Conquest of Anger

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Anger makes everybody its slave and victim. It excites all. It holds sway over the whole world and also over the devatas. A little sound or a single word can upset the mind and throw a person out of balance so that he becomes the slave of anger. Anger destroys reason and makes a person do undreamed of acts. Under the influence of anger, a person abuses, insults and even murders his family members, guru and king, and repents afterwards.

Anger is very powerful. It is the enemy of peace. It is the foe of knowledge. It makes one perfectly blind. Anger is a sign of mental weakness. It always begins in folly and ends in repentance or remorse. If you control anger, you will have limitless energy in your reserve. Anger, when controlled, will be transmuted into a spiritual power which can move the whole world.

How anger is caused

The cause of sin or wrong action in this world is desire. Anger is only a modification or form of desire; anger is desire itself. You think of sense objects and attachment develops. From attachment, desire is born. When a desire arises, it generates rajas or activity and urges a person to work in order to possess the object of desire. When the desire is not gratified and when someone stands in the way of its fulfilment, the person becomes angry. The desire becomes transmuted into anger, just as milk is changed into curd.

The root cause of anger is ignorance and egoism. Anger arises when one is insulted, abused, criticized, or when one’s defects are pointed out. It results from loving one’s own opinion, from desiring to be honoured, and from imagining that one is wiser than and superior to all others.

Anger arises in one who thinks of his enemy. Even if you have forgotten the feeling of annoyance, it lurks in the mind in a dormant form for some time. If you renew the thoughts of jealousy, envy or hatred about the same person, the effects last longer. Repetition of angry feeling intensifies hatred. Simple ill-feeling develops into intense malice by repetition of anger.

Forms of anger

Irritation, frowning, resentment, indignation, rage, fury and wrath are all varieties of anger, classified according to the degree of intensity. Anger is a sharp, sudden, brief sentiment of displeasure. Resentment is persistent, continued anger. It is the bitter brooding over injuries. Wrath is a heightened sentiment of anger. Rage drives one beyond the bounds of prudence or discretion. Fury is stronger still and sweeps one away into uncontrollable violence. Irritability is a mild and subtle form of anger. Still subtler is displeasure, which is pride mixed with anger. With a sharp word or a grunt, you dismiss the ‘nuisance’. These are all forms of anger.

Anger and righteous indignation

Anger is personal and usually selfish. It is aroused by a real or supposed wrong to oneself. Indignation is impersonal and unselfish displeasure at unworthy acts. Pure indignation is not followed by regret and needs no repentance. It is also more self-controlled than anger. Anger is commonly a sin, while indignation is often a duty. We speak of ‘righteous indignation’. Suppose a man tries to molest a woman and a bystander becomes angry, it is called righteous indignation or noble anger, which is not bad. It is bad only when the anger is the outcome of greed, or selfish motives. Sometimes a religious teacher has to manifest a little anger outwardly and unselfishly to correct and improve his disciples. This is not bad. He has to do it. But he should be cool within, and hot and impetuous without. He should not allow the anger in his antahkarana for a long time. It should pass off the next moment even as a wave subsides in the sea.

A good person’s anger lasts for a second, a middling person’s for three hours, a base person’s for a day and a night, and a great sinner’s until death.

Ill-effects of anger

Anger resides in the astral body, but it percolates into the physical body. Anger spoils the brain, nervous system and blood. When a wave of anger arises in the mind, prana begins to vibrate rapidly, you get agitated and excited, the blood boils and the body becomes hot. Even three minutes of violent hot temper may produce such deleterious effects in the nervous system that will take weeks or months to repair. In the light of modern psychology, rheumatism, heart disease and nervous disease are all due to anger.

The fire you kindle for your enemy burns yourself. Anger acts as a boomerang, because it comes back to the angry person and does harm to him. When anger is on the throne, reason takes to its heels. One who is influenced by anger is like one intoxicated by strong liquor. He loses his memory, his understanding becomes clouded and his intellect becomes perverted. Anger clouds understanding. When the mind is violently agitated, you cannot think properly and clearly.

All evil qualities and actions proceed from anger. If you can eradicate anger, all bad qualities will die by themselves. Anger begets injustice, rashness, persecution, jealousy, taking possession of others’ property, killing, harsh words and cruelty. An angry person loses normal consciousness for the time being and falls prey to anger. If you have an easily irritable mind, you will not be able to do your daily duties and business in an efficient manner. If you get angry, you will lose the battle of life.

Methods to control anger

Anger is a manifestation of shakti. It is very difficult to fight against it directly. First try to reduce its force, its frequency and duration. Endeavour to attenuate or thin out this formidable modification or vritti. Do not allow it to assume the form of a big wave in the surface of the conscious mind. Nip it in the bud when it is in the form of irritability in the subconscious mind. Divert the mind and entertain divine thoughts. Do rigorous japa or kirtan. Repeat some prayers or verses from the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, or the Upanishads. Develop gradually the opposite positive divine virtues such as patience, love and forgiveness. The anger will gradually die by itself.

Food has a great deal to do with irritability. Take sattwic food such as milk, fruits, mung dal, curd, spinach, barley, ground nuts and buttermilk. Do not take carrots, onion, garlic, cauliflower, masoor-ki-dal, hot curry and chutney. Smoking, meat-eating and drinking liquor make the heart very irritable and they should be completely abandoned. Tobacco brings diseases of the heart and gives rise to ‘tobacco-heart’, which is easily irritated.

Whenever there is the likelihood of a burst of anger during a conversation or debate, stop your speech. Do not argue. Do not enter into heated debates and discussions. Always try to speak sweet and soft words. The words must be soft and the arguments hard; if the words are hard, it will bring discord. Speak sweetly. Speak little. Be mild, gentle and soft. Cultivate mildness, gentleness and softness again and again.

Control anger by pure reason. Why do you feel offended when someone calls you a dog or a donkey? Have you developed four legs and a tail like a dog? What is this abuse? It is a mere vibration in the ether. Then the wave of anger will at once naturally subside. It will not arise on other occasions also, if you are careful and thoughtful. It takes forty muscles to frown and only fifteen to smile. Why do you make the extra effort?

If you find it difficult to control anger, leave the place at once. Take a long walk. Drink cold water. Repeat Om Shanti 108 times. Do japa of your Ishta mantra or count from one to thirty. The anger will subside.

Self-restraint and serenity

When anger is controlled, evil is controlled and good prevails. Anger is the outlet or channel through which emerge harshness, cruelty, pain and harm, vengeance, violence, war and destruction. When anger is overcome, your understanding becomes clear, and discrimination is active. You are able to choose between right and wrong.

Do not cause pain or suffering to any living being from greed, selfishness, irritability or annoyance. Give up anger or ill-will. Give up the spirit of fighting and try your level best to keep a serene mind always. Be serene and tranquil under all circumstances. The divine light will descend on a calm mind only. Cultivate serenity again and again through constant and strenuous endeavour. Serenity is like a rock; waves of irritation may dash on it, but cannot affect it. Meditate daily on the ever-tranquil atman or the unchanging eternal. You will attain this sublime virtue gradually.

It is easy to do evil for evil, to do good for good, but it is difficult and sublime to do good for evil. The downward path to evil is very easy, but the upward path to good is very difficult, thorny and precipitous. Those who are endowed with strength and wisdom in order to do good for evil are, indeed, blessed souls. They are veritable gods on earth.