Krishna's Teachings for Overcoming Anger
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
we can deduce that anger is inextricably linked to the other
baser instincts in man and cannot be tackled in isolation.
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.'
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.
Have an interesting incident in the life of Sri Chaitanya
with regard to the control of the passions:
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.'
Srimad Bhagavatam (II.8.21) it is taught: 'When the
hankering of palate is controlled, everything else is controlled.'
Proceeding further Swami Turiyananda counselled:
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
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.'
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
teachings of Swami Turiyananda are in fact the most lucid
commentary on the Gita verse mentioned earlier.
a Package Deal
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.
Gita View of Man and His Nature
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:
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:
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).
Shankaracharya elaborates on the functions of the three gunas:
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).
Clinical Treatment of Anger
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.
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.'
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.
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:
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.
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.'
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.
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:
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
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
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.
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
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.
Spiritual Talks, By the First Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna,
(Kolkata: Advaita Ashrama, 1975).
Jivanmukti Viveka: Section.II, Chapter on 'Six steps
for overcoming desires', 4th Step.
The Gita, 14.10.
The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 98.
Srimad Bhagavatam, Sridhara Swami's gloss.