Hello everyone! I've sat with a question for a few days and while I haven't found an answer, I have found more examples of this phenomena as my memory has tried to come to my rescue. My gut tells me that is a 'compassion vs empathy' issue but I've only just started listening to that particular piece of anatomy and we simply don't have the emotional equity built up for me to trust it. Anyway, it's this:
When I watch a scene play out in front of me that is emotionally evocative - particularly a touching, heartfelt act, I am prone to tears. Tears of joy, to be sure - but still...tears. I've never considered 'fixing' this as I've never considered it something that was broken. However, as I was putting around at home a few days ago, there was a running commentary in my head that went something like so... "I am breathing in, I am breathing out; the Buddha is breathing in, the Buddha is breathing out..." as I continued to putt around, the Buddha and I did a great many things all to a running commentary which was just fine until I saw a great act of kindness, was overwhelmed by the act and the tears came. "I am crying tears of joy; the Buddha is crying tears of....wait a moment!"
Over the last couple of days, I've recalled many instances and situations where I was moved to tears by an event while in the presence of a monk. In every case, they sported a joyous countenance, but I cannot ever remember them shedding a tear. Anyone like to toss me a bone and share (or speculate) why that is?
I’ve heard that beyond a certain stage of development you feel a kind of unspecified joy, but no other emotions. It’s not something I’ve ever discussed with a monastic though.
Oh, I have seen a Monk cry... during a Wesak ceremony... while reaffirming his devotion and allegiance to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, he had silent tears of joy coursing down his cheeks. He could not suppress a broad smile, and it seemed his heart was fit to burst, so happy was he in his chosen path. So it does happen.
He wasn't all that young either... even though that doesn't mean he had been a monastic for long... but he seemed a seasoned Brother...
Yagr. Could I recommend a book to you?
It’s called The Feeling Buddha by David Brazier who is both a Shin Buddhist teacher and a psychologist. His view is that the idea that Buddhism urges us to suppress our feelings is a grave a serious error resulting from the loss in translation that happens both literally and as a metaphor for the kind of misperceptions that can creep in in discussion involving peoples with a very different world view.
Braziers view is that we are not called to suppress emotion or deny our feelings, but to refine them and see them in their true context in our lives. He would see nothing odd in Buddhists shedding tears, both of joy and grief. We are not to try to become robots.🙂
Of course, and thank you. I have every expectation that the book shall be in my cart by day's end. However, I'd like to take the opportunity to clarify myself in the event I didn't explain myself well. I certainly understand that there is a tendency for people to make such an assumption about Buddhism, but did not mean to imply that I was one of them. In fact, as I've trudged, danced, crawled, and skipped down the path, my relationship with my emotions has only become deeper and my emotional range has expanded exponentially. Neither personal experience not observation of others has given me reason to believe that this trajectory shall alter with the passage of time.
My question was more about the relationship with feelings. I have no doubt that the Buddha would experience feelings more purely and potently than I do. My question was surrounding the expression of emotion rather than the experience of emotion. For instance, while I can't think of anything that someone could say or do to me that would cause me to put hands on them in anger, I have to admit that it is possible. On the other hand, I would not want the job of trying to convince me that the Buddha would be capable of putting hands on someone in anger. That would be a very hard sell, indeed.
I take your point. Raising our hands to someone would be to go against the basic Buddhist axiom of “ahimsa”.. but it does not mean that we should not acknowledge our anger or other emotions.
There is the story of the snake who became a Buddhist. He stopped killing for food and lived on milk. The local boys heard about this and took the opportunity to give him a good beating.
His teacher came by on a visit and found the snake covered in cuts and bruises.
When the snake explained how they had come about, his teacher leaned forward and whispered “ snake...no one told you not to hiss loudly sometimes”.
@Choephal - As a brief aside, I have always loved that story, and have made practical use of it on an occasion or two.
I couldn't agree more that we should acknowledge our anger and other emotions. In fact, I am in the middle of an incredibly comprehensive project surrounding emotions at this time. Part of my commitment to that project is, when an emotion comes up that is not checked off from a list of feelings that I've composed, I take my feeling to the designated cushion reserved for just this moment, and sit with it for ten minutes.
I shared here recently that in early childhood, I had disowned a number of my feelings. Recently, I had a chance meeting with them and invited them home. When I did, I discovered that they were definitely NOT housebroken, and had gone feral wandering some subconscious wasteland. So, today I am meeting them where they are at, accepting them in whatever condition they've arrived in, and giving them a safe place to grow and transform.
I shall probably continue to seek ever more skillful ways of expressing those feelings but am certainly not trying to stop them from arising or deny them when they do.
One teaching tear.
I remember when recounting to a senor monk of a grievous injury that someone we both knew had done to me, a single tear ran down his face when he responded with, "Can you imagine how hurt that person must have been to have been able to do such a thing"?
That one tear sundered my ego based victimhood as his wider empathy demonstrated how self centered my story actually was.
As others have already alluded to, I think it's not really about whether tears happen or not so much as how we relate to them.
We have to be real according to our current tier.
For example in the Sufi Dharma a high tear away from emotion is the 'black heart'. Like buddha, Allah, Thor, Madame Tara etc. not listening to our tearful entreaties ...
In other words the opposite of emotional engagement/singing/tearing joy etc ...
Most of us have barely glimpsed such independence. So the best possibility is empathic and compassionate deployment.
The 'weeping buddha' cries about being no-thing, broken, worthless etc ...
As we may have experienced, robot buddha is inhuman ...
Crying is not sentimentality, emotional excess etc, it is tearing into the fabric of our armour and replacing with amoré ...
Cue musical interlude ...
I have this book arriving today. Sounds right up my street...