Krodha is usually translated to mean anger, but from the yogic perspective this is incomplete. Krodha is a vritti, a particular frequency of mental energy that completely alters the pattern of mental behaviour and thoughts. Vrittis are described as being circular in form, which means they can expand infinitely and contract without losing their shape, form or strength. When this field of influence is dominant in the mind, krodha creates its own pattern of thought, experience and expression. This manifests in a multitude of ways, from frowning, impatience, irritation, frustration, criticism, back-biting, and gossip to indignation, hostility, aggression, rage, fury and violence.
Anger is just one expression of krodha: the aggressive and negative emotional reaction to a perceived provocation or threat. This instinctive response mechanism for protection and preservation is evident in both animals and humans. Dogs growl, bark and bare their teeth in response to an unfamiliar person or perceived threat to their territory. A female dog will react with ferocious anger to protect her puppies. People also react in anger when they perceive something or someone to be threatening, offensive or insulting. An angry person will identify a specific event, interaction or person as the cause of their anger. The reaction of anger is always projected onto an external cause, but in reality the cause of anger is krodha, the vritti that manifests in the mind.
Krodha arises from raga and dwesha, the mental experience of attachment and aversion. Raga is the desire to possess or attach to something pleasurable and dwesha is the desire to be free of something or someone unpleasant. From this perspective, raga and dwesha are the opposite ends of the same experience. That experience is desire. This is why although they seem and feel to be opposite, their effect upon the mind is the same. In attachment, the mind spontaneously and naturally gravitates towards the object of attachment. A mother naturally thinks of her children, and the mental connection that binds them is love and attachment. With dwesha, two enemies cannot stop thinking about one another and their minds fixate on the object of dislike, unable to break the connection of hate and negativity.
It is the same with kama and krodha, the first evolutes of raga and dwesha. Kama is desire and krodha is the negative aspect of desire. Kama is desire for something pleasurable and krodha is the desire to be free from something unpleasant. The impetus towards violence, vengeance and retaliation, the need to dominate and bully, these are all negative desires embedded in the different expressions of krodha. Krodha also creates and sustains a connection between the individual and the other person or the object of displeasure. The vritti strengthens that connection through repetition of negativity. Every expression of hostility, resentment and frustration strengthens the bond of krodha existing between two people.
Anger is only a modification or form of desire. Anger is desire itself.
Swami Sivananda Saraswati
Krodha destroys the cohesion of society. The social impact of krodha is seen not only in anger and violence, but also in the fear, insecurity and chaos that it creates. By its very nature the vritti is unpredictable and hostile, angry people can explode at any time. Unpredictability causes instability and insecurity in relationships. Where there is instability and insecurity it is very difficult to maintain trust. Trust, respect and a sense of shared values are the foundation for secure relationships and social harmony. In the family unit secure relationships and trust are especially important factors in the emotional development of children. Trust and security are destroyed by the unpredictability of krodha.
Krodha reduces the intimacy within personal relationships. Hostile, angry people are less likely to have healthy supportive relationships and tend to have fewer friends. Hostile people are also more likely to suffer erratic mood swings, depression, and to become verbally or physically abusive towards others, alienating family and friends. Venting anger and frustration with words or actions makes the situation much worse, especially for those who are in the immediate path of the attack. Even partners and other family members tend to be more guarded and less able to relax in their interactions with hostile people.
All evil qualities proceed from anger. If you control anger, all evil qualities will vanish by themselves.
Swami Sivananda Saraswati
The most extreme expression of krodha is violence, and debates continue as to whether or not society has actually become more violent. Definitely the social picture of today describes a changed world – one in which the security of the 1950s has given way to a violent society characterized by drug wars, robbery and killing on neighbourhood streets, and violence in school corridors. The impact of the increase in violent content in entertainment, computer games, apps, movies and media is significant. Studies suggest that exposure to violent media increases the likelihood of aggressive behaviour in the short and long term as well as encouraging hostile perceptions and attitudes. Repetitive viewing also desensitizes individuals to violent content. Research has consistently shown a correlation between TV violence and escalating aggression and social anxiety, and negative impacts upon real-world behaviour.
Exposure to krodha in any form impacts most significantly upon children. A major exposure is through television and digital games. Research on the effect of TV violence on children points to the inescapable conclusion that viewing media violence is related to increases in aggressive attitudes, values, and behaviour. Exposure to violence is among the most detrimental experiences children can have, affecting how they think, feel and act. Children who see or experience violence around them are more likely to use violence as they grow older and into adulthood.
The impact of krodha upon social relationships and society is undeniably negative. Negative emotions are the basis of destructive interactions and toxic connections between people. Negative emotions develop societies based on fear, inequality and domination. Positive emotions are the connections that provide support, care, respect, appreciation, friendship and love. Positive emotions increase and gain in strength when reciprocated through connection with others. Positive connections create positive relationships, positive relationships foster strong, stable, nurturing family units and systems; stable families create cohesive communities and cohesive communities forge the way for peaceful harmonious creative societies and cultural development.
Man has reached the moon but he is incapable of bridging the rift between his neighbour and himself. Blessed is this man of the scientific age. It is this ignorance which has to be removed.
Swami Sivananda Saraswati
First, control your physical body. Suppress your feelings. Follow the instructions of Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount:
If a man beats you on one cheek, turn to him the other cheek also.
If a man takes away your coat, give him your shirt also.
This is very difficult in the beginning. The old samskaras, impressions, of revenge, of ’a tooth for a tooth’, ‘an eye for an eye’, and ‘paying in the same coin’ will all force you to retaliate. You will have to wait coolly. Reflect and meditate. Do vichara or right enquiry. The mind will become calm. The opponent who was very furious will also become calm, because he does not get any opposition from your side. He gets astonished and terrified also, because you stand like a sage. By and by, you will gain immense strength. Keep the ideal before you. Try to get at it, though with faltering steps at first. Have a clear-cut mental image of ahimsa and its immeasurable advantages.
After controlling the body, control your speech. Make a strong determination, ‘I will not speak any harsh word to anybody from today’. You may fail a hundred times. What does it matter? You will slowly gain strength. Check the impulse of speech. Observe mouna, silence. Practise kshama or forgiveness. Say within yourself, ‘He is a baby-soul. He is ignorant, that is why he has done it. Let me excuse him this time. What do I gain by abusing him in return?’ Slowly give up abhimana, ego-centred attachment. Abhimana is the root-cause of human sufferings.
Finally go to the thoughts and check the thought of injuring. Never even think of injuring anyone. One Self dwells in all. All are manifestations of One God. By injuring another, you injure your own Self. By serving another, you serve your own Self. Love all. Serve all. Hate none. Insult none. Injure none in thought, word and deed. Try to behold your own Self in all beings.