I’ve written about anger before but these things never seem to stick in my head. I haven’t got much to add today, just look at it from the perspective I’ve been using for the last two “fighting temptations” posts (this and this).
I started with discussing sex urges, then I said that distractions of the mind are probably more dangerous in the long run, considering how mind slowly eats at our devotion until there’s nothing left. Today I’ll say that anger is even more fearsome, pardon the pun.
Problem with anger is that it strikes very fast and almost unexpectedly, and it leads to actions we all regret afterwards. I think they teach people to deal with anger at schools now and one of the things they say is that we shouldn’t pay much attention to what people say or do in anger, they are not themselves. They also teach children to channel their anger and control how and where to express it but that is not what interests me today. It’s the not being myself part that I find fascinating.
Another problem with anger is that it never goes away. I’ve heard senior devotees saying that sex desire, which seems unconquerable in youth, eventually subsides, body doesn’t produce hormones or simply won’t react to sexual stimuli. Anger, OTOH, always lurks around no matter how old you are and it can strike us with full force regardless of our overall shape. We might get too old to clean ourselves but we will never get too old for anger. That’s a problem. We need to deal with it before it’s too late.
How? We don’t know what we might get angry about until it’s too late. We can observe triggers and find a common theme and it helps but anger can always surprise us.
So – it’s unpredictable and very fast acting, if it was a virus it would be a lethal combination. One way is to tackle it is head on – dig at the roots of our anger, sort out our problems before they become unbearable, watch for the first symptoms and try to diffuse the situation either by chanting, breathing, or walking away. This all helps but this approach is a bit mechanical, we can prevent most of the outbursts but not all, there will always be the one that gets away.
There’s also the fact that anger is the inseparable companion of material existence. As long as our mind is engaged in sense gratification there will be anger. To solve this problem once and for all we need to become fully liberated but even then anger would still appear from time to time – just look at the examples from lives if our ācāryas.
Another approach I’ve been trying lately is “I’m not being myself”. When anger overcomes my mind it’s fairly easy to observe it objectively, as if from a distance. I know what it wants me to say or do, I, personally, have no interest in doing it, but force of anger compels my body and mind act anyways. It is easy to take anger to the heart and fully immerse myself in it but it is also possible to disassociate from it altogether, even if for a few brief moments.
I don’t get to have another, cool mind while I an under the influence of anger but I swear I feel like I can make snarky comments about my actual mind reasoning and behavior: “Oh yes, I knew you would think that and now you will surely bring that story up, and then you’ll rage about that pet topic of yours, and then you’ll threaten with actions you will never going to take because you are not leaving your home, your family, or quitting your job. Talk all you want, spit fire and brimstone and even actual spittle – nothing will come out of it because at the end you will quietly sit in your place like a good doggy. Look at yourself, you are raving lunatic riling about most trivial things and making everyone ignore you because the moment your fuse blew up they stopped listening. Go on, say something else, we’ll just laugh at your foolishness..”
These moments of detached clarity are so precious I sometimes want to be angry just to see myself from the outside like that. There are adrenaline junkies who go sky diving or bungee jumping but among them there are those who do it not for the rush of adrenaline but for the moments of cool control and detachment. I want to be like one of those. Adrenaline pumping through my veins in the fits of anger and cacophony of thoughts and insults are not much fun on their own, but seeing them from a distance is cool, I want that.
Once again, the only way to get myself into that state is to do a lot of quiet, concentrated chanting. Association with the Holy Name cuts through the layers of false designations, upādhis, it opens a channel of communication with the Lord that is beyond the influence of the material nature. Once you learn to hear the Name and nothing else, you can remember that connection even during bouts of anger. It’s just something that is always there, no matter what happens in the “outside” world which is pretty much “inside” our bodies when it comes to anger. Mind gets a life on its own, and that’s a bonus because then we can see ourselves as separate from it.
Another thing you get to see is the “color” of anger. It’s not a visual feeling per se but a mood overcoming our entire subtle body. If it were expressed visually it would be red, the color of the mode of passion, just like if we were to draw our sleep it would be black, or dark blue – the mode of ignorance. When emotions are strong but our connection to the Lord remains uninterrupted we get to see the world in a different light, we get to see the essence of things and material phenomena as spouting from that essence, or as beads of pearls on the string.
It becomes easy to see the world as Kṛṣṇa described it in the gīta, particularly how he classified things according to the guṇas. I mean it’s easy to understand it anyway but actually seeing it is a different thing. It’s not only about anger, when we spend a lot of time alone with the Name we get to see effects of various external things on our consciousness that we didn’t notice before. We even get to see simmering anger long before it starts, it would appear as a disturbance in the force, so to speak.
It’s like some people can see auras or even tell if a person is dead or alive by simply looking at his photograph. I’m not talking about this kind of vision, not yet anyway, but the feeling of something being off in its own peculiar way. It is all possible because we can put these feelings against the purity of the Holy Name and then they standout like a sore thumb.
If we get enough experience with this we might even learn to see the entire world as combination of material elements driven by the guṇas. Right now we see objects and people and we interact with them as if we are these material bodies but I’m talking about actual vision of nothing but Lord’s energy taking different forms and shapes and conditioned living entities being in a deep sleep and dreaming up their lives that don’t actually exist.
That would be cool, and all it requires is more chanting, nothing else.