Buddhism and Peak Emotion: Chill, dude…

If suffering is the reality that Buddhism acknowledges, then non-aggression is the response to that reality, and most difficult. But that is what we must do. And that is the essence of Buddhism, non-aggression by design and intent. The irony, of course, is that that doesn’t require one to DO much of anything at all. Of much greater importance is what you NOT do…

Do NOT take the bait when somebody on Facebook forces you into denying something that you never really asserted—or at least never intended to assert—in the first place. Do NOT respond for the fifth time to some debatable thesis to which you’ve already responded—identically—four times previously (actual numbers may vary). Do NOT get angry about something that makes no difference to anyone in the first place.

Given that anger, or maybe at least a certain form of it, may indeed be necessary when someone’s life or livelihood is in actual danger, ferchissakes don’t waste the precious emotion over the price of rice in China, or the price of gas in Flagstaff. Yes, emotion should be a precious commodity, to be doled out judiciously and with mindfulness aforethought, not something to be tossed around willy-nilly like so many wedding invitations from a bride or groom who really only want the registry gifts.

But this is the hardest thing for a Western Buddhist to learn, that emotion is something to be avoided, and not encouraged. Defendants in western courts, after all, are expected to ‘show remorse’ and not just prove intent. So, it’s not a bad little trick to learn, TBH, because it might save you some time or some bucks, should you ever need to make amends for your wrongdoings.

But it will score you few or no points in Buddhism, where actions (karma) speak louder than words—or tears. So, the Japanese PM gets little recognition for multiple apologies for Japanese behavior in WWII, while the German PM wins the prize for Best Actor for dropping on to his knees at Auschwitz and crying profusely. It’s the dangedest thang. But that’s what we’re taught in photography class: go for the peak emotion! And so that’s what we do. And history bears witness to it all…