Emotions and karma

The conclusion from Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s article, Head and heart Together:

All too often we think that getting in touch with our emotions is a means of tapping into who we really are — that we’ve been divorced from our true nature, and that by getting back in touch with our emotions we’ll reconnect with our true identity. But your emotions are not your true nature; they’re just as fabricated as anything else. Because they’re fabricated, the real issue is to learn how to fabricate them skillfully, so they don’t lead to trouble and can instead lead to a trustworthy happiness.

Remember that emotions cause you to act. They’re paths leading to good or bad karma. When you see them as paths, you can transform them into a path you can trust. As you learn how to deconstruct emotions of ill will, hard-heartedness, resentment, and distress, and reconstruct the brahma-viharas [sublime states: boundless kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity] in their place, you don’t simply attain an unlimited heart. You gain practice in mastering the processes of fabrication. As the Buddha says, that mastery leads first to strong and blissful states of concentration. From there it can fabricate all the factors of the path leading to the goal of all the Buddha’s teachings, whether for head or for heart: the total happiness of nirvana, unconditionally true.

Which simply goes to show that if you get your head and your heart to respect each other, they can take each other far. Your heart needs the help of your head to generate and act on more skillful emotions. Your head needs your heart to remind you that what’s really important in life is putting an end to suffering. When they learn how to work together, they can make your human mind into an unlimited brahma-mind. And more: They can master the causes of happiness to the point where they transcend themselves, touching an uncaused dimension that the head can’t encompass, and a happiness so true that the heart has no further need for desire.

While many of us are unsure whether we’re after the ultimate goal of the Buddha’s teachings, complete freedom from all attachments, it’s clear that moving in that direction is the opposite of creating more suffering for ourselves and others.

When Venerable Thanissaro talks about deconstructing negative emotions and reconstructing positive ones, that is one definition of “fabrication”. We have a major part in the manufacture of our experience, even though we only control our view of things and how we direct our thoughts, words, and actions.

As the good monk points out, this power can take us far, even all the way, if we want it to.

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
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