Barbara Ann Briggs
Anger is an enemy because it disturbs, confuses and destroys one’s mental equilibrium and causes one to say and do things, involuntarily, against one’s will. It veils the true nature of the Self, which is eternal bliss consciousness and makes one lose one’s proper sense of values and act against one’s normal code of behavior. Anger is like a wildfire which burns everything in its path, or like a whirlpool which drags the mind downward toward a lower state of awareness. In Chap 16 of the Gita, Lord Krishna describes to Arjuna the nature of the Asuras, the demon-like negative forces which oppose righteousness. “Ostentation, arrogance and self-conceit, anger as also harshness and ignorance, belong to one who is born, O Partha, for an Asurika state.”
The only way to free oneself completely from anger is to gain permanent union with the Self, the source of perfect balance and infinite bliss, then nothing in the outer environment, either pleasant or adverse, can throw us off balance, and cause us to act in a manner which we regret later.
Anger over-excites the mind. When one succumbs to anger, one is thwarting the very purpose of creation which is the expansion of happiness. Anger obscures the true nature of the Self. There is an expression: “blind with rage.” This shows that anger is a state of mind in which the dense darkness of ignorance prevails. One can no longer see what ought to be done or said and what ought not to be done or said. In the darkness, one inevitably stumbles and falls into still deeper darkness. When in darkness, the only solution is to bring in the light, the light of pure knowledge. Knowledge is a great purifier. One should first understand the nature of the enemy, its origin and effects on one’s life and how to overcome it. Furthermore, one should enliven the direct experience of its opposite, the bliss of pure consciousness, the light of the Self shining in one’s own heart.
Anger flares up when the means to fulfill one’s desire is blocked. When the flow of desire is obstructed, anger erupts at the point of collision. So rather than blame desire, it is the inability to fulfill the desire that stands accused. Anger is the result and display of weakness, the inability to live in harmony with those natural laws which lead to the support of one’s evolutionary desires in life. When the mind is strong, then nature upholds the upward march of life towards successful action and spontaneous achievement and fulfillment.
How do we conquer the desires which lead to anger? The doctrine of Karma Yoga teaches that the only way to subdue the desires is to turn the mind to Being. In order to modify the nature of the intellect, mind and senses, one must go to the level which lies beyond them. The subtlest level of subjective life is the Atman, the level of pure Being, the Self. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi says: “The science of action advocates transcending desire as a technique of subduing desires and also bringing fulfillment to them; useless desires will be subdued while useful ones will find fulfillment.”
Anger damages the internal organs of one’s body and the harmonious flow of life in one’s environment. When one gets angry, one loses one’s power of discrimination. One says and does things which injure the feelings of others. The results of one’s actions inevitably lead to an increase of sorrow in one’s own life. Uncontrolled anger is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease. After losing one’s temper, one may apologize for one’s mistake, but even an apology may not be able to entirely remove the wound in the heart of the other person. We may even risk losing a precious friendship.
There is a story that a person lost his temper in the ashram of a saint. After he had left, the saint said that in five minutes of anger, that person wasted many years of his austerities.
In the Dhammapada, Lord Buddha says: “Let go of anger. Let go of pride. When you are bound by nothing, you go beyond sorrow. Anger is like a chariot careering wildly. He who curbs his anger is the true charioteer. Others merely hold the reins. With gentleness, overcome anger. Speak the truth. Give whatever you can. Never be angry. These three steps will lead you into the presence of the gods. The wise harm no one. They are masters of their bodies. And they go to the boundless country. They go beyond sorrow. Beware of the anger of the body. Master the body. Let it serve truth. Beware of the anger of the mouth. Master your words. Let them serve truth. Beware of the anger of the mind. Master your thoughts. Let them serve truth. The wise have mastered body, word and mind. They are the true masters.”
The only way to conquer anger completely is for the mind to become established in the Self, the source of eternal bliss. When the heart is full of love and bliss, there will be no chance for any emotional disturbance. In the case of an enlightened person, the permanent state of restful alertness of the body which corresponds to pure awareness of the Self prevents the stir of desire and anger in the nervous system. The inner silence of pure consciousness acts as a shock absorber on the mental level and the restful alertness of the nervous system acts as a shock absorber on the physical level. An unshakable state of inner bliss consciousness exists when the mind is established in the wholeness of the Self. Maharishi explains that “absolute bliss being always there, the experience of happiness depends upon the degree of steadiness of the mind. If the mind is more collected, more peaceful, it experiences more happiness.” When the mind is established in the non-dual state of pure Being, the ship of life can sail safely on the ocean of samsara, neither agitating nor becoming agitated by the waves.
When one is permanently established in the Self, everything in life is experienced, but one is not overshadowed by the experience. A full heart and a peaceful mind can only overflow and radiate bliss and peace into the environment. This is the quality of a saint. The internal enemies have been vanquished completely. The enlightened live in the eternal freedom of divine consciousness. If anger flares up, now is the time to resolve to conquer it and begin the journey to Self-realization.