As I was reading Lauren Nagel’s excellent article, Holding Space for Oscar Grant, I was reminded how difficult it is to process emotions without having a daily practice of meditation. In the heat of a moment, where anger and rage need to be expressed, trying to remember that these emotions have no significance and come from the sufferings of the mind, just doesn’t hold water. The Buddha taught that all beings, without exception, are endowed with “buddhanature,” the heart of enlightenment, and that everyone has the potential to fully awaken to his or her truest state; but when faced with the atrocities carried out by fellow citizens it is an extremely hard lesson to remember.
Although the buddhanature is the natural state of our mind, we nevertheless experience various forms of confusion, disturbing emotions and uncertainty, what in Buddhist teachings are called the three kleshas, or root mental afflictions.
Greed: Grasping, attachment, clinging, fear of losing.
Hatred: Ill will, aggression, aversion, fear of being opposed.
Delusion: Illusion, ignorance, lack of awareness, fear of seeing the truth.
These mental afflictions block the perception of our true nature and are the cause for all actions that are harmful to ourselves and to others. The offspring of these root afflictions are fear, jealousy, anger, and avarice. Each one feeds off the other as one thought builds into the next and then the next thought. As long as your mind is ruled or controlled by the thoughts that pass through it, you will suffer from fear and the root mental afflictions. It is only after coming to understand your true nature that you can begin to free yourself of fear. However, you will need control of your mind in order to release the hold of your mental afflictions. And this is where a meditation practice is helpful.