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PRABUDDHA BHARATAOvercoming anger (III) | Swami Budhananda  






               OVERCOMING ANGER (III):

          Sri Krishna's Teachings for Overcoming Anger



          Swami Budhananda




     In Sri Krishna's teachings we have a complete system for overcoming anger, as it is based on a sound psychology and includes disciplines, which all can practice whatever be one's religious denomination. He says: Know that this is our enemy here, all-devouring and cause of all sin (The Gita, 3.37).

     One of the traits of delusion and ignorance is that we tend to take an enemy for a friend and a friend for an enemy. So, Sri Krishna instructs us to mark out anger as a direct enemy and treat it as such. Otherwise anger overcomes us with the aid of our willing and liberal help. As we always get angry at any pretext, anger has become our friend by familiarity or association. Whenever we come under the power of anger we become deluded. Whatever we do in delusion will hurt us today or tomorrow. Delusion affects thinking, distorting memory, and we forget the important lessons of life we may have already learnt. Then we act like an ignorant person driven by viparita bhavana - contrary understanding. Forgetting the lessons of wisdom, we are deprived of the saving services of our own intellect and rush to do things in a manner harmful to ourselves. Anger thus becomes an effective internal saboteur.

     The words and actions prompted by anger are very forceful because those are directly connected with the source of energy within us, which is desire. We must remember that any source of energy embedded in the psycho-physical system of man is significant. Anger will have to be overcome in a manner that does not injure the energy resources. While the elemental force of fire is vital we cannot allow free movement of fire in our houses.


     Overcoming anger will therefore mean separating the energy source in man from its destructive aspect, without destroying the power source itself. Every iota of power embedded in the system is needed for bringing about our self-transformation. In Hindu thought, emasculation is never considered to be an appropriate means to effect one's self-regeneration.

     It is also noteworthy that in the Gita (16.21) Sri Krishna utters in the same breath Kama-Krodha-Lobha, desire, anger and greed, as three gates to hell. These emotions are psychologically inter-linked, originating as they do from Rajas. Again he says: 'It is desire, it is anger, born of the energy or Rajas, all-devouring, all sinful, that you must know as your foe here.' (Ibid, 3.37). In his commentary on this verse Sri Shankaracharya writes:

     The enemy of the whole world is desire, from which all evil comes to living beings. When obstructed by some cause, desire is transformed into anger. Then anger is desire itself. It is born of the energy of Rajas, for, when desire arises, it rouses Rajas, and urges the person to action. We often hear the cry of miserable persons... under the impulse of Rajas, saying, 'I have been led to act so by desire/ It is very sinful; for it is only when urged by desire that a man commits sin. Therefore, know that this desire is man's foe in Samsara.

     Thus we can deduce that anger is inextricably linked to the other baser instincts in man and cannot be tackled in isolation.

     Once a devotee asked Swami Turiyananda: 'Kindly make my mind free from desire.' What the Swami said in reply is illuminating: 'Look to the Atman,' said the Swami, 'not to the body. Practice fixing the mind on the Atman. One gets attached to objects by constantly thinking of them. From attachment comes longing, and from longing anger.'

     Swami Turiyananda regarded anger as concentrated desire. It makes one lose one's head completely. Mere desire does not so absolutely overwhelm the mind. He counselled, 'Never think of transient things. That way you can escape attachments. He quoted Sri Rama's words: 'Keeping the palate and lust under control, you may live anywhere.' He then remarked that lust and greed are the source of man's troubles.

     We Have an interesting incident in the life of Sri Chaitanya with regard to the control of the passions:

     'When Sri Chaitanya went to Keshava Bharati for initiation into Sannyasa, the latter remarked, "You are in the bloom of youth and so surprisingly handsome. Who will be bold enough to initiate you into Sannyasa?" Sri Chaitanya replied, "Sir, you usually examine an aspirant before initiating him into Sannyasa. If you find me qualified, you may naturally feel inclined to initiate me also. So please examine and see if I am fit for it." Bharati said to Chaitanya, "Put out your tongue." On the disciple's protruded tongue he put some sugar. The sugar remained there as it was, dry, without being moistened in the least, and was then scattered by the wind and was blown out. There was then no need to examine the passions of lust.'

     In Srimad Bhagavatam (II.8.21) it is taught: 'When the hankering of palate is controlled, everything else is controlled.' Proceeding further Swami Turiyananda counselled:

     'Throughout the Gita there is repeated mention of this: Therefore О best of Bharatas! Control the senses first, and thereby kill the sinful propensity to desire, which destroys one's Knowledge and Realization.'
     'Even if a single organ remains uncontrolled all austerities, all efforts after spirituality become useless, even as when there is a single hole in a pitcher, all the water escapes through that. You know the parable where Sri Ramakrishna gives the example of the peasant irrigating his field. All the water escaped through the chink on the ground and not a drop of water reached the field.'
     'Even the craving for the sense objects leaves an aspirant when he realizes the Lord.' 'Control of the senses is not to be brought about by violent efforts. Only by realizing Him, it is perfectly achieved. But at first one must struggle for the end.'

     These teachings of Swami Turiyananda are in fact the most lucid commentary on the Gita verse mentioned earlier.



     Wanted: a Package Deal



     From the above counsels it is clear that we cannot overcome anger in isolation from desire, greed, etc. Using a modern phrase 'a package deal' is necessary. The task of overcoming anger is handled effectively when we have taken up the challenges of overcoming the other passions. It might be thought that we started with one problem on hand - how to overcome anger - but now we are asked to solve more. However, by ignoring the existing ramifications of a problem, and by only holding on to its partial understanding, we are not making its solution easy. By understanding the problem in a correct perspective, we embark on a more comprehensive self- improvement process. Once we understand the root of the problem, this self-transformation can be effected and a total regeneration will be brought about.



     The Gita View of Man and His Nature



     By acquiring a clear grasp of the functioning of the gunas as manifested in human nature, we can have a comprehensive solution to the problem on hand. The passions originate in Rajas, which is one of the three-fold aspects of our psycho-physical nature. The teachings of the 4-th Chapter of the Gita dealing with this subject in detail may be summarized as follows:

     Created beings are produced from the union of Purusha and Prakriti by the power of the Lord. This activity of the Lord is continuous in as much as that He is both the origin and the indwelling soul of every being on earth. The soul or spirit (Purusha) becomes entangled in the world by its contact with the body, or matter - Purusha denotes consciousness, and Prakriti, nature or matter, which is dull and insentient. Prakriti consists of three gunas: Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Rajas, denoting restlessness, is the active principle of Nature; Tamas is the principle of inertia; Sattva denotes calmness, serenity and harmony. Samsara or relativity is the realm of the Gunas. Freedom is beyond them. Though in everyone's nature the three Gunas are present, one Guna prevails over the other two and sets the predominant tone of a particular nature, as signified by such terms as, a calm person, a restless person etc. Sri Krishna teaches further:

     Sattva asserts itself by prevailing over Rajas and Tamas, Rajas (asserts itself) by prevailing over Sattva and Tamas, and Tamas (asserts itself) by prevailing over Sattva and Rajas (4.10). When the light of knowledge shines through all the gateways of the body, then it may be known that
Sattva has prevailed (14.11). Greed, activity, enterprise, unrest, longing - these arise, when Rajas prevails (14.12). Darkness, indolence, inadvertence, and delusion - these arise when Tamas prevails (14.12).

     Sri Shankaracharya elaborates on the functions of the three gunas:

     Lust, anger, avarice, arrogance, spite, egoism, envy, jealousy, etc - these are the direct attributes of Rajas, from which the worldly tendencies of man are produced. Therefore Rajas is a cause of bondage (Vivekachudamani, Verse 112). Ignorance, lassitude, dullness, sleep, inadvertence, stupidity, etc are the attributes of Tamas. One tied to these does not comprehend anything, but remains like a stock or stone (Verse 116). The traits of pure Sattva are cheerfulness, the realization of one's own self, supreme peace, contentment, bliss and steady devotion to Atman, by which the aspirant enjoys bliss everlasting (119).



     A Clinical Treatment of Anger



     Upon analysis it is seen that the prevalence of anger in a person's nature, behaviour, and conduct, indicates that Rajas has become his predominant Guna, and Sattva and Tamas have been effectively run over. As long as Rajas continues to dominate his nature, he cannot overcome anger. For a radical and permanent cure of anger, the person has to find a way of bringing about in his/her nature the preponderance of Sattva, for only then he/she can be sure that anger has been overcome.

     When Sri Krishna says, 'Sattva asserts itself by prevailing over Rajas and Tamas,' does he mean this happens automatically? If so, when is this going to happen? If eternity is taken as our time - preponderance of the sattva guna will happen of itself, eventually in eternity. Sri Ramakrishna teaches: 'Everybody will surely be liberated.'

     While it is encouraging to be assured of our final liberation sometime in eternity, one needs more practical guidance to tackle present problems. While dealing with natural processes, one may leave matters to nature. But the challenge before us is to make the Sattva guna prevail upon Rajas and Tamas in our own nature.

     Sri Ramakrishna teaches: 'Under the protection of Sattva, man is rescued from anger, passion, and the other evil effects of Tamas. Further Sattva loosens the bonds of the world.' The means of effecting a preponderance of Sattva in one's nature are elaborated in the Lord's teaching on Jnana during his incarnation as a swan in Srimad Bhagavatam:

     The Gunas - Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas - belong to Prakriti, not to the Atman. Through growth in Sattva, one should overcome the other two, and then put down Sattva by using it against itself. From the enhancement of Sattva comes the Dharma of devotion to Me. The Sattvic element in one is strengthened by use of substances that are favourable to it. And the Dharma of devotion which is the highest, because it strengthens Sattva, which in its turn, eliminates both Rajas and Tamas. And Adharma which is the product of these two, quickly perishes when they are gone. The Shastra that one studies, the water one uses, the people one converses with, the place where one is habitually found, the time of the day that one favours, the karma one performs, the sacrament that one receives, the object of one's contemplation, the mantra that one is initiated into, the kind of purification that one practices - these influence one's Gunas. Those whom the men of knowledge commend are Sattvic, those whom they condemn are Tamasic, and those whom they ignore are Rajasic. Doing that, he will grow in Dharma, and in the knowledge that brings experience of the Self with the negation of the non-self.

     Food is largely a matter of temperament. The Upanishad teaches: 'When the food is pure, mind becomes pure. When the mind becomes pure, memory becomes firm. And when a man is in possession of a firm memory, all the bonds which tie him down to the world are loosened.' The Gita teaches: 'The foods which augment vitality, energy, strength, health, and appetite, which are sweet and oleaginous, substantial and agreeable are liked by the Sattvika.'

     According to Sri Shankaracharya the word 'food' in these texts means anything that is taken in by the senses, viz. sounds, sights, smell etc. Improper sensory inputs create attachment, aversion, and delusion, which disturb the mind, making it difficult to control. Freed from these, the mind becomes pure. In order to consciously bring about preponderance of Sattva in our nature, we need to allow only Sattvic inputs and avoid those that are Rajasic or Tamasic.

     In order to have a nature in which Rajas and Tamas will always remain subjugated, several other things will have to be done in the light of the Bhagavata teaching: 'For the increase of Sattva a man should concern himself with Sattvic things alone.' Left to ourselves we would probably not know how to follow the above injunction. Fortunately we have the following gloss of Sridhara Swami on this verse to enlighten us:

     'Only those scriptures are to be followed which teach Nivritti or the march back to oneness with Brahman, not those that teach Pravritti or the continuance of multiplicity (Rajasic) or those that teach downright injurious tenets (Tamasic). Similarly holy water is to be used, not scented water etc. One should mix only with spiritual people, not with worldly minded or wicked people. A solitary place is to be preferred, not a public thoroughfare or a gambling house. Early morning or some such time is to be selected for meditation in preference to hours likely to cause distraction or dullness.
Obligatory and unselfish works alone should he done, not selfish or harmful ones. Initiation into pure and non-injurious forms of religion is needed, not those that require much ado or those that are impure and harmful. Meditation should be on the Lord, not on sense-objects or on enemies with a view to revenge.

     Mantras such as Om are to he preferred, not those bringing worldly prosperity or causing injury to others. Purification of the mind is what we should be interested in, not trimming up the body or cleaning up houses.

     This process of bringing about self-transformation, by completely over-hauling the Guna-complex in one's psycho-physical system, might appear to be slow and difficult. But this is the surest and most dependable method of overcoming the cause of anger, which is: the preponderance of Rajas in one's nature.

     When, by following this discipline, Sattva constantly prevails in one's nature, one transcends anger. No other method of overcoming anger can be surer than this.





     1. Spiritual Talks, By the First Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, (Kolkata: Advaita Ashrama, 1975).
     2. Jivanmukti Viveka: Section.II, Chapter on 'Six steps for overcoming desires', 4th Step.
     3. The Gita, 14.10.
     4. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 98.
     5. Srimad Bhagavatam

     6. Srimad Bhagavatam, Sridhara Swami's gloss.



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








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