Academy of Indian Philosophy

The Source of Anger

३.३६: अथ केन प्रयुक्तोऽयं पापं चरति पूरुष:

अनिच्छन्नपि वार्ष्णेय बलादिव नियोजित:

O’ Kṛṣṇa, now, by what, is an individual urged to perform evil acts, unwillingly and from force?

३.३७: काम एष क्रोध एष रजोगुणसमुद्भव:

महाशनो महापाप्मा विद्ध्येनमिह वैरिणम्

It is desire, it is anger which are born of the rajas guṇa. Consuming and evil, you must know this here as the enemy.

In śloka 3.36 of the Bhagavad Gītā, Arjuna, the warrior, asks Lord Kṛṣṇa, “Why do people commit evil acts, even when they fully know it is evil? Lord Kṛṣṇa responds, it is because of Desire and Anger and their source, Rajas.

Rajas is defined as activity or passion. In Indian philosophy, all of the material world, including chairs, tables, physical bodies and even minds are composed of three fundamental principles: Sattva, Rajas & Tamas. Much like every color is composed of red, green and blue in different proportions, all of material reality is composed of sattva-lightness, rajas-activity, and tamas-inertia.

When an object, especially the body or mind has a lot of rajas, it has a lot of activity. When the mind is full of activity, it’s movement leads to clinging behavior in the form of desire. The Bhagavad Gītā and its commentator Rāmānuja explain that rajas, through activity, wants objects and as a result, a person starts to desire things. When the desire for an object is not fulfilled or satisfied, it leads to anger. This anger is then displaced onto whatever we think stopped us from getting our desire fulfilled, whether it is another person, type of people, organization, object or even ourselves. From this anger, we do harm to ourselves and others.

Rajas—->Desire (Unfulfilled)—->Anger

Following this logic in its reverse, anger is from unfulfilled desire, and unfulfilled desire is from rajas. From this, we can apply this to our lives in a simple sense. Whenever we are angry at something, we can ask the question “Which desire was unfulfilled?” Now, here we can have a list of desires

  1. Tasty Food
  2. Sex
  3. Fun time
  4. Good Relationship with Family
  5. Animal Rights
  6. Peace
  7. Honesty from others
  8. Etc…

After looking at this list of desires, we are absolutely quick to think that some desires are certainly more justified than others. Why should I not be angry when animal rights are unfulfilled? Or, for some, why should I not be angry when my need for sex is unfulfilled. Before, using the word “should” or judging anything, we must simply observe from where the anger is coming. The point of this exercise is to observe without thinking what we should or should not do.

If I desire tasty food, and someone takes it away from me, I may direct my anger towards that person. If I desire sex, and someone takes that away from me, I may direct my anger towards that person. If I desire a good relationship with my family, but my aunt does not allow it, I may be angry towards her. If I desire peace in the world, but another country is waging war, I may be angry at that country. If we see a pattern, when the object of our desire (food, sex, good relationship, peace) is thwarted, we become angry. That’s it.

Remember, we are not judging whether it is right or wrong. Whenever we are angry, we just have to observe that what we wanted was taken away from us. The goal here is to see that the source of anger is not the other person, but our own desire for something. Not saying that desiring what we desire is bad or wrong, but just peacefully noting that in order to be angry, it must first come from our urge. From this, we can decide for which desires are worth getting angry.

-Hemal P. Trivedī






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