BBC Radio 4 - Thought for the Day
31st August 2001
Why? Seems the only response to the news of a father’s frenzied attack on his family. Pc Karl Bluestone bludgeoned his wife and three of his children with a hammer before hanging himself in the garage of their home. It is an unbelievable act for someone respected in his community as a conscientious police officer and a loving father.
We ask Why? But, inside, we are all aware of the terrible power of anger - a force that can overcome our rational thinking and impel us to thoughts, words and deeds that shock us. A force that we know we must constantly guard against.
Of course, we’d never expect to be so overwhelmed that we would ever cause real injury to our loved-ones. But, in the incidental events of our daily lives, anger is often let loose and, when it is, it sours relationships. How many times as a parent, friend, lover or when at work do we have to apologise and make amends for having given vent to our temper?
Hindu ascetics warn that anger is the most insidious of all emotions. It is deeply rooted, yet so close to the surface. When the sages wanted to compare the relative greatness of the personalities of Brahma, Siva and Vishnu, they did so by testing their ability to control their anger whatever the provocation.
And there is probably no greater impetus to anger than frustrations in family life. With our desire to love and be loved, families have potential for such great joy, but also for great sorrow. As one Hindu teacher said, “It is easier to bear the arrows of the enemy than the callous harsh words of our family.”
A text in the Bhagavad-gita explains the source of anger: “While contemplating objects of desire, we become evermore attached to obtaining them. When our desire is frustrated, anger takes over our mind and obscures our intelligence. When intelligence is lost, we succumb to our lower self.”
The Gita does not promise any easy relief from the power of anger to overcome us. Nor does it say that we need to become devoid of a passion for life in order to escape its clutches. But it does suggest that the more our desires are fixed on material goals, which by nature have a finite beginning and end, the more likely we are to suffer deep disappointments which may give rise to anger.
Pleasures based on getting tend to be frustrating. Pleasures based on giving are more likely to touch the soul and perhaps allow us that breathing space to bite our lip and count to 10.
© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Thought for the Day” on the Today programme Radio 4.