Clenched fists. Tightened eyebrows. Pounding chest. Calculating mind. Then pain. A lightning strike in a dry forest. A fire that consumes the source before it destroys proximate objects. Plotting, revenge, hatred, and violence. I’m no stranger to anger. I’ve felt rage before. It’s truly unexpected because even the smallest tick can trigger a wealth of emotions that clouds my judgment and almost always ruins my day.
I remember one specific instance a few weeks ago when I became very angry. Days before a major competition, my dance team was scheduled for a four-hour long practice, which, for reference, was twice as long as most practices. With exams and assignments approaching, I knew I was going to have very late nights throughout the week because of practice, but I also recognized that I had made a commitment to my team to improve. However, during this specific practice, only about a quarter of the team arrived on time. Then, once most the team had arrived, the latecomers were doing everything but practicing.
This unfairness that some people were investing time and energy into the team while others were not made me angry. Almost instantly, I lost motivation to dance. I started thinking of what I should tell the rest of the team. I became irritable and unhappy. The rest of practice became a dreadful marathon. Even after practice ended, these destructive thoughts continued as I directed my anger toward specific people.
The thoughts stopped almost as suddenly as they had started because I caught myself planning for next season before this season had even ended. What was I doing? It was just a dance team. It was just a practice. Why was I wasting my time and energy on being angry? I cared about my team. I cared about winning and fairness, but at that moment, I realized that my regards for the activity was not worth the mental strife that anger caused.
As I contemplated further, I began to wonder what was worth the cost of being angry, and I came to the conclusion that nothing was worth the cost because anger was too uncontrollable and too damaging to myself and the people around me. In fact, I noticed this conclusion was not novel but it was spelled out in the age-old scriptures of Jainism. Anger came as a result of placing too much importance on something. Attachment to people, activities, and other material objects created anger. The way to avoid anger was to simply let go.
The worldview of Jainism that we are souls participating in a cycle of reincarnation where each life is temporary helped me let go of my attachment. If everything will inevitably end, I should not bother with anger and pain it causes. Instead, I should recognize that anger begets violent actions and creates karma that stay with my soul through reincarnation. Anger, rather than creating something productive, inhibits logic, friendship, forgiveness, and peace in this life and the next.
People might say that anger is good because it drives action and motivates people. This logic may be supported by history and specific examples. However, I think that anger has larger, more severe consequences in the long-term even if there are short-term boons. My goal is to find peace, and I think that using the spiritual lens to avoid anger and decrease attachment to material occurrences is the most effective way to achieve peace.
Shouted by Sohum Daftary | Engineering and Wharton Class of 2019