quite automatically, although equally not desired.

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

Review: the same as for inanimate things; conditions for anger arise including both animate and inanimate things (why get angry at one but not the other – although I personally can get frustrated so much with things that it verges on anger; why not not get angry with either?); get angry with kleśas instead

Text: [23] Sanskrit talks about anger arising unwantedly (in others, established from verse 22), the Tibetan has it as (also) more generally as the kleśas arising unwantedly

Reflection: this begins moving deeper into the problem of anger, firstly by analysing that bad conditions and circumstances just come about, because of circumstances – the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone; there is no intention behind them arising, there is no maliciousness against which to get angry – shit just happens when you’re stepping in it; this is deeper than just putting up with it (because the alternative, anger, is so destructive, as in the last section), this is dispelling that there is anything to get angry about in the first place – things is just what it is, what the great web of circumstance has weaved to be at this moment and at this time – with you at the centre; but it’s people, they got minds, they have intent: no, they have minds, and they have intent, but these minds and the intents that come out of them are too conditioned and circumspect, they don’t just act randomly and independently of any rule or consideration, they are as conditioned as an illness which works its way through a body;

Reflection: it seems these verses are exploring the non-independence of peoples’ intent, it’s putting peoples’ intent on the same level of activation and wilfulness as non-conscious things, like illnesses; it is the believing that people chose to do what they did to hurt us that fuels our anger (as per verse 11 – believing that people chose to do what we didn’t want or chose to hinder what we want), and so these verses are deconstructing this belief that fuels our anger, and dissimilates our phantom presumed-enemies into just the wave and froth of conditioned existence – there’s nothing there to get angry with; stuff, including people getting angry, just happens

History/Biography: why did Śāntideva chose ‘bile’ (translated, also, as ‘liver disease’, ‘jaundice’, understood as one of the humours … according to … Ayurvedic medicine?) as the illustration of something non-conscious which just arises due to causes and conditions: he needed a readily-recognisable-example and an example which clearly establishes something which gives a lot of discomfort and suffering and pain, but which just arises by itself, it doesn’t have the intention to hurt – was there a lot of dysentery or food-poisoning at Nālandā which a lot of his audience will have readily experienced and which, presumably, Śāntideva himself would also have experienced?

Reflection: actually, I think we do get angry with illnesses that happen, as well as the weather, and stubbed toes and pinching doors, but we get angry because it hurts and we weren’t expecting it, and even the most self-involved-and-paranoid person would find it hard to chew out and belittle a door for pinching the finger, to hold a grudge against it, try to undermine it, plan revenge which strikes right at the heart of its sense of identity, that’ll show it; we might get angry at a person for not doing something that they should have been doing with the door which resulted in us getting our finger pinched in it, but we wouldn’t get angry at the door itself – it just wouldn’t make sense because we know, bottom line, the door closed (as it does, you can’t fault that) and our finger was in the way of where the door shuts (for whatever reason, it was just there at that time) and, pinch.   When we acknowledge the facts of what is what, there’s nothing to get angry at; a door can’t not shut over its own hinge, or against the jamb, and still be a door.   And yet we will get angry at people because we hold that they have consciousnesses – they are animate and wilful, they decide to do things – whereas doors do not.   So we do something quite quirky and magical here, we anthropomorphise … humans, by presuming they have intention when they cut across us, and this gives us an ocean of excuse to engage in self-defence, in self-aggrandisation, in loudness, in spite, inspite of the fact that human wilfulness is as much determined and conditioned as a closing door – there is little room for manoeuvre

Practice: see all peoples’ anger (and other kleśas) as arising from conditions only, it’s just ‘stuff’ that makes them act so – this cultivates an understanding; … see everything, whether it affects you or not, as just the weave and flow of cause and conditions, again, an understanding, a perspective on the world, events and people