4. Krodh (wrath) | Five Evils | Sikhi

4. Krodh (wrath)

Krodh (wrath) is another emotion recognised in Sikhism which serves as a spring of conation. Individuals and nations, under the sway of this emotion, may be led to their own destruction, as well as that of those towards whom it is directed.

Guru Arjan Dev says,

“O, krodh (wrath), O father of strife, you know no compassion,
thou hast a powerful sway over vicious men,
who dance to your tune like monkeys,
and then have to face immense punishment
at the hands of the couriers of death;
in whose society, men turn into devils.”

Kabīr, in a similar vein, says, “Wrath, the great garrulous being, reigns supreme.”

Guru Nānak also remarks, “The anger destroys all the evil ones.”’

Let us now analyse

(1) the nature of krodh,
(2) behaviour pattern of the agent under its control, and
(3) the psychological charge of this emotion.         .

Nature of krodh

One thing which emerges from the above passage is the inclusion of krodh among the emotions which shows that it is not considered, in Sikhism, as merely situation-inspired, but subjectively-inspired also.

Second, by calling it the father of strife, it is shown to be a complex motive from which arise actions causing social conflict and strife. The actions may take different forms but they remain the same in quality, which quality is described as cruelty.

If we look around, the truth of this dictum would easily impress us. More cruelties— both personal and social—emanate from this emotion than from any other.

In the recent times whole nations have seen to be consumed by the fire of ire in contradistinction to righteous indignation, as the latter lacks cruelty as constituent, though, very often, under the garb of righteous indignation, it is plain wrath which is active.

Third, it is an emotion which may be termed as a double-edged one, because it harms the object which it is directed to as well as the organism which it has been directed from.

Guru Nānak says, “Lust and wrath destroy the body as flux melts the gold.

Thus, while in its direction outward its impact may be social, inwardly it may lead to the disturbance of the peace of self and the loss of equilibrium.

Here one may refer to Professor Prem Nāth, who while reporting the psycho-somatic findings in regard to the evil effect of anger on a person, observes, “Anger can kill a man. It does kill him indeed.

He points out further that

“anger is not only biologically hurting but is socially destructive also, destroying brutally as it does so many social relations which become difficult to redeem.

Paralyzing reason and reasonableness, it follows its own dialectic of destruction.”

This observation directly supports the views expressed by the Gurus and their warning that one should overcome wrath or otherwise “it would destroy the body as the flux melts the gold.

Fourth, as the generator of hatred, or itself being the outcome of hatred, it militates against an attempt to establish social cohesion and integration.

As jealousy is not mentioned separately in Sikhism, it appears to have been included under krodh, because, in jealousy also, like anger, the self may strive to remove the cause of it.

Fifth, a Sikh, scholar, Bhai Kahan Singh, in a foot-note to Tankhanāma of Nand Lal, while referring to krodh, says that

the persons who regard themselves as men of discrimination and knowledge (Viveki) and insult others (as devoid of knowledge) are also examples of misplaced krodh.

The anger in this case seems to be the result of pride.

Sixth, in contradistinction to kām, lobh or moh—which are propensities of attractionkrodh involves an aversion from its object.

Behaviour pattern of the individual under wrath

The individual moved by wrath seems to be incapable of reflection and becomes highly suggestive as is evident from the simile of the monkey dancing to the tune. The man is bereft of any consciousness of the consequence of his action in this world or hereafter.

He may, though, be intensely conscious of the need to have vengeance on the noxious person or the object of krodh. There may even be some consciousness that such a vengeance is good.

But this cannot be called the rational consciousness since the person is more or less a puppet under the influence of this passion, like the monkey dancing to the tune.

Second, even men who are normally endowed with a well-developed rational facultymay take to ugly behaviour under its influence.

Third, the man moved by it seeks to destroy the object of his wrath and in such destruction he exhibits no compassion or sympathy.

Then, does anger lead to taciturnity? It does not necessarily appear to be so to Guru Tegh Bahadur, who in his address to a Sikh, says that an angry man utters harsh words.

Psychological power of wrath

Wrath as a person is charged with great psychological power whereby it may supersede other propensities including one’s own physical and mental well-being.

This sway of krodh seems to be directly proportionate to the perversity of the individual (“powerful sway over vicious men” as already referred to in the passages cited above).

Thus, this emotion, or the spring of human action, may also draw its strength from the already existent evil tendencies in a man.

It is also said to pervade all which shows its strength not only in terms of intensity or depth but also in extensity.

Some comparative references

Krodh, in the old Indian literature, is “personified as child of lobh and Nikriti ; or of Death, or of Brahmā

In the sermon from Guru Tegh Bahadur, referred to earlier, the Guru also recognises that it may arise from the thwarted desires and, therefore, it may be called a child of kāma. In this sense it could be said to be related to lobh.

But in Sikhism we do not find it described as a child of Brahma.

Perhaps in the old Indian literature it was sought to be associated with the tāṇḍava dance of Śiva (dance of destruction) and the passage under reference may perhaps be alluding to that fact.

In the later schools of Hindu Philosophy we find it mentioned by all the schools:

Patañjali of Yoga refers to it in sutra 34 of the Sādhana pāda of the Yoga Sutra.

Similarly, we find that anger is mentioned in the compounds under aversion in Jayanta’s classification of the springs of action where it is called “an explosive emotion of the painful type.

In the case of Praśastapāda also this passion is mentioned.

In Christianity we find St. Thomas Aquinas writing a large number of articles on anger while dealing with human acts (question 46 ff.).

Treatment of anger in the Sikh ethics appears to lay greater stress on the social aspect of this propensity in conformity with its general social line of approach

and in this it may be seen to have some similarity of approach to the one adopted (in the above cited analysis) by Christianity.

Immanuel Kant also regards the “self-conquest in times of anger” as a “virtue of merit” and stresses the need for controlling the activity of this impulse.

A psychologist points out that “the contractive moods that affect us as individuals are chiefly moods of anger and fear.” (Emphasis added.) He also stresses the need for replacing it by “an expansive mood.”

According to him “to make the switch over oneself, is to gain a fine sense of power and at same time to resolve the conflict.

We may here refer to an interesting hypothesis of Herbert Spencer, in his writings on moral education, in regard to irascibility in human beings:

After referring to some situations in which a person has reacted with an irate response Herbert Spencer concludes that these instances exhibit “in human beings that blind instinct which impels brutes to destroy the weakly and injured of their own race.”

The inference here may be taken merely as a stress on the moral undesirability of angry response without our conceding the conjecture that it is that continuation in man of the same animal instinct which leads the latter to destroy the weak and injured of their race.

The fact that it is not always the case even among the animals must have been known to Spencer.

Second, it is not necessary that the irate response is only directed towards the weak and injured. Nevertheless, his observation serves the purpose of showing the moral undesirability of an angry response.

It is very aptly pointed out by Professor Prem Nāth that “enormous damage caused by anger has not been reduced to statistical language

but he quotes James Bolton to point out that “half the sorrows of mankind could be averted if people grew up to keep anger at a safe distance.

All this supports the viewpoint of the Sikh ethics which requires men to control and overcome the angry response. Guru Nānak’s dictum that anger destroys men is an apt caution to mankind.

There is a greater need to be vigilant against arousal and sustaining of anger today:

- in view of the enhanced human resources and potentials of causing destruction

- and the increased chances of frustration, born of ever multiplying competition between individuals and social groups.