The Bhagavad Gita is a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, and serves as a guiding manual for the daily conduct of life, spiritual uplift and self-realization. It is a treatise addressed to each and every individual to help him or her to solve life’s daily problems and progress towards a bright future (see also Nina’s post Acceptance, Active Engagement and the Bhagavad Gita).
Growing up in an extended family in India, we were regularly counseled by the elders on the spiritual foundations of human existence based on the principles of the Bhagavad Gita. Particularly striking and fascinating within its eighteen chapters are several references to sound mental health, which declare that the very goal of any human activity is to achieve a state of perfect understanding, clarity, renewed strength and triumph.
One particular verse that triggered my interest was regarding the death of an individual triggered by rage and anger.
Krodhad bhavati sammohah, sammohat smrti-vibhramah!
smrti-bhramsad buddhi-naso, buddhi-nasat pranasyati!!
“From anger comes delusion. From delusion loss of memory. From loss of memory the destruction of discrimination. From destruction of discrimination, the individual perishes.” —trans. by Swami Chidbhavananda
According to the textual commentary, the ignorant mind thinks that worldly objects will give it pleasure and happiness. Continuous thinking about the objects of senses creates attachment to them. Attachment leads to desire, and when the desire is not fulfilled, one gets angry (krodha), that in turn leads to delusion (moha) and confused memory (smriti). The confusion of memory causes destruction of reasoning (buddhi) due to which an individual is ruined and dies.
|Prickly Catcus by Brad Gibson|
Research from several diverse groups, including health professionals, behavioral scientists, psychologists and others, indicates that rage and anger are definitely hazardous to health. A high level of rage/anger has a powerful effect on the incidence of preventable cardiovascular death. Evidence indicates that anger evokes physiological responses that are potentially life threatening in triggering Coronary Heart Disease (CHD).
“When we are angry, not only do we spew out negativity to someone else, but our own body chemistry changes, and these changes can be harmful to our health” —James S. Brooks & Peter Anselmo from Ayurvedic Secrets to Longevity & Total Health
Anger triggers increased platelet activation and thrombosis, resulting in unwanted, pathological, and life-threatening clot formation. Anger also increases vulnerability to illnesses, compromises the immune system, increases lipid levels, exacerbates pain, and produces vasoconstriction of narrowed arteries. Finally, anger has been associated with chronic over-stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. This increased sympathetic activity has been shown to result in increased blood pressure and heart rate, and alterations of ventricular function.
In addition, anger triggers the release of free fatty acids into the bloodstream, and elevates the levels of circulating catecholamines and corticosteroids, all of which ultimately trigger heart disease. According to the American Heart Association and National Institute on Aging, CHD patients with higher levels of anger/hostility are also more likely to engage in CHD-risk behaviors, such as, smoking, overeating, decreased physical activity, decreased sleep, and increased use of alcohol and drugs. Thus, it is imperative to understand the significance of the pathways that connect anger to death. Once a seeker understands these pathways, he or she can then master the technique of controlling/processing the anger process.
In the post by Nina, Baxter recommends pranayama techniques and certain specific asanas to curb anger and achieve calmness. Another method to control/process anger is through meditation (dhyana), the cheapest and simplest recourse to a healthy body and mind.
Meditation transcends gender, race, skin color, profession, monetary status and, above all, religion. It does not require any elaborate setup, materials, clothes, space, doctors, nurses, or hospitals. Anyone who has the time and interest can practice meditation. Its benefits are immense and it is becoming mainstream. While meditation does not cure a person of anger, a person who has a meditation practice sees and reacts to anger differently. The individual will not only have the capacity to transcend the anger process but this person will not evoke the same physical and emotional reactions that are commonly seen in a person who does not meditate. Awareness to the thought and its flow, and awareness to anger arising inside can have remedial effects. And all this can be helpful in the journey to the center.