The Path of Wrath



   by Peter Holleran


"There’s an old Sufi proverb that says: "You can meditate for fifteen years and get one inch closer to God; or you can be really angry and be with Him instantly."  I think we can substitute for "angry" in that proverb any other deep feeling -- sad, joyous, terrified -- and the same closeness to God will occur.  In fact, feelings are the royal road to soul, and soul is what connects us to the Mystery." (1)


   These words by vision quest leader and psychotherapist Belden Johnson echo an ancient, little-known spiritual path called the "path of wrath". Said to be reserved only for the Asuras, who strove to take Vaikunth, the highest heaven, by storm, it promised a quicker way to God than the conventional paths of karma, bhakti, or jnana yoga, due to the power of concentrated emotion. The scriptures mention this unusual form of "yoga" as Samrambha Yoga, reserved for those whose swiftest passage to God-realization lies through the emotion of anger. It is said in the Srimad Bhagavatam that by whatever means possible one should fix his mind on the Lord. For some, hatred or anger concentrates the mind much more intensely than love or devotion, and such emotion, anathema to yoga directed to objects other than God (important point), becomes devotion when directed to God out of impatience with the feeling of separation from Him. Of this "path" Swami Siddhinathananda of the Ramakrishna Mission in Calcutta writes:

   "Narada, while speaking on the shortcut of the Asuras, says: 'I am firmly of the opinion that man cannot attain at-one-ment with God so surely and speedily through the path of love as through the path of wrath.' The emotion of anger is more intense and constant than that of love. The Gopis attained Krishna through lust, Kamsa through fear, Sisupala through hate, the Vrishnas through devotion..Anger of God or anger against God ultimately confers supreme blessings." (2)

   It must be emphasized that this does not contradict the almost universal condemnation of uncontrolled anger. The Fathers of the Orthodox Church tell us to hold back our anger until 'smoke comes out of our ears'! This does not mean negative psychological suppression. It is advice for adults who choose the spiritual path. We are no longer vulnerable children and there is no question of suppression if ones emotions are kept up front in the mirror of consciousness. Release and express anger in therapy if necessary, but do not injure another heart. Master Amakuki Sesan, commenting on The Song of Hakuin, wrote:

   "The sutras warn us that the fire of anger can burn up a forest of merit; though our merits and right actions are piled as high as a mountain, one flash of anger can burn them all up. Wrath is the most terrible thing in the world...Hakuin says: 'If someone crosses me, it is my own fault; there is already a fault in myself. How should I ignore the fault in myself and become angry at him? When I am angry at him, my fault is doubled.'" (2a)

   Attached to a brush painting by Zen Master Sengai is the following poem:

   "Anger is the great treasure of the house. Hide it deep and do not bring it out recklessly." (2b)

   This is a world of relativity, and there are unavoidably times for righteous, forceful anger - yet they are few and far between. The sage Mencius is said to have gotten angry only once in his life, but the whole country was pacified. Otherwise the spiritual maxim is, 'If I am present, I am responsible." It is our own karma presenting itself, and we are inextricably part of the problem. Why then add fuel to the fire?

   Keeping in mind this precaution, what meaning can we derive from the 'path of wrath'?

   Ramana Maharshi said:

   "When good people are abused, they may not retaliate, but they are hurt, and because of that the abuser may have to suffer. There is also a saying in the scriptures that he who curses good people gets all the bad that may be still left in them. If you want to curse at all, curse Bhagavan. He will not hurt you and he is without sin. You are safe in cursing Him. He wants only to be remembered. The mood in which you remember him is of less importance. Were it otherwise, how could Ravana and Sishupala get salvation?" (3)

   Anandamayi Ma once said:

   "If you have to be angry, be angry with me, so the root of anger will go soon." (4)

   Chogyam Trungpa remarked:

   "Even your struggle with the guru is devotion. Your resistance and your anger can be a sign of your devotion."

   Ramana Maharshi: "Hate or love, it is all the same; the thought of Him will take you there." Further confirmation of this is found in the Srimad Bhagavata, where a verse says that "intense devotion can not bring one to His feet as quickly as hate". The moral of this is that hate and love are two relative polarities, two sides of the spiritual coin, which we can not always judge the merit of from our limited angle of vision. Don't resist the hate, and don't indulge it, rather, let it reveal its secrets, is one approach.

   "The principle villains in the myths of Rama and Krishna, Ravana and Sishupila, were actually great devotees. They were told that before taking birth that if they would consent to being the primary antagonists of the Divine incarnations, they would attain liberation in only one life at the hands of their Lord whereas if they served him as devotees it would take several lifetimes." (Talks, p. )

   For instance, Ravana was given this choice and became the great enemy of the Avatara Rama in the epic the Ramayana:

   "A great ascetic and yogi, his hatred of Rama became so intense that his mind never left the thought of Him for even a moment. Thus Ravana ultimately became totally absorbed in Rama and was liberated when he was finally killed by him in battle." (4)

   In the apocryphal gospels Judas is depicted not as a betrayer of Jesus but as a close devotee who had a task to perform. These are just examples of a principle. In modern language it might be summed up by the Gospel of Thomas wherein it states, "if you don't bring up what is within you, it will destroy you." Siddhinathananda makes it a point that the path of wrath is for those whose karma forces it upon them. While few may find in it the merits of a complete path, all, however, can sympathize at times with this view and examine in their feeling how love and hate, as commonly understood, are often two sides of the same coin. One cannot truly hate someone he does not love, a wise person once said. And without uncovering and seeing those undesirable and wounded parts of oneself that are kept well-hidden, the light within cannot shine nor the love emerge. This process may take some concerted digging and observation. Robert S. deRopp states:

   "This seeing is the essence of the alchemical process called nigredo, "the blackening." It involves confronting those forces in oneself that are mainly responsible for one's inner slavery, forces referred to [by Gurdjieff] as the chief feature. One who has seen his chief feature and learned to separate from it is on the way to real liberty (the whitening or albedo).

   But this work of discovering the chief feature can be as rough on the teacher as it is on the pupil. The teacher has to maintain a role that may be unpleasant and difficult. He must put up with abuse from the person he is trying to help. For few come easily to the meeting with their chief features. It is a real showdown, at which Dr. Jeckyll meets Dr. Hyde, at which all the rotting monsters in one's personal cesspool come crawling out into the light of day."
(5)

   Neo-Gurdjieffian E.J. Gold concurs with deRopp:

   "The determined - and successful - pursuit of the waking state eventually and inevitably activates the chronic, making someone who is working on himself about as pleasant to live with as an angry camel." (6)

   As C.G. Jung wrote:

   "At first we cannot see beyond the path that leads downward to dark and hateful things - but not light or beauty will come from the man who cannot bear this sight." (7)


   "Questors are strange," PB once said, after a moment's reflection in the silence. How very, very true. May we all then have infinite patience with one another on our journey!

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   [Postscript: while not affecting the basic theme of this article, it has recently come to my attention that there may be a traditional misunderstanding of the nature of asuras:

   "In Hinduism "asuras" are mistakenly classified as demons. The word is commonly believed to be derived from the word "sura" meaning deva or angel, with the "a-" prefix reversing the meaning to anti-angel (i.e., demon). However, the ancient Rig Veda describes asuras as divine spiritual beings. The word is actually derived from "asu" (breath) and "ra" (solar god) meaning "breath of God". The term asura is actually just another name for a guardian angel (solar angel, agnishvatta, manasputra, augoeides, etc.." (8)

   A similar switch was made with the term "Lucifer", which was never associated with the devil or Satan until 1667 with the poem 'Paradise Lost' by John Milton, and was likewise not mentioned in the Bible until the King James version. The original Hebrew verse reads "shining one, son of dawn." Lucifer was always associated in antiquity with Venus and the guardians of the human race who brought knowledge to mankind].


1. Belden Johnson, "A Larger Vision of Relationship and Process," http://www.primalspirit.com/pr1_2belden_largervision.htm
2. Swami Siddhinathananda, "The Path of Wrath to Perfection," Vedanta Kesary,(Madras: The Ramakrishna Mission, 1985)
2a. Trevor Leggett, compiled and translated, A First Zen Reader (Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc., 1960/1990), p. 121
2b. Ibid, p. 123
3. David Godman, The Power of the Presence, Part Three (Boulder, CO: Avadhuta Foundation, 2002), p. 91
4. Ram Alexander, Death Must Die: A Western Woman's Life-Long Spiritual Quest in India with Shree Anandamayee Ma (Varanasi, India: Indica Books, 2006 (2002), p. 4a. Ibid, p. 199, 424
5. Robert S. deRopp, Warrior's Way (New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1979), p. 299
6. E.J.Gold, The Human Biological Machine As A Transformational Apparatus (Nevada City, CA: IDHHB, Inc., 1986), p. 120
7. C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch, 1933), p. 215
8. Lee Bladon, The Science of Spirituality, 2007, p. 242