One of the biggest threats to our peace of mind is the affliction of anger. At work, we often find ourselves angry with our boss, co-workers, or subordinates. Hardly a day goes by when someone or something at work does not disturb our peace of mind. We find that our homes are also a breeding ground for angry reactions.
Someone did not pay a bill on time, someone else has gobbled up our favourite dessert, our children are arguing and giving us a headache, or our spouse made a commitment on our behalf that we would rather not keep. The list is endless. Even the trip to and from work stirs up our anger. Smooth-flowing traffic suddenly comes to a halt for no reason, and we sit motionless for 15 minutes.
Someone does not let us change lanes, and we miss our exit. Another driver cuts us off, nearly causing an accident. By the time we get to work, we are agitated and hostile. It seems life is ready to pounce on us with situations which put us into a state of frenzy. Is there any antidote for anger? Here is an instructive story from the Jain tradition that may give us insight on how to overcome anger.
Once there were four princes – Vasudeva, Baladeva, Satyaka, and Daruka. One day, their headstrong horses carried them into a thick jungle. Since it was late, the four princes decided to sleep there for the night before returning home. They selected a large banyan tree under which they would rest. Since it was a dense jungle, they decided they needed to take turns keeping watch.
Thus, as three slept, one would stand guard to protect the others. After a while, the guard would rest, and another prince would keep watch. Daruka was the first prince to stand watch. While the other three slept, anger disguised itself as a spirit and came to Daruka. The spirit of anger said, “I am very hungry. I would like to eat your three sleeping companions.” Daruka said, “Nothing doing.” He started fighting with the spirit of anger.
A fierce battle ensued. When Daruka could not beat the spirit, he grew angry. The angrier Daruka became, the more energy the spirit of anger gained. With this renewed energy, anger finally struck Daruka and injured him on the leg. Daruka collapsed. The spirit of anger snuck away.
Next, the second prince, Satyaka, awoke because it was his turn to keep guard. As it was dark, he did not notice Daruka lying unconscious and injured. As Satyaka kept watch, the spirit of anger approached him, too. The same conversation transpired about anger wanting to eat Satyaka’s companions. Satyaka began to fight with the spirit of anger, and as he could not overcome him, he became angrier. This fuelled the spirit of anger’s fire and he gained strength. He struck Satyaka on the leg, and he too collapsed.
When it was time for the third prince, Baladeva, to keep watch, he faced the same situation. Anger thrived on Baladeva’s anger and gained enough strength to attack him also.
Finally, it was time for Vasudeva to keep watch. The spirit of anger tried to play the same game with Vasudeva. “I want to eat your companions,” said the spirit of anger. Vasudeva replied, “I am sorry, but you cannot do so unless you defeat me.” They too began fighting. Instead of becoming angry, Vasudeva merely appreciated how strong, courageous, and skillful the spirit was. Throughout the battle, Vasudeva remained calm. The calmer Vasudeva became, the more the spirit began losing strength. Finally, the spirit of anger was so weakened by Vasudeva’s calm, that Vasudeva was able to defeat the spirit of anger, thus saving the other three princes.
When dawn came, Vasudeva could finally see what had happened. There lay each of his companions with broken bones. When he asked them who had done that to them, they explained that it was an evil spirit. Vasudeva said, “It was the spirit of anger. All one needed to weaken its energy was to stay calm.” He pointed to the spirit of anger that lay dead on the ground.
That is the secret to overcoming anger. The more we give in to anger, the angrier we become, and the more it gains power over us. We reach a point in which we lose total control and end up doing or saying something that hurts others and ourselves.
To overcome anger, stay calm in the face of whatever is happening. As we face problems at home, at the office, or in traffic, we should not react in anger. We can recognise that the problems exist. We can take steps to solve the problem. We can even be proactive and try to remove the agitating source by communication or by finding solutions, while trying to avoid becoming angry.
Let us destroy anger by our calmness, equipoise, and balance. We will find that while the same situations that incite us every day continue, we will not become slaves to them. We can calmly pass through them using our body, mind, and energy for more constructive purposes and in the process becoming happier, more joyful, and more peaceful.
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