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How to deal with anger? || Acharya Prashant (2015)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
25 min
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Questioner (Q): Acharya Ji, in spite of keeping all watch and vigil, anger comes and leads to wrong actions on certain trigger points and situations. After that it is realized that a slip happened. What is the way?

Acharya Prashant (AP): There is nothing in existence that is unnecessary, totally useless, needlessly there. It is good that we are talking of anger, its processes and its consequences, the harm that it does. But that also might be because firstly anger is very gross, very visible. There is a clear sensual expression of anger. So, it becomes very obvious that we are angry; it cannot remain hidden.

And secondly, our education or morality has constantly taught us that anger is something bad. So, to the problem of anger, we seem like being alert. But are we equally alert, let’s say, to the fact that even in those moments of the day when everything appears normal, we are actually feeling a little down, a little dull, a little bored, a little short of energy; that we do not consider a problem as big as anger, again for those two same reasons?

One, anger is gross and that constant sense of background boredom is subtle. In anger you shout, your face turns red, your blood pressure rises. In boredom, well, there is not much that happens that can be caught or traced by senses. Now you are just sitting, you are weary, you are yawning, and it doesn’t seem that there is much wrong with yawning.

In anger, well you are beating people up. It seems that there is so much wrong with anger. And secondly, we have been taught that anger is bad and boredom is a much smaller evil. But is that so? Is anger a totally unwanted child of existence? Is it something that should have not been there and has somehow, by mistake, been dropped into the scheme of things? Not really. We live in a dualistic world of opposites where everything has it’s opposite, and we live in a diverse world. Existence means duality and diversity .

Existence means that there would be many things, many colors, many shades and each of these many would also have its opposite. That is what existence is. Whatever you experience in existence, whatever is there existent, gross or subtle, physical or mental, has a right to be there. It has a proper place; otherwise, it couldn’t have been there.

So, first of all, let’s drop this notion that anger is particularly evil. At least we can say that it is not any more evil than boredom, and that is important because very few people would come over and write that “I am lethargic”. Very few people would come over and write that “I am ambitious”. But anger seems to be a much more targeted problem. Everyone wants to get rid of anger.

At its proper place, everything is alright. Not in its proper place even that which we consider to be morally and universally the best virtue, is not at all proper. we know what the word forgiveness means for example, in the dualistic sense. We also know what the word satisfaction means.

They are not always the right place to be in. We know what non-violence means in a dualistic sense; not in the ultimate sense. And it may not always be right to be non-violent, in the sense that we know non-violence. We know what peace means, and the peace that we know may not always be appropriate. We know what war means, and war may not always be condemnable.

Everything is alright, albeit at its proper place. There is no need to feel guilty about anger. There is no need to give so much time and energy to the question of anger. This time, this energy, this attention, should rather go towards a more fundamental question. That question must be, “Where is my anger coming from?” For that matter, “where is my forgiveness coming from? Where is any of my actions coming from?” And then whatever be the action, you do not need to be worried; let the action flow. If it is coming from the right place, then whatever be the action, it is the right action; it is an auspicious action, good for you and good for everybody; irrespective of how nice or how ugly the action appears, irrespective of what the books of morality have to say about the action; it doesn’t matter what the action is.

There is an anger that arises out of frustration; frustration that your desire could not be completed, could not be fulfilled. You have been loose, not watchful. You have not seen where your mind is going. You have not seen the shape, direction, and contents of your thoughts.

And that has given your mind a certain urge, a certain momentum. Those thoughts have taken control of you. You want fulfillment. The fulfillment doesn’t come and now you are angry. And now you are angry. This anger is nothing but the frustration of desire. There is desire and desire seeks fulfillment; fulfillment doesn’t come and you are angry. Getting it?

And then, there is another anger! We’ll have to look at it. What do we define anger as? When do we call somebody angry? You just call somebody angry, when there is a deep sense, an expressed and energetic sense of disapproval, resentment, an urge to disturb, change or totally destroy the existing order of things. This deep disapproval, coupled with a rush of energy, seeking destruction, is what we call as anger. Are we one on this?

It is a deep sense of disapproval and a surge of energy seeking to change something. If this be anger, then let’s come to the second kind of anger. When the mind is clean, it becomes even more visible that so much around us is unclean. When the mind is still, it becomes even more sensitive to the fact that all around us is just disturbance.

When the mind is joyful, it becomes even more alert to the fact that the world is suffering, that the world is not enjoying that same inner bliss as you are. When the mind has tasted love, then it cannot bear the fact that people, societies, institutions, go on living on the assumption that life has to be loveless. When the mind is free, then it totally disapproves of anything that people accept as necessary, bondage. The mind knows very well that no bondage is necessary; and the mind knows very well that freedom is beautiful, must be had because it has had it.

So, there is deep disapproval. In fact, this disapproval is deeper than the disapproval one has on the frustration of his own limited personal desires. One has started knowing how to live and what living really means. Then there is a great disapproval on seeing that all around us, there is so little life and so much of death, that what people generally construe as living is not living at all.

There is bound to be great disapproval. And because this disapproval is real, it cannot remain dissociated with action. Along with this disapproval, there is also an honest expression of disapproval in the form of energy.

Now this is beautiful, but this is also what we call as anger. You look at one such man and you will say he is angry, because superficially he would be displaying all the signs that you see being displayed by a man whose desire has been thwarted. So you will say, “Oh! He is angry”. And anger, we have been told by our holy men, is a bad thing.

Anger really is not bad. If there is one thing that you may want to call bad, it is misplaced anger. Misplaced anger is surely bad. But then misplaced compassion is equally bad, misplaced peace is equally bad, misplaced approval is equally bad, misplaced acceptance is equally bad, misplaced respect is equally bad. Misplaced anything is equally bad.

We need more people who are angry. Given the situations within us and around us, and given that we have a young audience here, I am being very categorical in saying this, that we need more people who are angry . There is no worse sight than a young man who cannot be angry.

And most of us really do not know anger, seriously. What we know is our petty sense of irritation, frustration. We remain piqued. We never know the manliness of anger. We don’t know that. We have no idea what it means. In the name of anger, all we know is pinching and poking.

We do not know the anger of ‘Śiva’, we do not know the ‘Tāṇḍava’. We do not know the urge for complete destruction, which is ‘pralaya’. We do not know that. We know a little bit of shouting, stamping of feet, creation of disturbance, a little bit of sloganeering, and then going back and sleeping.

Or maybe we will hurl a few abuses at somebody. “I am angry so I am hurling abuses at you.” This is what we mean by anger. In this anger, anger is not bad but the pettiness is bad. This anger is petty anger and I object to the pettiness, not to the anger. Kindly be angry, but don’t be angry on petty matters; and all your personal matters are petty. That is what is misplaced anger. That is the wrong center from where most of our anger emanates; our petty limited ego.

“Why am I angry? Somebody stole my toothbrush”, now the fellow is angry. “Why am I angry? Someone looked at my boyfriend, so I am angry.” “Why am I frustrated? Somebody didn’t pick up my call.” “Why are you shouting abuses? I got two marks less than expected.” “Why are these people on strike? Why so much of slogan shouting? They want 500 rupees increase in wage.” “Why are these young people burning the bus? – Because the buses are not giving them free passes.” “Why the father is all red-faced? – Because the son is not showing him due respect.”

This is our anger, yes this is bad but why is it bad? – Because it is petty. I am repeating; it is not bad because it is anger; it is bad because it is petty. Do be angry but not on these things. These things you can let pass. You are much bigger than petty matters. You need not be disturbed by them.

Somebody tries to pinch you, you need not be disturbed. There was some expectation regarding something, it didn’t materialize, you need not be disturbed. You realize that expectations are just expectations. Are you getting this?

When you stop being angry at all these little daily petty matters, then your anger takes a far wider, far more universal existential color. Now it’s ok. You neither approve nor disapprove of what somebody has to say regarding your clothes; but given that you are now free from personal considerations, you now have the scope, the latitude to see what is happening all around you. Free from myself, I become available to existence .

Now it’s ok, I don’t really disapprove of the fact that there is a power cut and I am sweating, but I deeply disapprove of the fact that the power that is coming to me is being generated by blocking rivers. You would have seen people get frustrated and angry when there are power cuts, have you seen that, especially in summers?

But I have never seen anybody frustrated when the power is there. And we do not realize that the moments when you are getting the power, the power is coming by gradually killing a river. Now when should you really be full of disapproval – when there is a power cut or when the power is flowing? That is the moment when you should really, really stand up in disapproval. But then you are not angry.

You are angry only when you are sweating, your petty concern. I have seen people get angry when at the end of the month their salary cheque gets delayed. And if they get delayed a lot, they can even go and shout, and may be hit somebody. This is my right. This is my right, how can you hold this, delay this? This is my due.

But they don’t get angry doing the kind of work they do for 30 days of the month. Your salary gets delayed, you say “I deserve to get money, it is my right.” But for 30 days of the month you totally forget that joy is your right. You totally forget that; then you don’t get angry.

And most of the jobs that are around us are such that a man must rise up against them, in defiance of them. The very moment somebody mentions that job profile, that job description, it is an insult to you. How can I accept this work? Do you mean I would be doing this, 30 days of the month? That is the moment to get angry. But you don’t get angry. You get angry only when your salary gets delayed. That is petty anger. That is the variety of anger that degrades you and your entire surrounding.

So, be angry but on the right matters. Let the expanse of your anger be deeper, wider. I am not the one who will ask you to cull anger. Why must you do that? That is impotence. In fact, this personal kind of petty anger goes along with indifference and impotency, when it comes to the real things in life.

Most people, who are irritated on small things, are not at all bothered about the bigger picture. Penny wise Pound foolish. About small matters they are particularly alert. One spot on their shirt and they will get angry, but the entire mind is stained and it doesn’t bother them. It doesn’t bother them.

Two rupees lost and they are angry and the entire life is being lost, it doesn’t bother them. In the morning, somebody uttered a few words of hatred and it disturbs them; they feel like retaliating. But their entire life is loveless; and it doesn’t bother them. So, these two go together – a tendency towards pettiness and a total disregard of that which is large, and real, and really worthy of consideration; these two go together.

The more you are concerned with your personal self, the more you will be unconcerned with the large and the real.

The fellow gets very angry if his family is given the slightest discomfort. Obviously, this anger is an impotent anger. It is just a thing of demonstration. But he at least demonstrates; he anyway cannot do any more than that.

Given the right kinds of incentives and money, this fellow would be prepared to walk away from the family, and that can be tried; just the right kind of situations have to be created. Because all he knows is pettiness; and when you know pettiness, then there is something even pettier than the family; that is the personal self. “I know only smallness. Family is small, five people, but smaller than the family is me, one man.”

But anyways, when his family’s comforts are threatened, this man shows anger. But his heart is not stirred when he reads of what is happening in Syria or Iraq or China or Korea or Nigeria. He has no association at all. He lives in his tiny island. The vast seas are nothing for him. 150 college students got killed yesterday, how it matters to him?

What matters to him is that his wife has had an argument with the neighbor’s wife. Now that is something that will get him angry. “Sharma’s wife is a bitch”. Great cause for existential rebellion- “Sharma’s wife is a bitch; let me shake the heavens”.

How does it matter that a few more species of animals got extinct yesterday? How does it matter?

“Sharma’s wife is a bitch; that’s what matters to me.” How does it matter that the largest ever glaciers have broken of the arctic and it’s a very bad omen? It doesn’t matter to him. Will the new government reduce the price of electricity by 5 paisa per unit? This is what matters to him. It doesn’t matter to him whether the new government will take care of the forest cover, whether it will make the state more green.

But if the new government says, that we are increasing the parking rates from rupees 20 to rupees 50, then this fellow will be up in arms – “Down with the dictators. They are asking me 30 rupees more for parking my car and I am planning to buy two more cars, one for sunny, one for wifey”.

It does not matter to him that whatever is happening in Iran today, is happening for the sake of the oil that runs your car. It doesn’t matter to you. It doesn’t matter to you that the RSPM levels in Delhi have crossed 350 levels. If he is traveling on one of the highways that lead to Delhi, somewhere around 10 or 11 in the night, he would be very angry. “Oh my god! There is such congestion on the highway around 10 pm or 11 pm; all the trucks are entering.”

And why is he angry? -Because the trucks are causing him a delay. But he is not at all angry that all these trucks are shrouded in a cloud of dust. He is not at all angry that all these trucks are running on a mixture of kerosene and diesel. He is not at all angry that these 80,000 trucks that enter Delhi everyday have to enter because he consumes so much. He is not angry. He is angry because – “Oh! This jam is causing me a delay in reaching home and dear wifey is waiting”.

Be angry but be angry for the right reasons. Let your anger spring from the right center, not your petty self.

If you cannot be angry then you are dead as most of us are. And to hide our impotency, our emasculation, we say we are peaceful and non-violent people. “How can I be angry? I am composed.” You are not composed, you are just furniture.

Furniture doesn’t get angry, but furniture cannot love either. Do you see how loveless is your life? If anger means disapproval, please do disapprove. If anger means a surge in energy, a great desire to do something, please have that surge and please do something. But operate from the right center. And remember please, you cannot have right anger, if the other things in your life are not right. When everything else is wrong, how can anger be right?

You must have right remembrance, you must have the right attention, and you must read rightly, you must listen rightly; you must have the right company. Everything must be right, and then anger will also be right.

Anger cannot be right in isolation. If everything else about you is wrong and petty, then anger too, is bound to be wrong and petty. Do not be too bothered with the problem of anger. Do not try to look at the one fragment of mind and quarantine it. Whatever is the quality of your life, that is also the quality of your anger. When life is genuine, then anger is also genuine. When life is fake, then all you have is fake anger. When life has depth, then anger too has depth. When life is shallow then anger is just as we said, poking and pinching.

You cannot dynamite the damn system. So, all that you do is, paint some vulgar graffiti on it. Have you seen people doing that? How they decorate the walls. That is anger, but that is an impotent expression of anger. Just as everything else in life is vulgar, so is your graffiti.

If you really disapprove of things, dynamite them and pay the price; whatever be the price. Anger is not at all bad. But not anger of the kind that you see. Road rage- “You touched my bumper”. Now the fellow is frothing from his mouth. “You touched my bumper”. It’s just the bumper of the car, I didn’t really slap your backside. But it’s a matter of existential importance. “You scratched my bumper”.

Leave these things aside, ignore them. Have the vastness to be untouched by these little matters. But then there has to be vastness in everything, a sky-like vastness; and unless that sky-like vastness is there in life, how can that be there on road?

You will get angry, abusing- “That fellow is not using dipper”, “That fellow is not allowing me to overtake”, “He didn’t reach on time”, “He didn’t serve me tea”, “He blinked twice while looking at me”, “He didn’t blink at all while looking at me”, “He didn’t pay the bills”, “He let me pay the bill for the tea, why must I pay?”, “He was looking less at me and more at my wife”.

Examine what all is petty and yet takes so much of your mind. Examine. And if it is there in your mind, it means you are giving it importance and if you are giving it importance, it will also become a cause for anger, and that will be petty anger. Petty concerns petty anger; petty objects in mind, petty anger. Somebody is offering you the water and you are angry, why? Because he extended his left hand. “Left-handed water? Must be a communist or a tantric”. That’s called the left-handed way.

Next time, when there is this surge of anger, ask yourself- ‘What is at stake?’. Because anger means something is at stake, something is threatened. Ask yourself, what is at stake? And that which is at stake, if it is petty, then this realization will calm down the anger. When you realize that you are angry because of your petty sense of self-respect, that itself will relax you.

And let me assure you there is very little about us that is not petty. On most moments, when you will be angry, you will find that the anger is misplaced, that you can do without the anger. But this, if used as a method, to selectively target only anger, will fail. This must be remembered; at all times.

“What is occupying my mind, is it something petty? What will happen to me? What kind of future is there? What I will be doing two years down the line?” If thoughts about the security of the limited self are filling your mind, then your anger would also be limited and pertaining to the personal self. You might be sitting, apparently peacefully, and just wondering about future; anger is nowhere inside.

But let me assure you, anger is building up; because you are concerned with security, because you are afraid. You could not have been concerned with security, had you not been afraid. And where there is fear, how can anger be far away.

So, fellow is silently sitting, pondering; he will never come up and ask, “Why am I silently sitting and pondering?” – Because he does not know yet that anger is building up or that anger is already there, unexpressed. Catch your pettiness right now. Not in the moment of explosion. Catch your pettiness when you are sitting, walking, eating, sleeping, talking. Remove this pettiness from your internal system, and then your anger will be divine.

Q: It is very difficult to know whether it is rightly placed anger, or a misplaced anger. How will I know whether the anger is coming from the right center?

AP: You don’t have to wonder whether it is coming from the right place. Just ask, “What is at stake?” Forget everything else. What is at stake? And you must be very ruthless about this. This cannot be asked sentimentally, or with prejudice. You have to clearly see – “What is at stake? What am I losing? What is threatened?” And when you come to that, look at it starkly; that will be sufficient.

Also remember, that self-observation, in the moment of this every day anger, this petty anger, becomes difficult. It is any way difficult for us, and in the moment of anger it becomes all the more difficult.

So, do not limit this question- What is at stake? Do not limit or reserve this question for your angry moments. Keep asking it all the time. You are trying to show friendliness towards somebody, ask yourself- “What is at stake? Why am I trying to act so nice and warm? What is my greed? What do I want? What is threatened? What will I lose if I do not act friendly towards this person?”

You must always know this – ‘What is at stake?’. By knowing, ‘What is at stake?’, you are confronting your fear; because that is what is always asking you to do something; that is the center from which we operate. Pettiness means fear. “I am small, and I am threatened, and I will be wiped out. So let me do this, let me do that. Sometimes I have to play nice, sometimes I have to act angry, sometimes I have to manipulate, sometimes I have to calculate.”

Ask- ‘What is at stake?’ and you will be amazed as to what lengths we go to procure and secure very-very small things. You will be amazed at the kind of fakeness we display for relatively very small sums of money. A fellow will be prepared to tell all kind of lies for Rs. 50. Rs. 50 is threatened, so he will lie.

Somebody was mentioning to me that even well-placed employees, in so-called branded organizations, they pick up things from office. The fellow might be earning a fat sum, still he is stealing pens, and paper weights, and envelopes, and toilet rolls from office. And it must be an elaborate process, right? I do not know how he is ensuring to take these things out. To such great lengths do we go!

‘What is at stake?’ – that question has to be asked. How much will I lose? What is there to be lost? What am I trying to gain? What am I trying to defend and protect? Slowly you will find that the need for anger is dissolving. You need not be angry. You are not afraid and you are not angry. You are not defending anything and you are not trying to get anything. So you are not angry.

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