RENU GULATI analyses the negative emotion of anger, yet acknowledges that sometimes it is necessary to vent out
Many of us give vent to our anger. It is described as a truly negative emotion which not only disturbs the mind but adversely affects our physiology, too. I remember reading in an old spiritual text that it takes three days to release the toxic physical effects of anger out of our body so that it can return to its normal functioning.
Anger or krodha is described as an all-consuming negative emotion along with other emotions such as:
1. Lust or desire – काम – Kama
2. Greed – लोभ – Lobha
3. Delusion – मोह – Moha
4. Arrogance or pride – मद – Mada
5. Jealousy or envy – मात्सर्य – Matsarya
If one wants to attain self-mastery, anger and these other negative emotions must be tamed at any cost says Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. His advice is not just for the spiritual aspirant but for anyone seeking to reach their innate potential.
The Bhagavad Gita has now gained popularity by becoming a text for leadership courses often attended by CEOs to enhance their leadership skills. I was fortunate enough to attend such a course, not as a CEO but as a yoga teacher. Several top CEOs had flown to India from across the globe to imbibe the essential teachings of the Bhagavad Gita for self-mastery.
I perceive anger as a reaction to injustice. In my younger days, anger was about not having my way but mostly centred around matters which I perceived as unjust.
I remember being in an Indian train carriage as a visitor from the UK at age 18 and waking up in the middle of the night to find robbers trying to steal camera equipment from Japanese tourists. I screamed and screamed. The robbers went about their business, ignoring me completely. However, the other carriage passengers woke up. I was protected by an Indian tourist in the carriage who told me to be quiet as he was afraid of what the robbers might do to me. In this case, I suppressed my anger due to fear; nevertheless, the robbers disappeared and the camera equipment was saved. My anger had proved to be useful.
The passion to salvage an unjust situation often requires anger. So, there is both healthy anger and unhealthy anger. Anger that is controlled and focused and well thought out is necessary at times, whereas anger that is uncontrolled and wild is usually not helpful especially if the anger becomes prolonged.
Anger for dharma and for overall good is useful as it can help fuel a positive outcome. A lot of us fear anger as a whole as we feel it is not a ‘good’ thing, especially for people on a spiritual path. We also fear conflict because of the negative vibrations and ill-effects it inevitably causes. In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna was told to fight for dharma, for the overall good of society. Krishna asked him to gather his wits and courage to fight for what was righteous action.
I am not condoning anger but do feel it has its place in everyone’s life, especially when it is used for dharma. Certainly, a conflict-free world would be ideal but this does not mean that debate should be avoided. It is through healthy debate that the world changes; that law and order operates.
There is a popular saying in Hindi:
लातों के भूत बातों से नहीं मानते
laato ke bhoot, baato se nahee mante
Translated, this means that stubborn people or those who lack the power of discrimination do not understand the points that can be resolved through healthy discussion. In other words, they are so stuck in their stubborn thoughts that even rational discussion cannot help. It would imply that another approach needs to be used. I suppose this would be where the penal system comes in.
A lot of us repress justified anger due to fear of what ‘others’ might say, for after all, anger is looked down upon. If you are convinced that your anger is against injustice, then go ahead and vent it out. Surely, some good may come out of it.
I tell myself that healthy anger has the following aspects within it:
- The anger is wholesome and the purpose of my anger is to bring about a wholesome result not just for me but for the world in general
- My intellect and power of discrimination remains clear when I am angry
- Anger can be dissolved at any time and substituted for kindness and love; this would apply to others, but not to the subject of your anger, unless the person rectifies the wrong committed
- There is no egotistical attachment to the outcome of the anger and you display your anger to seek justice
You might not tend to agree with all my views, as it might be contrary to the view of people on a spiritual path. I have tried the ‘remain silent’ approach and have even tried to turn the other cheek, but I have not been at peace with myself knowing that I have not fought for what in my opinion was ‘right’. How can one live in peace knowing that you have allowed injustice to rule? This would not be ahimsa or non-violence.
On a final note, I think it was precisely this misinterpretation of the meaning of ahimsa that led to the downfall of India. Otherwise, how could such a large country allow itself to be invaded and ruled by such a small country as in the past? To protect one’s country and one’s people is what dharma is all about – this is why we have armies. Is this not why the Mahabharat took place?
Renu Gulati is a lawyer from the UK and holds an MSc in Ayurveda from London since 2006. Based in Rishikesh, she consults, teaches and writes in the field of Ayurveda, internationally.
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