January 14, 2017

Ways to deal with negative emotions in different Buddhist paths


For the basic vehicle or Theravada, the main approach is to avoid them. When there are lots of emotions, reduce them by avoidance. When there are fewer disturbances, eliminate subtle emotions using mindfulness. In this way, there will be no chance for gross emotions to arise. The analogy is: if you don’t want the pain of tooth decay, avoid the temptation of sugar and brush your teeth properly.

The method of causal vehicle, or bodhisattva yana, is to transform emotions into the path of practice. It can be divided into the bodhisattva path of merit and the bodhisattva path of realization.
In the bodhisattva path of merit, the method is not to directly eliminate ego-clinging, but rather to try to develop the thought, “I want to generate bodhicitta” and aspire to be enlightened in order to benefit all sentient beings. In this way, practitioners redirect the center of self-clinging to the skillful activities of benefiting others. Thus the ego-clinging is transformed into the practice, sealed by wisdom and self-control. The analogy is: fire can lead to great disasters when not in control. However, if we can change the way we use it to benefit our society, fire becomes a precious resource. The emotional energy is also like that.

In the bodhisattva path of realization, the method is to first realize the emptiness, and then use skillful means to transform remaining subtle habits. As a result, the emotions are transformed into practice. Like the poison-eating peacock, the poison of emotions will only make these practitioners more fit.

The method of resultant vehicle or vajrayana is to see that the nature of five poisons are five wisdoms; the mandala of mind is the non-separation of samsara and nirvana and the non-separation of emotion and wisdom. The analogy is: one is free from emotions in the dream if one has recognized that it is a dream.

Eight Verses of Training the Mind is mainly focusing on the first two types of methods, which are more in line with the mentality held by most people. Although it is not ultimate, it can be practiced very effectively. Being very close to our state of minds, it is a great medicine to overcome and eliminate emotions.