Thursday, January 05, 2012

Emotional Distress

“The behavior of ghosts and harmers is weird.”
—Jigme Lingpa

We heard quite a bit about "emotional distress" in 2011, so it seems a fit topic for this moment’s notice as we begin 2012. Most of the groundwork has already been done for us by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. With few exceptions, Rinpoche understood more about Westerners and their neuroses (as well as their psychoses) than any lama before or since. 

Trungpa Rinpoche took many slices, but the one we want to acknowledge now is differentiation of emotional distress as possession by dons (there should be an umlaut over the “o” but I can’t find it on this keyboard):
“The word don means a sense or experience of something around us that suddenly makes us unreasonably fearful, unreasonably angry and aggressive, unreasonably horny and passionate, or unreasonably mean.”
Seems like an elegantly direct definition of what we call “emotional distress,” doesn’t it? 

So, when confronting these dons — and we sometimes see that translated as “spirits,” or more often, “ghosts” — we have deceived ourselves into believing our unreasonable fear, anger, aggression, horniness, and meanness are due to something external. 

Just as we grasp at the deity, believing the deity to be separate and apart from us, so, too, do we grasp at ghosts. 

We come to believe that our fear, anger, aggression, horniness, and meanness are discrete, justifiable, mental events that occur in response to something individual and distinct from our somehow “unique” being.

This is a common affliction among those who have yet to experience emptiness, and have yet to honestly exercise the compassion that naturally arises from that experience. Compassion need not be contrived; moreover, compassion must not be contrived. 

We see this all the time, and it is of course upsetting to everyone involved. Someone can be standing on a roof, howling, “I am so compassionate,” and then in the next moment, jump down off the roof and hide under the bed, whining, “I am so afraid.”

Thus do we quickly see their dishonesty. 

Fortunately, there is a complete cure, and that is to stop hiding from naturally occurring realization of the nature of one’s mind — stop fighting it off with all sorts of mumbo-jumbo, or scaring it off by grabbing and clawing.

In fact, many of us are hiding. Maybe we come out only long enough to see the psychiatrist, get some more back-brain depressant — or visit the liquor store or drug dealer for more back-brain depressant — and thus fortified, we scuttle back under any convenient metaphor like fat crabs under a rock. Oh! That would be a metaphor hiding beneath another metaphor, wouldn’t it? 

If we were to instead give the teachings our full attention, maybe this whole don business would cease to be adversarial. Maybe, instead of running away, we could learn to offer them tormas. While we are making those tormas, we might begin to think about our hidden and not-so-hidden neuroses. We might make a decision to cultivate them. We might issue them an invitation. If we are truly compassionate, we might collect them and take them along whilst we seek refuge.
“And we should invite them back, the ups and downs of those sudden attacks of neurosis. It is quite dangerous: wives might be afraid of getting black eyes again and again, and husbands might have fears of being unable to enter their home and have a good dinner. But it is still important to invite them again and again, to realize their possibilities. We are not going to get rid of them.”
Trungpa Rinpoche also wrote something else that seems particularly useful these days:
“Having offered your neurosis or taken refuge, you begin to commit yourself as a traveler on the path rather than as any big deal or moneymaker on the path. All these processes somehow connect together. And finally, there is no hope and no fear: ‘If there is hope, let our hope subside; if there is any fear, may our fear subside as well.’”
This is very good news for people who announce their fears to themselves, or the world at large, no matter it is legitimate or just another publicity stunt. This is good news indeed for depressed fat crabs who feel they are a “big deal or moneymaker” in the context of Buddhism as it was practiced in Tibet. Don’t you think it is better to be fearless? When you become truly fearless you can feed ghosts with no problem. You can invite them over for tea and sympathy. If you tell them to bring the gyalpos along, you will need more folding chairs than a Beverly Hills bar mitzvah.

The book we’ve been quoting from is Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving Kindness. This was published in 1993, based upon Trungpa Rinpoche’s earlier work with the so-called Kadampa slogans, in which he engaged from 1981 until a year before his death in 1987.

This is a great little book for beginners, and even better for those who feel they don’t need beginner’s  books.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

4 reader comments:

WoFat said...

Welcome back.

Zendette said...

Trungpa's slogans woke me up. I have a mini copy of "Training the Mind" that follows me everywhere.

Sebastiaan said...

Thank you!!

Diane said...

Welcome back...just learned you have returned. Thank you so much for your writings.