One major drawback of today’s IT systems is the de-personalizing of communications. When you are face to face with a person you try to display some decorum even when there are issues at hand. You tend not to vent your spleen in excessively harsh terms, not least because you may elicit a response in kind. However, when you face only a docile screen it becomes all too easy to let loose a tirade of vitriol that you may well regret in calmer moments of reflection. Especially if your acerbic comments have landed you in jail, as was the case recently with a couple of Twitter users found guilty of posting racist and inflammatory tweets.
We have probably all been there. Hitting the send button on an angry e-mail and quickly wishing we hadn’t. The Mahabharata says that ‘wordy arrows’ once released cannot be retracted, and that is particularly true when they are recorded in black and white for all to see, along with the magistrate you may end up facing.
The real problem is anger of course, the ‘enemy with the face of a friend’, as the Mahabharata says. We think that by giving someone a piece of our mind we will feel that much better, but actually we become as disturbed as the person we aim to castigate; especially when we add remorse to the equation. Then there is the pain we mete out to the recipient when we fail to own and express our anger responsibly. The Mahabharata says that, while ordinary arrows cut us once, the arrow of our words ‘burn the heart day and night.’ This is poignantly true when the heated exchange is between near and dear ones, as is so often the case. And sometimes it escalates to much more than a mere exchange of opposing views. The Mahabharata says that a person under the influence of anger can lose all sense and even kill his own father or son.
Harbouring anger in the heart is another problem, as it consumes us with negative thoughts. Lord Buddha said that retaining anger is like ‘holding a live coal intending to throw it at someone else.”
How though do we control the powerful emotion of anger? Perhaps it would help if we understood its causes. The Bhagavad-gita describes the dynamics of anger. It is said to be a corollary of lust, a secondary emotion coming after we are frustrated in some desire. Krishna explains how by contemplating sense pleasure we become attached, then lusty to enjoy what we contemplate, and this inevitably ends in frustration. Either we don’t get what we want, or we do and it fails to satisfy us, as material pleasures always will. This anger then leads to delusion, bewilderment and continued entanglement in Maya and her miseries.
The key then to reducing anger is to reduce our material attachments. The more we have the more often we will be liable to get inflamed. The Gita says that those of demonic mentality are constantly prone to anger due to “insatiable lust” and being “bound by a network of illusions”.
On the other end of the scale is the advanced devotee who does not experience material anger as he has no material attachments. He is also humble and meek and does not take personal offense even when affronted. Like everything else, he uses anger only in Krishna’s service. Srila Prabhupada writes, “A devotee is generally very humble and meek, and he is reluctant to pick a quarrel with anyone. Nor does he envy anyone. However, a pure devotee immediately becomes fiery with anger when he sees that Lord Viṣhṇu or his devotee is insulted.” Unlike material wrath born of selfish desire, anger used in the Lord’s service is beneficial to all, being pleasing to Krishna.
Most of us are probably somewhere between the demon and the devotee, a work in progress as they say. We therefore need to manage our anger and indeed our attachments. Krishna therefore tells Arjuna how this is achieved. After explaining how anger is transformed lust, he says that lust must be kept in check by ‘regulating the senses.’ He goes on to describe how above the sense is the mind, above that is the intelligence, and above them all is the true self, the spirit soul. Therefore one needs only to engage in the regulated spiritual activities of Krishna consciousness and the senses are automatically controlled. Commenting on this Srila Prabhupada says, “That solves the whole problem.”
Of course, it takes time and practise, but Prabhupada assures us that ‘success is certain for the rigid practitioner.’ So the choice is ours. Become victims of lust and anger, along with all the dangers that this presents, or try our best to rise to the spiritual platform.
And I hope that doesn’t make you angry.
Jun 25, 2022
Radhapriya Chawla, ISKCON Toronto Communications