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Though Buddhist psychology has a lot to say about emotions, both positive emotions (like compassion, loving kindness, acceptance, joy) and negative emotions (like greed, hate, anger) it does not preserve the typical Western division between intellect and emotion. Both are understood as functions of consciousness that are ever-present, influencing each other constantly. More importantly, Buddhism does not assume that emotions are natural conditioned by-products of our conduct; emotions can be cultivated, positive emotions encouraged, negative emotions gently discouraged. The cultivation of positive emotions is a crucial dimension of the Buddhist spiritual path.

Classical Buddhist texts discuss negative emotions in terms of the five hindrances: attachment, aversion, excitement, laziness and doubt. These texts discuss positive emotions in terms of “Four Immeasurables,” loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. The Six Perfections (generosity, ethics, energy, patience, meditation, wisdom/compassion) is a Mahayana format for discussion of positive emotions. In Zen practice, zazen (meditation), and ongoing daily mindfulness, provides a way of being with our emotions non-judgmentally and honestly, to see how and what they are, and how they work. Watching emotions rise and fall, we begin to see patterns of suffering and happiness. In sitting practice clarity arises in the midst of ease and hindrance, and we can note the effects and complexities of both.

Study Guide

Please note: we are currently the process of editing and properly categorizing our teachings library. The teachings will become available here in the study guide as soon as they’re ready, please check back soon.

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