VEN. TRALEG KYABGON, RINPOCHE
Good afternoon. Yesterday we talked about the way in which we organize our
world view in relation to our emotions and we said that a lot of the time we
tend to think that our emotions are something external or else that they are
internal forces completely out of our control and that they overwhelm us.
However we discussed that this is not the case; that emotions are something we
actually have created ourselves, so that we would be able to relate and
establish relationships with other people. We will continue this theme
When we look at things in this way it can be quite an uplifting experience because we realize we are not victims of our emotions. On the other hand it's not such a comfortable feeling because it means we have to take responsibility for whatever we experience and we cannot blame it on others or on our emotions. Many times we have tremendous emotional outbursts and then afterwards say, "I didn't really mean it, something overwhelmed me. I'm really innocent". So this puts the responsibility back onto us.
Whenever we take responsibility we begin to realise that there is that much more freedom. In fact, freedom and responsibility are intimately related. Much of the time we want the freedom, but not the responsibility and this creates tremendous problems, because we cannot be free unless we're willing to take responsibility, and we cannot be responsible unless we acknowledge that we are free.
There are a lot of problems involved in terms of exercising one's freedom because of the way in which we make use of our emotions in terms of organizing our world, our relationships. Those problems come about because even though emotions are used for strategic purposes we begin to misuse them and so we are confronted with varieties of difficulties. This comes about because of the notion of self-deception. In Buddhism most people call it ignorance, but I think it's not a very good translation because it makes it look as if there's no help.
The notion of self-deception makes it clear that in fact we know what we are
doing, but we want to deny the knowledge that we
have in terms of how we engage in our activities, our relationships with others and how we make use of our emotions in relating to others. Self-deception, through use of emotions, is used to foster one's self-image and self-esteem. No matter what kinds of experiences we go through they are all orientated towards organizing our self-image, our concept of the ego. Even though we do that for our own self-esteem it often turns out to be quite self destructive.
So a lot of the self-abusive processes that we go through are mistakenly done in order to foster one's notion of ego. So the whole thing is oriented towards the establishment of one's narcissistic need and so that way every one of us is narcissistic and self-oriented.
We relate with others from two perspectives. The first is resentment and the other is guilt. Resentment means that we begin to acknowledge the importance that we feel. We begin to realise the limitations we have. So what we do is to be critical of everything around us and put ourselves up as the judge, who has the right to critize and justify one's actions and also be resentful of things that are beyond our control so that one is able to feel some sense of self esteem and ego. On the other hand we lower our self-esteem in the eyes of others and feel guilty and so we begin to criticize and condemn ourselve more than others do, so we nullify other's criticism. So when people come and say to you, "Well you're this or that" and you say, "so what. I know that". No matter what people say it becomes completely ineffective. So again it's a way of reconstituting the sense of self identity, ego.
Looking at the whole thing in this way we realise that the basis of all this is the sense of insecurity and feeling uncomfortable in relation to ourselves. Therefore all these emotions are used in order to solidify ourselves so that we can avoid feeling insecure, feeling that we are really nothing. When we put ourselves down it's really in order to pull ourselves up , so to speak. All these things then are related with defence. We are constantly trying to defend our identity, our ego. Self-deception is related with just that.
So we go through varieties of experiences because of our misassessment and
also inept responses to situations and people. The more we become unstable and
insecure then there's that much more need to go out of ourselves in order to
find our identity. Sometimes we go to the extent that we ignore what the
situation in hand actually is.
Consequently we begin to mis-interpret situations and facts. For example, a man who is afraid of women may become completely macho and think women are weak, emotional, irrational and so on and his life is organized around that concept. So any information which does not fit into that man's notion of women gets completely rejected. So he mis-interprets what a woman is really like. We could also take the case of a closet homosexual who goes around flaunting his manliness or even hassling other homosexuals. This person may have seen the feeling he has for other men but he's desperately trying to ignore that. Denying his homosexuality becomes such a big project that he goes around putting down other homosexuals. This can happen with hardened feminists as well. We can see a situation where a hardened feminist dresses up seductively and goes out and flirts with guys. One guy will flirt with her and then she turns around and says "see, you guys are all the same".
Meditation in this relationship is extremely important because what it does is, it gives us the opportunity to look into how our mind is operating, how we make use of our emotions, how we relate to others and what sort of image we have of ourselves and other people. As well as this, meditation enables us to look at the process of self-deception that is taking place continuously. In addition it gives us the space to be able to observe the process of the mind at a slower rate, like a slow motion movie.
Normally outside of meditation our mind is in such an agitated state that it's difficult to observe what is going on in our head. Of course people who don't meditate try to sit down and think - we call that brooding. Brooding doesn't reveal anything at all. It makes us even more caught up in the whole process of self-deception. Through meditation it is possible to see how we relate to different situations.
Distraction is also related to self-deception, i.e. we get so carried away with things that we lose touch with what is making us angry or what has made us feel so offended. It's like dealing
with the symptoms and not the real problems that are there. For instance we
can think of a situation where one evening you are just sitting around and
suddenly you realise your wife has not taken the rubbish bin out. Suddenly you
get angry and completely agitated. The problem might not be that your wife
hasn't taken the garbage bin out, but that you've been thinking that she has
been saying that she would do this or that. In fact she hasn't done any of those
things and lately she's been putting on weight and all these kinds of things
that you've been thinking about are completely ignored and instead you jump onto
something that is so trivial. Then we have a fight and of course afterwards we
make up again and so we don't resolve the situation which has made us act that
Paying attention to what we are feeling is extremely important. In fact it's much more important that simply expressing our anger or emotions. As in the previous example however, even though we let off steam we still haven't resolved the situation. The problem is still latent and it will come up again. Through reflection we would be able to make an assessment of what is actually making us angry and whether that anger is really justified at all.
When we begin to see things that way then we can begin to become clarified in terms of our relationships because then we start to operate with less expectation and less need, a little more openness and a little more understanding as well. A lot of the time we mistake need for love. We think we love somebody but it could be just need. We go through many feelings and emotions about somebody in terms of what it is that we love in the person. First we might think it's because the person is so gentle or good with kids until we find out the person is not gentle at all. Then we might think it's something else; that the person is intelligent until we find out it's not that either. So we focus on a variety of things. In fact it might just be a need for us to have somebody around. It might be as simple as that but we want to make ourselves believe that we really love somebody instead of thinking that we want somebody around.
So I thing it's really good to look at the whole thing closely, then we begin to have a real sense of understanding of ourselves and as a result of that, an understanding of others as well.