Douse the Ire

By Swami Veda Bharati

December 2005

Free yourself of the destructive force of anger through the practice of some principles of Indian psychology.

Over the last few months we have established some of the basic principles of the philosophy and ethics of emotions. Let us use these principles in dealing with the emotion of anger.


We often fail to control or re-channel into a positive direction, our destructive emotions. One of our strategies is the well-known device of denial. It is common to hear an angry person say, ‘I am never angry!’ or ‘I am being misunderstood’.

The denial may be conscious or unconscious. In both cases there is a hidden admission that anger transgresses the principles of enlightenment and ethics.

The antidotes to such denial are manifold. First of all, we need to cultivate the habit of listening to others. When someone tells us that we have been angry, we must train ourselves to abandon our pride and accept at least halfway, the finger being pointed at us. ‘To me it does not seem as if I was angry but if the others are telling me that I was, perhaps there is some truth in it.’

This is the first step in developing mindfulness, awareness of emotions, vedananussati in the terms of Visuddhi-magga, primary text of the Theravada Buddhist meditation system. Slowly one seeks to rise from the habit of denial and cultivate mindfulness; one becomes aware of being angry. This awareness is half the control. As our inner self, buddhi and conscience, knows this anger to be undesirable, we strive to re-channel it.

Through our efforts, our recognition of the presence of anger increases progressively. First we were simply not aware of it. Then, in spite of a certain level of awareness, we were denying it. Then we began to recognize its presence but felt helpless to control it. The very same awareness then begins to prompt us into actually learning to establish control. Finally, the frequency of such control increases.

As we grow in awareness, our control over anger manifests at subtle levels. The anger gets a little less intense each time, for instance, and its duration may reduce. There is also a pronounced internal remorse, pashchat-tapa. Subsequently we may try to atone, prayash-chitta, in many ways. Our resolution, sankalpa, is strengthened through affirmations. We also recall the times we did not surrender to anger and identify ourselves with those moments. We declare our intention to strive for greater and greater mastery over ourselves. We undertake internal purifications such as japa of certain peace-mantras. We may also practice external atonements such as undertaking pilgrimages.

Acts of anonymous, I repeat anonymous, charity, approaching the aggrieved party and asking them for forgiveness, penalty, are other acts that would undo the harm done.

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