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How do you differentiate between anger and passion in your faith?

By Ray Innen Parchelo, The Ottawa Citizen June 13, 2010

RAY INNEN PARCHELO is a novice Tendai priest and founder of the Red Maple Sangha, the first lay Buddhist community in Eastern Ontario.

Ottawa, Canada -- Attending to emotions is central to Buddhism. As the Buddha taught, what traps us in an endless cycle of dissatisfaction is our indulgence in self-centred emotions.

These are referred to as the three "kleshas" (unwholesome psychological states) and include passion, aggression and dullness. All humans have these tendencies and face the challenge of either feeding these unwholesome states or their opposites. Indulging in unwholesome states generates actions whose consequences (karma) hold us within that endless cycle of suffering.

The opposite, wholesome states are characterized as The Four Immeasurables -- loving kindness compassion, sympathetic joy and emotional equanimity. When we cultivate these, combining them with wholesome actions, such as meditative practices, we support the kind of awareness that unfolds as spiritual freedom.

It is important to distinguish the object of passion as well. Passion ("raga," related to our word "rage") can be that choking, clutching desire that wants to have and hold, to seize and freeze experience. This strangles us in hopes of permanence. The Buddha taught us that there is no permanence in our experience and we need to be open to the flow of transient experience. When we engage in wholesome actions, we do need to bring a certain effort and enthusiasm to that quest. This, however, is not a grasping to contain but a determination to remain open to our True Buddha-nature.

Loving kindness ("metta") is an open acceptance of things and people as they are, with no desire to change, contain or own them. Anger is called the far enemy of loving kindness, a refusal or denial of things as they are, a determination to mould the world to our petty needs. Likewise, the near enemy of loving kindness, which masquerades as love, is conditional love, that is "I will accept and love you, if ..."

Buddhist teaching does not set us against any of our emotions, rather it reminds us that whatever aspects of our experience we feed will have positive or negative consequences. We are encouraged to cultivate those wholesome ones, like the Four Immeasurables, which will lead us to freedom.

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