Angry and Buddhist: can I be both?

I’ve been angry, a lot angry, for a while now. Probably my entire life but really at the very least since I went to college and started learning that this racist and sexist system had been pulling the proverbial wool over my eyes my entire life. I think that’s where the anger really comes from. At the fact that I’d been hoodwinked for the last few decades.

But like I said, I’m angry. And that anger really came to a peak in November of last year, after the election. I wasn’t angry that #45 won, per se. I’m a brown womxn, I know that this country was and still is completely racist and sexist. I didn’t really think that Hilary would win because of the sexism nor did I think that Hilary would make the situation of my community any better when it comes to racism or any other oppressive issue. I was angry that there was people who looked like me, people in my own family that voted for #45. I was angry that brown people have bought into this lie that we can gain whiteness. If we just let go of our browness, turn our backs on our own community, that we will gain entrance into the White People Club and enjoy the benefits of white privilege. It may be true for some, if you can pass, but those of us that wear the browness on our skin, not just in our hearts and minds, have no real shot at going through those pearly white gates.

So I’ve been angry. At myself for not speaking up more, at others for being idiots and voting for #45, and to society as a whole for just being a bunch of racists assholes.

But then I remembered that I’m Buddhist and we’re not supposed to be angry, right? We’re supposed to be loving and kind and understanding. So I wondered how to reconcile those two parts of me. I want to be kind and understanding, even when people want to take away my right to exist. And I also want to be angry; angry for myself, for my community and for the planet.

Well, I did some deep reflection, chanted on it and then came to a conclusion: I’m allowed to be angry. What I’m not allowed to do is take it out on individuals. I’m not allowed to act on that anger. What I am allowed to do is use that anger to fuel my desire for change through chanting and through action. I’m allowed to let it fuel me into working with my community and make changes in my own life. I can use that anger to make change.

I’ve been using this anger to fuel my writing. Not that everything I write is angry but it’s given me the courage to write more, to share my voice more. I think that my voice and my experiences are important. My perspective is needed in this world just like everyone’s is. My story needs to be told. Our stories need to be told.

Plus, white people don’t get my anger. They don’t get to have it. Society doesn’t get to have it. Even #45 doesn’t get to have it. I know sounds like a strange thing to say. But its the truth. My anger is precious fuel that keeps the flame hot and glowing. And only my community gets it. They get it in the form of:

work,

action,

motivation,

support,

passion and

love.

Being Buddhist has taught me so much about life and how to react to it. It’s taught me about perspective. Its taught me that having emotions and letting them out is ok. That I’m a human living in an unjust world and that I’m going to get angry. I’m going to get upset. And that I’m also going to be joyful, happy and content. The difference is what do you do with those emotions, no matter what they are. How do you use them for kosen-rufu or world peace? How do you use those emotions to make changes in your community or even, just in your own life?

These are the questions that I’m asking myself as all of these emotions start bubbling up every day when I read articles and go on social media.  I see so many great examples of people using their anger to educate others through videos or writing. They use their joy to show that you can find joy even on the darkest of days and that even sadness can be used to transform your life and the lives of people around you.

I’ve also learned that being angry and fighting with people doesn’t really change people’s minds. The hard part is talking to people, to individuals. This is what I do for work. My entire job as an organizer is to build relationships with people so that I can understand their perspective and the issues that they face. My job isn’t to make change on my own. It’s to get people to feel anger, so much so that they have no other choice but to make change. They have to join the next rally or town hall. To go to the state or national capital to have their anger heard by those that are supposed to represent them.

Anger has its place. And being Buddhist isn’t about feeling nothing but joy and living a life free from suffering. Being Buddhist is about feeling the spectrum of different emotions and not just reacting. It about really feeling those emotions, deeply.  And then using them to transform yourself and those around you.

Buddhism is about transformation and that’s what I want to do with my time; transform myself, my community and the planet, one angry scream or rant at a time.

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