2016-06-30
In his essay on wrath, Jack Miles writes that the wrathful God of the Bible changed when he came down from heaven to save his fallen creation. Miles sees the God of the New Testament as a more merciful God who has given up smiting and punishing. While different religions have varying visions of the wrathful or merciful qualities of God, nearly all agree that believers must eschew anger. Use this guide to see where the five major religions stand on wrath.



Buddhism
A Buddhist precepts insists, "Don't be angry." Buddhism teaches that anger is a result of attachments.

One of the most important Buddhist texts, the Dhammapada, devotes an entire chapter to anger. Anger is a fetter, an attachment that keeps one in a cycle of rebirths. "Abandon anger," the Dhammapada says. "Be done with conceit, get beyond every fetter. When for name & form you have no attachment--have nothing at all--no sufferings, no stresses, invade.(Dhammapada 17) "

"Conquer anger with lack of anger," the Dhammapada advises in the same chapter.

The Sodhanna Sutra teaches that becoming angry is the best way to please one's enemy, since anger brings about seven things that are pleasing to an enemy. For example, a person overcome with anger, says the sutra, is ugly, sleeps badly, has a poor reputation, and has other qualities pleasing to one's enemy. Read the complete section on anger from the sutra here.

Buddhists believe that meditation can soothe anger. Sensei Pat Enkyo O'Hara has written that working to experience one's anger can help one allay it and learn from it.

Christianity
Anger itself is not always a sin in Christianity, but anger can be especially harmful if one commits further wrongs while one is angry. "In your anger do not sin," Paul cautions (Ephesians 4:26).

As Jack Miles has written, Christianity turned previous notions of godly anger upside down. While the God of the Old Testament is often depicted as a wrathful God, Jesus preached love and forgiveness instead of anger, and reconciliation over vengeance. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus denounced anger: "But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire (Matthew 5:22)."

The New Testament's Epistle of James contains one of the most explicit Christian condemnations of anger. "My dear brothers," James says, "take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires (James 1:19-20)."

Jesus rebuked his disciples for leaning toward vengeance when they were angry, instead of toward reconciliation. When James and John ask Jesus, about the unbelieving Samaritans, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?," the Gospel explains, "Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village (Luke 9:54-56)."

Hinduism
Hinduism teaches that anger is one of the qualities that results in rebirth and inability to reach Brahman. As the Bhagavad Gita says, "Life after life I cast those who are malicious, hateful, cruel, and degraded into the wombs of those with similar demonic natures. Birth after birth they find themselves with demonic tendencies (16:19)."

As it further explains, renouncing anger is necessary to reach life's ultimate goal. The Gita continues, "There are three gates to this self-destructive hell: lust, anger, and greed. Renounce these three. Those who escape from these three gates of darkness, Arjuna, seek what is best and attain life's supreme goal. Others disregard the teachings of the scriptures. Driven by selfish desire, they miss the goal of life, miss even happiness and success (16:20-23)."

One Hindu story in the Mahabharata teaches the difference between a man of forgiveness and a man of wrath. The Mahabharata describes the man of wrath as someone "surrounded by darkness," who "is hated by both relatives and strangers. Such a man, because he insults others, suffers loss of wealth and reaps disregard and sorrow and hatred and confusion and enemies."

The king in the story explains, "Anger is the slayer of men and is again their protector. Know this, O thou possessed of great wisdom, that anger is the root of all prosperity and all adversity. O thou beautiful one, he that suppresses his anger earns prosperity."

Man must "ever forsake anger," the king says, because it will only lead to the world's destruction.

Other Hindu texts concur. The Tirukkural warns:

Forget anger toward all who have offended you,
For from anger springs a multitude of wrongs.

The face's smile and the heart's joy are slain by anger.
Does there exist a greater enemy than one's own anger? (Tirukkural 31: 303-304).

The Upanishads also teach that one who is angry cannot realize Brahman. The Tejabindu Upanishad explains, "Brahman cannot be realized by those who are subject to greed, fear, and anger. . . Brahman cannot be realized by those who are enmeshed in life's duality." But, the text continues, "to all those who pierce this duality, wse hearts are given to the Lord of Love, He gives himself through his infinite grace."

Islam
The Qur'an depicts Allah as both a wrathful and merciful God. Several surahs warn believers about the wrath of Allah. "If they accuse thee of falsehood, say: "Your Lord is full of mercy all-embracing; but from people in guilt never will His wrath be turned back (6:147)."

Later the Qur'an states, "But those who have earned evil will have a reward of like evil: ignominy will cover their (faces): No defender will they have from (the wrath of) Allah (10:27)."

As one hadith explains, Muhammad taught that God was more merciful than wrathful. Abu Hurairah reports that the Prophet Muhammad said, "Before He created life, the Almighty Allah declared, 'My Mercy shall surpass My Wrath.' Thus was it written."

While examples of the wrath of God are common in the Qur'an, other Muslim texts show that anger is not allowed among the believers themselves. Several Muslim texts caution against anger. The hadith extol people who are able to control their anger. As Abu Hurairah reports in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, the Prophet said, "The strong man is not the good wrestler; the strong man is only he who controls himself when he is angry."

Another Muslim text cautions against anger, in a warning against all types of extreme emotion. "Anger that has no limit, causes terror. Kindness that is inappropriate, does away with respect. So do not be so severe with others, as to terrify them; and do not be so lenient with others, as to make them take advantage of you," the "Gulistan" of Sadi says.

Judaism
Readers of the Torah often interpret the God of the Jewish bible as an angry God. The prophets frequently warn followers about God's wrath. "Who can stand before His indignation?" asks the prophet Nahum. "And who can abide in the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken asunder before Him." The Jewish bible is full of smitings, examples of God's wrath. Judaism teaches that an angry God is necessary in order to instill fear of God in believers.

But though the God of the Torah is often depicted as wrathful, Judaism encourages believers themselves to be slow to anger. "Better to be slow to anger than mighty, to have self-control than to conquer a city," the book of Proverbs states.

The Talmud states, similarly, "Do not get angry easily:" Talmudic sages believed that anger was similar to idolatry. The text continues, "One who tears his clothes, breaks his utensils, destroys his money in his rage should be in your eyes as one who commits idolatry (Shabbos 105b)."

Not only is anger sinful, but it can be detrimental to the person who becomes angry. "Anger deprives a sage of his wisdom, a prophet of his vision," the Talmud states in the tractate Pesahim. Anger is not always As Rabbi Joseph Telushkin has written in "Jewish Values," the Jewish sage Maimonides understood that sometimes feeling anger is necessary, as to never feel annoyance is to be "akin to a corpse (Laws of Character Development, 1:4)."

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