Once, an ascetic was sitting in a hut and meditating. A man came by and said, “Sadhu baba, do you have fire?” The ascetic replied politely, “No, I don’t.” After a while, the man came again and asked the same question, “Babaji, do you have fire?” This time the sage replied in a slightly disturbed voice, “I told you, I do not have fire.” The man visited the sage for the third time and asked again, “Sadhu baba, do you have fire?” This time the baba was completely enraged. He screamed out loud, “I’VE TOLD YOU I DON’T HAVE FIRE. WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? WHY DO YOU KEEP ASKING THE SAME QUESTION AGAIN AND AGAIN!” Now the man exclaimed, “See here is the fire, right within you. It only took some time to come out!” In the same manner, the fire of anger exists within all of us, but we do not realize it. Anger is that poison which we drink down and expect that the other person will die. Therefore, it is important to not just subdue our anger but notch it out completely from our system.
Most often people make statements such as, ‘Everything is alright, but I have a bad temper’, or ‘I am short tempered but that is how I am’. No, that is not how we are, and nothing is alright when anger exists in us. What is the cause of anger? Desire! Desire is the mother of anger and greed. When we desire something, and that desire remains unfulfilled, we get angry. Let us take a scenario here. You go to the market and purchase a pack of your favorite choco chip ice- cream. You come back home and refrigerate it. You think ‘Alright, let me take a long walk and come back. Let me build up my appetite and then relish the ice-cream.’ All the while you were walking, your mouth was watering, and your mind was constantly fixated on the dessert. After an hour you returned home. You opened the refrigerator and to your surprise the ice-cream was gone! You immediately call your wife and ask her about it. She says that she had thrown it away as you were already putting on too much weight. You are immediately ensued with rage. You chide your wife, “Who asked you to throw the ice-cream away? I do not want to listen to anything. I want to eat my ice-cream right now!” Here your desire to eat the ice-cream was obstructed. Hence it gave rise to anger.
Now, consider the scenario where you ate the ice-cream. If you did so, would your desire be satiated? Maybe for a few days but then again next week you would have a strong desire to eat the same delicious choco chip ice-cream. Therefore, the fulfillment of a desire causes greed. How then do we eradicate anger? By giving up desires! Now, the million-dollar question is can anyone ever give up desire? No! That is why Swamiji gives us a simple solution. He says,
कामना मत छोड़ो, कामना मोड़ो
“Do not give up desire but change the direction of your desires. ” Desires will always remain in us but we have to carefully dovetail our desires towards God. When we desire God, even if we get angry, we will get angry upon ourselves. A devotee thinks, ‘Oh! I still have anger. This reflects my impure mind. I must work harder for my progress. ‘
Another tool to handle anger is to be proactive rather than being reactive. Once a saint named Tukaram was lost in devotion when his wife scolded him, ‘You keep singing Rukmini Vittal, Rukmini Vittal all day long. Will they provide food for us? Go and get something to eat. ‘ Tukaram went to the shop and got a few sugarcanes. While he was returning, he met a few beggars. So, he gave away all the sugarcanes to them. Now, he had only one sugarcane left. He presented it to his wife. Looking at it, her face turned red and blue. She hollered at him, she took the sugarcane and banged it hard, right on his head. The cane broke into two. However, Tukaram smiled and said, “We anyways had to break it into two. Good that you broke it now itself! ” If we were in the same situation, would we have reacted in the same manner?
Thus, we need to realize the gap between stimulus and reaction. One can say or act in any manner to you, but how you respond to it is completely in your hands. Therefore, when we choose a higher sentiment over a lower one, we will be freed from anger.
Alexander the Great went on conquering all the countries. When he reached India, he met a yogi. He was very fascinated by the yogis and wanted to take them to his country. He went upto a sage and said, “Come with me. I am Alexander the Great. ” The sage refused to go with the king. He said, “You are a slave of my slave. I do not wish to come along with you! “Alexander got angry and said, “How dare you call me a slave!” The sage replied politely, “Anger is my slave and you are a slave of anger. Hence you are a slave of my slave.” We also need to contemplate if we want to be a slave of a slave or do we want to be free from anger. If we wish to get rid of anger, then definitely we must channel our anger in the right direction to improve ourselves and churn our minds from being reactive to proactive. It is time to release ourselves from the slavery of anger.