In Buddhist thought, there are three main premises to moving beyond negative states of mind. His Holiness the Dalai Lama discusses these in ‘The Art of Happiness’:
The first premise is that all ‘deluded’ states of mind, all afflictive emotions and thoughts, are essentially distorted, and that they are rooted in misperceiving the actual reality of the situation.
Perception is key. How we perceive reality is our reality. We throw subjective judgements around like rain. How could that person do that? I would never wear that. I don’t like that color. What an idiot! But, are we right? No, we are ignorant and assume we’re right because we don’t want to face our ignorance. Turn on the TV and shove another piece of pizza in the microwave.
No matter how powerful, deep down these negative emotions have no valid foundation. They are based on ignorance. On the other hand, all the positive emotions or states of mind, such as love, compassion, insight, and so on have a solid basis…all these positive states of mind have the quality that you can enhance their capacity and increase their potential to a limitless degree, if you regularly practice them through training and constant familiarity….
The second premise:
Now this brings us to the second premise on which we base the claim that our negative emotions can be rooted out and eliminated. This premise is based on the fact that our positive states of mind can act as antidotes to our negative tendencies and delusory states of mind. So, the second premise is that as you enhance the capacity of these antidotal factors, the greater their force, the more you will be able to reduce the force of the mental and emotional afflictions….
And the third:
The third premise is that the essential nature of mind is pure. It is based on the belief that the underlying basic subtle consciousness is untainted by the negative emotions. Its nature is pure, a state which is referred to as the ‘mind of Clear Light’. That basic nature of the mind is also called Buddha Nature. So, since the negative emotions are not an intrinsic part of this Buddha Nature, there is a possibility to eliminate them and purify the mind.
And in conclusion:
So it is on these three premises that Buddhism accepts that the mental and emotional afflictions ultimately can be eliminated through deliberately cultivating antidotal forces like love, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness, and through various practices such as meditation.
Fascinating stuff. Go get this book. It’s a great read. Right after you work out, of course! 😉