The Anger-Eating Demon

"A problem with anger is that we enjoy being angry. There is an addictive and powerful pleasure associated with the expression of anger. And we don't want to let go of what we enjoy. However, there is also a danger in anger, a consequence that outweighs any pleasure. If we would keep in mind the danger, then we would be willing to let anger go.

"In a palace, in a realm a long time ago, a demon walked in while the king was away. The demon was so ugly, he smelled so bad, and what he said was so disgusting, that the guards and other palace workers froze in horror. This allowed the demon to stride right through the outer rooms, into the royal audience hall, and then sit himself on the king's throne. Seeing the demon on the king's throne, the guards and the others came to their senses.

" 'Get out of here!' they shouted. 'You don't belong there! If you don't move your butt right now, we'll carve it out with our swords!'

"At these few angry words, the demon grew a few inches bigger, his face grew uglier, the smell got worse, and his language became even more obscene.

"Swords were brandished, daggers pulled out, threats made. At every angry word or angry deed, even at every angry thought, that demon grew an inch bigger, more ugly in appearance, more smelly, and more foul in his language.

"This confrontation had been going on for quite a while when the king returned. He saw on his own throne this gigantic demon. He had never seen anything so repulsively ugly before, not even in the movies. The stench coming from the demon would even make a maggot sick. And his language was more repugnant than anything you'd hear in the roughest of drunk-filled downtown bars on a Saturday night.

"The king was wise. That's why he was king: he knew what to do. 'Welcome,' he said warmly. '"Welcome to my palace. Has anyone got you anything to drink yet? or to eat?'

"At those few kind gestures, the demon grew a few inches smaller, less ugly, less smelly, and less offensive.

"The palace personnel caught on very quickly. One asked the demon if he would like a cup of tea. 'We have Darjeeling, English Breakfast, or Earl Grey. Or do you prefer a nice peppermint? It's good for your health.' Another phoned out for pizza, monster-size for such a big demon, while others made sandwiches (deviled-ham, of course). One soldier gave the demon a foot massage, while another massaged the scales on his neck. 'Mmmm! That was nice,' thought the demon.

"At every kind word, deed or thought, the demon grew smaller, less ugly, less smelly, and less offensive. Before the pizza boy arrived with his delivery, the demon had already shrunk to the size he was when he first sat on the throne. But they never stopped being kind. Soon the demon was so small that he could hardly be seen. Then after one more act of kindness he vanished completely away.

"We call such monsters 'anger-eating demons.'

"Your partner can sometimes be an 'anger-eating demon.' Get angry with them and they get worse — more ugly, more smelly, and more offensive in their speech. The problem gets an inch bigger every time you are angry with them, even in thought. Perhaps you can see your mistake now and know what to do."

— Ajahn Brahm in Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? Inspiring Stories for Welcoming Life's Difficulties

A Special Jacket

"Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv of Kelm (1824-1898) developed a strategy to never lose his temper. He had a special jacket that he had set aside to wear when he was angry. He said, 'When I feel the anger coming on, I know that I have to get my special jacket. But, by the time I do, I am no longer angry."

— Alan Morinis in Every Day, Holy Day

An Ungovernable Temper

"A Zen student came to Bankei and complained: 'Master, I have an ungovernable temper. How can I cure it?'

" 'You have something very strange,' replied Bankei. 'Let me see what you have.'

" 'Just now I cannot show it to you,' replied the other.

" 'When can you show it to me?' asked Bankei.

" 'It arises unexpectedly,' replied the student.

" 'Then,' concluded Bankei, 'it must not be your own true nature. If it were, you could show it to me at any time. When you were born you did not have it, and your parents did not give it to you. Think that over.' "

— Paul Reps in Zen Bones, Zen Flesh

Lesson from a Bee

"Jato, the instructor to the Emperor's sons, observed that the oldest boy was given to outbursts of anger, which could prove dangerous in later life because this prince stood as heir to his aging father's throne and armies. One day in the midst of the boy's tantrum, Jato dragged the youth to a flowering bush and thrust the prince's hand against a cluster of feeding bees until one bee stung the boy.

"The prince was so surprised that anyone would treat him so roughly that he stopped his raging. Cradling his stinging hand he yelled at Jato, 'I am going to tell my father.'

" 'When you tell your father, tell him this . . .'

" 'What?'

" 'Look at the bee.'

"Together they studied the bee writhing on a leaf with its entrails torn out with the stinger. They watched the agonized insect until it died.

" 'That is the price of anger,' said Jato.

"That night the boy told his father, who gave Jato a gold piece. The boy, when he became emperor, was known for his quiet judgment and his unwillingness to be provoked. This latter trait proved invaluable during his long reign through turbulent times."

— Richard McLean in Zen Fables for Today