We often spend a lot of effort investing in physical/material goals- I want a house, this job, I want big muscles, etc. I think it’s good to have ideas of where you’d like to be (while being flexible with the idea that sometimes things don’t work as you want them to). Obviously we do need to have a job to make food to feed our families for example, and it helps to have a goal in order to get the education and training needed to get there. I think, though, that we focus so much on material goals that we forget about making spiritual ones. For example, people may hold a lavish wedding costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, but perhaps the bride and groom don’t even understand what the laavan are, and what the Anand Karaj means. We’ve invested so much on the external that we don’t take out the time to discover what’s internal. In today’s topic I wanted to talk about anger and how we can focus on where we need to be as a “goal” for guiding how to respond.
Anger is universally experienced by everyone, and we tend to spread it to other people like wildfire. It can be triggered by things that are so simple like we’re angry we stepped in a puddle and ruined our clothes, or it can be more serious, like “I’m angry my spouse cheated on me.” I’ll give you a simple example from today. I just finished my four week rotation out of town and I was overjoyed to finally be coming home. An hour into my drive, in the katha I was listening to, they started to do simran. I joined in: “Waheguru, Waheguru, Waheguru…I forgot my stethoscope.” So I immediately think, oh no. In two hours I’m going to be sitting at this exact same spot, and still an hour away from home. How frustrating. My thoughts switched from simran to being angry in just a split second. I figured I was actually lucky that I didn’t drive all the way home before I realized, and that I listened to an extra two hours of katha instead of going home and just collapsing on my bed. It just goes to show you how our mood can change so quickly, how our thoughts are also drawn away quickly and how they can stay there if we let them. I could have spent the two hours angry about it, but instead I tried to just enjoy the katha.
Anger can obviously be toxic to our health. Most of us have experienced physical symptoms at some point from our anger. When I was little I used to spend a lot of time angry because I thought that somehow this would show the other person how much their action had hurt me, but really all it did was continually hurt me. I’d be the one crying and with a headache and stomach ache, and the other person would still have no idea what was going on due to my lack of communication. People aren’t mind-readers and destroying your own health certainly doesn’t do anything to resolve the situation. We certainly solve problems better when two people can sit with satogun thoughts (compassion, contentment, understanding, tolerance, etc.) and communicate our issues. I know a big problem for me has been a fear of hurting the other person’s feelings, particularly if I really care about a person. I used to avoid talking about topics that were bothering me just because I didn’t want to hurt feelings and then they would build up until I was so angry it just spilled out. I think being able to discuss calmly in a satogun state and talking allows us to know that we can share things without worrying about being offensive. It allows us to build honesty/authenticity and say what’s on our mind and that’s a lot healthier. I remember one katha on mysimran.info where they describe an example where someone drives by and throws a rock at you, and you are angry so now you get repeatedly angry whenever someone drives by, or you see a rock, etc. Yes it was a hurtful thing for them to have thrown a rock at you, but the point is that you are the one now unfortunately wasting away all your time, breath, and brain space, being angry about this incident instead of enjoying your life. So it really is important to understand how being excessively angry harms our health and uses up our precious breaths.
As you know, anger is one of the 5 dhoots- lust, anger, greed, attachment, and pride. Because of this, people think anger is evil and we should just avoid being angry. It’s used as a justification to suppress it/ “get over it”/ not deal with it. In truth, the 5 really can’t be suppressed though. It’s important to remind ourselves that the 5 dhoots aren’t evil, and they can actually be useful in this life; it’s just that we need to make sure our anger doesn’t take control of our mind. For most people it does- our anger makes us say and do things we didn’t want to and it lingers on and on, so that we waste our time away from God. Our goal is really to be at an avastha (spiritual level) where we are absorbed in Naam, let go of our ego, and at a stage where it doesn’t matter if you are praised or insulted, you are just as content. I posted a lot about this topic in my post about compassion and forgiveness as well, and I think that we need to take from the example of the Guru Ji’s who were verbally and physically attacked, and yet they didn’t react in anger. They didn’t create hatred against groups of people. They did emphasis the importance of standing up for the rights of others, for example, so it doesn’t mean we should just sit still and do nothing. Reaction is certainly difference than response. Response can be silence, conversation, action, etc. and we have a responsibility to stand up for ourselves and defend others too. That’s when we can do things like use that energy to rally together and fight for or create change in a positive way. Guruka Singh from Sikhnet has a video where he talks about how we these 5 are natural energies and we have to learn to face them and understand how they are part of us. I agree and I think it’s important then to have this framework of where we are headed and what’s our definition of normal, or what we see “everyone else doing” versus what we are taught in Gurbani. Since I started implementing changes to what I thought was an ideal goal for handling situations in which I’m angry, I stopped sustaining my anger. I realized that I cannot send an energy of anger and love at the same time, and I much prefer to care and love and hopefully work to resolve the issue than sustain a grudge. I know that I need to continue to work on it though. It’s just important to continually remember what we are striving for in this life, spiritually. That is what we take with us after this body is gone. Instead of fueling our anger, put that energy into fueling our love for God by investing in learning Gurbani, doing sewa, and Naam Japna.