Modern science describes anger as a primary, natural emotion experienced when feeling threatened. It is stated too, that anger has been a tool in survival of man. Evolutionarily, feeling angered has enabled man to stand up to injustice, to defend himself and his loved ones from harm, and to protect his possessions. Mild irritability/anger may also be experienced, it is stated, when one’s basic needs of food, shelter, rest, and sex are not met. The emotion of anger is expressed as behavioural patterns ranging from mild verbal-expression of distaste, aggressive verbal-expressions (yelling,) or aggressive physical-expressions that may cause harm to oneself/property/others. While modern science agrees that behavioural expression of anger is preferable to pent-up anger as far as health goes, it also agrees that management of anger is imperative to sound physical wellness as well as social harmony. While modern science agrees that the emotion of anger is natural, it also adds that anger is largely, a negative emotion that causes more harm than good. The negative emotion is harmful for two basic reasons –
A. Anger is accompanied by a gamut of physiological reactions including increased heart-rate, increased blood pressure, and increased hormonal output (adrenaline, primarily,) that can lead to illnesses, and
B. Increased emotional responsiveness. In other words, human rationale takes flight when anger is experienced, resulting in undesirable expressions of aggression.
The Bhagavadgītā summarizes the consequences of anger most succinctly –
क्रोधाद्भवति संमोहः संमोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रमः।
krodhādbhavati saṁmohaḥ saṁmohātsmṛtivibhramaḥ|
From anger proceeds delusion and there from, forgetfulness (of right and wrong.) From such forgetfulness is born decay of discrimination, and ultimately destruction.
In the Sundara-kāṇḍa of Śrīmadvālmīkirāmāyaṇa is found a practical explication of this particular śloka. Hanumān set out for Lanka, singularly focused on finding Sītā. Insurmountable obstacles mar His path and He conquers them with admirable shrewness and grit, leaving the devas astonished. He reached the shores of Lanka and finds himself confronted by Laṅkiṇī, an irascible and scornful sentinel, who lands Him a blow heedless of properiety. Hanumān is enraged, but not enough to lose perspective. Bridling anger and recognizing she was no match for His strenght, He castigates her just enough to gain entry. He scoures every inch of the land, fervently seeking Sītā. After an arduous search He manages to meet Sītā, converse with Her and to allay Her fears. He then decides to meet with Rāvaṇa so He may afford wise counsel. Hence, He submits Himself willingly to the humiliation of being bound by the vile Rākṣasas. He enters the court like a lion does the forest, striking fear in Rāvaṇa’s heart. He thunders, ‘Set Sītā free if you wish to live!’ Enraged Rāvaṇa decrees Hanumān be slain. Calm and composed, Hanumān stands unfazed. Vibhīṣaṇa, Rāvaṇa’s noble brother rushes to Hanumān’s aid. Upon interecession Rāvaṇa decides to have Hanumā’s tail set on fire.
Hanumān is paraded around the city like a petty thief, bound in nothing but tattered rags, His tail a bright orange from the flame. Hanumān goes along merrily, neither humiliated nor angered. He serveiles the city, unmindful of a burgeoning flame His tail housed! Hanumān had now had enough. He decides to torment the Rākṣasas now. He leaps up into the sky, and begins setting fire to every single house in the vicinity. Fire spreads like a forest-fire in the wind, to envelop the entire city. Hanumān douses his tail in the ocean and turns to face the city that had been burned to the ground. He is overcome by remorse. Fear ceases His being contemplating Sītā too may have perished in the fire. He muses,
धन्यास्ते पुरुषश्रेष्ठा ये बुद्ध्या कोपमुत्थितम्।
निरुन्धन्ति महात्मानो दीप्तमग्निमिवाम्भसा॥
dhanyāste puruṣaśreṣṭhā ye buddhyā kopamutthitam|
nirundhanti mahātmāno dīptamagnimivāmbhasā||
Blessed indeed are the superiour souls who douse rising anger in the cool waters of the intellect.
Hanumān goes on to point out,
क्रुद्धः पापं नरः कुर्यात् क्रुद्धो हन्याद्गुरूनपि।
क्रुद्धः परुषया वाचा नरः साधूनधिक्षिपेत्॥
kruddhaḥ pāpaṁ naraḥ kuryāt kruddho hanyādgurūnapi|
kruddhaḥ paruṣayā vācā naraḥ sādhūnadhikṣipet||
The enraged man commits gravest of sins. He slays His preceptor and reviles the noble with vitriol.