When you study the emotions you find that there are seven main streams of negative emotions that arise from the four primitive fountains or appetites. Desire, or kama, which we have already discussed, is the first stream and the mother of them all.

Anger is the second stream. It is the expression of frustration for a desire that finds obstruction in its fulfilment. You should try and remember this whenever you get angry. Anger is different from what many modern therapists suggest. They say, “Come on, release your anger; let it out.” It is true that if you do not express your anger it will turn into another disastrous direction; so you can let it out momentarily for the sake of your health. However, when you become angry your nervous system is activated, and in a fit of anger you might start acting like a wild animal. If you were to get angry all the time, you would want to express this anger all the time, and there would be no end to it; you would be forming a very bad habit. Anger is such a blind emotion that at its peak one can commit suicide or kill others. If you allowed yourself to release all your angers, you would be behind bars in a day. All the negative emotions are blind, but anger is the most dangerous.

Therefore it is very important to know how to train yourself not to get angry. This can definitely be done; it will happen when you learn how to control your desires. You should decide which desires are helpful for your growth and which desires will create obstructions to your growth. Learning to train the intellect within (buddhi) will definitely help in doing this: when you get angry, you can arrive at the source of your frustration and anger by sitting down and analyzing why you got angry in the first place and examining which desires were not fulfilled.

The third stream of negative emotion which is harmful for unfoldment arises when your desire is fulfilled and you become proud. “I have fulfilled my desires and others could not fulfil theirs. Look at how great I am.” Pride happens when you have something that others do not have and you are constantly aware of this.

The fourth emotion occurs when someone else succeeds in attaining the object of your desire, and you do not. This called jealousy. You may have something – but someone else may have something you think is better. You find yourself incapable of fulfilling your own desires if the other person is fulfilling theirs. When you are jealous you are condemning yourself for being incompetent. You have lost the battle and accepted defeat.

The fifth emotion comes when you have something and you become attached it by identifying yourself with it. You don’t see its true nature: that it will go to decay, to destruction, to death; you become so attached that you don’t realize this. For instance, a man has a wife, and as long as she is fulfilling all his desires he remains pleased with her. But the moment she loses her beauty, he gets upset. This is called attachment. Nowadays people do not seem to know the distinction between attachment and love. Attachment is selfish; love is selfless. Attachment brings bondage; love gives freedom. Attachment contracts consciousness; love expand sit. Attachment becomes a source of torment; love becomes a source of liberation.

When two people meet, they should come together in grand liberation and joy, not in bondage and attachment. Misery comes because of attachment, because there is no giving in the relationship. The greatest happiness in life comes from giving, and greatest chaos comes when two people claim to love each other but are really attached. Such a relationship, which is built on expectation, can only bring misery. When you really learn to love somebody you will do things selflessly and spontaneously, for love is that concern in which you enjoy giving and don’t expect anything in return. That is the way to freedom.

The sixth emotion comes from attachment. It inspires you to want more and more. It is a perverted cultural desire which comes through competition and insecurity. It makes you narrow, selfish, self-centred, and petty-minded. It is called greed. Greedy people do not want to share the object of their attachment with others; they want to protect it.

The seventh emotion is the last and most powerful. It is egotism, which leads you to separate yourself from the whole by comparing yourself to others. Many times this is based on false pride: you are afraid because there may be somebody better than you. People who don’t have anything frequently become egotistical to compensate for their inferiority complexes.

By examining these seven streams of emotion – desire, anger, pride, attachment, greed, jealousy, and egotism – you can analyze yourself. By studying your thoughts, speech, and actions you can find out how emotionally mature you are. All control is emotional. If the emotions are not controlled, there is no control at all. Control does not mean suppression of expression – it means regulation and balance within your capacity. With the help of reason and observation you can remain beyond the sway of emotions.

You should learn to attain a state of emotional maturity in which you know how to use your emotions positively. Positive emotion leads you to self-reliance and self-confidence, and motivates your mind, action, and speech in a joyous and creative way.

Editor’s note:

This is an excerpt from A Practical Guide to Holistic Health, Revised Edition, by Swami Rama. 1999. The Himalayan Institute Press.