The cause of anger is explained in the ancient Vedic literature.
While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.
From anger, complete delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost one falls down again into the material pool. (Bhagavad-gita 2, 62-63)
Entrapment in the material world begins by not seeing things properly. When we look at an object without acknowledging to whom it may belong, we begin to imagine that we can control and enjoy it. Such thoughts are the root of material desires and subsequent troubles.
We begin the subtle process of thinking, feeling and willing about the object. We first think about the qualities of the object. Next, we feel how good it would be to own and enjoy the object. Then, we make a decision of will that we must have the object to be happy. The psychological processes of thinking, feeling, and willing are the inspiration for performing action (or work). Becoming convinced that our desires need to be fulfilled is the subtle form of action.
First, we hear about or observe an object. We acquire knowledge of the object. We, as the knower, undergo the process of thinking, feeling, and willing. Thus there is the knower, the object of knowledge and the knowledge of the object. These are called the impetus to action.
As our contemplation of the object gets more intense, we evolve from desire to attachment and then lust or the obsessive desire to control and enjoy an object. Once there is strong attachment or excessive desire and attachment (lust), if we are in any way hindered or frustrated in our attempt to control and enjoy the object, we become angry. Anger comes right after frustration.
Anger after frustration has definite symptoms such as, heavy breathing, tendency to use harsh language, possibility of violence, swelling of the chest and tensing of the muscles and facial expressions such as sharp eye contact, raising of the eyebrows or furrowing of the forehead, rashness of thought, increased heartbeat, and quick conclusions of retaliation, etc.
From anger delusion develops. The state of delusion occurs when one believes to be true or real something that is false or unreal. The conviction: “I am the controller and I am the enjoyer” is the basis of the delusion. This requires explanation as it is difficult for most people to accept that such a thought is actually delusional.
The basic concept of property and proprietorship determines the organization of society from the life of an individual to the entire population. For example, in modern day countries there are differences of social organization founded on a basic concept of proprietorship. In a capitalist country, the assumption is that the individual is the proprietor and the majority of laws protect personal property. In a socialist country, the state is the most prominent proprietor and most of the laws protect state ownership. In a monarchy, the king and nobles are the main proprietors. In a communist state, ideally the commune or the working class people collectively are the proprietor. In a dictatorship, the dictator, his family and friends such as his military, industrial, and banking cronies are the proprietors. Every one of these concepts of property ownership and the social institutions that protect such concepts are flawed.
If I make a mistake at the beginning of solving a mathematical problem, I will most probably get the whole problem wrong. A mistake in the beginning will give me a wrong result in the end. Similarly, if the most fundamental concept on which an entire society is built (the concept of proprietorship) is wrong, then how can we expect the people in that society to be happy and eventually achieve the goal of human life?
Today, we live in the United States of America. Did this country exist five hundred years ago? The answer is no. Will this country exist five hundred years in the future. The answer is we do not know! We can conclude that the existence of this great country or any country for that matter is temporary. The same can be said about anything we believe that we own. At most, we temporarily own something. Even during the period that we temporarily own something, we do not really own it. We can lose a possession at any time due to a variety of causes. If all the above mentioned concepts of proprietorship are wrong, then what is the right concept of proprietorship?
Before we answer the question, first let us consider the following. If all the above concepts of proprietorship are wrong, then we must be in a state of delusion if we believe we are the proprietor. I might accept rather easily that I am not the proprietor of the state of Colorado. But, I am hard pressed to accept I am not the proprietor of my body or my bank account. The truth is that I am not really the proprietor of my own body because so many functions of the body are taking place that are completely out of my control. I may reside within the body, but it is functioning in mysterious ways that are beyond my comprehension and conscious determination. I don’t control my heartbeat, the blinking of my eyes, my entire digestive system, and so many other vital processes of the body. I don’t control the aging process and ultimately, I don’t control birth, disease and death. Then how can I pretend that I am the owner of the body when I do not really control its vital functions.
Through honest self inspection one can understand that any claim to proprietorship is very temporary and always dependent on some superior authority such as the state or anyone with overpowering force, natural laws, and ultimately God. The person who controls nature and its insurmountable laws is the real proprietor of everything by virtue of his overpowering force. We see this force in hurricanes, tidal waves, earthquakes and any massive display of natural force. The strongest army in the world, the US Armed forces, with all its sophisticated weapons could not stop hurricane Katrina from destroying most of a modern American City, New Orleans. Therefore, no one and no nation can claim to be proprietor except the Supreme controller of everything or God Himself.
At the most, our claims to proprietorship are temporary and always dependent on superior authority and ultimately God. If I believe that I am the absolute owner (or enjoyer) and controller, then I am in a state of delusion.
From such a state of delusion, our memory becomes confused. We forget who we are, where we are, what the purpose of life is, what are our limits, what are our duties and responsibilities. From this confused memory, we lose our intelligence or our power to discriminate of right from wrong. Then we fall down into a whirlpool of frenzied activity that is ultimately destructive to ourselves and others. Unless we learn to see things correctly as owned and controlled by God, we become prone to developing material desires and acting in selfish and self destructive ways. God has made an arrangement by which He has set aside our minimum needs. However, when we take more than what we need, we become victims of our own greed by which others may be denied their minimum needs. We then become subject to the laws of material nature or the natural correction for our greed.
Case Study 1:
An immigrant from India, named Karthik Rajaram, committed a murder suicide of his family on October 7, 2008. The following article appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
“A Porter Ranch father of three, emotionally distraught over the economy murdered his family and then killed himself last weekend. From the article posted today:
On Sept. 16, he bought a gun. He wrote two suicide notes and a last will and testament. And then, sometime between Saturday night and Monday morning, he killed his wife, mother-in-law and three sons, and took his own life.
“This is a perfect American family behind me that has absolutely been destroyed, apparently because of a man who just got stuck in a rabbit hole, if you will, of absolute despair, somehow working his way into believing this to be an acceptable exit,” said LAPD Deputy Chief Michel Moore. “It is critical to step up and recognize we are in some pretty troubled times.”
In a letter addressed to police, Rajaram blamed his actions on economic hardships. A second letter, labeled “personal and confidential,” was addressed to family friends; the third contained a last will and testament, Moore said.”
This tragic murder suicide is a classic example of how a person can lose complete control of the their rational sense of self-preservation and commit a horrible murder-suicide of himself and his own family. A friend of Mr. Rajaram wrote an interesting comment: “He is the product of the totality of his upbringing and initial successes in achieving the American Dream – he could not have imagined that he could lose $2 million in a few years, after having earned it over two decades. Having lost the money, his sense of control would have eroded rapidly.”
Mr. Rajaram was educated in India at the prestigious University IIT and graduated with a a distinguished scholastic record. He attended UCLA and then began a career in stock market brokerage and investment. He became materially successful. But, with the economic downturn and the dramatic down swing of the stock market, he lost everything he had made. He was ruined financially. The frustration, humiliation and anger from such loss made him lose his mental equilibrium. He decided to kill himself and his entire.
The materialistic education and goals of Mr. Rajaram left him bereft of any spiritual values that could have given him more substantial perspective in life than mere material accumulation. He became obsessively attached to material accumulation. When he lost his wealth, he could not imagine a life bereft of it. By being attached to something temporary causes anxiety and fear. Without spiritual knowledge of the our permanent soul and its eternal relation to God, we become vulnerable like Mr. Rajaram to the unavoidable changes of fortune in material existence. Material frustration leads to anger, delusion, bewilderment of memory, loss of intelligence and finally falling into whirlpool of self-destructive behavior.
The allurement of the material world is the desire for sense gratification. Such gratification is necessarily selfish, self centered and often passionate. The progression of seeing an object and meditating on it, developing attachment for it from which lust arises. When the lust is frustrated, there is anger. From anger comes delusion. From delusion comes bewilderment of memory; then, loss of intelligence and finally falling down into irresponsible behavior. This progression can happen very quickly. It can occur in a few seconds or develop over an extended period of time.
The important issue is whether a person has control of their senses and mind. There are four activities that render mind and sense control almost impossible. They are: gambling and philosophical speculation, meat eating, intoxication and illicit sex. These four material activities undermine truthfulness (gambling and speculation), austerity and humility (meat eating), mercifulness (intoxication) and cleanliness (illicit sex). These four principles are the universal principals of spirituality. Undermining these principles by the four material activities of gambling, meat eating, intoxication and illicit sex, a person becomes very prone to being a victim of the slippery slope of imperfect observation to loss of intelligence and destructive behavior. When a person can regulate material activities based on the universal spiritual principles, they become capable of self control. The intelligence exercises its discriminative powers and can project into the future to see the consequences of rash behavior. It acts to avoid the senseless dive into the abyss self destructive behavior and causing harm to others.
There is an example of a man who is dreaming while asleep. He cries, “Tiger, tiger…It is eating me!” Another person who is awake witnesses the sleeping man’s emotional cries. He smiles and wonders “Where is the tiger?” The dreaming man is crying and moaning, “Tiger, tiger, tiger.” One does not have to be in a state of dreaming to be in illusion. An illusion is accepting something for what it is not due to either imperfect hearing or seeing. If we see water in the desert or mistake a rope for a snake, we may accept that the reflection of the sun on the hot sand is actually water when it is not or the rope is actually a snake when it is not. These are examples of illusions. When we believe that the illusions are really factual, we are in a state of delusion.
Sometimes politicians claim, “This is my land. This is my country.” Another group of politicians claim the same land and say, “This is my land, my country.” The two sides begin to fight and kill each other. Both sides are in a state of delusion. The land does not belong to either side. It belongs to God. But they are claiming my land, my country. But how long will they live to enjoy their land and country? It is an illusion to accept God’s property as one’s own property.
Without understanding our real position, we remain perplexed in the midst of the problems of this world which are all caused by false claims. The root cause of the illusion is the material conception of “I” and “Mine” or the false idea that I am the controller and enjoyer.
Once a king was about to die. He ordered that a coffin be made with two holes. When asked why he said, “I am a most powerful king with untold wealth. But when I die, I want the people to see my hands protruding from the coffin. I want them to see that I left this world empty handed even though I was so wealthy and powerful.” “Dust thou art and dust thou shalt become,” is the Biblical saying. It rings true. Any claim to proprietorship (even of our own body) is a false claim. The only true proprietor is God. If we learn to use everything in the service of God, then we can escape from the chains of illusion and self destructive behavior. Most disputes and wars in this world are based on territorial claims. Individually we attempt to be the controller and enjoyer. This attempt is spread to an entire society or nation. Then one nation desires to control and enjoy another nation. All wars are fought for sense gratification. One nation wants to enjoy their senses in one way and another nation in another way and they fight for domination for their own brand of sense gratification. It is all false and illusory.
Case Study 2:
Another interesting example is a story about Hazrat Ali, the famous Muslim prophet who is the saint of the Shia Muslims. Hazrat Ali was fighting in a “holy war.” He knocked down an opposing soldier and was about to kill him with his sword. The soldier spit in Hazrat Ali’s face. The saint put down his sword. The soldier was shocked. He said, “Why don’t you kill me?” Hazrat Ali said, “Before you spit in my face I was going to kill you on behalf of Allah as a righteous act. But when you spit in my face, I became angry at you. I cannot kill you in a state of personal anger based on my own emotional state. Therefore, I have put down my sword.” The soldier was so impressed by the motives of Hazrat Ali that he converted to Islam and became a sincere follower. There is a difference between acting on one’s own personal motives and acting as a servant of God without any personal attachment or self interest. One is saved from the entanglement of reactive work by acting only on the order of God without any personal motive. This story illustrates how important the motive of the action is.
During a war, a soldier kills an enemy combatant according to the rules of engagement. He is not considered a murderer although he kills. But, after the war, if the same man kills someone of his own accord, he will be prosecuted as a criminal. By acting under the orders of superior authority and following the rules of engagement, one is not responsible for the acts. Acting on one’s own selfish desires, one becomes responsible.
Unless one sincerely understands the spiritual truth of our eternal relationship with God, we can never become free from the material influence which leads us on like a blind man into a ditch of confused, desperate acts. In truth, material sense enjoyment pales in comparison to the higher taste of spiritual enjoyment in the association of God. Tasting such spiritual pleasure in the presence of God is the beginning of freedom from material conditioning.
Without control of the senses and mind through regulated devotional service to God, it is impossible to control lust, anger, and greed. By engaging all our human faculties and tendencies in unselfish acts of devotion, one develops the power to control the development of lust which, if unchecked, can easily turn into anger. The easiest and most direct means to control the development of lust and anger is to remember and worship God in the company of genuine believers.The association of genuine helps one understand their eternal relationship of service and love for the Almighty. By dedicating all things in life to the service of God under proper guidance, one can overcome the false attachments and concomitant development of lust that binds one to reckless acts that we will later regret.
Published onMarch 10, 2012
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