How should I have known that suffering is the mother of happiness and that beneath one disappointment lie a thousand treasures. How should I have known that life is in death and that what is desired by all lies in unreached desires?
—  Shaykh al-Islām Anṣārī

The 5 Afflictive Emotions

His Eminence IX Khamtrul Rinpoche

The five afflictive emotions are the source of suffering. They are: anger, pride, jealousy, attachment and ignorance.

Anger destroys our state of mind. When one is angry, one loses the power to reason. The antidote for anger is compassion and forbearance. It is impossible to kill all the people you hate, or subdue all of one’s enemies but it is easier, and possible, to subdue that anger within one’s own mind.

You will not become ugly if someone tells you so, nor will you become a thief if someone accuses you of stealing. One should practice compassion by understanding that the other person who is angry is not in a state of mind to reason and by adhering to what he says and does, you will also be doing the same to your own state of mind.

Humble and happy

Pride leads to unhappiness due to the fact that there will always be someone who will be better than you. When you realise that there is someone who is richer than you, better looking than you, more popular than you, etc. your pride is hurt and you become unhappy. You cannot become the best in everything so it is easier to be humble.

Jealousy is the thought that forbids us from enjoying what we have. We want more than the other person. In the process of worrying and trying to achieve what others have we cannot relish what we already possess. Doing positive actions out of jealousy turns the Dharma or positive actions into a negative thing. Because whether something is positive or negative depends not on how it looks, but on the good or bad intention behind it!

Altering perceptions

To rejoice in happiness and the good qualities of others is the antidote to jealousy and doing so will allow our mind to relax and enjoy what we have!

Attachment comes from ‘me and mine’ — my house, my family, my friend, my lover, my this, my that. The false sense of permanence is very strong behind the feeling of attachment. Also, we are attached to the concept of how we want things to be. When a person or things depart from that ideal or personality which you have perceived as a friend, father or a lover, then suffering comes. By understanding the impermanent nature of everything one can minimise the strong expectation from impermanent phenomena and develop a sense of contentment.

Ignorance isn’t bliss

If you are never contented with what you have, you are like the king who was never satisfied, and so Buddha referred to him as the poorest man in the kingdom! Let’s ask ourselves, “Why do have the five poisons?” Buddha taught that the main cause of all suffering is ignorance.

Because we are ignorant, we think that everything exists as it appears to be. Good and bad are reflections of our own perception. Someone who is a good friend and good person to you can be a bad person and enemy to someone else.

Ignorance of this understanding leads to the grasping of all phenomena as truly existing. As long as you have that grasping, everything will be…real and solid for you! It is like seeing a rope in the dark and believing that it is a snake.