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Buddhadharma : Summer 2008
53 summEr 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly started to meditate.” I laid the blame on him, exactly where I felt it belonged. When I got through the distress of facing this newly discovered wealth of anger, I found out that the actual freedom was in recognizing it without shame, with- out falling into it, without identifying with it. That’s what real kindness is. We can get caught in think- ing that kindness means that we can only smile and acqui- esce or be complacent and passive. We’re confusing action and motivation. We cultivate kindness as the basis of our intention, so that our motives are increasingly about con- nection rather than fear and alienation. To find what we feel is the best response in a particular situation demands mindfulness in a bigger context. Such larger mindfulness means it’s possible that we could come from a genuinely kind place and also have an intensity or fierceness in our actions if the context invites it. buDDhaDhaRma: So you would make a sharp distinction between mindfulness and hypervigilant management of emotion? ShaRon SalzbeRg: Yes, very much so. buDDhaDhaRma: Mindfulness allows for mistakes, does it not? One might end up expressing anger, as you did with Goenka, and some kind of discovery could result. If you’re in an intense relationship, like raising a teenager, you can’t go off and find a cushion every time an emotion arises. Trying hard to be skillful with every emotion at every moment... John TaRRanT: That would be the real mistake. buDDhaDhaRma: Often our strongest emotions come up with the people we’re closest to. If you’re raising children, for example, you have plenty of opportunities to see your emo- tional framework writ large, to see how often your emotions are a way to lay your worldview down on others. John TaRRanT: Yes, we seem to like to interfere with other people’s business. There’s an interesting way in which spiri- tual people, not just Buddhists, can be sneaky about their emotions, validating them by reprimanding other people, which is usually not a path to wisdom. Families make it hard to get away with that, and it seems you can’t raise a child without making an idiot of yourself. For that matter, you can’t love without making an idiot of yourself. It’s a perfect joining of things. It’s not a mistake. JuDiTh SimmeR-bRown: I was in a Buddhist-Christian dia- logue about ten years ago, and one of the longtime Trap- pist monks said with great pride that he couldn’t remember the last time he was angry. I muttered under my breath that he obviously didn’t have a family. If you create a bubble around yourself and think that having or expressing emo- tions is a problem, that’s a sad life. Our emotions carry our very best features, and as Ponlop Rinpoche was saying earlier, they are fundamentally wisdom. Chögyam Trungpa once said that emotions are like a game we started because we just enjoyed them so much, and then they got out of hand. We became afraid of them. But at bottom they are a vivid display of our fundamental wisdom and brilliance. We forget that we created them in the first place, because of all the extra baggage they carry. It’s a blessing to be in situations that drive you crazy, because it helps you develop a deeper heart. Being a wife and mother has forced me to take greater responsibility for the games I started. These people in my life who push my but- tons are my greatest teachers and dearest friends. I’m grateful that I can remember vividly the last time I was angry. PonloP RinPoche: Not all monks are angry-free, by the way. In my experience, the Vajrayana masters are always angry [laughter]. Ever since Tilopa, they’ve been shouting. I’m just kidding, of course. John TaRRanT: The Vajrayana tradition and the koan tradi- tion seem to me to have some similarities. You meet the surprise and wonder of life as it arises, finding out what instructions life has for you rather than what instructions you have for managing life. buDDhaDhaRma: We’ve talked about mindfulness and atten- tion to emotions. There is also an aspect of Buddhist prac- tice that has to do with cultivating certain emotions. Is it necessary to practice mindfulness effectively before cultivat- ing loving-kindness? PonloP RinPoche: I’ve been teaching three steps in working with emotions, inspired by the Buddhist teachings. The first step is to have a mindful gap. Usually when we experience any emotions, we just embrace them and become that emo- tion. There’s no gap between you and the emotion. It’s very helpful to notice, “Oh! I am experiencing an emotion here.” It slows down the speed and gives you room. Even in the moment when you experience the most destructive emotion, such as rage, if you can penetrate to its essence you find tremendous space and energy, luminosity. —Ponlop Rinpoche