Emotions = suffering?

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mariel.hespanhol
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Emotions = suffering?

Post by mariel.hespanhol » Thu Apr 11, 2019 11:19 pm

(English is not my first language, so forgive any mistakes.)
In the Four Seals, it is said that all emotions are suffering. Am I wrong to interpret that this sentence simply means that duality is suffering? What about bodissatva's love and compassion beyond duality? What about relative bodichitta? And what about the other two noble qualities: joy and equanimity?
Thank you for helping me with my freshman questions :anjali:

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Fri Apr 12, 2019 12:19 am

mariel.hespanhol wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 11:19 pm
(English is not my first language, so forgive any mistakes.)
In the Four Seals, it is said that all emotions are suffering. Am I wrong to interpret that this sentence simply means that duality is suffering? What about bodissatva's love and compassion beyond duality? What about relative bodichitta? And what about the other two noble qualities: joy and equanimity?
Thank you for helping me with my freshman questions :anjali:
The short answer is the Four Immeasuables are not emotions as they are normally thought of.

In the esoteric traditions the Five Poisons are transformed into Five Wisdoms.
His welcoming
& rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
Knowing the dustless, sorrowless state,
he discerns rightly,
has gone, beyond becoming,
to the Further Shore.

-Lokavipatti Sutta

mariel.hespanhol
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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by mariel.hespanhol » Fri Apr 12, 2019 12:37 am

Could you indicate where I can read about the concept of emotion in Buddhism?

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Fri Apr 12, 2019 2:12 am

mariel.hespanhol wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 12:37 am
Could you indicate where I can read about the concept of emotion in Buddhism?
Almost any basic book on Buddhism really. What traditions are you interested in?
His welcoming
& rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
Knowing the dustless, sorrowless state,
he discerns rightly,
has gone, beyond becoming,
to the Further Shore.

-Lokavipatti Sutta

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by Wayfarer » Fri Apr 12, 2019 3:40 am

mariel.hespanhol wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 11:19 pm
In the Four Seals, it is said that all emotions are suffering. Am I wrong to interpret that this sentence simply means that duality is suffering? What about bodhisattva's love and compassion beyond duality? What about relative bodhicitta? And what about the other two noble qualities: joy and equanimity?
Thank you for helping me with my freshman questions :anjali:
What does 'emotion' mean?
noun
noun: emotion; plural noun: emotions
a strong feeling deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.
"she was attempting to control her emotions"
synonyms: feeling, sentiment, sensation; More
antonyms: coldness, indifference
instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge.
"responses have to be based on historical insight, not simply on emotion"
synonyms: instinct, intuition, gut feeling, inclination; More
antonyms: intellect.

Origin: mid 16th century (denoting a public disturbance): from French émotion, from émouvoir ‘excite’, based on Latin emovere, from e- (variant of ex- ) ‘out’ + movere ‘move’. The current sense dates from the early 19th century.
I think you will find in many traditional texts, both Eastern and Western, you won't find the modern word 'emotion'. What used to be said was that the wise had 'overcome the passions'. But that doesn't mean being cold or inhumane, as altruistic compassion is a virtue, not a mood or an emotion.

Through meditation practice, we may experience emotions, sometimes blissful emotions. It is true that in traditional Buddhist training, one is taught not to seek out or cling to such experiences, but they happen. But the point is not to be apathetic or un-caring in the usual sense, as it is to free yourself from moodiness and emotionality. As we realise greater equanimity, then emotional highs and lows don't have so much effect on us as they used to. I think that is the basic point.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

mariel.hespanhol
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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by mariel.hespanhol » Fri Apr 12, 2019 4:51 pm

Thank you!
Forgive me if it seems repetitive, but I'll try to explain my doubts (again, English is not my mother language :tongue: ):
I'm reading DJKR's What makes you not a buddhist after watching his wonderful "Hinamudra" :quoteunquote: teachings. Although I've been admiring and trying to contemplate the four seals, I confess I'm still a little surprised when he states that all emotions (not just those so-called negative or aflictive) = suffering. So my intention here is to confirm if he is referring to duality and ask how I could observe relative bodhichitta and the related suffering while I'm very far from generating absolute bodhichitta.

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by mariel.hespanhol » Fri Apr 12, 2019 4:55 pm

Because it seems he is not talking only about strong feelings and passion. He includes love, softy and kindy feelings, balanced emotions.

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by Vasana » Fri Apr 12, 2019 7:42 pm

mariel.hespanhol wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 4:51 pm
Thank you!
Forgive me if it seems repetitive, but I'll try to explain my doubts (again, English is not my mother language :tongue: ):
I'm reading DJKR's What makes you not a buddhist after watching his wonderful "Hinamudra" :quoteunquote: teachings. Although I've been admiring and trying to contemplate the four seals, I confess I'm still a little surprised when he states that all emotions (not just those so-called negative or aflictive) = suffering. So my intention here is to confirm if he is referring to duality and ask how I could observe relative bodhichitta and the related suffering while I'm very far from generating absolute bodhichitta.
I've not read the book so can't confirm his perspective but views on suffering and emotions differ between vehicles. At the relative level there are constructive and destructive emotions. Generally in the Mahayana, the 4 immeasurables and 6 paramitas are to to cultivated until one realizes ultimate bodhichitta /Prajnaparamita. Virtuous actions, mental states/factors and the paramitas are encouraged even if one engages with them in terms of subject, object and activity in the beginning (i.e dualistically) since merit is a supportive condition for wisdom on the path and compassion and the 4 immeasurables is In alignment with how things are at both the relative and ultimate levels of truth despite the differences in how sentient beings and phenomena are known from these two vantage points.

Really an avenue to consider is what is the perceived nature of the object that has elicited the emotion and what is the perceived nature of the person experiencing it. What emotions can you think of that might not be experienced or plant a seed for asuffering? It is likely that are nuanced ways of speaking about even destructive emotions.
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Apr 13, 2019 12:26 am

mariel.hespanhol wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 4:51 pm
I'm reading DJKR's What makes you not a buddhist
Not one of my favourite books, really. I think he's being deliberately provocative in some respects.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by SunWuKong » Sat Apr 13, 2019 1:58 am

Life itself causes suffering, because we aren't simply born enlightened, and the result is craving and afflictions. I'm not sure emotion is or should be singled out. Care to cite references for that?
"We are magical animals that roam" ~ Roam

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by Akasamuni » Sun Apr 21, 2019 6:24 pm

mariel.hespanhol wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 4:55 pm
Because it seems he is not talking only about strong feelings and passion. He includes love, softy and kindy feelings, balanced emotions.
I can be difficult to take on a specific text from a specific tradition and understand it all contextually. One thing is for sure, the Four Brahma Viharas translated as the Four Immeasurables or four sublime abidings or adobes which are:

1. Metta - universal loving kindness
2. Mudita - sympathetic joy
3. Karuna - Compassion
4. Upeksha - Equanimity

These are to be cultivated as a meditation practice and in general life interaction and are virtues. There is much doctrine from all traditions relating to this. They can be thought of as emotions but their cultivation is defined by their other-regarding and inclusive nature so they cultivate wisdom as they move us towards interconnectedness and away from ego centrality.

All other emotions that arise that are ego related and ego affirming certainly cause suffering.

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by Jerafreyr » Sun Apr 28, 2019 1:46 am

Emotion is a fire and it's fuel is craving. You think things should be this way or that. It carries you further from what actually is. The four immeasurables are not emotions since they are not responses to worldly conditions.

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by Punya » Sun Apr 28, 2019 1:21 pm

mariel.hespanhol wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 4:51 pm

I'm reading DJKR's What makes you not a buddhist after watching his wonderful "Hinamudra" :quoteunquote: teachings. Although I've been admiring and trying to contemplate the four seals, I confess I'm still a little surprised when he states that all emotions (not just those so-called negative or aflictive) = suffering. So my intention here is to confirm if he is referring to duality and ask how I could observe relative bodhichitta and the related suffering while I'm very far from generating absolute bodhichitta.
I was listening to some DJKR teachings today and he explained what he meant in the book. I have lightly edited what he says as follows:
You see the word "suffering" is not a good word to translate the word "dukkha". Because according to Buddhism suffering, when we talk about the quality of the suffering, we are not only talking about pain, as in pain. Actually the big chunk of the suffering, the quality of the suffering, is impermanence. The changing, the uncertainty and all emotions are changing.
So in this, Rinpoche seems to be referring to one of the three kinds of suffering:

The suffering of suffering
The suffering of change
All pervasive suffering.

More info here: https://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?tit ... _suffering.
We abide nowhere. We possess nothing.
~Chatral Rinpoche

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by SunWuKong » Sun Apr 28, 2019 4:03 pm

mariel.hespanhol wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 11:19 pm
(English is not my first language, so forgive any mistakes.)
In the Four Seals, it is said that all emotions are suffering. Am I wrong to interpret that this sentence simply means that duality is suffering? What about bodissatva's love and compassion beyond duality? What about relative bodichitta? And what about the other two noble qualities: joy and equanimity?
Thank you for helping me with my freshman questions :anjali:
It's illogical and many feel it's not from Buddha's own words.
"We are magical animals that roam" ~ Roam

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by Punya » Sun Apr 28, 2019 7:41 pm

SunWuKong wrote:
Sun Apr 28, 2019 4:03 pm
mariel.hespanhol wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 11:19 pm
(English is not my first language, so forgive any mistakes.)
In the Four Seals, it is said that all emotions are suffering. Am I wrong to interpret that this sentence simply means that duality is suffering? What about bodissatva's love and compassion beyond duality? What about relative bodichitta? And what about the other two noble qualities: joy and equanimity?
Thank you for helping me with my freshman questions :anjali:
It's illogical and many feel it's not from Buddha's own words.
What is illogical? What is considered a better translation and why?

Edit: Reference to the original Tibetan and/ or Sanskrit would be useful.
We abide nowhere. We possess nothing.
~Chatral Rinpoche

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by SunWuKong » Mon Apr 29, 2019 2:48 am

Punya wrote:
Sun Apr 28, 2019 7:41 pm
SunWuKong wrote:
Sun Apr 28, 2019 4:03 pm
mariel.hespanhol wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 11:19 pm
(English is not my first language, so forgive any mistakes.)
In the Four Seals, it is said that all emotions are suffering. Am I wrong to interpret that this sentence simply means that duality is suffering? What about bodissatva's love and compassion beyond duality? What about relative bodichitta? And what about the other two noble qualities: joy and equanimity?
Thank you for helping me with my freshman questions :anjali:
It's illogical and many feel it's not from Buddha's own words.
What is illogical? What is considered a better translation and why?

Edit: Reference to the original Tibetan and/ or Sanskrit would be useful.
Anyway, it's a circular argument, once you put a definition that what an emotion is, is something that leads to suffering, then other reactions that don't lead to suffering you simply put a different label on them. It's disingenuous. Maybe it's only a Tibetan teaching, I don't know. Never heard it before.
"We are magical animals that roam" ~ Roam

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by Wayfarer » Mon Apr 29, 2019 3:09 am

I think there are very strong grounds for saying that Buddhism has always taught that emotion is invariably associated with dukkha. Terms such as 'asava' (outflows) and klesa (afflictive emotions) can both be understood as being associated with emotional states. As I said in one of the earlier responses to this thread, in traditional literature (both Buddhist and other), there is an emphasis on 'overcoming the passions'. 'Passion' is a different word to 'emotion', being a much older term, but again, the idea is quite similar. Conversely, 'the sage' is dispassionate, or unemotional - but not necessarily unfeeling or indifferent, as compassion, awareness of others' suffering, is not considered an emotional reaction.

I would like to find some passages that illustrate this, if anyone can think of any, please let us know!
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by Astus » Mon Apr 29, 2019 8:24 am

mariel.hespanhol wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 11:19 pm
In the Four Seals, it is said that all emotions are suffering.
It is generally a good approach to look for the original term instead of an English translation.

The Tibetan has that seal as all sāsrava (zag bcas) are duḥkha (sdug bsngal ba). At the same time, in the Dharmasamgraha (§55) it is all compounded (saṃskāra) are suffering, while the Dharma Seal Sutra (佛為海龍王說法印經) has all beings (一切皆) suffer (苦).
Am I wrong to interpret that this sentence simply means that duality is suffering?
It depends on what you understand by duality. It is probably better to say that all actions with (i.e. tainted by) clinging are related to suffering.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by Simon E. » Mon Apr 29, 2019 9:36 am

Wayfarer wrote:
Sat Apr 13, 2019 12:26 am
mariel.hespanhol wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 4:51 pm
I'm reading DJKR's What makes you not a buddhist
Not one of my favourite books, really. I think he's being deliberately provocative in some respects.
DJKR is often provocative..sometimes to a degree that is not useful, e.g his reaction to the Rigpa scandal. But this here is just an example of basic Vajrayana teaching.
'Zag bcas' pronounced 'zag che' means stained, tainted. It is saying that all emotion carries within it the potential for dukkha. That even love and kindness are defined by an identification with the other as a permanent entity to some degree. Which given the nature of change will inevitably sooner or later result in Dukkha. However, the antidote is not lack of love or lack of kindness. The Four Dharma Seals hang together and define each other. Emotions are tainted because all conditioned things are impermanent and arise from Shunyata and eventually return to Shunyata. So the antidote is the View. Insight into the true nature of things.
“Why don’t you close down your PC for a while and find out who needs your help?”

HH Tai Situ.

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Re: Emotions = suffering?

Post by muni » Mon Apr 29, 2019 10:55 am

Wayfarer wrote:
Mon Apr 29, 2019 3:09 am
I think there are very strong grounds for saying that Buddhism has always taught that emotion is invariably associated with dukkha. Terms such as 'asava' (outflows) and klesa (afflictive emotions) can both be understood as being associated with emotional states. As I said in one of the earlier responses to this thread, in traditional literature (both Buddhist and other), there is an emphasis on 'overcoming the passions'. 'Passion' is a different word to 'emotion', being a much older term, but again, the idea is quite similar. Conversely, 'the sage' is dispassionate, or unemotional - but not necessarily unfeeling or indifferent, as compassion, awareness of others' suffering, is not considered an emotional reaction.

I would like to find some passages that illustrate this, if anyone can think of any, please let us know!
By biased mind 'com passion' could be called an emotion-passion, even looking not so destructive, ( still causing suffering) biased invites automatically all kinds of other emotions, as the very destructive ones.
Compassionate actions are without that biased, or not based on such.
May I be a guard for those without one,
A guide for all who journey on the road,
May I become a boat, a raft or bridge,
For all who wish to cross the water.

Which human beings are “fortunate and connected?” They are the ones who generate love, compassion, and devotion, as well as the commitment to remain steadfast on the path until all beings are liberated. Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches.

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