How to be Cool and Cut the Fuel to Anger
One of the smartest ways to control anger and hatred is to cut its fuel. It is called daurmanasya. (We shall soon see what it is.) It is like a reservoir of highly inflammatory fuel, that only needs a spark to burst into an explosion of anger and hatred. Depleting that is an effective method not only to control anger, but also to cultivate a positive outlook to life.
According to the instructions of Shantideva, a renowned Buddhist master from Nalanda in the 7th Century CE, this is the second step in a systematic approach to anger-management. We have already seen the first step. It is to recognize the faults of anger and hatred – to know how anger is the most devastating emotion that one succumbs to.
The beauty of the Buddhist teachings on anger-control is that it does not leave us with mere religious dictates such as, “Anger is bad”, but gives precise psychological tools. There is a whole chapter by Shantideva in his Bodhicharya-avatara (The Way of the Bodhisattvas), which deals with various aspects of anger and gives meticulous steps to overcome it. Here, we shall focus on the fuel of anger that we can drain away, namely daurmanasya.
The first step towards depleting this fuel to anger is to learn to recognize the traces of daurmanasya within one’s own mind distinctively from other aspects such as basic pain.
The next step is to develop the strength to resist the attitude of daurmanasya. For that we need to deeply recognize the faults and utter uselessness of daurmanasya
The last step is about how to effectively let go off daurmanasya by cultivating a joyous and healthy state of mind supported by a clear perception of reality.
1. Recognizing the traces of Daurmanasya within our minds
Daurmanasya is the discontented state of mind that lingers on after an adverse incident. Frustration, grief, melancholy, anguish, displeasure, irritation, annoyance, despair, hurt, despondency, disturbance, hopelessness, disheartenment, bitterness, etc., are shades of daurmanasya. Worry, anxiety, depression, stress, etc., are also the result of deepening daurmanasya.
To be able to control it, we need to distinguish daurmanasya from the immediate pain that we feel beyond our control. Painful situations arise in everyone’s life – both physical and mental. It could be from a physical injury, a complication in a relationship, loss of status or money, defamation, or from a hindrance in attaining what we longed for. Those are not by themselves daurmanasya. Left there, all of these too vanish with time. Daurmanasya comes when we mentally hold on to pain. In fact, by giving in to daurmanasya we create more pain over the pain that just comes to us.
If you try to unskillfully fight your own anger and try to suppress it, that becomes just an internal war. There will be more agitation and strife. And, if you let anger arise, that also destroys you. So, it is much smarter a move to deplete its source.
Daurmanasya comes when we feel totally unjustified about pain, or feeling like victimized. In that case, one may feel, “Why should I go through this!”, “Why this trouble befalls on me!”, “I did everything well, yet because of that other fellow, my hopes are shattered!”, “This is so terrible and I am doomed!”, etc., There, we are giving into daurmanasya. There, we deeply hold on to that bitterness, and do not let those pains go away naturally. In fact, we end up doing everything to prolongate suffering, even though that was not our intent. With daurmanasya, there is a sense of hopelessness – that nothing positive can be done about it, that the situation is not workable. Thus, daurmanasya is not the direct pain of the adversity, but the result of how we relate to that pain.
If we recognize this, then there is a choice not to give into daurmanasya. Instead of being let down by adversities, we can choose to let go off our attitude of lingering on that bitter past. We can choose not to allow the cheerfulness and positivity of life diminish. We can remain in the freshness of the present moment, and see the numerous opportunities every moment brings us for casting a positive future. In that way, we can make every situation workable in the most positive way. We shall see more about it soon.
2. Developing the strength to resist the attitude of daurmanasya
2.1. Faults of daurmanasya
Be in the present moment. Enjoy the creative potential of the present to its fulness in casting the future.
As said before, daurmanasya is like a reservoir of highly inflammatory fuel that only needs a spark of fire to burst into an explosion of anger and hatred. The spark can be as simple as finding some target to accuse – someone we can imagine as the cause of our sufferings, or someone whom we can at least imagine as the catalyst for our disaster. It doesn’t need any rationale. Since, one already feels victimized and remains blinded by that, it is very easy to slip into anger. An outburst of anger feels like is a relief from pain. But, that is merely a delusion, the result of being blinded and not seeing severe damage that anger pushes one into. In fact, anger leads to deeper daurmanasya. Thus, unlike other fires, the fire of anger keeps enriching its reservoir fuel, and leads to deeper trouble.
Regarding this Shantideva wrote:
अनिष्टकरणाज्जातमिष्टस्य च विघातनात् |
दौर्मनस्याशनं प्राप्य द्वेषो दृप्तो निहन्ति माम् ||
In the face of adversities and
With hindrance to what I desire,
In daurmanasya (discontentment) anger derives its fuel,
to blaze wildly and destroy myself. || 6.7 ||
2.2. It does not Serve any Purpose
Though there is no benefit that we gain by lingering on to that feeling of dejection and hopelessness with daurmanasya, sometimes it appears as if that is helping us focus on issues. It is only a delusion. Worry and anxiety, in reality distract us from meaningful solutions. So, daurmanasya is utterly useless and can be completely dispensed with.
By letting go off daurmanasya, you are being kind not only to others, but also to yourself. You will see the wonderful treasures hidden in the present moment!
For example, when caught in a bad traffic block, we easily fall into a foul state of mind and feel throughly frustrated. Then, we get agitated and keep cursing everybody. But, what is the use? We get so frantic and jittery that we may even end up carelessly bumping on other vehicles. Daurmanasya and frustration does not clear the traffic. To make things worst, finally, by succumbing to daurmanasya, we come out all the more exhausted! Instead, what if we could remain cheerful and relaxed through the traffic block? Then, we can think clearly, “Is there an exit option anywhere ahead?”. If there is one, of what use is holding on to daurmanasya? Just be cool and take that exit. And, if there is none, of what use is daurmanasya? Anyway, we are stuck. By remaining cool, we can at least eventually come out of the traffic in a relaxed state.
In this regard, we can remind ourselves of Shantideva’s golden instruction,
यद्यस्त्येव प्रतीकारो दौर्मनस्येन तत्र किम्।
अथ नास्ति प्रतीकारो दौर्मनस्येन तत्र किम्॥
Of what use is daurmanasya if there is a remedy!
Further, of what use is daurmanasya if there is no remedy! || 6.10 ||
In any situation in life this is so. Whether it is about waiting in a queue, or in relationship difficulties, or in the catastrophic situations where all of a sudden we find ourselves in a deadlock, daurmanasya, worry and frustration does not do any good. If something can be done to fix an issue, it is the easiest and most effective to do that with a cheerful and positive mind. If nothing can be done about it, then it is the best to let go and relax.
By now, it should be clear that daurmanasya is not an inseparable part of us, and it can be dispensed with. In fact, cutting this fuel to anger is a clever technique and much easier than directly confronting one’s own anger. If you try to unskillfully fight your own anger and try to suppress it, that becomes just an internal war. There will be more agitation and strife. And, if you let anger arise, that also destroys you. So, it is much smarter a move to deplete its source.
Therefore Shantideva said,
तस्माद् विघातयिष्यामि तस्याशनमहं रिपोः |
यस्मान्न मद्वधादन्यत्कृन्यमस्यास्ति वैरिणः ||
Therefore, I shall throttle that fuel of the enemy,
For that enemy has no other work than to harm me. || 6.8 ||.
3. Letting go off Daurmanasya by cultivating a joyous state of mind
Let us see how to deplete the fuel of daurmanasya. In this regard, Shantideva said,
अत्यनिष्टागमेनापि न क्षोभ्या मुदिता मया।
दौर्मनस्येऽपि नास्तीष्टं कुशलं त्ववहीयते॥
Even in extreme adversity, I shall remain joyous without agitation.
Daurmanasya does not fulfill desires, and positivity declines. || 6.9 ||
This may sound hard at first. Nevertheless, if you resolve not to give into daurmanasya at any cost, and resolve to face life joyously, it is very much doable. After all, adversities are hard. Why exhaust ourselves further by holding on to that negatively with daurmanasya! If you can afford to remain cheerful and lighthearted, it lifts up your spirit. Whatever can be done is best done with the joyous mode of a heroic warrior.
Uplift your mood to vividly see the opportunities of the present moment. Analyze and do whatever can be done. If something can be done, just do it without giving in to worries and anxiety. If nothing can be done, don’t linger there with hopes and fears. Just let go and let that pass by in its own pace.
Instead of being let down by adversities, we can choose to let go off our attitude of lingering on that bitter past. We can choose not to allow the cheerfulness and positivity of life diminish. We can remain in the freshness of the present moment, and see the numerous opportunities every moment brings us for casting a positive future.
While talking about cheerfulness, let us be clear. It has nothing to do with the ‘be happy’ messages of the new-age spirituality or make-belief systems, where one just tries to act as if happy. We are not talking about ignoring the problem or fooling oneself. We must see suffering as suffering. Yet, we need not give into daurmanasya. Just note it and let it pass. Move on to cast the future without daurmanasya clouding it. There is tremendous joy in knowing that everything can be worked with a patient and peaceful mind.
In many ways, reflections on Dharma (teachings of the Buddha) helps in bringing that cheerfulness. At the face of adversities, you can remind yourself, “This too will pass”. That is a good thing about impermanence. Even the worst episodes of life will eventually pass away. The minimum we can do is not to complicate it with daurmanasya.
Likewise, knowledge of the working of karma can help. As it is said, “Present is already created by the past. And in the present we create future.” So, again, there is no use lamenting about present since that is already turning into past. Let go off the past. Be in the present moment. Enjoy the creative potential of the present to its fulness in casting the future. Thus, cast a brighter future with peace, patience and kindness. By letting go off daurmanasya, you are being kind not only to others, but also to yourself. You will see the wonderful treasures hidden in the present moment!
It is also a good idea not to confuse the situation as ‘me’. If you can train to view everything like an illusion, then you will come to a stage where passing through difficult situations can just be like watching a movie. Then, we can cheerfully sail through life without succumbing to anger.
Though all these do not work like just flipping a switch, with repeated reflections of this kind, gradually daurmanasya can be completely eliminated.
Viewing life in this way, we not only overcome anger, but turn every adversity into a tremendously positive experience. In that way, we train to do everything in the most heedful way, and yet learn to rest in the immediate presence of the moment. In every moment, including the most adverse ones, we learn to see the freshness of that immediate presence and the bountiful opportunities to create a future.
May all be able to clear the thicket of daurmanasya and attain freedom from anger! May all beings be able to protect their minds from turning into a reservoir of daurmanasya and hatred. May they not fall into the mischievous designs of exploiters who want to make use of their hatred! Thus, may they abide in and enrich their positiveness in life! Sarva Mangalam!!
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4 thoughts on “How to be Cool and Cut the Fuel to Anger”
Thanks, great article.
Good article. Shantideva never disappoints and neither do you.
Great article! Very practical and insightful!