10 August 2003
Anger begins with folly, and ends with repentance.
These are the words of Pythagoras (B. C. 582-507), who is the first ancient Greek known to have used the word philosophos (philosopher). He taught a mathematical-numerological doctrine that bears some resemblance to the Sankhya philosophy of India. Pythagoras believed in the eternal soul and in reincarnation and recommended a vegetarian diet to his followers.
Anger begins with folly. Folly, or foolishness, is the mode of ignorance.
Manu says (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4. 11. 7) that excessive anger (atirosena) is the sinful doorway to ignorance (tamo-dvarena papmana). Anger is also said to be produced of passion as it degrades into ignorance (kama esa krodha esa rajo-guna-samudbhavah). In his purport to Bhagavad-gita 3. 37 Srila Prabhupada writes,
Wrath is the manifestation of the mode of ignorance; these modes exhibit themselves as wrath and other corollaries. If, therefore, the mode of passion, instead of being degraded into the mode of ignorance, is elevated to the mode of goodness by the prescribed method of living and acting, then one can be saved from the degradation of wrath by spiritual attachment.
Upon arriving here at Wroclaw temple this past Friday evening, I gave a Bhagavad-gita class. I touched on the subject of anger, explaining that it is tamasic. This was not the main focus of the class, just one among several points. My talk was short, from 19:30 to 20:00, because we'd just spent two hours in a cramped car getting here from New Santipur. At the close I told the assembled devotees I'd allow "a few minutes" for questions.
Several hands went up. After two or three questions that I answered briefly, an initiated devotee, who's been in the ISKCON Wroclaw community for many years, asked in a rambling manner why I'd said anger is symptomatic of the mode of ignorance. He made some point about anger in the mode of goodness.
I replied that yes, a person in transcendental goodness may exhibit a kind of anger that is pure, beyond the tinge of passion and ignorance. Hanuman is the example of that. But the class I'd just given was on B. g. 5. 23, containing the phrase kama-krodhodbhavam vegam, which is about the impulses of lust and wrath. This krodha is clearly the anger that arises from the lower modes, since Lord Krsna states here that the person who is happy among men, who is rightly situated in consciousness, is free of such kama and krodha.
However, more loudly than before, this Prabhu pressed on with some murky argument about Srila Prabhupada's anger. I pointed out that he was veering into nonsense, as I'd just explained that although there is a transcendental kind of anger, tonight's verse was not in that context. At this he got angry and started to interrupt me in a voice that was almost shouting.
As I'd already told those present that I intended to keep the questions and answer period short, I just said, "OK, I quit here. " Even as this Prabhu continued to argue, I got up and offered my obeisances to the Srila Prabhupada murti and exited the temple room. Later I was told that after I left he sat by himself in silence for a while, shaking with fury. The devotee who described this to me said, "He's living proof of your point that anger comes from the mode of ignorance. "
Pythagoras said that anger ends in repentance. Well, I don't know if this Prabhu is repentant because I've not seen him since that class. I do wish this confrontation had not happened. Perhaps my using the word "nonsense" brought forth his anger. Perhaps I should have framed my words more carefully.
But at the end of the day, the issue at hand here is context. Not only the context of the word krodha in B. g. 5. 23. There is the context of my being a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. I am trained to use words like "nonsense" when I hear an argument that displays all the intelligence of a telephone dial tone. There is the context of this Prabhu being a disciple of one of my Godbrothers. Why is he getting hot and bothered about a point that is clearly spelled out in Srila Prabhupada's books? Why is he pressing on me an absurd argument about "anger in the mode of goodness"? Why is he angry with me for replying as my spiritual master--the Founder-acarya of ISKCON--would reply?
You can see more clearly, I hope, why I don't care to play the role of an "ISKCON leader" any more. Nowadays ISKCON leaders are supposed to be expert in "negotiation", "conflict resolution", and other diplomatic skills. Nowadays ISKCON leaders are supposed to practice "empathetic listening", silently permitting our Prabhu to publicly unburden himself of his telephone dial tone of a brainwave. No matter how inane his argument may be, nowadays ISKCON leaders have to keep a respectful and attentive look on their faces. Nowadays ISKCON leaders are supposed to banish words and phrases like "nonsense", "rascal", and "poor fund of knowledge" from their vocabularies. Using them means to imitate Srila Prabhupada, not follow him.
I am sorry that this Prabhu got so upset. But I am sure I am not the cause of his anger. I may have said something to bring forth the anger that he has long been nurturing in his breast for reasons best known to him alone. Moreover, I doubt that it is a service to him, or to the assembled devotees, or to Srila Prabhupada and the Deities, to turn the Gita class over to him so that he can give vent to his pent-up private obsessions, like a geyser blowing hot steam into the sky. Maybe he should join a martial arts club and work out his aggressions against a training bag. After all, from the things I heard him say, his mental agitation is hardly worth complimenting as "philosophy. " As Srila Prabhupada would say, it is "simply foolosophy. " Ah! But there I go again. . .
See? That's why I can't be an ISKCON leader.
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|Here is a new mudra photo sent to me by that arch-brahmana from the land called Downunder, His Grace Jayatirtha-caran Prabhu. He tells me this is the ah-choo mudra. Enjoy!|