Bhakti, which may roughly be translated as loving absorption, is one of the most well known and effective means of focusing one’s attention on their object of love and reverence. This intense and unwavering focus helps to transform the Bhakta into, and makes him one with, the object of his Bhakti. If there is one shorter and faster way to affect this transformation or union (yoga), it is said to be through hatred or enmity (sometimes fear). This is referred to in scriptures as Samrambha Samadhi Yoga (or Samrambha Yoga in short) where samrambha means anger or hatred, and samadhi represents a focused state of mind. While this is not a method that can be used at will (as will be clear later in this discussion), understanding it will help us appreciate the transforming power of anger and hatred. It is also important to understand this effect at a more deeper level, so that we can save ourselves from thus turning into what we loathe even the thought of.
In Bhagavatam, there is the story of Jaya and Vijaya, two of Lord Vishnu’s attendants, who are cursed to be born as Asuras. The Lord blesses them that they will attain his abode again, in three incarnations, by focusing their minds on Him through anger. One of them, in his final incarnation as Sisupala, spends his whole life insulting Lord Krishna and is finally united with the Lord when he is slain by His discus. Answering Yudhishtira’s question on how such a vile person can attain such a noble state that is coveted and not within reach of even the noblest of souls, the celestial sage Narada explains that no matter whether it is through lust, fear, anger, hatred or love, those who constantly focus their attention on the Lord will attain oneness with him. He further adds that the level of absorption attained through enmity is hard to achieve even through love.
This principle, that the mind (and thereby an individual) becomes that on which it is focused holds true beyond the specific case that we considered here. In fact, if we look closely, there is no mind distinct from the thoughts it holds, and it is the mind that weaves our external identity and reality. The more focused the thoughts are, stronger the influence of the mind. This is quite evident in the case of a positive attention, like the son of a soldier looking up to his father from a very young age and eventually becoming a soldier himself. Of course, it is not possible to assign this as the exclusive reason, but is usually one of the main influences.
A negative emotion such as fear or enmity towards something has the same effect, but in a subtler and perhaps more powerful way. Incidentally, my previous post talks about the same phenomenon, though in jest. The reason for the negative emotion being stronger is often because they are spontaneous, and almost never produced with an effort. I don’t usually try to be afraid, nor do I want to be jealous or hate someone. If I do get afraid or angry, I would be helplessly so. There are such cases in positive emotions as well, like the love of a mother for her child. Here the emotion would be no less stronger than fear or anger. Even if the mind is distracted from the object, it will come back and hold tenaciously to it. In other cases where we make an effort to feel love, goodwill, or ambition, “on principle” rather than out of a natural affinity, the mind will not stay in that state. It will quickly revert to its natural state. However, if we keep forcing it back into that state every time it strays, over time it will become the new natural state and its influence will gain strength.
The transforming effect of a negative emotion are also many a times subtler for more or less the same reasons. Since they rise involuntarily, it is easy to miss their effect on us. The same effect on others is easier to notice. For example, you would have seen how many atheists dedicate their entire life to oppose religion and God, and eventually convert to the other side. The strength of enmity is evident in the fact that atheists converted to spiritual seekers become even more ardent on that path than many who have ‘believed’ in God from the beginning.
There are many who identify themselves as believers either because they are used to it, or because they are afraid to reject God. So there is no reason for them to think about God or ponder the esoteric truth behind that concept. At the same time, those atheists who turn to God usually do so because they get at least a faint glimpse of that Truth, and will pursue it sincerely.
There are numerous historical instances that manifest this pattern. A well known case is of the young Narendra who first dismissed Sri Ramakrishna’s visions as a product of hallucination or imagination, and later went on to be his foremost disciple. Many others have similarly approached great masters with the intention of proving them wrong, only to have their own misconceptions disproved and ignorance dispelled.
Fortunate are those whose hatred is directed at God, for they attain his abode without making an effort. Hatred towards fellow humans or other entities in the world are however not so benign. A policeman who is driven by hatred for criminals will gradually get closer to the state of a criminal (much like a criminal who lives in constant fear of the police ending up as a policeman). A person who constantly hates those of another caste, religion or race will be born in that very group that he hates. I have seen many who, disturbed and indignant at the incidence of brutal crimes against women, suggest punishments that rival the brutality of the criminals that they abhor. Unfortunately, the longer and more intensely they hate, the more they will resemble the object of their hatred.
In this world, everything is a mixture of good and evil. When we hate someone or something, we focus on their aspect that we hate, and thus imbibe that particular aspect. For example, if there is a very successful person who is also arrogant, and if I hate him for his arrogance, it is this aspect that I focus on and strengthen within myself. His fans, on the other hand, might admire him for his perseverance, talent or charisma and attract these qualities through their contemplation. Clearly, there is a difference in the transformation of those who have a negative and positive attention on the same person.
It is like how the moon, which is illuminated by the light of the sun, always has a dark and light side and whether see light depends on the side you look from. Whereas the sun, self-effulgent and beyond the duality of illumination and shadow, shines brightly no matter where you look from. If we must think of humans and worldly entities, it is in our interest to focus on their bright side and the light that illuminates it. In the case of God, who is beyond all gunas (qualities), it doesn’t matter how you focus your attention, be it through love or hatred or fear, it helps to transcend duality and be one with the absolute truth.
Now, some might wonder if this is even fair. That those who rejected, spoke against, and even insulted God will reach him sooner than those who have always ‘accepted’ him? One easy answer would be to say that they would have acquired sufficient karma for achieving spiritual progress and were so brought to their goal through the path of enmity as ordained by their karma. This argument is indeed valid, but it will prevent us from seeing some of the underlying details that are quite interesting, and which we will look at in the next post.