Anger – The Deadliest of the Five Passions
We have all lost our temper at some point. As good hosts we invite anger to visit us and unfortunately we entertain it. Anger is an emotional state that varies in severity from passing irritation, through annoyance to intense anger. We are told that there are many adverse physical effects of anger such as a rise in blood pressure, migraine and increased pulsations and body temperature. It can even lead to mental illnesses such as depression and severe anxiety.
It is said that when animals experience this feeling, they shout and produce high frequency sounds; they physically try to dominate other animals; they clench their teeth and stare intensely. Unfortunately, a lot of us human beings react in the same way when someone does not behave the way we want them to, or says something unpleasant to us. Hence aren’t we behaving, in essence, like those animals when we have an anger attack? We forget that the Lord made us humans and granted us the power of discrimination between good and bad.
In this day and age we see supposedly cultured and civilised people shout at inanimate objects: the mobile phone because it won’t stop ringing, at a traffic light because it turns red at the wrong moment or maybe at the computer screen because the Internet is slow.
A character in a book by Robert Fulghum tells us that in some of the South Pacific islands, it is said that some villagers used to practise a unique form of logging. If a tree was too large to be felled with an axe, the villagers cut it down by yelling at it. Woodsmen would creep up on a tree at dawn and suddenly scream at it at the top of their lungs. They would continue this for thirty days. The tree would die and fall over. The theory was that the hollering killed the ‘spirit’ of the tree. Likewise, our anger at our fellow human beings also has a negative effect on their spirit. However, when we are angry we are often in denial, and even insist that we ourselves are the victims of the malevolence of others. We are often quick to blame others when we lose our temper. However, some introspection may benefit us. We may have heard of the saying: “I asked God for patience, so he gave me adverse situations so I could develop it.” Therefore, if we really want to liberate ourselves from these problems, we have to transform our interpretation of what happens to us in our life: transform our own mind so it can learn to accept positively the difficult situations that cause us to lose our temper. When we get angry we are passing the remote control of our lives into the hands of others. If we can remain calm and composed, we will have a better chance of making the correct decision in a difficult situation.
In the Bhagavad Gita it says: “When I succumb to anger, I become my own enemy because I’m poisoning my own system with toxic emotions.” Saints have also often reminded us that along with lust, attachment, greed and pride, anger is one of the five vices and we should be wary of it.
There is an interesting legend described in Paulo Coelho’s Like the Flowing River about the Mongol leader, Genghis Khan. In the story, Genghis Khan went out hunting with his companions. He carried his favourite falcon on his arm. This falcon could fly up high in the sky and see things which a human being could not see. Unfortunately neither he nor his companions could find anything to catch.
Later, he went out again alone with his falcon, and after some time riding and hunting, he grew tired and thirsty. He filled his silver drinking cup with water but before he could drink, the falcon flew at him, and plucking the cup, threw it to the ground. This happened several times, and Genghis Khan grew increasingly angry, lest his companions should notice that a mere bird had got the better of him.
Again he tried to drink from the cup, but when the falcon seized his cup once more, he drew his sword and killed it.
Khan then returned to camp with the dead falcon in his arms. He ordered a gold figurine of the bird to be made and on one of the wings, he had engraved … Any action committed in anger is doomed to failure.
Self-control is emphasized in all paths, in all spiritual disciplines, and in all religions. This should first be practised by exercising your will and firmness of mind, and realising the evils and disadvantages of getting angry. When one is angry, he lets the reins slip out of his hands and thus heads towards disaster. A person in anger cannot think calmly, cannot reason coolly, and, apart from spiritual loss, suffers in a worldly way also.
The best way to overcome such feelings is to apply yourself devotedly to the repetition of the five Holy Names. Not only should the repetition of the Names be done regularly every day at the time of meditation, but, especially at the time when anger seems to be creeping into your mind, you should immediately begin repeating the Names with your attention for about five minutes. You will then find that the raging fires will subside. The more you practise meditation and turn your attention inwards, the more you will get rid of these things and acquire self-control.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Sant Mat
Anger burns up all that is noble. It tears down and annihilates every fine quality of mind and soul. It is consuming fire born of the fires of destruction. Anger is truly the sapping and the consuming passion.
Maharaj Jagat Singh, The Science of the Soul