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PRABUDDHA BHARATAOvercoming anger (IV) | Swami Budhananda  





             OVERCOMING ANGER (IV):

          Yoga Disciplines of Patanjali



          Swami Budhananda




     The Yoga disciplines of Patanjali are designed to lead an aspirant to Spiritual Liberation. It may be asked if it is necessary or practical to follow these disciplines for the immediate purpose of overcoming anger. However considering the destructive potential of anger it is only meet that every available means should be used to counter its ravages.


     Let us recapitulate Sri Krishna 's warning about anger: 'From anger comes delusion, from delusion loss of memory, from loss of memory ruination of discrimination, from ruination of discrimination the man perishes. ' Pranasyati is the word. The man is just finished!


     Thus, this preliminary step of overcoming anger is necessary for removing one of the most formidable obstacles on the path of spirituality. It is common sense that one who does not know how to overcome anger, will not know how to overcome birth and death; in other words, how to cross the ocean of samsara. Therefore, we can certainly use the Yoga disciplines for overcoming anger, keeping in mind our ultimate goal, which is liberation from samsara.


     Yoga disciplines are designed so as to help a person in all situations of life. Swami Vivekananda stressed that religion should be able to help man wherever he is, whatever be his condition. In the Gita too, it is said: 'Even a little of this religion will save one from great fear '. The raw, unregenerate human being is gradually processed and chiselled through Yoga disciplines and made a fit instrument for higher spiritual experiences.




     Definition of Anger according to Patanjali




     The definition of anger in the light of Patanjali 's philosophy would be: Anger is a modification of the mind, a chitta-vritti. Chitta-vritti can also be regarded as a kind of thought-wave. But this thought-wave is loaded with some complexities which are interesting, inasmuch as these concern every one of us in depth. According to Patanjali, the mind (Chitta) is made up of three components - Manas, Buddhi, and Ahamkara.


     Manas is the recording faculty which receives impressions gathered by the senses from the outside world. Buddhi is the discriminative faculty which classifies these impressions and reacts to them. Ahamkara is the ego-sense which claims these impressions as its own and stores them up as individual knowledge. For example Manas reports, 'Look, there comes a large angry animal. ' Buddhi says, 'Well, that is a mad elephant. It will attack anyone on the way. ' Ahamkara screams: 'Well, if I get in its way, I am finished. Let me take to my heels. '




     Recognising the Presence of God in All




     According to traditional thought in India, nothing about man, either positive or negative, is unrelated to the ground of his being, call it Reality or God. The origin of anger too can likewise be traced to the Ultimate.


     God, the undeniable Reality is by definition, omnipresent. He is everywhere and in everything. God within the creature is called the Atman in Vedanta and the Gita. Patanjali prefers to call it Purusha, which literally means the Godhead which dwells within the body. We might find it insightful and instructive to remember this divine mystery, the God-within-the-creature, while dealing with anger. In fact, Sri Krishna makes a bitter reference to this fact in the sixteenth chapter of the Gita (16.18): 'Possessed of egoism, power, insolence, craving and anger, these malignant people hate Me (the self within their own bodies and those of others). ' A person may punish his/her near relations, or dependants, thinking of them as possessions one has the right to chastise, but one should remember that every time a person is tortured, the Lord within undergoes the suffering. So our anger is not unrelated to God, if we have that sensitivity.




     The Process of Perception




     According to Patanjali, the mind though seeming to be intelligent and conscious, is not really so. Atman is the principle of intelligence itself, our consciousness. The mind only reflects the consciousness and the intelligence of the Atman, and appears to be conscious and intelligent. Now, what we call knowledge or perception is only a Vritti, or a thought-wave of the mind. The real seer is the Atman; the mind and the senses are only the instruments of seeing. Every perception is accompanied by the ego-sense, 'I know this. ' What is this 'I '? Not the Atman, which remains unknown. Patanjali defines ego as the identification of the seer or the Atman with the instruments of seeing, such as, the mind and the senses. Ego-sense is the product of this false identification. When an event or an object is recorded by our senses of perception, a thought-wave is raised in the mind. Our ego-sense or asmita identifies itself with that thought-wave, and registers it either as pleasant or as unpleasant. In the former case the ego-sense feels 'I am happy ', and in the latter, it feels 'I am unhappy. ' This false identification of the ego-sense is the root cause of all our unhappiness. Even what is felt as pleasant becomes a source of worry lest it should be lost to us.




     The Method of Counter Thoughts




     Patanjali defines Yoga as chitta-vritti-nirodha - control of the thought-waves. According to his teachings, when we speak of overcoming anger, we have to apply the same technique of controlling the thought-waves. An analogy is given of a lake. We cannot see the depths of the lake because its surface is covered with ripples which make the water muddy and disturbed. We can possibly catch a glimpse, when the ripples have subsided, and the water is calm. The bottom of the lake is our true self; the lake is the Chitta (mind), waves are the vrittis.


     Repetition of vrittis of similar nature gradually build up our tendencies or samskaras, and again and again samskaras in their turn give rise to similar thought-waves, the process working both ways. Here we come to grips with the problem of anger. Expose the mind to constant thought of anger and resentment and you will find that these krodha-vrittis or thought-waves of anger, have almost unknowingly built up anger-samskaras, which will predispose you to find occasions of anger throughout your daily life. Those who are known to be bad-tempered, are the people who have gradually accumulated anger-samskaras. Such persons easily become victims of verbal delusion - called Vikalpa. Patanjali (I.9) defines this vritti thus: Verbal delusion follows from words having no (corresponding) reality.




     Commenting on this Swami Vivekananda says:




     'There is another class of vrittis called Vikalpa. A word is uttered and we do not wait to consider its meaning; we jump to conclusion immediately. It is the sign of weakness of the chitta. Now you understand the theory of restraint. The weaker the man, the less he has of restraint. Examine yourself always by that test. When you are going to be angry or miserable, reason it out how it is that some news that has come to you is throwing your mind into vrittis. '


     Many of the tragedies in families and society are manifestations of verbal delusions - genuine or designed. If we can consciously remove the occasions of Vikalpa or verbal delusion from our interpersonal relations, occasions in which we have unpleasant or angry encounters will be sharply minimized. Anger has no definite and immutable cause. Anger has only adventitious pretexts for setting certain temperaments ablaze. The very same situation which will set a bad-tempered person red with rage, may only cause amusement to those who have not developed krodha-samskaras. Anger is not based on reason. Rather, a susceptible nature finds a reason for manifesting anger. So it is necessary to change one 's character to be able to overcome anger.


     A person 's character is the sum total of samskaras, acquired tendencies, which however is not impervious to change. As a sandbank of a river, looking sufficiently stable, may change, when the currents of water change and flow in another direction, a character may change when the vrittis change. Swami Vivekananda explains how character can be changed in his Raja-yoga:


     '...each action is like the pulsation quivering over the surface of the lake. The vibrations die out but what is left? The samskaras, the impressions. When a large number of these samskaras are left in the mind, they coalesce and become a habit. It is said, "habit is the second nature, " it is the first nature also, and the whole nature of man, everything that we are is the result of habit. That gives us consolation, because, if it is only habit, we can make and unmake it at any time. The samskaras are left by these vibrations passing out of our mind, each of them leaving its results. Our character is the sum total of these marks, and according as some particular wave prevails one takes that tone. If good prevails, one becomes good; if wickedness, one becomes wicked; if joyfulness one becomes happy. The only remedy for bad habits is counter habits; all the bad habits that have left their impressions are to be controlled by good habits. Go on doing good, thinking holy thoughts continuously; that is the only way to suppress base impressions. Never call anyone hopeless, because he only represents a character, a bundle of habits, which can be checked by new and better ones. Character is repeated habits, and repeated habits can alone change character. '




     Conquering the Finer Samskaras




     Let us keep in our minds these facts and ideas and proceed to take practical measures for overcoming anger, step by step, according to the teachings of Patanjali.


     1. Patanjali 's teachings firmly bear out the conviction that anger can be completely overcome. Anyone determined to do so, can achieve it, provided he has the required patience for practising the necessary disciplines.


     2. For overcoming anger, the phenomenon has to be clearly understood at the outset.


     3. Anger may be manifested variously. But anger cannot be overcome by handling manifestations in a piecemeal fashion.


     4. Anger at its root or origin is a Chitta-vritti, thought-wave, a modification of the mind. For overcoming anger, these modifications of the mind need to be handled.




     Swami Vivekananda teaches in the Raja-Yoga:




     'The Chitta-vrittis, the thought-waves, which being gross, we can appreciate and feel; they can be more easily controlled, but what about the finer instincts? How can they be controlled? When I am angry, my whole mind becomes a huge wave of anger. I feel it, see it, handle it, can easily manipulate it, can fight with it; but I cannot succeed perfectly in the fight until I can get down to its causes. '


     'When a man first began to abuse me, I thought, "I am going to be angry. " Anger was one thing, I was another; but when I became angry, I was anger itself. These feelings have to be controlled in the germ, the root, in the fine forms, before we become conscious that they are acting on us. With the vast majority of mankind they emerge from the subconscious. When a bubble rises from the bottom of the lake, we do not see it, nor even when it has nearly come to the surface; it is only when it bursts and makes a ripple that we know it is there. We shall only be successful in grappling with the waves when we can get hold of them in their fine causes, and until we get hold of them and subdue them before they become gross. '


     'To control our passions we have to control them at their roots; there alone we shall be able to burn out their very seeds. As fried seeds thrown into the ground will never come up, these passions will never arise. '


     Patanjali teaches how the fine samskaras are to be controlled: 'These fine samskaras are to be conquered by resolving them into their causal state. '(Yoga Sutras, II.10).




     Swamiji explains this aphorism:




     'Samskaras are the subtle impressions that manifest themselves into gross forms later on. How are these fine samskaras to be controlled? By resolving the effect into its cause. When the Chitta, which is the effect, is resolved into its cause, Asmita, or Egoism, only then, the fine impressions die along with it. Modification cannot destroy this. '




     The Complexities of Anger in Its Developed State




     In its origin anger is a thought-wave, or still earlier, a thought-bubble. This thought- bubble originates in Avidya, ignorance. Patanjali teaches: 'Ignorance is taking the non-eternal, the impure, the painful, and the not-self for eternal, the pure, the happy, and the Atman or the self (respectively). '(II.5)


     This Avidya is invariably associated with Asmita, Raga, Dvesha and Abhinivesha - these are all obstructions to Yoga, and each of these make substantial contribution to krodha or anger. We need to understand these four companions of Ajnana, which originate and rest in ignorance. Asmita, i.e. egoism is the identification of the seer (Atman) with the instruments of seeing (mind and the senses). Raga is attachment to that which gives pleasure. Dvesha is aversion to that which gives displeasure or pain. Abhinivesha is clinging to life; anything obstructing that clinging causes anger. When we live a life of such a pattern, which is gross and worldly, Avidya and its harmful associates get more firmly entrenched. Then we cannot overcome anger and we become slaves of anger. But, it is possible and open to everyone of us to practice Viveka, discrimination, through which the effect of all these can be attenuated and eventually even Avidya can be destroyed by the grace of God. Those who want to overcome anger along with the practice of discrimination intended for attenuating the forces of Avidya, Asmita, Raga, Dvesha and Abhinivesha, must follow the precept that they should not allow their passions to linger in their minds. One must not carry in one 's mind potent anger-bombs for using in hypothetical situations in one 's affairs: 'If he does this or says this, I shall finish him today. The other day I spared him, not today in any case! ' Such a disposition to become angry is bad for mental health and can aggravate our bad tempers to pathological limits.




     Facing the Anger from Others




     Another issue is how anger from others is to be faced. Despite being gentle and good-hearted, what is one to do, when confronted by abuse and anger from others? Some situations , appear to be akin to the verbal delusions that Patanjali speaks of, and far from being explosive, may upon reflection, be found to be funny. Once an editorial appeared in a newspaper making very unpleasant, uncharitable, and offensive remarks about Sri Venkatraman who was then the Finance Minister. Some MPs sought to raise the issue and provoke the Minister. But he was least excited. He dismissed the whole affair - the verbal delusion on which less balanced people would have lost their heads - with a quiet and pithy remark: 'When the shoe bites the man, man does not bite the shoe! ' If our ego-sense can be restrained to harmless limits, we can easily see the funny and saucy side of things, and save ourselves from being ridiculous slaves of mercurial anger. One wishes there were less use of anger and more of humour in personal relations and society. In life we have some times to face explosive situations. Suppose I see somebody setting my house on fire. I do not run after the man, catch and thrash him. But I rush to put out the fire. What about catching the man? Yes, that is very much necessary when I find that an explosive anger has exploded or is exploding within me. But the man to catch is myself. Then we have to apply Patanjali 's sovereign method, as commented upon by Swamiji:


     For instance, when a big wave of anger comes into the mind, how are we to control that? Just by raising an opposing wave. Think of love. Sometimes a mother is very angry with somebody, and at that time, her child comes to her, a transformation ensues. She kisses the baby; the old wave of anger dies out and a new wave, love for the child, arises. … Love is the opposite of anger.








     I 'm afraid - and I would like to have my fears proved wrong - that many among us live internally insecure lives. We are not sure under what stresses we make a mess of our lives. Some of us may not really know when the accumulated anger in us explodes, shattering the prospect of happiness for both ourselves and others. Unless this uncertainty is removed from our inner lives, our potentiality for harmful anger remains intact. We can rid ourselves of this uncertainty, by developing a confirmed disposition for living a divine life, for laying the foundation of which, Patanjali has prescribed certain disciplines based on established spiritual traditions. Of these the first two, Yama and Niyama are of particular relevance. Non-killing, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-receiving are called Yamas. Internal and external purification, contentment, penance, study, and worship of God are the Niyamas.


     Those who observe these universal 'great vows ' may become reasonably sure, that by following Patanjali 's teachings they can completely overcome anger.



     Prabuddha Bharata

     Vedanta Kesari

     Vedanta Mass Media

International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015








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