Volume 28, 2021
Aesthetic Emotions: The Existential and Soteriological Value of Saṃvega/Pasāda in Early Buddhism
Lisa Liang and Brianna K. Morseth
Dharma Realm Buddhist University
Across the globe, our continued existence in light of present conditions is uncertain. Rapid spread of disease and risk of complications endanger the human population. Such challenging circumstances may shock and devastate us, inducing mass panic and pandemonium amid the pervasive threat of pandemic. Yet according to Buddhist philosophy, existential unease can also spawn deep transformation. In this paper, we examine a pair of aesthetic emotions (saṃvega/pasāda) from the early Buddhist tradition that together hold the potential to induce critical reflection and productive engagement in response to existential threat. By referring to saṃvega/pasāda as aesthetic emotions, we intend to draw out their distinctive, often visually-oriented soteriological function. While initially disorienting and perhaps even paralyzing, saṃvega and pasāda are ultimately reorienting and motivating factors on the path to liberation from the suffering entailed by cyclic existence.
Volume 19, 2012
Emotions, Ethics, and Choice: Lessons from Tsongkhapa
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.”
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