Emotions decoded – The Roots of Hatred and Love

In the previous post, we saw how anger or hatred can transform people in ways they least expect and desire. We concluded by wondering whether it was even fair for good people to be thus punished for their hatred of evil (by turning them into evil), and for evil ones like Hiranyakashipu to be rewarded for their hatred of God. To answer this question satisfactorily, we need to look a little deeper and analyze the roots of hatred.This is when we notice the striking similarity between love and hatred. In fact, we will see that these two emotions that are considered polar opposites are much closer to each other than either of them is to indifference, which is thought to be somewhere in between. We can love, hate, or feel any intense emotion towards only that with which we have something in common. Towards all else, we can only be indifferent.

Let us say there is only the very last piece left in a packet of chips and I want to have it. If somebody else takes it, I will feel anger towards them. Alternately, my liking for chips might let me appreciate the other person’s similar liking and offer him that last piece, evoking love and friendship. If I had no interest in chips, the other person’s action cannot trigger any emotional response in me. I have observed the same pattern during driving. When I am in a hurry, actions of other drivers who are in a hurry annoy me. And my anger towards them would make me behave in a way that is closer to their behavior.

As seen from this example, not only does anger make me more like the object of my anger, the very basis of anger lies in my being like that object in some respect, to some extent. These are two related but distinct principles, both of which can be seen in action in the case of asuras like Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu. From the start, they were in search for God. They sought Him in every corner of the world (except within themselves, ironically) before they finally becoming one with Him. This also explains their anger towards devotees like Prahlada who are able to see and experience this God everywhere. Like how a person suffering from insomnia and yearning for sleep would feel towards someone who is blissfully asleep in front of him.

This applies to some of the more belligerent atheists of this day as well. Having an appetite for the truth, but not being able to  taste it, their frustration is manifest as anger towards God and religion. If this were not the case, they would not see a need to vehemently oppose religion, or establish that there is no God.

An analogy that I like here is that of a magnet. If an object gets attracted or repelled by a magnet, we can tell that the object itself has some magnetic properties. In the same way, when we love, hate, or feel a strong emotion towards something, it means there is a matching element within ourselves that responds to the external stimulus. A clear view of what we hate or love, and why we do, can thus give valuable insights about ourselves. Further, just as a magnet is also capable of inducing magnetism in iron (or another magnet), the hatred transforms us by strengthening the corresponding property within us.

If hatred (or love, or any other emotion) is a reaction of something within us to what it can connect to, it also means that to get rid of that emotion and feel better, we only have to weed out this element. This is much more effective than trying to destroy the object of hatred as a solution because even if we do something else can come along and evoke a similar emotion in us.

What we noticed about anger or hatred also holds true for fear. When my son was about a year old, if we asked him to scare us, he would imitate the barking sound. This was evidently because he himself was afraid of that sound. In more or less the same way, those who fear violence are also the ones who will use violence as a tool to terrify and control others. In both using and fearing violence, their own tendency for violence (and fear) gets strengthened.

Children are, by nature, adamant about what they want and having things their way. At times when I see this in my kids, the ego-spurred adamancy within myself reacts to it and manifests as anger. The result of this anger is that it reinforces this tendency (to be inflexible and uncompromising) in both me as well as my kids. Instead, if I yield with love or hold my ground without getting angry (as the situation demands), it will evoke and strengthen a different and healthier emotion in my kids. Children being more impressionable, this will have a great impact on what they grow up to be, and so it is all the more important for us to be vigilant about our own emotions when we interact with them.

Still another example that I think is relevant here, is of objectification, mostly of women. While women are justified in being concerned about some men treating them as no more than objects of lust, I think this shows more about those men than about the women they objectify. Those who perceive themselves as the body to be sexually gratified can see in others no more than means for the same. Those who think of themselves as the doer of actions see the same in others and appreciate or deride them based on what they do or do not do. Those who take pride in their own thoughts and ideas will try to connect with others intellectually. Those who realize themselves as the all-encompassing non-dual absolute will see only themselves wherever they look.

With those who are absolutely rooted in this awareness, others can also connect only on that plane. Whether through anger, love, hatred, or any other emotion, as long as we focus our attention on and connect with these enlightened souls, it will strengthen our own awareness of the Self, consciously or otherwise. This is the power of satsanga (companionship of the noble) that is praised in the scriptures as the surest way to spiritual progress.

Thus, what we have seen in this discussion is that emotions are ways in which something within us respond something on the outside that it can resonate with. This resonance strengthens this attribute within us, whether we like it or not. For those who seek spiritual progress, it is best not to harbour intense emotions towards anything in the world. Not even “righteous indignation” against those who are evil, because it will only feed the evil within us and make the world the worse for it. The best we can do for it is to weed out evil from within us and elevate our consciousness so that all who connect with us will also be elevated.

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