What is anger? Anger as an emotion originates in the human mind. What happens when a man gets angry? His eyes widen, his breathing becomes labored, his heart starts pounding. This is usually followed by a harsh, impudent speech or a violent action or both.
Angry behavior has been deprecated by all religions of the world. It has been veritably called the gateway to hell. Anger snaps human relationships in the twinkling of an eye. It produces a chain reaction of conflict and hatred. But to overcome anger requires a clear understanding of its subtle nature. No problem can lend itself to successful solution unless the problem itself is understood clearly and comprehensively.
Anger takes root in the mind. It is ‘tamsik’ in character, going by the three types of cardinal elements in material nature as described in Vedic literature. These are ‘satva’, ’rajas’ and ‘tamas’. Various things in the material nature, accordingly, are ‘sattvik’, ‘rajasik’ or ‘tamsik’, because of the predominance of ‘satva’, ‘rajas’ or’ tamas’ respectively in them. Whereas ‘satva’ element produces harmony, peace and happiness, the ‘rajasik’ element is associated with action, energy, ambition and power. The ‘tamsik’ element is the most banal in that it represents inaction, ignorance and illusion. It produces indolence; it is the progenitor of disharmony, conflict and violence.
Hence anger which takes root in the mind is ‘tamsik’ in nature, being born out of ignorance and illusion. A man gets angry when he observes things not going as per his liking. This, in turn, is ascribed to ignorance about the true nature of things. These things are the elements of speech or action by a man which evoke anger in another man. A different point of view, an insulting remark or action, a dislikable act are all the things which trigger anger. Anger is devilish and leaves scars in human relationships. During a bout of anger, a person is unable to think clearly or rationally. His mind takes over his intellect. This is a situation which needs to be avoided.
How is anger to be controlled?
When you hear a derisive remark or face some action or situation which you do not like, instead of giving in to that raging storm of the mind, you should become quiet and, if possible, also close your eyes for a few moments. Alternatively you can do some mental diversionary action like mental counting from one to ten. Keep this determination at the bottom of your mind—‘I will not give in to anger’. Once this determined feeling settles in your subconscious mind, it will mostly prevent you from getting gripped by anger. But even if anger overtakes you, you will be largely able to overpower it by the action suggested above.
Since anger is ‘tamsik’ in nature, a person needs to avoid lifestyle habits which aggravate ‘tamsik’ content in the body and mind. Remember that the mind is a material entity like the body. Both body and mind derive nourishment from the food we eat. Hence ‘tamsik’ food items like stale food or chemically processed and preserved food should not be taken. Overeating and indolence should be avoided. Oversleeping is also ‘tamsik’ in nature and needs to be similarly avoided. Such correctives based on the correct knowledge of anger as an element of human nature as explained above and combined with meditation and praying to God – the embodiment of peace, would go a long way in overcoming the evil of anger.
Truly, a human being devoid of anger is close to an angel. If we consciously try to control anger within, we would be able to destroy its root cause. Anger is identified by only its external manifestations–derisive speech or violent action. But, more often than not, even if such external manifestations are not visible, anger lurks in the mind. It is in the mind that anger has to be destroyed.
Anger comes suddenly, often taking a person unawares. And in the twinkling of an eye, it inflicts the damage it is capable of, while benumbing the intellectual faculty. It leaves a person regretful and repentant. Hence the key to overcoming anger is not to create a fertile space for it. This can be done only by purifying the mind through lifestyle correction techniques, as mentioned above. Apart from dietary correction, meditation and breath-control (pranayam) are valuable techniques of mind control. Divine hymns have the power to purify the mind since they draw upon the infinite reservoir of peace and happiness— the creator God.
Once we have equipped ourselves with the understanding of the real nature of anger, we shall be able to effect preventive action by way of lifestyle correction and spiritual practice to avoid anger. But humans being imperfect creatures, they do succumb to anger on occasions. In situations when anger takes the hold of us, we should consciously become quiet, leave the scene or drink a glassful of cold water. These acts will do a lot to assuage anger. Thus, armed with the techniques to control it, we shall also be able to successfully subdue anger when this devil strikes us.