Most people believe that both the impulse of desire and the impulse to anger are both inherent, deeply established reactions that are either completely impossible, or virtually impossible, to overcome and remove from one’s life. They say that one may succeed in controlling outer expressions of anger through various techniques or training, but that the impulse to anger, and the inner reaction that it causes, remains. This can have a variety of effects on the being including negative results in terms of physical health, vital energy and mental balance.

It is also true that so long as one remains fixated on the ego-personality and the vital ‘desire-soul’, that the individual is subject to the play of the three gunas of Nature, and thus, will experience the impulses associated with rajas, in the form of grasping and attachment. The impulse to anger arises out of this action, particularly when a desire has been frustrated or the will opposed in some form or fashion. The underlying provocative incident need not be a major issue. Once anger arises, it can explode regardless of how minor the provocation may have been.

The famous story from the Mahabharata illustrates that anger cannot be controlled through mental concepts. Dronacharya was teaching the princes, the 100 Kauravas and the 5 Pandavas and the lesson of the day was ‘not to become angry.’ Every one of the students responded affirmatively when asked that they had learned the lesson ‘not to become angry.’ Except the eldest, the future king and emperor Yudhisthira, who indicated he had not learned the lesson. This went on for several days’ repetition, until finally, on the third day, Dronacharya, in an uprush of anger struck Yudhisthira. This was a death sentence for Dronacharya, as no one strikes the crown prince and gets away with it. At that moment, Yudhshthira remarked that he had in fact now learned the lesson ‘not to become angry’. He was able to withstand the blow, not react, and not take any steps to punish the revered teacher who had unfortunately lost his temper.

Various disciplines seek to control anger. Most of them find that ‘anger management’ may suppress the external signs, but nevertheless the anger reaction prevails internally. This is a temporary success, but at an enormous inner cost, physically, emotionally and mentally.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother propose a different solution. By shifting the standpoint from that of the ego-personality to the divine standpoint, the provocations to anger are no longer ‘provocative’. One sees everything in a new light and reacts from a totally different perspective. This can be done either through the discovery and bringing forward of the psychic being, hidden in the secret heart, which is a portion of the divine embodied in the individual being; or else, through rising above the mental level into the spiritual atmosphere that joins the consciousness with the universal divine.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “It is true that anger and strife are in the nature of the human vital and do not go easily; but what is important is to have the will to change, and the clear perception that these things must go. If that will and perception are there, then in the end they will go. The most important help to it is, here also, for the psychic being to grow within — for that brings a certain kindliness, patience, charity towards all and one no longer regards everything from the point of view of one’s own ego and its pain or pleasure, likings and dislikings. The second help is the growth of the inner peace which outward things cannot trouble. With the peace comes a calm wideness in which one perceives all as one self….”

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

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.