Sunday, November 16, 2008

Management of Emotions (情绪处理)

I would like to talk about a Zen Buddhist Master today, Master Godwin. When I came to know about him and wished to learn more about him, I realized that he had already passed away. Master Godwin was a Hinayana practitioner born in Sri Lanka. He had a very pleasant look. He taught mainly meditation and mind training.

Master Godwin was born in 1932 and passed away at the age of 68. He lived in the same period as Master Osho who was born in 1931. Master Godwin was one year younger than Master Osho. Master Osho passed away in 1990, whereas Master Godwin passed away in 2000. Master Godwin lived 9 years longer than Master Osho in this world. Unfortunately, Master Godwin also passed away too early, like Master Osho.

I read his book entitled “Life is My Teacher” and found it great! Unfortunately, he left us too early. He had a famous line - “Life is a house. Life is my teacher.”
Master Godwin learnt from a few Hinayana teachers who were all enlightened masters. Finally, he told his student, actually, the true master is “life”. Although he had several teachers but he finally realized that life was actually his true teacher.
He founded many meditation centres around the world, with some of them built deep in the hilly places in Hong Kong. He left behind many golden teachings, some of which I will share with you tonight. Chapter 1: Why is meditation becoming popular? Chapter 2: Breathing methods. Chapter 3: Compassion, joy and abandonment. Chapter 4: A sequel to Chapter 3. Chapter 5: One-day meditation. Chapter 6: How to apply meditation in daily life. And the final chapter of the book was a Q&A session between him and his students during the seven days of retreat.

Master Godwin was an exceptional meditation teacher, who taught his students very pragmatic ways of applying the skills of meditation in their daily lives. Some students asked him about the management of negative emotions and the answers he gave were splendid.

Sometimes you will be agitated by a certain event and become very emotional, unhappy, anxious and feel like throwing your tantrum. It is very crucial for a cultivator to learn to manage his negative emotions well or they might be blown out of proportion and ruin your own cultivation. The management of relationships between husband and wife, between parents and children, between colleagues etc is crucial. The management of your emotions when meeting someone you dislike is crucial. This is life. There are many methods being suggested in the book which I find useful.
The 1st method: When you are dissatisfied, unhappy, anxious and glum, you should remember this point – “Do not be surprised!” Why? You should tell yourself, “Because I am not yet enlightened, of course I will have unhappy moments. The occasional unhappiness is expected. There is no need to feel guilty about it. Everyone has his negative emotions.”

We should know that this is an imperfect world. Mankind will never reach perfection, including our inner mind. Sakyamuni Buddha once said, “Unless we have attained enlightenment, we are just a lunatic.” In the eyes of the Buddha, everyone is a lunatic who has negative emotions. As we are a lunatics, we are unable to see the true existence of this world. We see the world through our subjective mind, and therefore we will see only the negativity of this world. You will never be able to see the true side of the story. You thought you had seen the positive side, but actually you only saw the negative side and the insanity of the world. As we see the world through our subjective mind, we will end up in a state of insanity.

We may deny such accusation and insist that we are very normal. But in the eyes of the Buddha, everyone is insane without his own realization. It is likened to the world of blinds, where everyone is blind but feels normal, because everyone else is blind, which is the norm! However, when one of them regains his vision, he will realize that everyone else is blind except him - “Only I can see when the rest cannot!”

A Buddha has Wisdom Eye, who can see the true existence of this world, but the rest only see an insane and abnormal world. So, we should not feel too bad about ourselves because the whole world is like that. Do not feel guilty about it.
The 2nd method: The negative emotions give you a learning opportunity. We should learn to manage our negative emotions, find out what they are and how to manage them.

The 3rd method: Try to learn about the negative emotions – what are they? When you harbor negative emotions, ask yourself, “What is this? Is it a thought? Is it a feeling? Is it an emotion?” We should delve deep into the origin of these negative emotions.

The 4th method: When negative emotions arise in you, make a new friend – the breathing. This is crucial! We should not be driven blindly by our negative emotions; do not feel unhappy and uneasy immediately but start focusing on your breathing. Focus your mind on your breathing and you will not be pulled away by your negative emotions into madness.

The 5th method: Understand the negative emotions. When we feel unhappy, dissatisfied and sad, we should clearly know that the negative emotions will go away soon. Let them rise, knowing very well that they will cease soon after.

Master Godwin said, when you feel unhappy, say this to your unhappiness, “Please do not go away! Please do not go away!” You are trying to tell your unhappiness that “You can’t do anything to me.” So, it will just go away soon. You will find it very strange. Why so? It will not stay even though you ask it to. It will not! Why do you think it will not stay? For things are impermanent. Things will appear and disappear - this is impermanence.

You thought you could tell it not to come or not to go, when it actually cannot be controlled by you. So, we should keep an open mind to accept this as a fact of life. The Buddha taught us that everything in this world will appear and disappear - they are just as unpredictable as the wind.

The 6th method: We will know it when the negative emotions are no longer in us. The negative emotions are impermanent. Sometimes we may end up having strange emotions or unpleasant emotions. We will not be happy forever, neither will we be unhappy forever - it alternates.

The 7th method: Treat your negative emotions like a visitor; a visitor to your inner mind. When it is a visitor, we will have to play a good host. When the visitor comes, we will treat it well. When the emotion becomes negative, how should we handle it? You can say, “How are you? Welcome!” Be friendly, “Shall we chat? May I know where you were from, and what can I learn from you?”

When you are unhappy, tell yourself, “I welcome you because this is impermanence. I know that you will leave soon. Let me learn from you. What would you like me to do?” When you have such thoughts, the negative emotions will just vanish.
When the negative emotions are about to leave, say, “See you again. Please do come again when you are free.” This is the right attitude for treating the negative emotions. Welcome it when it comes and bid it farewell when it leaves. Only then will you not be driven blindly by it.

Master Godwin said there is a very profound teaching of wisdom here. The Buddha said the visitors (negative emotions) do not truly belong to us. Why did we end up feeling mentally perturbed? Because we assumed that they belonged to us, and that is the cause of the problem. If the negative emotions do not belong to you, of course they will come and go without you having to bother. They do not belong to us, they will come and go. You will not be able to catch them and keep them. When you understand this, you will know how to deal with it.

The 8th method: We will have to treat the negative emotions like our teacher. It is like a mirror, where we can see ourselves very clearly, and see ourselves getting angry. So, thank the negative emotions - “Thank you for making me angry!” You will need to learn this method to tame your mind.

Lastly, Master Godwin said, “Mankind is imperfect. So, there will be emotions arising in our mind. As long as we understand that we are imperfect, we will become humble and will learn to accept it. If you think that you are perfect, you will become arrogant. So, we should tame the negative emotions. In fact, none of us is perfect. Only a Buddha is perfect. If you think that you are imperfect, you will be humble and learn to manage the negative emotions.”

Master Godwin taught us to learn to observe our mind in order to tame it. When the negative emotions arise, we should observe them but do not stop them, and do not do any addition or subtraction. We, humans, have a tendency to add and subtract, out of attachment. When a certain situation occurs, just observe it; this is the only way to get out of the negative emotions.

When you are good at handling your emotions, you are an accomplished cultivator, because you are not driven around blindly by your emotions. When you are driven around blindly by your emotions, you will end up fuming for a few hours, three days or even three weeks. When you could see the negative emotions, they will vanish. Then you will end up being in a state of peacefulness, unperturbed, and you will make speedy progress in your cultivation.