Kids feel free to fully express their emotional waves. Insofar as we adults experience samsara, we unproductively train ourselves to repress emotions. The compassionate way we listen to a child who is sentimentally charged is aligned with the Buddhist path. The religion suggests we must see ourselves as no different from children- fragile human beings who severely feel and need comfort. By acknowledging our suffering fully, we build self-compassion because we love ourselves enough to tackle subconscious inhibitors. When we radically accept our emotional states, we learn that they’re actually temporary and it’s detrimental to be so fearfully prohibit their manifestation. The Mahayana tradition acknowledges we must be patient so we can overcome the tendency to view the world with an emotionally dominated lens. We must work with emotions skillfully in ways that improve a given situation. The Mahayana schools all urge a practitioner to handle temperament carefully as a requisite for further practice. When we are less consumed by feelings, it makes us less stagnant and we’re able to engage in spiritual growth practices (i.e. chanting, meditation, visualization). All three sub-groups assert it’s crucial to condition ourselves properly so that we don’t cling to our emotions.
The Mahayana tradition views both the conventional world and ultimate truth as important natures. While non-Mahayana practitioners see the body as merely a vehicle for spiritual development, the Mahayanists highlight physical wellness as a strategy to manage emotion. The storehouse consciousness theory asserts we hold onto our past. We need to honor its substance, especially as we consider the trauma and other negative experiences we’re still attached to. While the mind and body don’t define the self, it is where our memories reside. Crucially, the energy that memory manifests can make the subconscious unmanageable, which indicates a need to release it from our systems. Exercise is essential to open up our muscles and produce endorphins which refresh our emotional states. According to Mahayana tradition, we live in a conventional world and therefore must acknowledge building strength in the conventional world will make us better conditioned to attain spiritual wellness. We can only treat others well if we feel confident with our own being and esteem is built from developing a strong body. Furthermore, the Mahayana tradition emphasizes a person must attain enlightenment on its own before teaching others, rather than being an arhat. We cannot learn to treat others well, which essentially models the path, without being in stellar condition ourselves. The Mahayana is the Greater Vehicle because it asserts the body fuels spiritual growth, and it entails a wellness requisite before one can reach enlightenment.
Freedom is defined by a state with no limitations. We create our own limits by clouding our perceptions with overwhelming emotions and characterize them as self. The Vajayana tradition supports empowerment via liberation from a deluded self-image. Lama Thubten Yeshe asserts, “the essential practice is to dissolve our ordinary conceptions of ourselves and then from the empty space into which these concepts have disappeared, arise in the glorious light body of a deity: a manifestation of the essential clarity of our deepest being” (42). The Vajayana branch proclaims we hold the capability to cure ourselves by chanting seed syllables. It’s a wellness tactic which uses conventional language to represent getting in tune with our own divine origins. Without understanding dependent arising, we cannot be compassionate with the self and eventually honor our emotional states. By prioritizing factors responsible for perpetuating hatred and delusion, we start to genuinely love ourselves. The Tantra “challenges us to view ourselves and all others as transcendentally beautiful,” which can be so difficult at emotionally overwhelming moments (42). Without recognizing our state of mind as dynamic, we cannot see ourselves as anything besides our emotions and cannot manifest inner light that energizes us to rise.
Zen thought acknowledges untamed severe emotional waves is a major delusional inhibitor. Hoofprint of the Ox demonstrates we only understand the world the way we see it, which is currently samsara. Despite a whole ocean’s existence, all we can ever see is the waves immediately in front of us. While desire to define what is not known as problematic, the decision to no longer be caught up in current delusion creates openness. If we push ourselves to see our emotions as a temporary existence, we step outside them and engage intimately with our surroundings. Dogen’s Fundamental Point illustrates we’re not able to do so without envisioning that there is a reality we cannot see (71). When we get caught up in the word definitions, we see samsara and nirvana as vastly separated. However, we haven’t yet experience nirvana as unenlightened beings, so a honest outlook entails we cannot truly define it. Hoofprint of the Ox explains the boundary between nirvana and samsara is delusion. Therefore, the emotions which delusion dependently arise from is crucial to deal with and eventually cease. Zen wellness practices, such as developing intimacy with one’s natural habitat, recognize we must tend to emotional discomfort which produces illusion before moving forward. Aligning with natural air patterns via meditation is quite soothing to the Zen practitioner. It’s the way a person feels empowered because it’s a healthy escape from the conventional world. Frankly, it’s the extent to which the Zen Buddhist is willing to dive into a straight-forward treatment for emotional turmoil because the cause-effect chain doesn’t truly exist. However, the concrete strategy nourishes direct experience.
The Pure Land branch emphasizes consistent devotion to exist within a superior realm, which is not possible to attain if we see ourselves as capable with debilitating emotions. It impacts the practice negatively, as Yeshe attests, “the lower our opinion of our own potential, the more pitiful are the prayers that we make. As long as we remain wrapped in our own self-pity it is questionable how much benefit we can receive”. In order to reach the Pure Land, we must chant with genuine passion for Buddhas and their teachings, rather than use it as a distraction from our emotional struggles. The Pure Land thought holds that we must practice consistent devotion, and one way to do that is attempt to create conditions for ourselves on earth which resemble the Pure Land. The Buddhas model this notion as they create fields before transcendence into the alternative realm. Being overwhelmed by our emotional states often causes humans to isolate, which is totally opposite of the conditions existing in the Pure Land. It is detrimental. A beautiful characteristic within the idealized pure land realm is that a being is surrounded by others who are serious spiritual growth practitioners. With awareness, we can decide to join supportive communities in the earthly realm that makes us not experience struggle alone. Therefore, emotions are less overwhelming and we’re less afraid to confront them completely. Although the individuals are different from others in the Pure Land, the intentional action still strengthens faith in the Buddhist path.
Devoting moments to see our emotions completely, and then recognize them as impermanent, is crucial. When others are vulnerable with us, we respect their courage. It works similarly with welcoming our own subconscious substance to the surface. Emotional unawareness is a detrimental choice we make. Consistent failure to acknowledge emotion may result in destructive dissociative psychological states. All three branches within Mahayana thought agree being open to our own emotional patterns creates an intimate relationship with our perception. The transformation illustrated in this essay is necessary to see actual reality.