In some of this weekend’s zoom meetings we have been discussing the relationship between or balance or how you handle strong emotions against the Buddhist principle of equanimity. This is the kind of challenge we all face from time to time.
We mostly agreed that, when emotions are relatively small - the kind of everyday emotions, you might say - then the methods that we learn, or what you might call self-power methods, of developing awareness, getting some degree of distance from what’s going on, putting things into perspective – these methods enable one to regain one’s balance and to become, once again, in charge of the situation.
But the really powerful emotions don’t seem to respond very well to this kind of approach. It seems to be not enough. When I say strong emotions, I am talking about rage, terror, grief – these are the big guys.
Maybe somebody is making your life really miserable and you are beside yourself with anger about it. It has been going on and on and on and on and on and the emotion builds like a great fire.
Or maybe, what they are doing is actually becoming deeply threatening and rather than the fire you feel the sort of icy terror about what might happen next.
Or maybe you fall in love with somebody. To begin it was just a casual affair, but then, little by little, without you even noticing it, you started to fall more and more deeply in love with this person and you are having a wonderful time and just as you start to dream about future happiness together and so on, the other person tells you they don’t feel the same and they are going to start dating somebody else. And suddenly you are plunged into this pit of grief.
So, these are the strong emotions. What to do with that situation?
In Pureland, what we would say is: you offer your heart to Amida. So, in your practice: Amida, today, I offer you my heart. It’s in bad shape right at the moment, it’s burning hot; or It’s trembling with terrible fear; or, perhaps, Today my heart is terribly heavy because I am full of grief. But I offer it to you. This is all I have got. This is all I have got at the moment, I am awash with this. I can’t control it.
So, I offer it to Amida, and I have a sense when I offer that Amida knows what to do with it; that Amida receives it kindly and Amida has a place for it in the greater scheme of things. I don’t pretend to understand this scheme myself. I don’t know. I am in ignorance. I am an ignorant being. But I offer it. This doesn’t take away the pain, but it does put it into some kind of perspective, and it gives me a restored sense of both faith and humility. Faith in the sense that I trust when I give, and humility in the sense that this demonstrates how ignorant I am, that I have not been able to be in control. I am at the mercy of these waves that pass through and I have to rely upon something bigger than myself. That something bigger is Namo Amida Bu.
Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much