Controlling Anger part 3
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2002-06-22
In part three of his talk on anger, Bodhinatha begins by referring to the Tirukural and its chapter called "Avoidance of Anger," which is right before the chapter on ahimsa, the cardinal virtue of nonviolence. This placement shows that the control of anger is required to be stable in ahimsa. Bodhinatha continues with remedies to anger, how to raise consciousness. The first step is to admit that anger is a serious problem for someone on the spiritual path. General remedies for an angry episode arevisualizing the color light blue to raise consciousness; putting a specific sum of money in a jar each time and periodically donating the total to an orphanage; fasting the next meal to impress the instinctive mind; turning to Lord Ganesha who raises our consciousness into the muladhara chakra. Specific remedies areputting a flower in front of a photograph of someone with whom we are upset, such as abusive parents, for 31 days; performing the vasana daha tantra, writing down what is upsetting us and realizing that it is our own karma coming through another person; doing three kind actions that we were not already planning to do for someone at whom we expressed anger.
The last view here of anger is from the Tirukural. It is a whole chapter on anger and it is very interesting where it is placed. It is called 'Avoidance of Anger' and it is right in front of the chapter on ahimsa, non-injury, precedes it. That placement in itself gives us some knowledge here. If we want to be successful in non-violence in thought, word and deed, we have to master anger. You can't be an angry person, have trouble controlling our anger and expect to be successful in non-violence. That shows the importance of it, because non-violence, of course, is a core practice. So anger is really a challenge to that practice.
I will just read two of the verses. "Forget anger toward all who have offended you, for it gives rise to teeming troubles." That is the same idea that is in our karma management. We have to forsake revenge is the first principle. Sometimes, there is a strong tendency when someone does something unfair to us, unjust to us, for us to strike back even without thinking about it. It is a natural reaction. So, we have to harness that tendency because it just causes further problems.
"Anger kills the face's smile and the heart's joy. Does there exist a greater enemy than one's own anger?" That is pointing out that we may have enemies outside, certainly the biggest enemy is inside our self. Our happiness can be destroyed by our own anger. That is our real enemy. The person who is working against us is inside of us. It is called anger.
I think we have been really impressed by Gurudeva on the seriousness of anger. So now, having gone through all of that, what are some of the remedies here?
The first step in controlling anger is to admit that it is a serious problem, that the expression of anger is a serious deviation from following the spiritual path. It is not a small deviation, it is a serious deviation. We have to admit the seriousness of it. That is why I read some of Gurudeva's statements here, so we could see how seriously he looked at the expression of anger. It is a major problem.
Once we admit that anger is a major problem, it is something we should not express even in a subtle way, then we can look at remedies. What are some specific actions we can take to control anger either before it gets expressed or after it gets expressed?
We have a few of those assembled here from Gurudeva's writings. The first group is of what we call general remedies, meaning they work for all situations. The last couple are specific remedies which work in specific situations not all situations, specific ones only.
The first remedy comes from 'Merging with Siva', color visualization. Very nicely described there. I will read the first part. "If you are overtaken by anger and resentment, blackish red with streaks of yellow." That means the way your aura looks, the way you look inside of yourself to someone who can see an aura, blackish red. Remember we talked about that before? It is not just red, it is red with a lot of black in it. Blackish red, Gurudeva adds, with streaks of yellow. So what do you visualize? You visualize light blue. That is the remedy.
"Visualize light blue entering your aura and surrounding your body. The light blue will neutralize the fiery reds. Before you know it, the anger and resentment are gone. Visualizing light blue actually draws your awareness out of certain areas of the instinctive mind into intuitive states. Instead of anger, you experience compassion and understanding."
So this is done as in all the visualizations, you see the color coming out from the center of your spine. You just close your eyes and see light blue radiating out from the center of your spine through your body and out a ways from your body, which is where the outer aura is. If we just visualize it flooding out, light blue, it can make the angry state of mind go away because it moves awareness. But at first, if it is serious anger, a really major anger it might not be successful. Gurudeva says if you keep practicing on a regular basis, changing your consciousness in this way eventually even a major anger can be successfully overcome by this practice. So that is our first remedy. Color visualization, light blue.
The money remedy, some of you may have tried this one. It was one of the first remedies Gurudeva gave for anger. Every time you get angry, you put a sum of money in a jar. So you have pre-chosen that sum like in the United States, five dollars is a reasonable amount. If you get angry with someone, afterwards you put five dollars in a jar and periodically you empty the jar and give the money to an orphanage. We have an orphanage fund called the Tirunavukkarasu Nayanar Gurukulam in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka that has a large Endowment because of this practice. There are some regular donors to this Endowment!
Why do you put money? Because money impresses you that you have done something you should not. Otherwise, you may not take it seriously. By putting money in a jar, you take the fact that you were angry more seriously than if you didn't do anything afterwards or you tend to downplay it. "Oh, I wasn't really angry. It was you know..." Like that and you don't really admit that you were angry. But if you put money in the jar it impresses you. If you are someone who doesn't want to waste money, then it impresses you even more.
Gurudeva found that for some people, to put five dollars in the jar didn't work that well, didn't put a dent in their wallet. It wasn't significant. So he came up with another remedy, which was to fast a meal. So every time you express anger, you don't eat the next meal. That impressed everyone. Because no one doesn't get impressed by not eating a meal. That is a good one. The purpose of it is to impress upon you the seriousness of what you did. Because of that, you are less prone to do it again.
There is a devotional remedy. Lord Ganesha always helps in these kinds of areas. Any kind of emotional problem, we can turn to Lord Ganesha and be benefited. Why is that? Because the vibration He holds is the muladhara chakra. So if we tune ourselves with Him either through going to a Temple and attending Ganesha puja, or if we are good at it, we can just visualize Him in our own mind and tune into His shakti and His being, we come up into consciousness. If we are below the muladhara, we come up in consciousness to that state, we rise up. We get attuned with His vibration and become that same vibration. So that is a devotional approach and if we do that regularly we can permanently seal off, as Gurudeva describes it, "You seal off the lower chakras." We never fall below the muladhara chakra, which of course is the ideal.
One of the problems of corporal punishment is, it can open up that area to children. They may never have experienced it before but if they regularly face corporal punishment, they are regularly getting pushed down into fear. Then, as they get older they are also going down into resentment because they would really like to hit back but they can't. So, pushing the child down below the muladhara, that is not good. You want to keep children above it and as adults we want to rise above it. Ganesha worship is the devotional remedy for that.
Those are the general remedies. Now we go to the specific remedies.
There is the flower remedy. Some of you have performed that remedy. It works for any situation where there is someone we have significant hard feelings toward. The first use of this was for children, who are now adults who have hard feelings about their parents for one reason or another. Parents treated them badly, abused them, unjustly punished them, neglected them or whatever. That was the first use for this. Of course, that is the person you get angry with, if you are selectively angry with your parent or parents, then this is appropriate for anger. It can also be used if you are angry at your spouse, your spouse has done, one or more things that you are seriously upset about. It can work for that. It can also work for an employer/employee relationship. You are the employee and are upset with your boss or some superior at work. Supervisor mistreats you and you are kind of, always angry at them. So those are the kinds of specific situations, which Gurudeva recommended this for.
The idea is you have a picture of them or if you can't get a picture then something that represents then. Everyday you offer them a flower, for thirty one days. That is why it is called the flower penance. You forgive them. You say, "I forgive you for what you did." Try and really let it go. In many instances, people are doing the best that they could and that is the reason it happens. They just did the best that they could, based upon their own upbringing and their own belief structure.
Sometimes when you are doing it, it is hard to forgive. We remember something that we are really upset about and that is when we can bring in Vasana Daha Tantra, writing down what is bothering us and burning it up. So we offer the flower and remember a specific incident and we are upset about it. You write down the incident and burn it up. It helps take the emotion out of that situation.
The goal of this remedy is to let go of the resentment, the selective anger towards this person and realize that it was our own karma. Part of the problem is we are projecting the misbehavior on them. "They did this to me. I did not deserve it, I should have been treated another way." But when we can internalize it in the proper philosophical perspective, nothing happens to us that is not our karma. So when we get upset at other people for doing things to us, we are missing the point. Because we are doing something to ourselves through other people. We have talked about before. Whatever happens to us, we have caused that to happen.
Karma usually comes through another person. You don't just walk down the street very often and have a tree fall on you. Usually someone does something to you and it is easy to get upset at that person for doing it to you. But if we look at it in a more philosophical perspective, everything that happens to us we are doing to ourselves through others. So if something good happens to us through others, that is our good karma. If something bad happens to us through others, that is our bad karma. They could not have treated us the way they did except it was our karma, something we created in our past.
That is the goal of this flower penance, to forgive, to internalize, let it go and realize that, "Gee, I have to be more careful not to create that for myself in the future by how I act in the present."
The last remedy here we have the Kindness remedy. This one is also specific, it works on the immediate family for when a significant expression of anger occurs. The husband yells at the wife for an hour and just really loses control. A serious expression of anger. So the remedy is to do three kind actions in return that you were not planning to do. If you are already planning to do it, it does not count. You have to dream up three kind actions to do, that you were previously not planning to do. One isn't good enough. You did one thing, you are going to have to do three things back to compensate for this one thing, just to make sure that it is compensated for.
Three examples in that situation - take the wife out to dinner, buy her something she really needs for the kitchen and if you have young children, take care of the young children for half a day and give her some free time that she normally wouldn't have. That impresses you and her that you are serious about controlling anger.