Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Understanding Anger

(Adapted from New Year lecture 2008 of Swami Paramarthananda )

Anger is a natural human emotion and is referred to as krodha in our scriptures.  It is always talked in conjunction with desire referred to as kama, in our scriptures. Anger is universal and even sages and Gods in purana are no exception as we see in the case of  Sage Durvasa and Lord Siva. It is a powerful emotion that can overcome one, suddenly coming up in an unexpected manner and growing uncontrollable.  That is why Lord Krishna classifies it as Asuri Sampath, demonic quality, and its opposite akrodha, not getting angry even under provocation, as Daivi Sampath, divine quality.

Anger arises more as a reaction, emotional, physical or psychological to an unmanageable situation and the impulsive response it invokes is an involuntary confession of one’s inability to handle the situation. It lets the other person or event to take control of one’s reactions or emotions. Sometimes one seeks release from it by aggressive acts like breaking or throwing things, punching, screaming and shouting abuses. Though one may regret the loss of temper and apologise for the behaviour later, the damage done cannot be repaired that easily and sometimes may last one’s life-time.  That is why Lord Krishna names krodha as one of the three doors to hell along with kama and lobha, greed, in Gita (16-21). 

Scriptures uniformly look upon anger as a serious problem of mind since anger  cripples the mind and becomes a handicap in achieving one’s goal, spiritual and material, as it destroys the cardinal virtues of discrimination, sensitivity, and equanimity.  Lord Krishna describes in Gita (2-63) how anger can lead to one’s fall through temporary loss of the power of discrimination, Viveka. 
क्रोधाद्भवति संमोहः संमोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रमः। (Krodhaad bhavati sammohah sammohaat smriti vibhramah;)

स्मृतिभ्रंशाद् बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति।। (Smritibhramshaad buddhinaasho buddhinaashaat pranashyati.)

From anger comes delusion; from delusion the loss of memory; from loss of memory the destruction of discrimination; from the destruction of discrimination he perishes.

It is the power to discriminate, that marks out a human being from an animal. A famous verse states that in matters of hunger, sleep and sexual urge human beings and animals act similar and only through the exercise of discriminative power human beings distinguish themselves from animals. Further in anger the reaction is almost instantaneous and impulsive and intellect has little time to analyse and advise. Second important casualty in anger is sensitivity, Sukshmatvam.  One becomes gross and  feels violence, verbal and even physical,  as a just solution to the problem and tries to solve problems through physical and verbal violence (inclusive of body language and facial reaction) only to suffer remorse later.  Puranas portray instances where rishis curse in anger and lose the benefit of years of penance. Third important casualty is equanimity, Samathvam.  Lord Krishna describes Samathvam itself as Yoga in Gita (2-48).  Anger is marked by mental agitation even in mild instances and loss of mental poise leads to negativity and buddhinasa, if not arrested initially. 

If we analyze the cause of anger, we find attachment as one of them.  When we are attached to a person our expectation from that person is also high and when they disappoint us by failing our expectations, we get angry. More the expectation, greater the anger.  This we can see in the family, especially with regard to one’s children.  Another reason is hurt ego. When we feel slighted or ignored, real or imaginary, we feel upset and angry.  Added to that, if we are suffering from a complex, superior or inferior, the problem becomes frequent and aggravated.  Physical and mental weakness also contribute to the mental instability; one due to lack of  physical energy and the other due to poor understanding, both robbing one of reason and thereby making one easily irritable and agitated.

Having seen what causes anger and what harm one’s anger does to oneself, let us see how it can be overcome.   First we should recognize that we have the problem of uncontrolled anger and keep ourselves aware of the consequential damage to our personal, social and official life and then, instead of finding scapegoats in others or in the situations, sincerely take efforts to change at our end by taking the following steps:
1.     To deliberately cultivate the opposite positive qualities of patience and tolerance to counter the negative emotion of anger as the degree of anger is inversely proportional to the level of tolerance.
2.     To cultivate the virtue of Titiksha described as equanimity of the mind with regard to the attainment of the desirable and the undesirable (samachittatvam ishtaanishtopapattishu.) in Gita (13-9).
3.     To make a resolve unto ourselves that we will not get angry, under any circumstances, irrespective of the provocation and keep repeating daily this resolve as an auto-suggestion and also reinforce the resolve by keeping a journal of the moments of anger with our comments.  This journal can help to achieve reduction of frequency in the incidence of anger and also of the intensity of anger, as and when we lapse into it.
4.     To seek the grace of God through regular, sincere prayer for the blessing of increased tolerance and Titiksha.



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