Anger and Forgiveness
There is nothing wrong in expressing anger, but everything wrong in allowing an angry personality to crystallize. When a child commits an error, anger can be expressed for the error committed, so that the same error is not repeated again. If after a few minutes the child falls and injures himself, we immediately pick him up and very lovingly console him and bandage the wound, without a trace of anger we expressed earlier. This way the child will understand that we have nothing personal against him and that we love him and we don’t want him to commit such errors, which will be harmful for him.
Similarly, in the office also when a subordinate commits an error, anger can be expressed for the error committed, so that he doesn’t repeat it. If after a few minutes there is some work to be given to the same subordinate, then there should be no trace of any anger expressed earlier while explaining the work to be done. This way the subordinate will understand that we have nothing personal against him and that the expression of anger was justified for his error, so that work doesn’t suffer.
On the other hand, when we allow an angry personality to crystallize, our mood is off throughout the day, it affects our health and spoils the home or office environment. Someone committed an error in the morning which made us angry and we are unable to get over it. We keep snapping at everyone, at home and in the office. Instead of expressing anger and moving on, we allowed the angry personality to crystallize because of which everyone around us also suffered unnecessarily.
Great saint Samartha Ramdas Swami was once chatting with one of his devotees very lovingly and cheerfully. At that moment a person came there and for some reason, the moment Swami-ji saw him, he was seen to be very angry with him. No one had seen Swami-ji so angry before. After that person left, Swami-ji again resumed talking to his devotee very lovingly and cheerfully as if the earlier incident didn’t happen at all! This is possible only if we don’t allow an angry personality to crystallize, by not identifying with the modifications of the mind and rising above our ego.
When we start being a witness to the contents of our mind-intellect equipment, we are able to merely express anger. But if our ego identifies with the contents of the mind-intellect instrument, then we end up crystallizing an angry personality.
For the ego, it is difficult to forgive. It cannot forgive, because if it forgives, it cannot exist. To forgive insults and hurts requires further space, which a strong ego cannot afford to give. Therefore, the ego recollects the insults repeatedly and this indirectly lengthens the stay in our ego state and shortens the stay in our witnessing state.
Ego, especially a very strong ego cannot exist without problems. The irony is that it never accepts responsibility for its problems but always accuses others.
Forgiving is more economical, more comfortable and more convenient, even if one is not spiritual. Hostility, in a sense is a luxury, which is not affordable for many of us. It needs time, wealth and health. When we are hostile we are obviously wasting our valuable time and energy on somebody whom we dislike or hate. Thinking about them repeatedly generates toxins, which make us ugly and reduces our efficiency and will finally prevent us from sleeping well.
By being a witness, who is higher than the ego and higher than the insults, we dis-identify with the modifications of our mind. This means that we can now unhesitatingly forgive those who have insulted us. In this state, forgiving becomes spontaneous because there is no scarcity of space as was with ego. The ego becomes weak or secondary and, therefore, the insulting statements of others have no effect on us.
Forgiving is natural in the beyond-ego state. However, forgiving is inevitable and without forgiving, it is very difficult to survive in the present world. The right way to forgive is to move towards the witnessing state and to stay there for as long as possible, so that on our return to the weakened ego, we can balance our activities. A weakened ego cannot be problematic.
Real forgiveness emerges because of transformation and spirituality. If we have not graduated to being a witness, thereby weakening the ego, natural forgiveness will remain alien to us.
Morality-induced forgiveness and spirituality-induced forgiveness are different and the difference is palpable. One can feel the invisible struggle of morality-induced forgiveness.
If forgiving is natural, it shows that the person concerned has gone beyond the ego-state. However, visible or articulated forgiveness is a clear sign that a person is very egoistic, clearly indicating the presence of the ego. Another way to feel ego emanates from guilt. When we feel guilt we can be sure that our ego is in operation.
“There are three ways of handling anger: by expression, by suppression and by forgiveness. The right way to overcome anger is by forgiveness.” — Dada J.P. Vaswani
“Anger ventilated often hurries towards forgiveness and concealed often hardens into revenge.” — E. G. Bulwer-Lytton
Forgiveness is the best antidote for anger. When we forgive, we are freeing ourselves from the toxicity of anger which affects our body and mind. “Kshama veerasya bhushanah”, says a Sanskrit Subhashitaa (wise saying). It means “forgiveness is the ornament or quality of the strong and courageous”. The weak find it difficult to forgive. Forgive from the position of strength, not out of weakness, helplessness or cowardice.
From The Mahabharata
Vana Parva, Section XXVII
(On Anger and Forgiveness)
King Yudhishthira said: “Anger is the slayer of men and is again their protector. Know this, O thou possessed of great wisdom, that anger is the root of all prosperity and all adversity. O thou beautiful one, he that suppresses his anger earns prosperity. That man, again, who always gives way to anger, reaps adversity from his fierce anger. It is seen in this world that anger is the cause of destruction of every creature. How then can one like me indulge in anger, which is so destructive of the world? The angry man commits sin. The angry man kills even his preceptors. The angry man insults even his superiors in harsh words. The man who is angry fails to distinguish between what should be said and what should not be said.
“There is no act that an angry man may not do, no word that an angry man may not utter. From anger a man may slay one that deserves not to be slain and may worship one that deserves to be slain. Beholding all these faults, the wise control their anger, desirous of obtaining high prosperity both in this and the other world. It is for this that they of tranquil souls have banished wrath. How can one like us indulge in it then? O daughter of Draupada, reflecting upon all this, my anger is not excited. One that acts not against a man, whose wrath has been up, rescues himself as also others from great fear. In fact, he may be regarded to be the physician of the two (viz., himself and the angry man).
“If a weak man persecuted by others, foolishly becomes angry towards men that are mightier than he, he then becomes himself the cause of his own destruction. Therefore, O daughter of Draupada, it has been said that a weak man should always suppress his wrath. And the wise man also who though persecuted, suffers not his wrath to be roused, enjoys in the other world, having passed his persecutor over with an attitude of indifference. It is for this reason it has been said that a wise man, whether strong or weak, should ever forgive his persecutor even when the latter is in the straits. It is for this that the virtuous applaud them that have conquered their wrath. Indeed, it is the opinion of the virtuous that the honest and forgiving man is ever victorious.
“Truth is more beneficial than untruth; and gentleness is more beneficial than cruel behaviour. How can one like me, therefore, even for the purpose of slaying Duryodhana, exhibit anger which has so many faults and which the virtuous banish from their souls? They that are regarded by the learned of foresight, as possessed of true force of character, are certainly those who are wrathful in outward show only. Men of learning and of true insight call him to be possessed of force of character who by his wisdom can suppress his risen wrath. The angry man sees not things in their true light. The man that is angry sees not his way, nor respects persons. Therefore, the man possessing force of character should ever banish wrath to a distance. The man that is overwhelmed with wrath does not acquire easily generosity, dignity, courage, skill and other attributes belonging to real force of character. A man, by forsaking anger, can express proper power, whereas, O wise one, it is highly difficult for the angry man to express his power at the proper time!
“The ignorant always regard anger as equivalent to power or might. Wrath, however, has been given to man for the destruction of the world. The man, therefore, who wishes to behave properly, must ever forsake anger. Even one, who has abandoned the excellent virtues of his own order, it is certain, indulges in wrath. If fools, without the light of knowledge, transgress in every respect, how, O faultless one, can one like me transgress (like them)? If, among men, there were not persons equal to the earth in forgiveness, there would be no peace among men but continued strife caused by wrath. If the injured return their injuries, if one chastised by his superior were to chastise his superior in return, the consequence would be the destruction of every creature and sin also would prevail in the world.
“If the man who has been showered with abusive words from another, returns those abusive words afterwards; if the injured man returns his injuries: if the chastised person chastises in return; if fathers slay sons, sons slay fathers, and if husbands slay wives, and wives slay husbands; then how can birth take place in a world where anger prevails so! Know that the birth of creatures is due to peace! If the king also gives way to wrath, his subjects soon meet with destruction. Wrath, therefore, has for its consequence the destruction and the distress of the people. And because it is seen that there are in the world men who are forgiving like the Earth, it is therefore that creatures derive their life and prosperity.
“One should forgive under every injury. It has been said that the continuation of species is due to man being forgiving. He, indeed, is a wise and excellent person who has conquered his wrath and shows forgiveness even when insulted, oppressed, and angered by a strong person. The man of power, who controls his wrath, has (for his enjoyment) numerous everlasting regions; while he that is angry, is called foolish, and meets with destruction both in this and the other world. The illustrious and forgiving Kashyapa has, in this respect, sung the following verses in honor of men that are forgiving.
“Forgiveness is virtue; forgiveness is sacrifice, forgiveness is the Veda-s, forgiveness is the Sruti. He that knows this is capable of forgiving everything. Forgiveness is Brahma; forgiveness is truth; forgiveness is accumulated ascetic merit; forgiveness protects the ascetic merit of the future; forgiveness is asceticism; forgiveness is holiness; and by forgiveness it is that the universe is held together. Persons that are forgiving attain to the regions obtainable by those that have performed meritorious sacrifices, or those that are well conversant with the Veda-s, or those that have high ascetic merit. Those that perform Vedic sacrifices as also those that perform the meritorious rites of religion obtain other regions. Men of forgiveness, however, obtain those much adored regions that are in the world of Brahma. Forgiveness is the might of the mighty; forgiveness is peace of mind. Can one like us abandon forgiveness, which is such, and in which are established Brahma, and truth, and wisdom and the worlds? The man of wisdom should ever forgive, for when he is capable of forgiving everything, he attains to Brahma. The world belongs to those that are forgiving; the other world is also theirs.
“The forgiving acquires honors here and a state of blessedness hereafter. Those men that ever conquer their wrath by forgiveness obtain the higher regions. Therefore it has been said that forgiveness is the highest virtue.”
“Urged towards peace by everone, the King (Dhritarashtra) will, I think, return us our kingdom. If however, he yields to temptation, he will meet with destruction. A crisis has come in the history of Bharatas for plunging them into calamity!
“This has been my certain conclusion from some time before! Duryodhana deserves not the kingdom. Therefore he has been unable to acquire forgiveness. I, however, deserve the sovereignty and therefore it is that forgiveness has taken possession of me. Forgiveness and gentleness are the qualities of the self-possessed. They represent eternal virtue. I shall, therefore, truly adopt those qualities.”