Wisdom Spotlight

By Samye Institute

Wisdom Spotlight - Issue #1 - The Five Negative Emotions

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Wisdom Spotlight

March 9 · Issue #1 · View online

A monthly spotlight on Dharma education and practice resources from Samye Institute.


This month we are pleased to begin a series of monthly newsletters, each of which will feature a different topic. We hope that by highlighting these topics we can encourage you to study and reflect on these important themes…
Dear Dharma Friend,
Phakchok Rinpoche often speaks on the Five Negative Emotions. These are the disturbing mental states which are based on confusion and result in actions harmful to oneself and others. These emotions are called kleshas in Tibetan. In Sanskrit, klesha means poison. Calling the kleshas negative however is misleading as it causes us to think that all unpleasant emotions like sadness or grief are negative. Better yet is to consider ‘negative’ as meaning unwholesome- states of mind that are an obstacle to the development of wisdom and compassion. Wholesome then means those states which are the causes and conditions for wisdom and compassion. On the other hand, the grief which arises when a loved one dies is painful but can actually increase our compassion for others.
On a side note, “emotions” in Buddhist psychology are considered thought formations or mental events usually with a physical or sensory component. “Feelings” are the preferential responses of like, dislike, indifference. Feelings usually arise before a conceptual thought does.
The Kleshas and How They Manifest
The five major kleshas are: attachment, anger, pride, jealousy, ignorance. These states are wired into us as humans. Everyone experiences them, albeit to different degrees, but thanks to impermanence they can be changed, transformed and ultimately eliminated.
The kleshas have many manifestations:
  • Attachment is also greed, desire, longing, grasping, clinging.
  • Anger is also hatred, aggression, aversion, resentment.
  • Jealousy is the wanting of what one perceives another has that one does not and is the basis of feeling inferior.
  • Pride is the feeling of superiority that comes from thinking one is or has something special.
  • Ignorance is not lack of factual knowledge but rather dullness, lack of attention, confusion, indecision, and doubt.
In the three poisons framework, jealousy is under desire, pride is under hatred. In some texts doubt stands alone as a sixth klesha. Many of the versions are very subtle and require deep attention to notice them. One can experience these singularly or in combination. Racism for example is a mixture of pride, jealousy and anger.
Working with the Kleshas
The kleshas are based on an ego state that functions on the erroneous notion of a separate self in conflict with the external world. When we experience them, we are in the midst of severe self-cherishing. Not only do they interfere with happiness and good relationships, their very presence makes it impossible to experience open awareness and Buddha nature. They are very rigid, restrictive, narrow states of mind. In this way the presence of a klesha informs us that we have lost our way. The extent and frequency of our kleshas become a measure of our meditation practice.
The study of the five negative emotions is found in the mind training teachings known as Lojong. There are many texts within this category but the most well-known are “The Seven Point Mind Training”, “The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva”, “The Eight Points of Mind Training, “ and “Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life”. Methods used for working with the kleshas include study, self-reflection, meditation, contemplation, and use of antidotes.
Fortunately, Phakchok Rinpoche gives us detailed instructions on how to work with the negative emotions in several selections on the website. Here we provide the links to these teachings so that you can review this topic in more depth.
With Blessings.
Ani Marcia

Wisdom Spotlight on the Five Negative Emotions
Truly Understanding the Five Poisons
Reducing Negative Emotions: The Power of Meditation
Reducing Ego: A Practical Method
Unselfish Meditation
Self-reflection on the Spiritual Path
Buddhist Science of Mind
Latest Wisdom Blogs
Samye Institute posts regular wisdom blogs, covering various aspects of Buddhist practice, ritual and education. Here’s what we posted in the last month.
Tibetan Losar: New Year, New Habit!
A Practice of Buddha Śākyamuni
Anxiety: Seeing Through the Spin
Reading Namtars
Antidotes for the Loneliness Epidemic
Educational Resources on Samye Institute
About the Author
Ani Marcia was a resident for 16 years at Rangjung Yeshe Gomde in California engaged in study and center administration. Prior to that she was a student at Green Gulch Zen Center near San Francisco for a decade. She was a midwife and midwife educator prior to her move to Gomde. She now lives in Singapore near her family and is involved at Ranjgung Yeshe Oddiyana.
About Samye Institute
Do you know that we’ve published over 500 pieces of content since our inception? On SamyeInstitute.org we offer a large archive of audio, video, and written teachings including many teachings directly from Phakchok Rinpoche.
All of these articles include key points and many offer reflection exercises or contemplations. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to or watch these teachings before, we hope that you will take the time to explore them.
We encourage you to regularly browse the archive or search it for topics that may be of particular interest.
Support Us
Here are a few ways you can support Samye Institute and it’s activities.
  • ​A regular or one-time donation - We are a non-profit organization that relies heavily on volunteer and donor support. You can either become a supporting member by making a regular monthly donation or make a one-time donation by visiting https://samyeinstitute.org/donate.
  • Volunteer your time and skills - We welcome you to form an auspicious connection with Samye Institute and to volunteer your time or skills. To view our application form, please visit https://samyeinstitute.org/volunteer
  • Contribute to a fund for retreatants - One of our deeply held principles at Samye is to facilitate and inspire long-term retreat amongst our global community. We have recently made a small fund available to support dedicated and serious practitioners who want to spend time in retreat. If you would like to contribute to this fund, please visit https://samyeinstitute.org/donations/retreat-fund.
  • Sponsor our monks’ education and living expenses - You can help support our young monks living at the Lotus Light Dharma Institute in Chapagaon, our artisan monks living at our Riwoche Monastery near Boudha and our Tibetan medicine doctors and students practicing near Boudha by visiting https://samyeinstitute.org/donations/monk-sponsorship.
  • Set up a local Dharma-stream group - Dharma-stream is a series of regular video teachings directly from Phakchok Rinpoche, designed to be viewed in a group setting. For more information about Dharma-stream and how to start a group, please visit https://samyeinstitute.org/dharma-stream.
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