Two sides of each emotion

Buddhism says that each of our emotions have two sides- positive and negative.  While one can’t anything about having emotions and one has to live with them, one can change our reaction and outcome for each emotion. So for example, tranquility can be seen as a positive thing but taken too far, it can make us seem too complacent to be bothered about anything.  So as long as we are happy in our little world, we are not concerned about the rest of the humanity.  On the other hand, anger is seen as a negative emotion.  But it can be a force for good too. It can be justice, it can be a strong concern to change something in ourselves and others.

I mostly live in the world of tranquility- happy to live and let live.  But because of this attitude, I have been taken for a ride, people have cheated me and I have been hurt. It takes me a long time to be angry but I have noticed that when I am angry, I get things done.  Recently a second hand shop sold me a radio which was defective. I took it back three times and each time the shopkeeper said that it would work after I tuned in at home.  This has turned out to be false.  The man also spoke to me in a patronising way.  So last week, I got really angry- angry at both the man and at myself.  But keeping anger bottled up is also negative, so I used that energy to research and get myself a nice radio. I needed to respect myself.  No more going back to that shop and I am now back to my world of tranquility again.  But I realised that it is good to get angry (but not destructively) once in awhile and get things done!

Speaking lightly

‘The voice does the Buddha’s work’.

Our soul is manifested through the words we speak.  We may be nervous, excited, happy or sad- our emotions cannot be hidden when we speak.  Despite different cultures and languages, we share the universality of human tones – we can identify grief, passion, anger or any other emotion spoken in any language.  I have travelled to 36 countries and  although I do not speak so many languages, I have always been able to tell the emotion behind the words.  Our voices can be used to admonish or to encourage.  Mostly it is the encouraging, warm tones of our voice that does the creative and good work.  Sometimes we are so keen to get our point across that we lose the listener’s heart.

Like emails, words cannot be taken back.  I have heard people lie because they have been embarrassed by what theyhave said in a fit and then do not want to acknowledge those words later.  Words can hurt and stay in another’s psyche long after the speaker has stopped saying them or disowned them.  Through being hurt, I have learnt myself to be soft with words, to speak lightly.

The most powerful thing I have heard about last words came from Benjamin Zander, the British born conductor and music Director of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.  He was describing a lady’s experience of being in the Auschwitz concentration camp.  She was fifteen at the time and with her eight year old brother, on a train bound for the notorious camp.  Their parents had already been taken away separately.  In the train, the girl noticed that her brother’s shoes were missing.  She was angry at him, “You are so stupid.  Can’t you even keep your shoes?”  He did not reply, ashamed and she did not speak to him again.  She of course, meant the rebuke in a big sisterly fashion.  But those were the last words she ever said to him because she never saw him again.  When she came out of the camp alive, the only person from her family to have made it, she made a vow.  Her vow was to “never say anything that could not stand as the last thing [she] ever  said to a person”.

I thank this unknown woman for her wisdom learnt in harrowing circumstances and follow her spirit.