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June 23, 2009


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Lauren Crane

"They" always leave us hanging. How, how, how?

Barry Briggs


(Actually, we're the ones doing the hanging. Thanks, Lauren!)


Wonderful! By transforming our problems into our inspirations, we can truly learn something from the ineffable. Nishijima Roshi said something like that. I've always loved that!

Great post, Barry!


"Actually, we're the ones doing the hanging"

By our teeth from a tree limb.

By our hand from a vine (hopefully eating berries) while mice nibble.

Molly Brown

Transform them into a path you can trust. Fabulous post, Barry. Very subtle but profound distinction there. I would say most people I know don't get that, the difference between your emotions and you're true nature. But then I guess to even begin to glimpse that one would have had to look into one's own nature via some serious quiet time (hahem...meditation). And most people don't do that.

Thanks for this post. Really important.

Barry Briggs

Hi Uku - Zen Master Seung Sahn used to say that our problems made good manure for a healthy garden!

Hi Lauren - Oh, those strawberries!

Barry Briggs

Hi Molly - Thank you for your kind comment. It's amazing what we can discover when we look. And, yes, meditation is one way of doing that!

David Clark

Is compassion an emotion? Are emotions a manifestation of attachment? Not to go all Mr. Spock here, but isn't it true that emotions engender a kind of blindness. Certainly acting from a basis of such delusion cannot be wise or result in good.

Just some thoughts.


Barry Briggs

You ask a very good question, David. I view compassion as a way of functioning in the world, not a feeling-state.

Emotions are clearly feeling-states and, as such, flicker in and out of existence. We cannot depend upon them.

Compassion, however, allows us to function beneficially, no matter what the feeling-state might be. For example, as I've written before, loving-anger is a state in which the fierce energy of the anger feeling-state is used to benefit others.

My reading of the passage in today's post is that, since we fabricate feeling-states, we must accept responsibility for them - and not let them wreak havoc.

Lauren Crane

"as a way of functioning in the world, not a feeling-state."

Nice point. Is love a "feeling" or is love a verb? Never though the same way about compassion.

Perhaps empathy is the feeling and compassion is the verb?.... gotta love semantics.

Barry Briggs

Hi Lauren - If love is a feeling, then it's no wonder that so many marriages fail. Because those feelings we call love tend to fade away when the hormones settle down.

The Buddha taught the Brahma Viharas - Loving-kindness, compassion, empathy (sympathetic joy) and equanimity as ways of being in the world - of relating to the world with responsibility and commitment. In my understanding of the Brahma Viharas, he didn't view them as feeling-states but as function-states (to coin a phrase) that reflect how we relate to others.

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