KRODH (ANGER OR RAGE)
by Rajinder Singh ‘Arshi’
THE BASIC DEFINITION
Krodh (or krodha) has its Sanskrit derivation meaning wrath or rage. In English too we may refer to it as anger, rage, wrath or ire. Krodh, an expression of emotional energy, is destructive if handled wrongly and irresponsibly. Krodh may be expressed in several forms from intensive simmering emotions, welled up inside a person, to an emotional eruption of the most violent and hysterical type.
There is really no direct English translation of krodh (as we understand it from Gurbani). Whilst rage is perceived as the violent extreme, anger is the milder version of krodh. The need to differentiate between gussa (ਗੁਸਾ)– anger - and rage is therefore important, although common anger can easily develop into hatred and rage.
Negative emotions arising‘within’ manifest themselves in violent forces of destruction ‘without’. Negative emotions gradually surrender to rage which, if not controlled, will erupt, causing havoc and destruction outside through violent action and reaction on part of the individual concerned. As a consequence it results in misery for both the offending person and many others. The destructive fire of Krodh spreads and engulfs families, communities and even nations. Krodh fired by ambition is even more dangerous. It has caused world unrest which we can see happening in our own lifetime.
GURBANI ON KRODH
In Gurbani krodh and kaam are often quoted together which suggests that there is a co-relation between the two, i.e. one interacts on the other. In the earlier article (Kaam – lust) Guru Nanak’s verse stated:
Kaam krodh kaya ko galeay; join kanchan sohaga dhaaley (Ramakali M.1 SGGS 932)
Lust and rage eats into the body as borax melts gold.
The two (kaam and krodh) are, therefore, inter-related. Kaam derives from the term kaamna. Whilst kaam is defined as a desire for sensual pleasure, kaamna is the term used for a general desire of worldly goods, pleasures and even spiritual experiences. When a person is unable to fulfill his or her kaamna (desire) of whatever nature, the frustration may slowly or suddenly manifest itself in the form of krodh. Often it is ego which drives kaamna and when unfulfilled it gives birth toKrodh. In one sense this is good news as conquering one will automatically assist in overcoming the others.
Referring to kaam Guru Arjan proclaims:
Hey kaamangbisramang b-hu jonee bharmaavaneh (Sahaskriti M. 5 - SGGS 1358)
O kaam you take beings in your evil grip and then you drive them into the realm of Hell and place them in a perpetual cycle of life and death. The effects of kaam have been dealt with in detail in an earlier article.
Similarly, Guru Arjan addresses krodh directly when he says (SGGS 1358):
Hey kal mool krodh-ang kadanch karunaa na uparjatay. bikh-yant jeevang vas-yang karot nirt-yangkarot jathaa marakteh.
O krodh you are the root causeof strife (suffering and misery). You are devoid of mercy and compassion. You have stranglehold over men given to vicious and evil tendencies. You incite them to unholy acts as they dance to your eerie tunes like monkeys.
Thus krodh if not controlled will become the root cause of many other ills. Victims of krodh become extremely selfish and anti-social.
Guru Arjan goes on to say:
Anik saasan taarhant jamdooteh tav sangay adhaman narah. deen dukh bhanjan da-yaal parabh naanak sarab jee-a rakh-yaa karot (SGGS 1358).
In your company human beings imbibe lowly habits. They are punished by the messenger of Death in various ways. Only the merciful Lord, O Nanak can protect us from the evil grip of krodh.
IMPACT OF KRODH ON INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY
Thus under the influence of krodh a person can give into violent emotions which then lead on to self-destruction. Where the person concerned is powerful it would result in even greater destruction of life and society in general. History bears testimony to the fact that man imbued with the intoxication of negative emotions of ego and wrath have destroyed entire nations and in the process brought about their own self-destruction.
It is a well known and observed fact that anger impairs clear thinking and results in the loss of composure and equilibrium. It has been seen how in the law courts lawyers use the ploy of winding up witnesses, to enrage them to such a degree that they lose their composure and blurt out things they would not otherwise say, often incriminating themselves. A person inflicted with rage loses all rationality. Constant anger in a person not only impairs mental faculties but also affect physical and spiritual well being of that person. It becomes an obstacle in the soul’s path towards spiritual progression. Guru Nanak quite aptly observes that Lust and rage eats into the body as borax melts gold (Kaam krodh kaya ko galea; join kanchan sohaga dhaale). Thus rage has the potential to attack inwards and outwards. Inwards - it destroys the individual who generates rage and outwards – it hurts the subject matter the rage is aimed at. In the process rage causes bitterness hatred, damages relationships of families, communities and sometimes whole nations.
Guru Nanak warns about these negative attributes when he says:
‘hans haytu lobh kop chaarey nadia aag (SGGS 147).
Cruelty (violence), attachment, greed and anger (wrath) are like four rivers of fire. Those who succumb to worldly temptations will fall and burn. Only through God’s Grace, says Nanak, may one swim across.
God’s Grace can only be earned though humility, compassion and meditation. Sikhism believes it is only natural to have emotions but these emotions must be channeled into positive attributes of life such as humility, courage, selflessness and serenity i.e. those attributes which will benefit the society. Used negatively such emotions will certainly lead to destruction. Attributes such as humility, courage, selflessness and serenity can be seen in saints.
Bhagat Puran Singh of Pingalwara fame comes to mind, a saint no lesser than Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa (a noble and saintly person) was fortunate to have had the support of the entire Christian world and also of Indians of all walks. However, Bhagat Puran Singh, whom I personally saw sitting barefoot on the pavement outside the Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple) collecting for the disabled, did not even have the support of the Sikh world. In 1990 I saw him sitting on the pavement outside the boundary of Harmandar Sahib, whilst the devotionally impotent thekedars of divinity sat inside, in air conditioned rooms issuing addicts which they personally do not follow. Bhagat Puran Singh Ji was a saint of the highest calibre. Baba Puran Singh Ji of Kericho Wale also comes to mind. If someone lived up to Guru Nanak’s hallmark of humility, it was Baba Puran Singh Ji, a figure of complete serenity and saintliness. You only have to visit the Soho Road (Nishkam Sewak Jatha) Gurdwara in Birmingham UK to see the miracle performed by this Saint. Other institutions are always appealing for funds, but this spiritual organisation is not only self-sufficient but finances several projects in India and other parts of the world. Baba Ji’s heritage was for many years in the devoted hands of Bhai Nararg Singh Ji and is now being ably, preserved and developed by Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ji (see author’s note 1). There are many other great souls but I mentioned the above because I had the good fortune of meeting them. Great souls are figures of serenity, devoid of krodh and other negative attributes that so dominate human beings for the entirety of their lives.
Krodh must be controlled at the very least if not completely eradicated. The energy which fires up krodh should be diverted into righteous action. It must be channeled into valour and courage to stand up for Truth and protection of the weak and infirm.
So how do you avoid an angry disposition?
Keep good company
Guru Ramdas Ji recommends:
Unaa paas duaas na bhiteeai jin antar krodh chandaal (SGGS 40).
Do not seek the company of people who harbour violent anger within their hearts. Krodh is to be vanquished. It must be removed from the psyche and soul of the jeeva. It is therefore important what company a person keeps. Friends react on each other. Guru ji offers sound advice in that one should seek company which would imbibe positive characteristics in a person.
It is difficult to choose company in your work environment. However, as far as possible associate with persons subscribing to decent values.
In your social environment, however, you have far more scope of seeking the company of saints and saintly persons. Guru Arjan beseeches:
May my heart and soul abide at Your Feet, and may I have the privilege of the company of saints (Dhanaasaree M 5 SGGS 682).
Do not hold grudges
Guru Arjun Dev Ji prescribes
Ros na kaahoo sung karhu aapan aap beechaar. ho-ay nimaanaa jag rahhu Nanak nadree paar (SGGS 259).
Do not be bitter against (or angry with) anyone. Search your inner self and nurture humility in both word and deed. With His Grace, O Nanak you will cross the ocean of Maya into the Realm of Bliss (i.e. achieve moksha).
Often people may hurt your feelings and it is not always easy to ignore or forgive. But tolerance needs to be cultivated. This can only be done by constant self-appraisal. Reacting in the same manner as the aggressor is not in your interest as such reaction may do you more harm than good. It may cause bitterness which in turn will generate anger and you become just as negative as the person who offended you. Nurture humility within thyself and it will assist you in ignoring slights and insults from people who are up to no good and who do not deserve a response from you.
Tolerance: Return ‘good’ for ‘wrong’
Shaikh Farid, a Thirteenth-century Sufi saint, whose compositions are enshrined in the Guru Granth sahib (SGGS 1381 – 82) emphasises tolerance and forgiveness when he says
Faridaa buray daa bhalaa kar gussaa man na hadhaaey; dayhee roag na lagee palae sabh kichh paeay.
O Farid, do good unto him who has done you wrong; do not harbour any anger in your mind (heart). You body (mind and spirit) will not be afflicted by any disease and His blessings will fall into your lap.
It is easier to offend than to forgive. Therefore it needs a greater person to forgive than the one who offends. Forgiveness must not always be seen as giving into or acceptance of the other person’s values. Often it is better to agree to disagree. Holding grudges is bad for one’s mind and soul. A good deed in return of a wrong often removes misunderstandings and become the basis of long standing relationships.
It can be clearly gleaned from the above that the virtues which we need to be develop are courage, patience and tolerance.
There are instances, however, when one cannot always turn the other cheek. There is, ofcourse, a limit to tolerance. If the enemy persists in causing harm it is only natural to retaliate. It is just to stand up to oppression and cruelty. In these cases the sameenergy inherent in krodh (rage), if handled correctly can be a big asset in military action. Many a brave soldier has won medals for courage beyond the call of duty.
When Guru Gobind Singh Ji fought the Battle of Bhangani (the famous Bhangani Judh), he came face to face with the most gallant and skilful of archers, Raja Hari Chand Handooria (one of the mountain kings). His reputation was like that of Arjun of Mahabharata. Hari Chand never missed his target. Like Arjun he could hit the most difficult of targets. Guru Ji offered Hari Chand ‘first blood’. Hari Chand aimed at Guru Ji but the arrow hit Guru Sahib’s horse. Hari Chand’s second arrow brushed past Guru Ji’s ear. Offered a third chance Hari Chand had partial success. The arrow pierced Guru Ji’s belt and apart from a minor graze did not cause any serious injury. However, it did cause enough concern and offence for Guru Ji to react promptly. At this point he came into his military wrath and aimed at Hari Chand. The proud Raja fell and breathed his last. In his autobiography Guru Ji states “jabe baan lageo tabe roess jagaio” – meaning - the military wrath in me awakened as the arrow landed on target causing righteous indignation. In this Guru Ji has superbly summarized the concept of self-defence and non-aggression. It also shows how the negative energy of krodh is transformed into positive and righteous action of valour and gallantry.
Current examples of righteous indignation:
Cricket 2007 20/20 World Cup: When Yuvraj Singh was teased and taunted by the famous English all rounder Andrew Flintoff, the latter’s idea was to annoy and anger Yuvraj into making a mistake. However, Yuvraj controlled, harnessed and channeled his anger into positive action and replied with six glorious sixes which won the match for India.
2008 Cricket Triangular series: Similarly Harbhajan Singh defied Australian sledging (2) and frustrated the Australian bowlers in his late-wicket stand with Tendulkar. Harbhajan went further and stood steadfast amidst the Andrew Symonds controversy. His courage won him countless supporters world wide not to mention the rank and file of Indian population back home... On one occasion he observed that Guru Gobind Singh said one Sikh is sufficient for all the ‘sledgers’ and critics in the world. Through his courage he unnerved the Australians so much that the latter went on to lose the one day finals in their own backyard. The whole of Team India became focused and fought the finals with courage and resolve. A lot of the credit for this goes to ‘Bhajji’, as he is affectionately known, for spurring India to victory.
Energy channeled into krodh will generate more negative attributes and produce negative results. It will cultivate in the person hatred, despondency, depression and animosity to name just a few. However, if the same fire (energy) is channeled into good actions it would produce courage, gallantry, harmony, peace and justice, a few among many other positive attributes.
Righteous indignation against injustice, offering resistance against tyranny and opposition to evil cannot be seen a negative derivative of krodh. Such resistance can only be equated with courage, gallantry and valour. In his autobiography Guru Gobind Singh writes:
When all means of addressing a wrong fail, it is just and righteous to pick up the sword 1(Guru Gobind Singh – Zafarnaama).
Most of us all given to bouts of anger every now and then. Such are the pressures of modern day life. It is important that we check our anger immediately before it becomes a habit and takes root and grows into hatred and violent rage (the most horrid and ugly form of krodh). If and when this happens remember Farid’s advice (above) “Faridaa buray daa bhalaa gussaa man na hadhaaey”.
(1) cu kwr Az hmh hIlqy dr guzSq ] hlwl Asq burdn b SmSIr dsq ]
Chun kaar hamah heelteay dar guzashat; halal ast burdean b shamsheerey dust.
(2) Sledging is the practice in cricket of insulting opponents to break their concentration, particularly when batting, and cause them into make fatal mistakes and getting dismissed. Sledging and banter on the field, within limits, is tolerated in the spirit of the game.
1. Although the author has briefly met Baba Puran Singh Ji Kericho Wale, Bhai Nararg Singh Ji and Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ji and even spoken and performed kirtan at the Soho Road Gurdwara, Birmingham, he has never been a member of the organization, but greatly admires its work.
2. For simplicity, throughout this article, I have referred to the masculine gender but, wherever appropriate, this should be read as including the female gender.
3. Differences of opinion are inevitable when interpreting Gurbani. The author most humbly regrets any inaccuracy or errors in quoting or interpreting Gurbani and prays Satguru grants him the boon of greater insight into understanding the Guru’s word.