Continued from Part XLIII
Anger is an emotion of all living beings including humans and animals depicted through antagonism towards someone or something perceived to have deliberately done some wrong. In spiritual sense, the attachment of person towards the materialistic or worldly possessions gives rise to a sense of insecurity and consequent fear; this fear leads to agitation of the mind; and the agitated mind gives rise to anger. People have a variety of fears; fear of losing possessions and wealth, fear of losing status and position, and fear of losing social reputation, material comforts and pleasures, and so on. In more mundane term, the behaviour of people around or any development that is contrary to one’s will or expectations leads to irritation and anger in the person. Hindu scriptures describe anger as a demoniac property and a product of man’s ego and attachment towards material cravings and possessions.
Anger may have many mental and physical repercussions and consequences. The external symptoms of anger are reflected through the facial expressions, body language, physiological changes, and in some cases as an act of human aggression or even violence. While the common people tend to justify their anger as a response of something bad done to them, the clinical psychology holds that an angry person may as well be mistaken as anger leads to a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objective observability. An angry person is not only agitated in mind but also experiences physical effects such as increased heartbeat, high blood pressure, tense limbs and muscles, and inappropriate body gestures with increased levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline. Anger often poses serious threats to the person and the objects of anger in terms of cognitive, physical and physiological behaviour often with a flight or fight response.
In modern clinical terms, anger management is a psycho-therapeutic program for anger prevention and control while Hinduism has traditionally professed removal of ego and attachment to worldly possessions as also devotion to God as the most viable means to get rid of anger and many other negative emotions. Modern science often tends to justify the anger as a defensive response to underlying fear or feelings of vulnerability or powerlessness and insist on anger management programs identifying anger as a motivation caused by an identifiable reason that needs logical analysis and working. In a nutshell, the Western concept of anger management is to control and regulate anger so that it does not result in problems while Hindu way of anger management lays emphasis on spiritual development for removal of the cause (of anger) itself to rule out effects (potential harms).
Anger is a Gate to Hell
In Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Shree Krishna regards anger, greed and lust as signs of ignorance that lead to illusion and perpetual bondage. The anger is the consequence of the agitations of a bickering mind, which could be either a product of the avirodha-priti (unrestricted attachment) or the virodha-yukta-krodha (anger arising from frustration). Worldly attachments and materialistic desires often cause frustration when things do not culminate as planned and his frustration becomes the cause of anger. Krishna explains positive and negative attributes of humans as divine and demoniac properties, and categorizes anger along with others as the trait of person born with the demoniac nature.
Dambho darpo ’bhimanash cha krodhah parushyam eva cha,
Ajnanam chabhijatasya partha sampadam asurim.
(O Parth, the qualities of those who possess a demoniac nature are hypocrisy, arrogance, conceit, anger, harshness, and ignorance.) (BG: Chapter 16, Verse 4)
Shree Krishna identifies six traits of the people with demoniac natures, of which anger in one. This suggests that a wicked person is a mix of several vices: They are hypocrites because they talk of virtues to impress others and themselves as but do not follow the same as their own intrinsic nature nd remain impure. They are by nature arrogant and have excessive proud about their material possessions and designations, such as wealth, position, education, beauty, etc. They frequently become angry and aggressive towards others due to lack of control of the mind, and are also unusually cruel and harsh with the lack of sensitivity towards others’ needs, problems and sufferings due to ignorance. Shree Krishna says that those who are free from these vices are saintly person with a stable mind.
Duhkheshv-anudvigna-manah sukheshu vigata-sprihah,
Vita-raga-bhaya-krodhah sthita-dhir munir uchyate.
(One whose mind remains undisturbed amidst misery, who does not crave for pleasure, and who is free from attachment, fear, and anger, is called a saint of steady wisdom.) (BG: Chapter 2 Verse 56)
The essence of the aforesaid verse is that men with steady wisdom are essentially Vitaragi i.e. they give up craving for pleasure, Vitabhayi i.e. they remain free from fear and Vitakrodhi i.e. they are devoid of anger. Such a person does not foster the material infirmities of anger, lust, greed, envy, etc. Only a mind free from these vices can steadily contemplate on transcendence focusing on the divine. A person who allows his mind to brood over the past pains or apprehensions of future miseries lives with a tormented mind, and the same is true of past pleasures or future cravings. So a wise person of steady wisdom is one who does not allow the mind to hanker for pleasure or lament for miseries. Similarly, he does not permit his mind to succumb to the vices of fear and anger. This position is so well explained in the following verse.
Dhyayato vishayan pumsah sangas teshupajayate,
Sangat sanjayate kamah kamat krodho’ bhijayate.
(While contemplating on the objects of the senses, one develops attachment to them. Attachment leads to desire, and from desire arises anger.) (BG: Chapter 2 Verse 62)
Anger along with many other demoniac properties such s greed and lust, etc. are equated with manas rog or diseases of mind in the Hindu scriptures. In Shree Ramcharit Manas (Tulsidas’s Ramayana) these properties are described as mind diseases suggesting that even a single ailment has potential to make life miserable and imagine the plight of person tormented by multiple mental disorders. As in common parlance, the anger, greed, lust etc. are not recognized as mental diseases, humans have not made much effort to overcome them. Clinical Psychology is one branch of human knowledge for the purpose of understanding, preventing, and relieving psychologically-based distress or dysfunction and to promote subjective well-being and personal development but so far both the analysis and solution offered by the western psychology leave much to be desired, and appear to be gross approximations of the reality of the mind.
In the aforesaid verse of the Bhagavad Gita, one could find a perfect and penetrating insight into how the human mind functions. It could be explained with the illustration of college going young students. There are a number of boys and girls in a class, who routinely interact with each other and then a boy incidentally exchanges notes with a girl a couple of times. The routine interaction becomes special when he notices something of his choice and the boy starts contemplating about the girl that leads to attraction and attachment. He starts imagining even a long term association with the girl and even he shares his thought with some of his other friends. He realizes this attachment as love for her, and now he is unable to focus on studies because his mind is constantly occupied with her. Here the point is why is he losing his concentration and ruining his studies? The answer is simple: He sought happiness in her company, so his mind became attached to her. Now the attachment breeds desire, his earnest desire to be with her perhaps in a long term conjugal relationship. While midway in studies, desire for such relationship invariably poses many challenges including social and parental hindrances. Desire is so often a cause for greed and anger; his greed to be with the girl by all means and likely social hindrances are bound to trigger misery and anger.
Krodhad bhavati sammohah sammohat smriti-vibhramah,
Smriti-bhranshad buddhi-nasho buddhi-nashat pranashyati.
(Anger leads to clouding of judgment, which results in bewilderment of the memory. When the memory is bewildered, the intellect gets destroyed; and when the intellect is destroyed, one is ruined.) (BG: Chapter 2 Verse 63)
In the aforesaid verse, Shree Krishna explains the disastrous consequences of anger. Anger impairs the human faculty of judgment in the same manner as the morning mist has a hazy impact on the sunlight. Consequently, the intellect gets clouded by the haze of irrational emotions compelling the person to commit blunders which they may or may not regret in life. In anger, people commit mistakes that they later regret, because the intellect gets clouded by the haze of emotions. When the intellect is overshadowed by negative emotions, it leads to bewilderment of memory and the person is unable to make distinction between the right and wrong. The downward spiral seldom stops and the bewilderment of memory leads to the destruction of the intellect. The human intellect is his internal guide, so when it is destroyed the person is ruined. Thus we could see how starting with the contemplation of sensory objects, if not controlled, a person could end up in self-decrepitude through the destruction of the intellect.
Then in the following verse, Shree Krishna also recommends how through own constant efforts it is possible to win over the vices of anger and lust:
Kama-krodha-viyuktanam yatinam yata-chetasam,
Abhito brahma-nirvanam vartate viditatmanam.
(For those sanyasis, who have broken out of anger and lust through constant effort, who have subdued their mind, and are self-realized, liberation from material existence is both here and hereafter.) (BG: Chapter 5, Verse 26)
Earlier in the same context, Arjuna was told by Krishna that both the paths of Karma-sanyas (renunciation of actions) and Karma-yoga (working in devotion) lead the seeker to his supreme goal and of the two, the latter was superior (Verse 5.2). A karma-yogi is one who does both, spiritual and social, duties - social duties are done with the body while the mind is attached to God. A karma-sanyasi is an elevated soul already risen above the bodily platform, who has discarded social duties due to complete absorption in God. Shree Krishna recommended Karma-yoga as preferable path as for ordinary souls it is difficult to be completely absorbed in God renouncing the world and yogis can continue both their worldly duties as well as spiritual practice. The path of Karma-sanyas runs a risk that after renouncing his social duties, if the seeker is not able to completely absorb his mind in God, he is left neither here nor there.
Whether the person is karma-yogi or Karma-sanyasi, by subduing his urges of desire and anger he is able to subduing his mind, thereby attaining peace and harmony in the life for all time. People often tend to hold the external circumstances responsible for the lack of peace in their lives, and live in false notion that once these circumstances subside, things will change for better conducive to the peace of their mind. On the contrary, eternal peace of mind is not dependent upon the external stimuli; instead, it is a product of refined senses, mind, and intellect. The yogis with their mind and thoughts turned inward find this peace within, independent of any external stimulus. This internal peace is achieved in the subdued mind by getting rid of anger and lust through constant effort.
Shree Krishna has described divine properties of steadfast practitioners at length in the first three verses of Chapter 16 of the Bhagavad Gita as under which inter alia include the absence of anger:
Abhayam sattva-sanshuddhir jnna-yoga-vyavasthitih,
Danam damash cha yajnash cha svadhyayas tapa arjavam.
Ahinsa satyam akrodhas tyagah shantir apaishunam,
Daya bhuteshv aloluptvam mardavam hrir achapalam.
Tejah kshama dhritih shaucham adroho nati-manita,
Bhavanti sampadam daivim abhijatasya bharata.
(Shree Bhagwan said: O scion of Bharat, these are the saintly virtues of those endowed with a divine nature - fearlessness, purity of mind, steadfastness in spiritual knowledge, charity, control of the senses, performance of sacrifice, study of the sacred books, austerity, and straightforwardness; non-violence, truthfulness, absence of anger, renunciation, peacefulness, restraint from fault-finding, compassion toward all living beings, absence of covetousness, gentleness, modesty, and lack of fickleness; vigor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, bearing enmity toward none, and absence of vanity.) (BG: Chapter 16, Verses 1-3)
In the aforesaid verses, Shree Krishna describes some twenty-six virtues of persons of steadfast nature, which should be imbibed for elevating ourselves in pursuance of the spiritual path. Purity of mind comes from inner cleanliness which achieved by harbouring positive thoughts, sentiments, feelings and emotions, and rejecting ones that are unethical and demeaning. The manifestation of anger is a severe defect of the attached mind, which is reflected when the desires for worldly pleasures are obstructed and things do not turn out as expected or anticipated. In a yet another verse, Shree Krishna describes anger in combination with lust and greed as three gates to the hell responsible for the degradation and destruction of soul.
Tri-vidham narakasyedam dvaram nashanam atmanah,
Kamah krodhas tatha lobhas tasmad etat trayaaa tyajet.
(There are three gates leading to the hell of self-destruction for the soul—lust, anger, and greed. Therefore, all should abandon these three.) (BG: Chapter 16, Verse 21)
Lust, anger and greed together arise from Ahamkara (ego) and are the foundations for other demoniac vices too. They mortify the mind making it a suitable for all other vices to take root and grow. This is reason Krishna labeled them as gateways to hell, and strongly advised to get rid of them to save self from destruction. Those desirous of welfare should learn to dread these three and carefully avoid their presence in their own personality. In Hindu philosophy, Ahamkara is considered as one of the four antahkarana (inner organs), the other three being Buddhi, Chitta and Manas. Shree Krishna stresses the need for the removal of ego for the well-being of Self because ego and cravings for the material happiness are the root causes for lust and anger but by through detachment and surrender to the will of almighty, one could overcome it.
Two Moral Short Stories
Hindu scriptures lay emphasis on internal peace of mind which is not dependent on any external stimuli. Shree Krishna said this peace is achieved in the subdued mind by getting rid of anger and lust. The seekers with their mind and thoughts turned inward and focused on divinity easily find this peace within. This is illustrated in the following two instances of popular moral stories.
1. Hermit’s Rage
Once upon a time, an accomplished hermit lived near a densely populated village. Due to frequent visit of villagers to seek his advice and blessings, his sadhna (devotion to God) was frequently disrupted making him frustrated and angry time and again. So he decided to go away from the village to an isolated place where he could continue his tapas (meditation and devotion) and spiritual practice uninterrupted. Accordingly, he located a secluded place at the top of a hill, built his cottage and started living away from the village and human population.
One day he went down the slope to collect water in his kamandalam from the nearby cascade. While climbing up after fetching the water, the kamandalam slipped and rolled down the hill. So he had to go down again to pick up the vessel, filled the water again and started to climb up. Now as luck would have it, he hit a stone by chance and stumbled as a result the whole water was spilled making it necessary to repeat the exercise again. This time hermit got very frustrated and angry and threw his kamandalam onto the ground in rage. After he cooled down, he realized that his anger was not because of villagers but due to his own nature. Once this realization came, he went back to the village and continued his tapas and never got angry again.
2. Boy Learned to Control Anger
A young boy had a bad temper, who got easily offended and enraged. One day, his father gave him a bag of nails and said that each time he lost his temper, he would hammer a nail into the stem of the tree in the backyard while chanting God's Name. The boy followed his father’s instructions dutifully and over the next few days whenever he was angry, he tried hammering nails into the tree while chanting. Soon the boy discovered that chanting made it easier for him to control his anger and hammer nails into the tree properly. As the time passed, he noticed that he now often chanted even when he was not angry. Another development was that as his chanting increased, frequency and period of his anger reduced so also the number of nails hammered into the tree stem on the successive days; gradually, the instances of anger drastically reduced but his chanting continued with more vigour.
His father was keenly observing and watching these changes in the boy all the time. Now he told the boy that he should pull out one nail from the tree for each day when he did not get angry. Time passed and the boy finally pulled out the last nail and informed his father about this development. The father now felicitated the son that he had done well to control anger. Then he also invited the boy’s attention to the holes in the tree reminding him that the stem now will never be the same due to scars left by nails. This is what many people do when driven by the negative emotions like anger and lust without realizing the result of their actions. It’s like wounds which though heal but leave scars for all time to come. People driven by anger hurt others, physically or mentally, without realization that mere saying “sorry” later on cannot redress or rectify the damage done.
The moral of the aforesaid stories is same what Shree Krishna taught in Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Anger is our one of the greatest enemies that we so often tend to ascribe to the external factors and seldom realize it is within us due to our ego and attachment to worldly pleasures. The vices like anger, lust and greed more than causing harm and hurt to others, damage and destroy the person’s own Self. Regular spiritual practice of chanting and concentrating on divine helps to overcome these vices paving way for eternal happiness and peace.
Two Approaches of Anger Mangement
The Bhagavad Gita insists on complete riddance of anger but the Western concept of the anger management is to control and regulate so it does not cause problems in life. On face, the two approaches may appear contradictory but actually there is no such conflict; instead, both the approaches are complimentary. While Gita underlines need for the anger removal for own spiritual evolution with the liberation as goal, the Western philosophers and scientists touch it at mundane level for smooth sailing of the person in physical life. That the controlled anger is at times necessary in material life is best expressed in the following verse of the great Hindu epic Ramcharit Manas (Tulsidas’s Ramayana):
Vinay na manat jaladhi jad, gaye teeni din beeti;
Bole Ram sakop tab, bhay binu hoi na preeti.
(Three days have elapsed but foolish Sindhuraj did not accede to request; so angry Ram said that there is no endearment without fear). (Ramcharit Manas, Sunder Kand, 59)
Ravana, the King of Lanka, had abducted Sita, wife of Ram, the Prince of Ayodhya, who was on a military mission to rescue her. So Ram had politely demanded Sindhuraj to allow a safe passage of his troops to Lanka through the sea route which the latter was reluctant and agreed only after the former expressed displeasure through his controlled anger.
Mundane Tips of Anger Management
Apart from the spiritual part of it, some mundane tips could easily help every person in anger management. In our day to day routine, we so easily get offended by the behaviour of others and consequently get angry and even engage in conflicts. Some of such illustrations could be find even at home when some of our siblings and relatives or even own child refuses to cooperate or follow instructions. Similarly, it someone cuts us in traffic or other public places, or if someone is found wanting in the desired output or punctuality at workplace, we have similar irritation that might lead to anger and conflict. For an ordinary human being, the anger might be like any other emotion but when unrestricted and uncontrolled, it can cause havoc to one’s own mental peace and physical health as well as his relationships with unsolicited hurt and harm.
Such situations could be averted if the person cultivates the habit of contemplation before speaking to others. I have dealt with many people in professional and social life who did not restrain self in the heat of moment but regret and repent later on. So a better way to deal with people in the surrounding is to wisely think about the choice of words before speaking to others. Even if one is not able to eliminate anger, he could still try to restrain self for the moment, allow his temper to cool down and as soon as he is able to think rationally, he could speak his mind in an assertive and un-confrontational way. This way one could convey his thoughts and irritation in a more convincing and acceptable way possibly without hurting others. The bottom-line is just don’t react when the mind is agitated.
Another viable way of anger management is to engage in regular meditation and physical exercises/activities. Deep breathing exercises and yoga have a tremendous effect of soothing and relaxing the body and mind of a person. These activities significantly reduce stress, which could help in alleviating the thoughts and ideas that have potential to make one angry and irritated. In fact, I have practically seen it in my own father who, when agitated, goes in a silent mode, prefers a brisk walk or jogging in solitude, or even tries to engage self in music or reading some light stuff. These diversions lessen the gravity of agitated mind, the person becomes more calm and composed and then it is easier to deal with the object potentially responsible got the situation. As a normal routine, people should take time out with short breaks from their stressful work routine that keeps their body and mind fit to deal with undesirable situations.
There are some other tips which may help in anger management but the key to all such measures lies in the aforesaid steps that help to achieve a calm and sober nature and temperament:
- Instead of too much focus on the effect, the cause must be identified and addressed. For instance if the child or spouse is not cooperating at home, rather than being angry one should try to see reasons for their behaviour and try to address by removing the factors responsible for this. Similarly, if a subordinate is unable to give desired results, one could try to identify if it is due to lack of training or knowledge or some personal problem is bothering him. Usually, when the cause is effectively addressed, the effect is automatically taken care of.
- One should avoid nurturing grudges which when crowded invariably produce anger. This is why so much significance is attached to forgiveness in Hinduism. Forgiveness is one positive attribute that must be cultivated by all, which overshadows and minimizes the impact of anger and many other negative emotions.
- Humour is a powerful tool to alleviate tense and irritable moods in life besides making one light and jovial, and diffusing delicate and tense situations. Therefore, everyone should try to cultivate humour in his nature that would help to lighten angry moods and unrealistic expectations from people around. However, it is also necessary for everyone to learn the difference between the humour and sarcasm as the latter might further aggravate the situation.
- One should cultivate the habit of using ‘I’ or ‘we’ in place of ‘you’. For instance, it is always better to say – “I’m upset that you left office without finishing the work” rather than “You never complete work before leaving the office”.
- Enough sleep and rest combined with good diet may also help in controlling anger.
- Lastly, it is important to realize when one really needs some professional assistance in anger management. If despite normal efforts, a person is unable to control his (or her) anger, he must seek professional assistance both spiritual and mundane medical.
According to Bhagavad Gita, renouncing ego, detachment from possessions and surrender to God relieves all kinds of vices including anger from the mind and heart. We have ten sensory and touch senses and one who can control his sensory organs, can also control his worldly desires and cravings for the material pleasures and possessions. In fact, ego is the greatest enemy and one who is free from ego can easily observe detachment and devotion to get rid of anger. Interestingly, modern neurobiology and performance psychology also agrees that people are without ego in their moments of the highest excellence, and they actually transcend the ego. The performance psychology even holds that once the ego is transcended, whatever a man does will have the stamp of excellence; hence ego transcendence becomes the basic requirement for the excellence in action.
The anger management whether by spiritual healing or mundane methods is important for people who are prone to frequents fits of angry outbursts and consequent ill-effects. This may not only help the person’s own spiritual journey but also repair many of his mundane relationships that might have been strained due to his high level of aggression and outrage. This would create a better kinship and affectionate environment at home and more conducive and cooperative professional environment at the workplace. From the emotional point of view, the anger control may reduce stress level and overall happiness and satisfaction of the person. From the medical point, many physical discomforts like malfunctioning of heart, blood pressure and muscular fatigue could be controlled and even avoided.
Continued to Part XLV