“From Anger and Fear to Freedom”
By Swami Veda Bharati
The spiritual traditions of India are firmly based on a detailed understanding of the
mind, its states, impulses, operations, functions, and reactions to stimuli. Half of
Indian religion (Vedic-Hindu-Buddhist-Jaina-Sikh-Mazdayasnian, et al) is pure
psychological principles for guiding relationships. One of these guidelines is repeatedly
akodhena jine kodham (Pali),
akrodhena jayet krodham (Sanskrit)
One should seek to conquer anger with non-anger.
What are the tools one may employ to improve oneself?
Conquest of Anger
The first step is atmavalokana, self-observation. Through self observation one pulls
oneself out of the delusion of denial, „Oh, I never get angry‟- said in an angry voice! it
is not self-criticism but self-critique.
Here one has to:
(a) observe oneself getting angry and
(b) to see that it is a futile exercise, totally ineffective, and
(c) note its results in the form of:
unhappiness caused to the loving ones, and
damages invited to oneself from the reactions of others
Thereafter, all it takes is sankalpa, a decision, a resolve, to make oneself sweeter with
Upanishadic prayers like:
Jihva me madhumatama
May my tongue be a most honeyed one.
Is Anger Ever Justified?
Another question we sometimes hear is: Are there not times and situations when
anger is justified and necessary?
Our answer is as follows. An act of daily self-poisoning can have no justification. It is
not helpful and brings about no positive, desirable results.
Surely at times it does, as when it stops an unjust and cruel person from hurting
someone. We would say: your intervention does stop it but there is no proof that it
has to be an angry intervention. It can be forceful, using the amount of force needed
for a specific purpose. As everyone who understands the meditative philosophy of the
oriental martial arts knows, anger reduces the effectiveness of the force.
It was in the context of such philosophy that Shri Krishna taught Arjuna to first
conquer his anger and fear and then fight. The injunction in the Gita is: yudhyasva
vigata-jvarah: Fight, but first renounce your fevered reaction. Naivam papam
avapsyasi: thus you shall not be guilty of wrongdoing.
Anti-war slogans shouted against war will not stop wars when shouted with anger.
Through sloganeering the protesters may get into government, with every intention to
bring about peace. But they have not stopped the wars that rage in the vast
continents of their own skulls. Once in power, they will wage another „just war‟.
The martial arts teach us first to defeat our anger and then defeat the unjust assailant
by using the entire mind‟s relaxed concentration, as the yogis put it.
We see fear pervading all areas of life. We are afraid to approach a stranger to ask
for directions for fear s/he would shun us. We are afraid to love for the fear of being
rejected. We are afraid to walk in a dark, narrow street as we hear approaching
footsteps, and the one whose footsteps are instilling fear in us is scared because s/he
is hearing our footsteps. We buy guns and raise armies, not because we are brave,
but because we are cowards cowering in dire fear of all.
Our economy is governed by fear. We fear of dying of poverty. The stock market is
governed by emotions, half of which are constituted of fear. There is mass fear and
the stocks tumble. We fear the loss of our position and of a prestigious chair in the
office. We fear being poisoned with an arrow. We fear disease. We fear for our
children and other beloved ones. We fear thunder, lightning, dark places. But first and
foremost, we fear death.
Fear takes on these various forms - agora-phobia or the fear of flying. The collective
maya has cast a dark blanket over all our minds totally; my enemy‟s mind, and the
mind of myself, who is my enemy‟s enemy.
All these „othernesses‟ (dviteeya-bhaava, anya-bhaava, parakeeya-bhaava) will not
cease unless and until we lift the curtain of maya that has made us lose our supreme
selfhood, the status in parama-atman. Once we regain that status, there is no fear, no
enemy, no poison arrow, word-stones or cruise missiles. In looking at the present day
world picture we forget that there are fifty nations at this time that have no armies.
The Way to Fearlessness
We tremble that our nation may be hit by a repeat of the 9/11 tragedy in New York.
Yes, we are suffering from the terrorism prevailing the world over. But we forget
another 9/11 to which a writer, Mr. P. Sainath, has drawn our attention in the article
titled Three 9/11s - Choose Your Own in the Hindu newspaper of 9/11, 2006 (p.10),
reminding us of the satyagraha started by Mahatma Gandhi on 9/11 1906, a little over
a century ago. That great soul had to put aside all his fears, fear of failure, fear of
rejection by the people, fear of police lathis, and fear of bullets.
(This article contains excerpts from “Mind: The Playground of Gods”, a book by Swami Veda