Budhananda (1917-1983), was a monk of the Ramakrishna Order.
He wielded a powerful pen and spent several years spreading
Vedanta in the U.S.A. The Saving Challenges of Religion, Mind
and Its Control and other books authored by him have been
acclaimed as valuable guides for spiritual seekers.
the early sixties when I was working as a preacher in New
York, I found that my congregation consisted mainly of people
who were pursuing careers in a competitive, affluent, materialistic
society, with a religious back ground that was generally Judaeo-Christian.
that it was futile to engage in scholarly and theory-oriented
religious preaching, while dealing with a highly pragmatic
congregation of modern Americans, I tried to discover a meaningful
and practical method of presenting to such an audience, the
lofty teachings of Vedanta which were adumbrated in a totally
different kind of social milieu. In doing so, I found that
I was not only trying to address the needs of my congregation;
I was in fact finding a solution to my own needs as a spiritual
seeker. At a certain point it dawned on me that we were on
the same quest. The imperative to assimilate the wisdom of
the scriptures into the stream of daily living is universal.
in the course of my personal studies I had read Swami Vivekananda's
lectures on Practical Vedanta, where it is said:
a religion cannot help man wherever he may be, wherever he
stands, it is not of much use; it will remain only a theory
for the chosen few. Religion, to help mankind, must be ready
and able to help him in whatever condition he is, in servitude
or in freedom, in the depth of degradation or in the heights
of purity, everywhere, equally, it should be able to come
to his aid. The principles of Vedanta, or the ideal of religion,
or whatever you may call it, will be fulfilled by its capacity
for performing this great function.'
understood that religious striving is a process of actualizing
one's own potential for self-transformation. Keeping this
in mind I started a series of discourses on Applied Religion.
These talks were always well received, whether the audience
consisted of Westerners or Indians because they fulfilled
an abiding need felt by all sincere and earnest spiritual
small book, The Mind and its Control, which has been based
on these discourses, has been translated into several Indian
languages. Subsequently, I had been requested by some friends
to give a talk on the subject 'How to Overcome Anger'. However,
I waited until I had enough material to give a purposeful
discourse on the theme. Now, with the Lord's blessings, I
hope to give a series of talks to deal with the subject in
detail. The theme of these discourses is not confined to religious
topics and is of relevance to the followers of all spiritual
of us, except for a rare few, has experienced that passion
called anger - its fury and flames, its madness and infernal
energy. Some of us continue to be permanent victims of the
tragedy brought about by it.
all those who have experienced anger are seeking to know how
to overcome it - many even rationalize their anger, and would
go any length to justify it, both to themselves and to others,
as if the welfare of the world depended on their anger. These
days it is also intellectually fashionable to speak approvingly
of the 'angry generation', as if anger, which is considered
destructive at the individual level, when collectivized, becomes
a commendable virtue. In fact, anger has become a modern social
ethos, a political weapon, a collective ploy for upsetting
the status quo, and useful material for revolution - a kind
of unconventional vested interest. The under-privileged sections
of society, particularly their leaders, organized labour,
student's unions etc., deliberately use the idiom of anger,
as a strategy for action, or a keynote for bargaining: 'Do
this or face the consequences.' And it would appear that it
people also seem to consider anger to be a kind of masculine
virtue and wear it as a badge of leadership--for being regarded
as the boss among a-social or anti-social elements. In the
underworld of criminals, refrigerated anger is a status symbol.
Any time, at will, he can get it out of the ice-box and get
it heated on the stove of his design:
nose should pant
his lips should curl,
cheeks should flame
his brow should furl,
bosom should heave
his heart should glow,
his fist be ever ready
a knock down blow.
fantastically anger is hymned! Their philosophy can be put
in a nutshell in these words: 'Rage supplies all with arms.
When an angry man thirsts for blood, anything will serve him
as a spear.'
advertisements, newspapers, electronic media etc., we see
anger and violence depicted in great detail. Mental food of
this kind cannot but have a harmful effect on the general
public. Yet there is hardly any protest against this marketing
of anger as a commodity. It is necessary therefore to examine
the phenomenon of anger both in its social and individual
aspects, before devising strategies to overcome it.
and Its Effects
us examine some definitions of anger. 'Anger is momentary
madness.' Another unusual definition is: 'Anger is a mirror
into which you do not venture to see your own face.' The Oxford
dictionary defines anger as 'extreme displeasure'. Swami Turiyananda
regarded anger as concentrated desire.
While a precise definition of anger may prove elusive, everyone
more or less knows what anger is, since it is pretty ubiquitous.
We meet anger at home, in the streets, offices, social gatherings,
election booths, legislative assemblies, play grounds, international
meets, and most frequently, within ourselves.
oftener than not, is apt to cause more harm to oneself than
to others. As anger issues out of man's own nature, it is
a natural and a forceful emotion, with great destructive potential.
As in every piece of wood there is hidden fire, so there is
hidden anger in every human being, because of the 'Rajas'
constituent of his/her nature. All are susceptible to anger
- mildly, or strongly so. Anger is contagious. Words ignited
by anger can cause anger in others. Soothing words are the
water hydrants needed when passions are inflamed.
evil effects of anger are innumerable The first thing that
happens to an angry person is that he forgets the lessons
of wisdom he has learnt in life. After that he loses control
over his thoughts and emotions. He becomes over-active, with
his highly charged ego, as his only guide. He loses his power
of discrimination, sense of proportion, and becomes aggressive
in manner, hostile to his own welfare. When anger becomes
the second nature of a person, physical health and equanimity
of mind suffer and inner peace vanishes in a trice. Anger
can destroy friendships, families, business partnerships,
professional prospects. Communal and ethnic riots, arsons,
wars, suicides, murder, and many other forms of crime are
basically products of anger. In fact. anger makes even a handsome
person look ugly. I suggested to a friend who is remorseful
about his flashes of anger, that he keep a large mirror facing
his office desk. In case the anger-prone person has a lively
sense of humour, this mirror-therapy is likely to work.
Anger Any Bright Side also?
there are persons who seem to think anger to be so useful
that they refuse to learn how to overcome anger. I shall illustrate
this point by referring to an incident from the personal life
of a friend.
friend had said to his wife, 'Let us go to the Mission and
listen to a discourse on, "How to Overcome Anger",
which is likely to be interesting.' The lady thereupon said
that she did not want to learn how to overcome her anger,
because her anger was the only thing their children were afraid
of. She would not like to lose the only instrument with which
she could discipline her children! She held the somewhat unusual
point of view that anger has some utility. This view is echoed
in the dictum, 'Severity is allowable where mildness is in
vain.' Use of anger could have a kind of utilitarian, if not
the course of his discussion he hinted that his wife was easily
roused to anger. This observation was helpful in understanding
a somewhat piquant situation. Here the question to be asked
is: 'Are you using your anger, or is anger using you? Is anger
an efficient instrument in your hand or are you a mere tool
in the hands of your anger?'
we have not learnt how to overcome anger, we cannot use anger
deliberately for any creative purpose. It is a difficult task
to utilize anger masterfully and deliberately. Aristotle says:
'Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry
with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the
right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way
- that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.' If
the mother did really know how to use her anger as deliberately,
as electricity is used in a calibrated manner to heat water,
it could be said that such conduct could be permissible where
other measures would not work. However if she got burnt when
trying to administer 'short-wave diathermy' to her children,
her anger-therapy cannot do them good in the long run. The
psychological implication of this statement is of profound
importance for all who are inclined to apply anger-therapy
on their children or on any one else.
all mothers, except the abnormal ones, have their children's
best interests at heart. In this instance the mother was only
trying to do good by using anger as a disciplinary measure.
But intrinsically anger is poisonous and contagious. When
the mother, herself genuinely angry, administers the blows
and billows of anger on her children, the children also get
angry, but are unable to react or protest effectively. Besides,
discipline imposed by fear has only a marginal chance of becoming
a good acquired habit, because of the coexistence of suppressed,
but developing animosity in the hearts of children. The result
is that their anger goes under-ground in their minds and lies
in wait, manufacturing animosity of different kinds in their
psyche. When this animosity will suddenly explode, as it must,
one day, she, who had not learnt to overcome her anger, and
is now also unable to use her wonted anger-therapy on her
grown up children, would find herself to be a very unhappy
and frustrated person. And, to be sure, she has herself contributed
to this situation! It is to be pondered over whether or not
the permanent benefit of filial love should be sacrificed
for a temporary advantage.
the situation would be entirely different if the mother practiced
anger-therapy on her children after learning how to overcome
her own anger. In that case she would be only hissing like
the cobra of Sri Ramakrishna's parable, and not biting. [Note:
the reference is to the story of the Brahmachari and the Cobra
in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna]
Uncalculated Use of Anger Saved a Situation: The following
narrative illustrates how the use of anger saved a grave situation
but burnt the person concerned grievously. This incident happened
in the monastery of a religious order during Durga Puja. Worship
was going on with great solemnity, in the hall where many
devotees had assembled to witness the worship of the Divine
whole monastery was charged with a sublime atmosphere, reflected
in the animated faces of the devotees. Suddenly a woman who
was seated in the packed hall, being overpowered by religious
fervour got up and rushed to embrace the image of Durga. In
such a tense moment, when no one seemed to know how to save
the image from the devoted onslaught of the lady, there appeared
like the angry Asura of the Durga image, an enraged person.
As one overpowered by rage, with his powerful arms he seized
the lady before the wondering eyes of the vast congregation
and removed her from the scene. Many monks and devotees were
outraged by his harsh conduct. But, strangely and understandably
enough, many heaved a sigh of relief that the image was saved
from being mutilated, and thankful that the great Puja could
continue unobstructed. Had the lady succeeded in embracing
the image, it would have most certainly been broken, and this
would have been very inauspicious. Among the thousands of
well-behaved people not one lifted his little finger to save
the situation. But the fierce response of the enraged person
prevented a catastrophe and his conduct was viewed by many
as a singular piece of service.
was the use of anger in such a situation beneficial or not?
There could be no doubt the man's action was based on an unqualified
explosion of anger even if it was undeniable that this very
reaction saved the annual Puja.
utilization of anger is impossible for a person who has not
learnt how to overcome his anger.
Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works, Vol. 2
Cassell's Book of Quotations
Gilbert & Sullivan H.M.S.Pinafore
The Bhagavat Gita