In this letter, HG Mahatma Prabhu replies to a devotee who is inquisitive as to how to understand and control anger.
Anger is a secondary emotion. There is something deeper that causes your anger. In other words, your anger is a by-product of another emotion. What do you think is the cause of your anger?
Anger has nothing to do with external situations or people’s behavior. It may seem that these cause you to become angry. But nothing can cause something to come out of you if it doesn’t already exist within you. In other words, it’s not out there, it’s inside of you.
It’s important to know that you keep your anger alive. See it like a fire on a stove. You have the fire turned on and the anger is boiling. The problem is you keep the flame on.
You can turn the flame off. Here’s a good reason to turn it off: it can ruin your marriage. If it doesn’t ruin it, it will make it miserable. Here’s another good reason to turn it off. Your children will become angry like you because you model anger. Instead of maturely dealing with difficulties, undesirable situations, or things you can’t control with maturity, tolerance, and patience, they will learn to respond with anger and frustration. If you tell them to be patient it won’t work unless they see you model it.
We are taught to be tolerant and humble. Does this mean to be humble only with those we respect? Anger is another aspect of pride. Because I am proud I expect, or demand, that things go my way. If they don’t, I get upset. A humble person doesn’t think that he is so important that everything has to go his r way and if it doesn’t he has a right to get upset. A humble person can accept and tolerate disturbances. He doesn’t think that the world has to move according to his desires.
This world has so many lessons to teach us, the main one being we are not controllers. When we get angry we are flatly refusing to accept and learn this lesson. Anger is a response to our frustration of not being a controller. Anger is the mode of ignorance, ignoring that we are not the controller and foolishly hoping we were.
It’s also important for you to understand that you should not resist experiencing the misery your anger causes you. Allow yourself to fully experience the pain of your failure to control your anger. Resisted feelings remain within you. What does it feel like right now knowing that you fail to control your anger, that relationships become sour, that your bhakti suffers? Experience that fully.
It’s essential for you to accept that you are creating your anger. The anger is not you. It’s your creation. If you create it, you can stop creating it. So see overcoming anger as the practice of detachment. Detach yourself from the need for anger. But if you feel like you are getting upset, detach yourself and let it go. Your mantra to yourself is, “Let it go.” You don’t need to punish anyone with your anger. Of course, you don’t punish anyone with it other than yourself.
See every provocation to anger as a test from Krsna. Think that He is watching you, testing you to see how you will respond. Walk away from it. Drop it. Forget it. Losers live in the past but winners learn from the past.
Don’t ever, ever, believe that you can’t control this. Always believe that anger is your creation. You are above anger. Control the lower self by intelligence. (3:43 Gita).
Here is the most important realization for our bhakti: the antidote to anger is compassion. Every time you become angry you are withholding compassion upon the person you are angry with and simultaneously adding more anger to the world and withholding compassion from the world. How would you like to live in a world in which everyone was as angry as you? Would it be a better world? If not, shouldn’t you do something about it? After all, you are practicing to be a bhakta.
Compassion is the foremost quality of a devotee. One cannot be a devotee without it. Every act of anger is the antithesis of compassion.
Yes, hearing and chanting is the cure, but it cannot properly be fruitful when it falls on an angry heart. The problem is that you can hear and chant for life times but fail to pull the weed of anger from your heart. This is something that you must do. The hearing and chanting will inspire you to do this and will loosen the weed of anger making it easier to pick. But you must pick it. Or as I said before, you must turn off the flame. You can do this. In fact, you can live your life free from anger. But until you really want to do this you’ll probably convince yourself that you can’t do this.
I really don’t think you need to spend your life dealing with this problem. You can overcome it. Get over it now. If not, you’ll still be dealing with it in your next life. Most likely this was a big problem for you in your past life and you didn’t deal with it.
Face it, experience it, and let it go.
Hare Krsna, Mahatma Das