I’m confused. You and others say that all our emotions, all our feelings and perceptions are learned experience and are just a product of our mind. And that because they cause us suffering we know they are not ours, not our self because our self would not cause us suffering.
How can that be true of love? Or of feeling that someone or something is good or kind or true?
Thank you for asking this question, as it is confusing for many people trying to walk the path. The confusion is caused not by your lack of understanding but by the lack of clarity and specificity in my own and other’s writings/teachings.
Every label that we apply, whether it’s a good label or a bad label, is a product of our learned experience and is thus just a product of our mind. Such labels, have no inherent value; they are not intrinsic. And they cause us suffering because we generally always attach ourselves to these labels, what the Buddha called “clinging attributes.” With attachment comes inevitable frustration and suffering.
Let’s take love, for example. We meet someone and the person is funny or smart or good-looking or thoughtful or the sex is good or whatever and we put these perceptions together at some point and our mind says that we love the person. We feel in love and are often swept away by the emotion. It’s a very pleasurable emotion, until the relationship fails. Then, because we are attached to this love, we feel bereft and distraught and often angry. We suffer.
Typically what is really happening in a relationship is that the person is meeting various needs of ours … we like being catered to, to be in the company of someone funny, have simulating conversation, and good sex … and that is why we feel in love with the person. But as Krishnamurti wrote in Freedom from the Known, one cannot love someone if one needs the person, because need is conditional and true love is unconditional. One can only truly love someone for who the person is, not for what he or she does for us. So what we thought was love really wasn’t love at all.
Indeed, that is why there is so much divorce. People grow and change, and as they do their needs change. Because the basis of the relationship was meeting needs, when the other person is no longer meeting those needs, we no longer feel “in love” with the person. Ergo, divorce.
Right emotions and perceptions, on the other hand, come from our heart, from our true Buddha nature, our unborn Buddha mind. These are a function of Right View, the first of the Noble Eightfold Path. These are not dependent; they are not a product of our learned experience or our mind. These are not a function of ego, of not-self. These are not impermanent. These are intuitive.
Unfortunately, there is no way to talk about these various truths other than using the same words that have been developed to describe their dependent versions … love, right, wrong, good, bad. One sees this even in the term “Right View.” And so it can be very confusing.
Here’s another example. A well known Buddhist concept is that there is no right or wrong. Well that seems like a ridiculous statement. How can that be so? Look at all the evil in the world, all the people who do others harm.
What the Buddhist statement really means is that any perception of right or wrong that comes from the mind, from our learned experience, is empty, it is conditional, it is a product of our mind and is not necessarily a reflection of reality. To understand what is truth in the Buddhist sense, I can do no better that to quote these lies from an ancient Chinese poem, “Affirming Faith in Mind.”
The great way is not difficult for those who do not pick and choose.
When preferences are cast aside the way stands clear and undisguised.
If you would clearly see the truth, discards opinions pro and con.
To founder in like and dislike is nothing but the mind’s disease.
And not to see the way’s deep truth disturbs the mind’s essential peace.
Clearly, being one with your unborn Buddha mind is not to lack discernment. It’s that the discernment comes from the heart, from the Buddha mind, not from our learned experience and our ego thinking-mind. One sees the truth without exercising power of mind. And because these are not a product of our mind, we do not become attached to them, we do not cling to them.
So whether we encounter a person or a situation that we discern as harmful or joyful, we are aware but our mind rests undisturbed. We do not get agitated or excited. We do not take it personally. We have compassion. As the Chinese poem noted above states, “Thought cannot reach this sate of truth, here feelings are of no avail.”
I hope this has made the teaching less confusing, if not clear.