Anger is an emotion I have a hard time managing. Not that I have ever felt it was difficult to be angry – one gets angry when the airport bungles your luggage, or when the driver in front of you is going too slow, or when your comments during a conversation are ignored. The management of anger is an entirely different subject than the manifestation of anger. Once the emotion comes up, I find myself frustrated because I don’t know what to do. Anger is the feeling with the least clear roadmap. Are you happy? Smile. Are you sad? Sigh. But what are you supposed to do when you get angry? Bare your teeth? Clench your fists? Shout loudly at those in front of you?
There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to managing anger (a further frustration), and I think it’s because we have so few reasons for our anger. This is not true in all cases. When someone insults or behaves inappropriately towards you or someone you care for, you have an immediate answer for what is causing rage. However, sometimes we have no clue what caused the anger to stir up within us. The slightest things can stir up parts of us we had forgotten, parts we had ignored, parts we had let fall into disrepair. For example, when I see a mother sternly disciplining her child on the street, I get angry and I tell myself my anger is on behalf of the child. But the real reason may be lost in a thousand other answers: because my mother was never so stern with me, because I feel incapable of disciplining children myself, because I’m having a bad day and this just feels like another sour hour.
I find myself getting angry at all sorts of people: happy people, excited children, people shouting nonsense, people making untrue statements, wealthy people, people who serve me cold food, late people, people wearing excessive makeup, even just people playing frisbee. So many of these are innocent in their own right, and certainly none of them are grievously offensive, morally wrong, or utterly unforgivable. Yet my anger remains with all of them, and lasts long and late into the day. I needlessly hold grudges against these people and their activities, without knowing them, without even making eye contact with them. I want to believe it’s just me who feels this way about anger, that I lack the capacity for self-control and rational understanding.
But I wouldn’t be writing this if I felt it was just me. Anger resides within all of us and we all need some help with managing it. On the path to devotion, Maharajji explains, pride is one of the biggest obstacles for devotees to overcome. Our great Guru He explains further that all anger comes from this pride, that it is a great conceit of ours that we place ourselves above all others and put them at the mercy of our emotions. Even when its just inside our heads, this anger does us a great disservice. And everyone carries little worlds within their heads, to some extent. This is a problem that belongs to everyone, but the solution does too.
The solution as explained by Maharajji is, “When you get a surge of anger, hold it within. Make sure it doesn’t escape; practice this. After that, do the practice of not even allowing anger to arise in your heart.
He demonstrates this solution using a simple example – A master scolds his servant, “You arrived late to work, you fool.” The servant simply says, “Yes sir, yes sir.” He is also feeling agitated and mad from within, but outwardly, he is showing no reaction and just saying, “Yes sir,” – because if the servant also said, “You fool, you also come late to the office…” he would be fired. He is thinking and saying this from within, but externally he is displaying control over his heart.
This is the first step in gaining mastery over anger. Practice to not speak bitterly and with an edge to anyone. Upon being condemned and criticized by anyone, do not show hostility by protesting against that person. Secondly, graciously accept the criticism and embrace your faults. We all have faults that are more clearly seen by others than ourselves. Let down your pride and work at eliminating those faults from your heart. As you practice this you will achieve what Maharajji says is the goal to eliminate anger – You will make peace with your reality/your true self.”