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Shambhala Sun | September 2014


The Angry Buddha

MELVIN MCLEOD on the Enlightened Power of No

Buddhas are not the love-and-light people we think they are. Of course, their enlightened mind is grounded in nirvana—total peace—but in that open space compassion spontaneously arises. It has many manifestations. One is anger.

Anger is the power of no. The enlightened mind of the buddhas is enraged against the evils of samsara and the suffering it causes. It says no to the three poisons of ignorance, attachment, and aggression that drive cyclic existence.

This is the natural reaction we all have when we see someone we love suffer—we want to stop it. The buddhas are angry about our suffering, and they will happily destroy its causes. They aren’t angry at us; they’re angry for us.

Traditionally, it is said that the buddhas’ love expresses itself in four ways. These are called skillful means, the different ways wisdom and compassion go into action to relieve suffering.

First, the buddhas can pacify, helping us to quench the flames of the three poisons. This calm and pacifying buddha is the one we’re familiar with, whose image brings a feeling of peace to millions around the world.

But sometimes more is needed.

Melvin McLeod is the editor-in-chief of the Shambhala Sun and editor of Mindful Politics and the Best Buddhist Writing series.

Read the rest of this article inside the September 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

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