Friday, September 07, 2007

hatred, craving, and delusion

I just started Destructive Emotions, and I'm riveted. It documents a mutli-day conversation between the Dalai Lama and a handful of top neuroscietists about destructive emotions. In Buddhism the three really destructive, corrosive emotions are hatred, craving, and delusion. I'm not at all trained in Buddhism, but here is my take on these three:

  • hatred is pretty clear--that horrible, soul-overtaking rage and loathing of someone or something.
  • craving is fixating on something, obsessing about it. I read once the Buddhist expression "happiness is not wanting", which I've found to be true--the more I want something and focus on it and chase after it the more miserable I make myself. This isn't to say I never want anything or pursue something. I'm talking about the next level, where obsessing about the thing eats away at me, takes over my thoughts day and night.
  • delusion--perhaps my 'favorite' because it's been the most enlightening for me. Some years back I embarked on a course of what I like to call "emotional surgery" where I cleaned out some dead wood I'd accumulated over the years. One thing that came up over and over was what I called dishonesty, or delusion, where I consciously or unconciously distorted the truth about a situation. I may have thought I was doing myself a favor but this distortion inevitably led to some resentment and misery on my part. To give a small, perhaps trivial example, if I go into a shop and the clerk is rude to me, I previously would leave the shop and be angry the rest of the day about how that clerk was rude to ME, and trying to ruin my day. It's a very self-centered way of viewing the world. The fact is I have no idea what was going on with the clerk (family or health problems? who knows!) and I could choose not to take it personally. There are a million more examples, but they all tend to revolve around me adding a layer of interpretation or meaning to something, and this delusion, or untruth was the source of much of my unhappiness.

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