Detachment, Peace and the Solution to Overcoming the Force of Anger

If we step back and look at our internal reactions for a moment, we can see that generally, if we are directly involved and active in a situation, or it is something closely associated with us, we respond with much more concern than if we consider ourselves simply to be third-party observers. If the situation is not meeting our expectations or desires, this can lead to an uprush of anger.

On the other hand, we find that we can observe a news report or a movie or television program with a sense of detachment, and we can be at ease, even when the events portrayed may be terrible in their reality or their future effects, as long as we are not personally affected.

The contrast of these two states of response show us the power of detachment in terms of gaining control over the impulse to anger. The question then arises as to how we can marshal a poise of detachment when we are directly affected. This comes about through the separation of the witness consciousness, the observing Purusha, from the external active nature, Prakriti. The more we practice this separation and inner detachment, the more we are able to avoid anger, and maintain peace in the midst of whatever we are experiencing.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “It is really simply the recurrence of an old habit of the nature. Look at it and see how trifling is the occasion of the rising of this anger and its outburst — it becomes more and more causeless — and the absurdity of such movements itself. It would not really be difficult to get rid of it if, when it comes, you looked at it calmly — for it is perfectly possible to stand back in one part of the being, observing in a detached equanimity even while the anger rises on the surface — as if it were someone else in your being who had the anger. The difficulty is that you get alarmed and upset and that makes it easier for the thing to get hold of your mind which it should not do.”

“It is indeed when the quietude comes down from above or comes out from the psychic that the vital becomes full of peace or of kindliness and goodwill. It is therefore that the inner psychic quietude first and afterwards the peace from above must occupy the whole being. Otherwise such things as anger in the vital can be controlled but it is difficult to get rid of them altogether without this occupation by the inner quietude and higher peace.”

“That is the right thing that must happen always when anger or anything else rises. The psychic reply must become habitual pointing out that anger is neither right nor helpful and then the being must draw back from these outward things and take its stand in its inner self, detach from all these things and people. It is this detachment that is the first thing that must be gained by the sadhak — he must cease to live in these outward things and live in his inner being. The more that is done the more there is a release and peacefulness. Afterwards when one is secure in this inner being, the right thing to do, the right way to deal with men and things will begin to come.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Anger, pp. 58-60