Negative emotions are our true enemies

Yesterday I found an excellent and brief explanation of the destructive nature of negative emotions in the book The World of Tibetan Buddhism by the 14th Dalai Lama. He writes:

“To aid us in considering the destructive nature of the delusions and the undesirablity of their effects, I will quote from the Bodhicharyavatara. In the fourth chapter,  entitled “Conscientiousness,” Santideva explains that delusions such as hatred, anger, attachment, and jealousy, which reside within our minds, are our true enemies.

The World of Tibetan Buddhism by the 14th Dalai Lama

As can be seen from the following two verses, he states that these enemies do not have physical bodies with legs and arms, nor do they hold weapons in their hands; instead, they reside in our minds and afflict us from within. They control us from within and bind us to them as their slaves. Normally, however, we do not realize that these delusions are our enemies and so we never confront or challenge them. Since we do not challenge the delusions, they reside unthreatened within our mind and continue to inflict harm on us at will.

The enemies such as hatred and craving
Have neither arms nor legs
And neither are they courageous nor wise;
How, then, have I been used like a slave by them?

For while they dwell within my mind,
At their pleasure they cause me harm;
Yet I patiently endure them without anger.
But this is an inappropriate and shameful time for patience.

Bodhicharyavatara by Santideva (Chapter 4, Verses 28-29)

Negative thoughts are often deceptive. They play tricks on us. Desire, for example, appears to us as a trusted friend, something beautiful and dear to us. Similarly, anger and hatred appear to us like our protectors or reliable body guards. Sometimes, when someone is about to harm you, anger rises up like a protector and gives you a kind of strength. It gives you a false sense of power and energy, the result being, in this case, that you might get yourself beaten up. Because anger and other destructive emotions appear in such deceptive guises, we never actually challenge them. There are many similar ways in which the negative thoughts and emotions deceive us.

In order to realize fully the treachery of these negative thoughts and emotions, we must first achieve a calm state of mind. Only then will we be able to see their treacherous nature. (p. 67-68)

You can find a limited preview of this book here on google.

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7 Responses to Negative emotions are our true enemies

  1. Desirée Nielsen says:

    Hi Bernie, thanks for you inspiring inputs and quotes! Sometimes, on a not-so-easy day, it can mean the world of difference. So thank you for that, and for all you do. Keep going!
    (saw the links on Rigpa.ning)
    May all the Buddhas bless you. Best wishes, Desirée

  2. Bernie says:

    Hi Desirée, glad you found the post helpful. Hope tomorrow (or maybe even the rest of today) will be a better day for you. Lots of Love Bernie

  3. Hello Bernie,
    I also thank you for putting this on. I will reflect on the negative emotion ‘fear’ today, that seems to be an obstacle for me these days.
    With love, Rita

  4. Bernie says:

    Hi Rita, I find fear quite a difficult emotion to deal with, too. It is quite deep seated and connected with our basic attachment to be physically and emotionally well, which we won’t be able to disregard until we are quite realized, I think! I remember when Sogyal Rinpoche taught on Loving Kindness practice he said it was taught by the Buddha as an antidote to fear.

    If it interests you, you can find the story here:

    And some simple instructions on how to practice it are here:

  5. Hi Rita,
    Fear is often a challenge for me too. I really appreciate this quote from Rilke that appears in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.
    “Our deepest fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasure.”

    While it’s difficult for me to remember this at times, when I look back I can often see the truth of this statement!

    Hugs, Sandra

  6. Dear Bernie and Sandra,

    Thank you both for your comments. The quote from Rilke, I have to think about it clearly to get the meaning. It is not clear at this moment just reading it. I will write it in Dutch and see what I come up with.
    And I will go to the links you gave me Bernie. Thanks!

  7. Bernie says:

    Dear Rita,

    this Rilke quote is also a bit of a riddle to me. However since Sandra mentioned it a few days ago I have reflected on it a bit. Here is an example that helped me understand my fears a little better:

    We have just recently moved here and don’t really know anyone. Sometimes when I see other people that seem fun and friendly I feel the wish to make contact. Generally people are very open and its easy to talk to people but I notice that this fear comes up in me of having an unfriendly response and being rejected.

    This reminded me of Rilke’s quote because in this example this irrational fear is trying to prevent from meeting new people. The fear is like the dragon and the wish to make friends with people I like the treasure the dragon is guarding.

    Generally I find it very difficult to become conscious of my fears. I usually pretend I don’t have any but I am trying to become more aware of them and I find it interesting when I am able to become aware of them. Good luck with your reflection on this quote!

    Lots of Love


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