Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


Tsongkhapa on Choice and Emotions

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Emotions, Ethics, and Choice: Lessons from Tsongkhapa

Emily McRae
University of Oklahoma

This paper explores the degree to which we can exercise choice over our emotional experiences and emotional dispositions. I argue that we can choose our emotions in the sense that we can intentionally intervene in them. To show this, I draw on the mind training practices advocated by the 14th century Tibetan Buddhist yogin and philosopher Tsongkhapa (tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa). I argue that his analysis shows that successful intervention in a negative emotional experience depends on at least four factors: the intensity of the emotional experience, one’s ability to pay attention to the workings of one’s mind and body, knowledge of intervention practices, and insight into the nature of emotions. I argue that this makes sense of Tsongkhapa’s seemingly contradictory claims that the meditator can and should control (and eventually abandon) her anger and desire to harm others and that harmdoers are “servants to their afflictions.”

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Śāntideva on Justified Anger

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 18, 2011

Bile & Bodhisattvas: Śāntideva on Justified Anger

Nicolas Bommarito
Brown University

In his famous text the Bodhicaryāvatāra, the 8th century Buddhist philosopher Śāntideva argues that anger towards people who harm us is never justified. The usual reading of this argument rests on drawing similarities between harms caused by persons and those caused by non-persons. After laying out my own interpretation of Śāntideva’s reasoning, I offer some objections to Śāntideva’s claim about the similarity between animate and inanimate causes of harm inspired by contemporary philosophical literature in the West. Following this, I argue that by reading Śāntideva’s argument as practical advice rather than as a philosophical claim about rational coherence, his argument can still have important insights even for those who reject his philosophical reasoning.

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Review Essay: Destructive Emotions

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them? A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Narrated by Daniel Goleman. New York: Random House, 2003, xxiv + 404 pages, ISBN 0-553-80171-6 (hardback), $28.00.

Reviewed by Christian Coseru

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Tsongkhapa on the Results of Anger

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Cutting the Roots of Virtue: Tsongkhapa on the Results of Anger

Daniel Cozort
Dickinson College

Anger is the most powerful of the kleśas that not only “plant seeds” for suffering but also “cut the roots of virtue” for periods of up to a thousand aeons per instance. This article examines and assesses the exegesis by Tsongkhapa, founder of the Tibetan Gelukba order, of Indian sources on the topic of anger. It argues that despite Tsongkhapa’s many careful qualifications he may not be successful in avoiding the conclusion that if the sūtras are to be accepted literally, there almost certainly will be persons for whom liberation from saṃsāra is precluded.

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