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Understanding Anger: The Role of Desire and Effective Management Strategies

Feb 9th, 2021 | 4 Min Read
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Category: Spirituality


Language: English

In a forest, an ascetic is deep in meditation in his hut. Suddenly, a man approaches him and asks if he has any fire. The ascetic politely replies that he doesn't possess any. After some time, the man asks the same question again, but the sage replies with a slightly disturbed voice that he still has no fire. The man asks the same question for the third time, and the ascetic, wholly enraged, screams out loud that he has no fire. Suddenly, the man reveals that the fire is within the ascetic. This story illustrates that anger is like a poison we drink, expecting the other person to die. Therefore, it is crucial to suppress our rage and eradicate it from our system.

How desire leads to anger and greed

Many say things like 'I have a bad temper, but everything else is okay' or 'I am short-tempered, but that's just how I am.' But that's not how we should be, and nothing is alright when anger exists within us. Do you know what causes anger? It's desire! Desire is the mother of anger and greed. When we desire something, and that desire remains unfulfilled, it leads to anger. Let's imagine a situation: You buy a pack of your favourite choco-chip ice cream from the market, keep it in the fridge, and go for a long walk to build up your appetite. When you return, you are excited to eat your ice cream, but when you open the fridge, you discover that your wife has thrown it away because she thinks you are gaining too much weight. The obstruction of your desire to eat the ice cream makes you angry.

But here's the thing: If you eat the ice cream, would your desire be satiated? Maybe for a few days, but then you would strongly desire to eat the same delicious chocolate chip ice cream again. Therefore, fulfilling a desire leads to greed. So, how can we eliminate anger? By giving up our desires! But can anyone give up desire? No! That's why Swami Mukundananda offers us a straightforward solution.

Effective anger management strategies: redirecting desires towards inner peace

In pursuing inner peace and spiritual growth, the scriptures offer a simple yet profound solution: "Do not give up desire but change the direction of your desires." In this exploration of anger management, we delve into the wisdom of redirecting our desires towards higher ideals, such as devotion to God and adopting a proactive approach to life's challenges.
  1. Redirecting Desires Towards God: Desires are inherent in human nature and persist within us. However, the key lies in skillfully dovetailing these desires towards a higher purpose, particularly devotion to God. When our deepest desire is God, even if we experience anger, it becomes an internal struggle. A devoted individual introspects, recognizing, 'Oh! I still have anger issues; this reflects my impure mind, and I must intensify my efforts for personal progress.'
  2. Proactive Anger Management: The Tale of Tukaram: Another effective tool for managing anger is being proactive rather than reactive. Let's consider a scenario where a saint named Tukaram is deeply engrossed in devotion, and his wife scolds him, saying, 'You keep singing Rukmini Vittal, Rukmini Vittal all day long. Will they provide food for us? Go and get something to eat.' Tukaram promptly goes to a shop and buys a few sugarcanes. On his way back, he encounters a group of beggars and selflessly gives away all the sugarcanes to them. Now, he has only one sugarcane left, which he presents to his wife. Her face turns red with anger and blue with frustration as she sees it. She yells at him, takes the sugarcane, and angrily smashes it on his head, breaking it into two pieces. However, Tukaram smiles and remarks, 'We had to break it into two anyway. It's good that you did it now!' This situation prompts us to reflect on whether we would react with such equanimity if we were in the same circumstances.
  3. Choosing the Path to Freedom from Anger: The space between a stimulus and our reaction is where true power lies. Regardless of how others speak or act towards us, our response remains entirely within our control. We liberate ourselves from anger by consciously opting for higher sentiments over lower ones.
  4. The Lesson from Alexander the Great: A historical account involves Alexander the Great, renowned for his conquests. When encountering yogis in India, he wished to take them to his kingdom. However, a sage's response offers a powerful insight into anger management. The sage declined, remarking, 'You are a slave of my slave; I have no interest in accompanying you.' Enraged, Alexander retorted, 'How dare you call me a slave!' The sage calmly responded, 'Anger is my slave, and you are a slave of anger. Therefore, you are a slave of my slave.' This anecdote invites us to contemplate whether we choose to be a slave of anger or break free from its bondage. To overcome anger, we must channel it in the right direction, fostering self-improvement and transitioning from reactivity to proactivity.
In conclusion, mastering anger management involves redirecting desires towards spiritual growth and adopting a proactive approach to life's challenges. By understanding the power of choice in our reactions and embracing higher sentiments, we can break free from anger and find lasting inner peace. It is indeed time to embark on the journey towards emotional freedom.