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Buddhadharma : Summer 2012
40 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2 0 1 2 of buddhanature, or basic goodness, all proclaim the perfect purity of whatever arises. It’s so important to hold this view because it gives us a sacred parachute when we’re landing in reality. When we relax in meditation and these repressed and unwanted elements arise, if we know that what we’re going to fall into below these relative expressions is this matrix of love and goodness and perfect purity and compassion, that will give us more courage to let go. My experience with people I consider awake is that they live with a fearless emotional gusto, a sense of passion and even anger that I have never seen in a nonawakened being. We shouldn’t fear our emotions. They are sacred. They’re actually the buddhas. If we relate to our emotions properly, each emotion is recognized as a deity. What we really fear, to come back to your question, is the energy, the power of who we actually are. GRACE SCHIRESON: In previous languages we talked about nega- tive emotions as demons. Now we talk about them as neu- rotic patterns or impulses. It’s important that we allow those demons to come out and play without demonizing ourselves or someone else who has them. Those demons are very much a part of our humanness. The problem is we fear the unknown. Once we’ve developed all of these patterns, they become the devil we know, and it’s the devil we don’t know that we’re afraid of. What will happen if I don’t protect myself in this particular way? What will happen if I don’t shut down? We really want to keep those protective patterns in place; we’re afraid to try what is unknown. BUDDHADHARMA: Is there also a reluctance to admit to our demons or emotional wounds because as practitioners we’re aspiring to this sense of no self? It seems it would be harder to grieve your childhood when you’re being told that ultimately there is no self. JOHN WELWOOD: Exactly. ANDREW HOLECEK: We have two fundamental fears. The first fear is the fear of the truth of our nonexistence. We’re afraid of emptiness. We’re afraid of egolessness, which is just another way of saying we’re afraid of death. So that’s the foundation, the fear that’s associated with the second turning of the wheel of dharma. But we’re also afraid of our shine. We’re afraid of our power. We’re afraid of our radiance and our luminos- ity, our majesty and our competence. We’re afraid of being a buddha. This is what the third turning of the dharma is about. It’s about how we relate to the luminous expression of that emptiness, which is where the emotions are. The emotions are one aspect of that radiant expression. JOHN WELWOOD: No one likes to relate to their own vulnerabil- ity, which is a form of one’s openness and luminosity. It feels very shaky and raw and dangerous to go there. It feels espe- cially dangerous for people to do that in a social context—to actually acknowledge their vulnerability to another person. In a way it’s easier to open oneself to the universe or to reality than it is to another person. I would love to see a Buddhist community where acknowl- edging psychological obstacles could be included as part of the path. We strive for these wonderful visions of dharma, like the notion of basic goodness, which is such a wonderful way of talking about our basic nature. Yet even in a community where we believe very strongly in basic goodness as the ultimate ground of everything, for many people it’s not a living experi- ence. Often there’s a pervasive sense of personal deficiency, the sense that I’m not good enough. We need to honor that in some way and say, “Okay, as part of the path of discovering my basic goodness I need to fully acknowledge and investigate my sense of not being okay, of not being good enough.” GRACE SCHIRESON: We have to start with ourselves rather than some image of what a perfect teacher looks like. As we become more familiar with those emotions arising in our- selves, it allows us to love. Not because we’re fearless, not because we won’t be hurt, but because we know we have a way to work with those feelings when we are hurt, and this gives us a great confidence in relationship. ANDREW HOLECEK: That’s right, and working with our emotions means relating to them properly. GRACE SCHIRESON: Yes, just being present with difficult emo- tions and patterns and allowing them to be without forcing them in one direction. There’s an expression in Zen, “turning away and grasping are both wrong.” BUDDHADHARMA: What advice do you have for readers who want to explore their emotional issues, or perhaps even figure out whether they’re repressing emotional stuff that might be affecting their Buddhist practice? Where do they begin? GRACE SCHIRESON: Well, I recommend that they talk to their teacher about that, or their practice leader if a teacher isn’t available. And if neither of those options are available then I recommend they find a friend who’s gotten helped in this way, and if necessary go into therapy. JOHN WELWOOD: One basic question practitioners could ask themselves is, “Am I using my practice to get away from some- thing, to get away from some aspect of my experience that I’m not comfortable with?” That’s a very deep question and that’s probably a good place to start. If your practice isn’t going Buddhism is about the development of awareness that permeates the body– mind and then offers itself to whatever it meets. Once we understand that what we’re working with is this universal awareness, we see that psychological exploration is not outside of Buddhism. —Grace Schireson