Disciplines of Patanjali
Yoga disciplines of Patanjali are designed to lead an aspirant
to Spiritual Liberation. It may be asked if it is necessary
or practical to follow these disciplines for the immediate
purpose of overcoming anger. However considering the destructive
potential of anger it is only meet that every available means
should be used to counter its ravages.
us recapitulate Sri Krishna 's warning about anger: 'From
anger comes delusion, from delusion loss of memory, from loss
of memory ruination of discrimination, from ruination of discrimination
the man perishes. ' Pranasyati is the word. The man is just
this preliminary step of overcoming anger is necessary for
removing one of the most formidable obstacles on the path
of spirituality. It is common sense that one who does not
know how to overcome anger, will not know how to overcome
birth and death; in other words, how to cross the ocean of
samsara. Therefore, we can certainly use the Yoga disciplines
for overcoming anger, keeping in mind our ultimate goal, which
is liberation from samsara.
disciplines are designed so as to help a person in all situations
of life. Swami Vivekananda stressed that religion should be
able to help man wherever he is, whatever be his condition.
In the Gita too, it is said: 'Even a little of this religion
will save one from great fear '. The raw, unregenerate human
being is gradually processed and chiselled through Yoga disciplines
and made a fit instrument for higher spiritual experiences.
of Anger according to Patanjali
definition of anger in the light of Patanjali 's philosophy
would be: Anger is a modification of the mind, a chitta-vritti.
Chitta-vritti can also be regarded as a kind of thought-wave.
But this thought-wave is loaded with some complexities which
are interesting, inasmuch as these concern every one of us
in depth. According to Patanjali, the mind (Chitta) is made
up of three components - Manas, Buddhi, and Ahamkara.
is the recording faculty which receives impressions gathered
by the senses from the outside world. Buddhi is the discriminative
faculty which classifies these impressions and reacts to them.
Ahamkara is the ego-sense which claims these impressions as
its own and stores them up as individual knowledge. For example
Manas reports, 'Look, there comes a large angry animal. '
Buddhi says, 'Well, that is a mad elephant. It will attack
anyone on the way. ' Ahamkara screams: 'Well, if I get in
its way, I am finished. Let me take to my heels. '
the Presence of God in All
to traditional thought in India, nothing about man, either
positive or negative, is unrelated to the ground of his being,
call it Reality or God. The origin of anger too can likewise
be traced to the Ultimate.
the undeniable Reality is by definition, omnipresent. He is
everywhere and in everything. God within the creature is called
the Atman in Vedanta and the Gita. Patanjali prefers to call
it Purusha, which literally means the Godhead which dwells
within the body. We might find it insightful and instructive
to remember this divine mystery, the God-within-the-creature,
while dealing with anger. In fact, Sri Krishna makes a bitter
reference to this fact in the sixteenth chapter of the Gita
(16.18): 'Possessed of egoism, power, insolence, craving and
anger, these malignant people hate Me (the self within their
own bodies and those of others). ' A person may punish his/her
near relations, or dependants, thinking of them as possessions
one has the right to chastise, but one should remember that
every time a person is tortured, the Lord within undergoes
the suffering. So our anger is not unrelated to God, if we
have that sensitivity.
Process of Perception
to Patanjali, the mind though seeming to be intelligent and
conscious, is not really so. Atman is the principle of intelligence
itself, our consciousness. The mind only reflects the consciousness
and the intelligence of the Atman, and appears to be conscious
and intelligent. Now, what we call knowledge or perception
is only a Vritti, or a thought-wave of the mind. The real
seer is the Atman; the mind and the senses are only the instruments
of seeing. Every perception is accompanied by the ego-sense,
'I know this. ' What is this 'I '? Not the Atman, which remains
unknown. Patanjali defines ego as the identification of the
seer or the Atman with the instruments of seeing, such as,
the mind and the senses. Ego-sense is the product of this
false identification. When an event or an object is recorded
by our senses of perception, a thought-wave is raised in the
mind. Our ego-sense or asmita identifies itself with that
thought-wave, and registers it either as pleasant or as unpleasant.
In the former case the ego-sense feels 'I am happy ', and
in the latter, it feels 'I am unhappy. ' This false identification
of the ego-sense is the root cause of all our unhappiness.
Even what is felt as pleasant becomes a source of worry lest
it should be lost to us.
Method of Counter Thoughts
defines Yoga as chitta-vritti-nirodha - control of the thought-waves.
According to his teachings, when we speak of overcoming anger,
we have to apply the same technique of controlling the thought-waves.
An analogy is given of a lake. We cannot see the depths of
the lake because its surface is covered with ripples which
make the water muddy and disturbed. We can possibly catch
a glimpse, when the ripples have subsided, and the water is
calm. The bottom of the lake is our true self; the lake is
the Chitta (mind), waves are the vrittis.
of vrittis of similar nature gradually build up our tendencies
or samskaras, and again and again samskaras in their turn
give rise to similar thought-waves, the process working both
ways. Here we come to grips with the problem of anger. Expose
the mind to constant thought of anger and resentment and you
will find that these krodha-vrittis or thought-waves of anger,
have almost unknowingly built up anger-samskaras, which will
predispose you to find occasions of anger throughout your
daily life. Those who are known to be bad-tempered, are the
people who have gradually accumulated anger-samskaras. Such
persons easily become victims of verbal delusion - called
Vikalpa. Patanjali (I.9) defines this vritti thus: Verbal
delusion follows from words having no (corresponding) reality.
on this Swami Vivekananda says:
is another class of vrittis called Vikalpa. A word is uttered
and we do not wait to consider its meaning; we jump to conclusion
immediately. It is the sign of weakness of the chitta. Now
you understand the theory of restraint. The weaker the man,
the less he has of restraint. Examine yourself always by that
test. When you are going to be angry or miserable, reason
it out how it is that some news that has come to you is throwing
your mind into vrittis. '
of the tragedies in families and society are manifestations
of verbal delusions - genuine or designed. If we can consciously
remove the occasions of Vikalpa or verbal delusion from our
interpersonal relations, occasions in which we have unpleasant
or angry encounters will be sharply minimized. Anger has no
definite and immutable cause. Anger has only adventitious
pretexts for setting certain temperaments ablaze. The very
same situation which will set a bad-tempered person red with
rage, may only cause amusement to those who have not developed
krodha-samskaras. Anger is not based on reason. Rather, a
susceptible nature finds a reason for manifesting anger. So
it is necessary to change one 's character to be able to overcome
person 's character is the sum total of samskaras, acquired
tendencies, which however is not impervious to change. As
a sandbank of a river, looking sufficiently stable, may change,
when the currents of water change and flow in another direction,
a character may change when the vrittis change. Swami Vivekananda
explains how character can be changed in his Raja-yoga:
action is like the pulsation quivering over the surface of
the lake. The vibrations die out but what is left? The samskaras,
the impressions. When a large number of these samskaras are
left in the mind, they coalesce and become a habit. It is
said, "habit is the second nature, " it is the first
nature also, and the whole nature of man, everything that
we are is the result of habit. That gives us consolation,
because, if it is only habit, we can make and unmake it at
any time. The samskaras are left by these vibrations passing
out of our mind, each of them leaving its results. Our character
is the sum total of these marks, and according as some particular
wave prevails one takes that tone. If good prevails, one becomes
good; if wickedness, one becomes wicked; if joyfulness one
becomes happy. The only remedy for bad habits is counter habits;
all the bad habits that have left their impressions are to
be controlled by good habits. Go on doing good, thinking holy
thoughts continuously; that is the only way to suppress base
impressions. Never call anyone hopeless, because he only represents
a character, a bundle of habits, which can be checked by new
and better ones. Character is repeated habits, and repeated
habits can alone change character. '
the Finer Samskaras
us keep in our minds these facts and ideas and proceed to
take practical measures for overcoming anger, step by step,
according to the teachings of Patanjali.
Patanjali 's teachings firmly bear out the conviction that
anger can be completely overcome. Anyone determined to do
so, can achieve it, provided he has the required patience
for practising the necessary disciplines.
For overcoming anger, the phenomenon has to be clearly understood
at the outset.
Anger may be manifested variously. But anger cannot be overcome
by handling manifestations in a piecemeal fashion.
Anger at its root or origin is a Chitta-vritti, thought-wave,
a modification of the mind. For overcoming anger, these modifications
of the mind need to be handled.
Vivekananda teaches in the Raja-Yoga:
Chitta-vrittis, the thought-waves, which being gross, we can
appreciate and feel; they can be more easily controlled, but
what about the finer instincts? How can they be controlled?
When I am angry, my whole mind becomes a huge wave of anger.
I feel it, see it, handle it, can easily manipulate it, can
fight with it; but I cannot succeed perfectly in the fight
until I can get down to its causes. '
a man first began to abuse me, I thought, "I am going
to be angry. " Anger was one thing, I was another; but
when I became angry, I was anger itself. These feelings have
to be controlled in the germ, the root, in the fine forms,
before we become conscious that they are acting on us. With
the vast majority of mankind they emerge from the subconscious.
When a bubble rises from the bottom of the lake, we do not
see it, nor even when it has nearly come to the surface; it
is only when it bursts and makes a ripple that we know it
is there. We shall only be successful in grappling with the
waves when we can get hold of them in their fine causes, and
until we get hold of them and subdue them before they become
control our passions we have to control them at their roots;
there alone we shall be able to burn out their very seeds.
As fried seeds thrown into the ground will never come up,
these passions will never arise. '
teaches how the fine samskaras are to be controlled: 'These
fine samskaras are to be conquered by resolving them into
their causal state. '(Yoga Sutras, II.10).
explains this aphorism:
are the subtle impressions that manifest themselves into gross
forms later on. How are these fine samskaras to be controlled?
By resolving the effect into its cause. When the Chitta, which
is the effect, is resolved into its cause, Asmita, or Egoism,
only then, the fine impressions die along with it. Modification
cannot destroy this. '
Complexities of Anger in Its Developed State
its origin anger is a thought-wave, or still earlier, a thought-bubble.
This thought- bubble originates in Avidya, ignorance. Patanjali
teaches: 'Ignorance is taking the non-eternal, the impure,
the painful, and the not-self for eternal, the pure, the happy,
and the Atman or the self (respectively). '(II.5)
Avidya is invariably associated with Asmita, Raga, Dvesha
and Abhinivesha - these are all obstructions to Yoga, and
each of these make substantial contribution to krodha or anger.
We need to understand these four companions of Ajnana, which
originate and rest in ignorance. Asmita, i.e. egoism is the
identification of the seer (Atman) with the instruments of
seeing (mind and the senses). Raga is attachment to that which
gives pleasure. Dvesha is aversion to that which gives displeasure
or pain. Abhinivesha is clinging to life; anything obstructing
that clinging causes anger. When we live a life of such a
pattern, which is gross and worldly, Avidya and its harmful
associates get more firmly entrenched. Then we cannot overcome
anger and we become slaves of anger. But, it is possible and
open to everyone of us to practice Viveka, discrimination,
through which the effect of all these can be attenuated and
eventually even Avidya can be destroyed by the grace of God.
Those who want to overcome anger along with the practice of
discrimination intended for attenuating the forces of Avidya,
Asmita, Raga, Dvesha and Abhinivesha, must follow the precept
that they should not allow their passions to linger in their
minds. One must not carry in one 's mind potent anger-bombs
for using in hypothetical situations in one 's affairs: 'If
he does this or says this, I shall finish him today. The other
day I spared him, not today in any case! ' Such a disposition
to become angry is bad for mental health and can aggravate
our bad tempers to pathological limits.
the Anger from Others
issue is how anger from others is to be faced. Despite being
gentle and good-hearted, what is one to do, when confronted
by abuse and anger from others? Some situations , appear to
be akin to the verbal delusions that Patanjali speaks of,
and far from being explosive, may upon reflection, be found
to be funny. Once an editorial appeared in a newspaper making
very unpleasant, uncharitable, and offensive remarks about
Sri Venkatraman who was then the Finance Minister. Some MPs
sought to raise the issue and provoke the Minister. But he
was least excited. He dismissed the whole affair - the verbal
delusion on which less balanced people would have lost their
heads - with a quiet and pithy remark: 'When the shoe bites
the man, man does not bite the shoe! ' If our ego-sense can
be restrained to harmless limits, we can easily see the funny
and saucy side of things, and save ourselves from being ridiculous
slaves of mercurial anger. One wishes there were less use
of anger and more of humour in personal relations and society.
In life we have some times to face explosive situations. Suppose
I see somebody setting my house on fire. I do not run after
the man, catch and thrash him. But I rush to put out the fire.
What about catching the man? Yes, that is very much necessary
when I find that an explosive anger has exploded or is exploding
within me. But the man to catch is myself. Then we have to
apply Patanjali 's sovereign method, as commented upon by
instance, when a big wave of anger comes into the mind, how
are we to control that? Just by raising an opposing wave.
Think of love. Sometimes a mother is very angry with somebody,
and at that time, her child comes to her, a transformation
ensues. She kisses the baby; the old wave of anger dies out
and a new wave, love for the child, arises. … Love is the
opposite of anger.
'm afraid - and I would like to have my fears proved wrong
- that many among us live internally insecure lives. We are
not sure under what stresses we make a mess of our lives.
Some of us may not really know when the accumulated anger
in us explodes, shattering the prospect of happiness for both
ourselves and others. Unless this uncertainty is removed from
our inner lives, our potentiality for harmful anger remains
intact. We can rid ourselves of this uncertainty, by developing
a confirmed disposition for living a divine life, for laying
the foundation of which, Patanjali has prescribed certain
disciplines based on established spiritual traditions. Of
these the first two, Yama and Niyama are of particular relevance.
Non-killing, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-receiving
are called Yamas. Internal and external purification, contentment,
penance, study, and worship of God are the Niyamas.
who observe these universal 'great vows ' may become reasonably
sure, that by following Patanjali 's teachings they can completely