In Chinese Mahayana Buddhism, there is a term known as “Seven Emotion” (七情). It refers to mental states that trouble our otherwise tranquil mind. They are our mental reactions to the stimuli of our senses. For example, sound is a stimuli for our audio perception. When someone calls us stupid, that sound creates an emotional response. For some people, it may result in anger (emotion) and that may lead to violence.
The Buddhist strive to achieve a state of equanimity whereby, the word ‘stupid’ does not trigger an uncontrollable emotional response. When we succeed in that, we will not lash out nor be adversely affected by it.
So what are the Seven emotions?
They are Happiness, Anger, Sorrow, Fear, Love, Evil, and Desire. Evil refers to a strong aversion that resulted in intense ill-will toward the subject. That creates evil thoughts in our minds.
Desire is the opposite. We have a strong liking and generate a strong sense of attachment.
When we practice mind training, we are trying to achieve a state of stability in our minds. A stable mind that is not easily distracted or affected by situations. Thus, our emotions are not uncontrollable and our practice is stable or “Immovable”.
Why is it good to have a rein over our emotions? Simply because our emotions drive our actions. In the example previously, anger may result in dire consequences. Fights at a pub is usually caused by uncontrollable emotions and sometimes they even resulted in deaths.
Extreme happiness can also be bad? Yes, it can lead to heedlessness and may result in accident. I was on vacation in Eastern Europe and one of my tour members was captivated by the beautiful town scenery and wonderful spring weather. She was so happy and entranced by the beautiful sights that she forgot to look where she was going. She walked straight into a traffic post and she was lucky there wasn’t any sharp protrusion on the pole.
In addition to that, the various emotions also affect our state of being. According to Chinese Medicine, habitual negative emotions are also detrimental to our health. If we are constantly angry, we tense up and over a prolong period of time, we might even harm our liver.
Therefore, as a beginner, we strive to practice mastery over our mind. We don’t allow emotions to run unchecked. When we practice, we need to develop awareness over ourselves. Be in touch with our emotions. It may be difficult at first because we have ‘programmed’ our mind to response in certain way. For example, a young boy might be taught to react ‘bravely’ and stand for his honor. Over a prolonged period of time, he programmed himself to hit back at the slightest snub to his ego. He feels proud that no body dares to ‘mess with him’
After learning Buddhism, he learns the opposite. Buddhism taught about getting rid of ego. Being capable of holding back becomes a virtue instead of a weakness. Even though he practices meditation, he cannot control his mind from habitually being angry with the slightest perceived insult. In that manner, it felt as if there is an ‘inner demon’ trying to ruin his practice.
However, if he persist in listening to Dharma and practicing meditation, wisdom will develop in his mind. For example, he may become more aware of impermanence. He understands that all those ‘fighting’ and ‘defending’ of his honor is quite meaningless in the end because he is impermanent. Consequently, he becomes more tolerable and less violent.
When we practice, it is important for us to develop awareness of our inner self. When that happens, we are behind the wheel. We have more mastery and control over our thoughts,speech and actions. We become masters of our Karma (Actions). Thus we become masters of our future.
May all be well and happy.