Unwholesome Emotion

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If we want to learn how to transcend unwholesome states of mind, we need to make a start in understanding those little understood inner forces that we experience as undesirable emotions.

It is only through true understanding, that we may transcend the ignorance which is at the root of all unwholesome emotions.

Here only two examples of some unwholesome emotion and how the understanding of it can help to overcome (/transcend) it.


These mental factors may be said to belong to vibrating bhavanga…The awareness thereof arising only when the bhavanga is temporarily arrested and a mind-door cognitive process started (what we would call introspection) …Having become aware of this emotion, if that person received some wise instruction or learned some good teaching, …there arises the possibility for that person to process that emotion rightly, thus developing a faculty (5 spiritual faculties: faith (in the good teaching/instruction, effort (to practice), mindfulness (as to how to proceed), wisdom and if these become developed, samadhi)….A faculty, that becomes capable of responding to this unwholesome emotion.

…becoming more and more capable of processing the emotion and developing it into faculty,…a person makes progress in his religion or his chosen path…His character (bhavanga) will be less burdened, more lofty…and more in tune with beings of a bright, lofty nature (as f.ex. heavenly beings, noble beings)…

Having not received any good instructions, having not received any good teachings…these mental factors will lead to prolonged suffering and prolonged becoming in spheres of existence of a lower nature.

Analysis according to Dependent Origination

These factors are called Nama dhamma,….they arise with (an unwholesome) consciousness as condition, which is fortified by formations (kammic formations)…which in turn is fortified by the ignorance inherent in worldly existence….Having seen, heard, tasted, smelled, felt, cognised an object, …in a way that was uninformed by the Dhamma (that is with ignorance, craving, clinging)…these unwholesome Nama dhammas arise…if registered in an unskillful manner (uninformed by Dhamma), these will lead to greater attachment and prolonged becoming (thus forming a deeper sankhara), which in turn will inform consciousness in a like manner,…because of which more unskillful, unwholesome Nama dhammas will arise,…thus starting another circle (another round)

Both the emotion itself as well as each factor has its own history,….remember how many times in life did you felt guilty or self-hate…how many times in life did you feel confused, helpless or simply not at ease….reflecting/ seeing in this way…one becomes disenchanted, fearful and afraid of a life without clarity, …of a life in which one does not have control over ones emotions,…of a life in which one does not have control over ones mind….the determination arises to live a life devoted to mental development…devoted to a spiritual path

Seeing thus one may start to develop the 4 satipatthanas, the 7 enlightenment factors, etc.

…in that case, the painful incident could be considered the decisive-support condition (upanissaya paccaya) for the development of the path…for the development of mindfulness

Of course an analyses of this sort is more for the psychologist and perhaps very devoted meditators and not for everyone ¹…an initial good advise to an ordinary lay person would be perhaps to do some charitable work related to helping animals (such as adopting an homeless animal etc.)… and then for a spiritually more advanced person to practice metta meditation directed to a goal of feeling one with all ‘sinners’ , with all people who through one reason or another feel guilty of something ….but feeling one with them on a level of metta, loving kindness, non-judgementalness²

alternatively such analysis can be used by a ‘wise helper’, as an entrance into the sufferers mind…for the purpose of helping to relieve the suffering (to bring about disappearance condition of that emotional problem) …as well it might be a useful kind a of knowledge for a meditation teacher aiming to become such a ‘wise helper’ (although we know, such is not the aim of every meditation teacher)

…Working thus with such kamma-vipaka, a person will develop a faculty that becomes capable of responding appropriately towards any such type of life-experiences.
² Generally a normal person who has some capacity to attain higher levels of concentration will use that concentration to light up some issues of personal interest, he won’t be able to sustain a metta concentration on many other beings etc. unless he saw anger as a serious and dangerous problem of his.

Another Example

A person is pushed by life into some corner …as the result of which many confusions and anxieties arise..looking at them (looking at the unpleasant feelings, looking at the unwholesome mental factors and in which direction they are pointing) even for short time, ….not allowing himself/herself to get pushed here and there (or to run wild into imagination)…a strong desire may arise to strengthen his/her mind …to rise above these threatening conditions and to never again be only pushed around by life…..reflecting in this way he may seek a spiritual path…a path that leads out of the suffering of the world.

Realising the unsolvableness of the situation, he may learn first to pull away his mind from the strong impacts coming from the 5 senses….and thus attain Jhana…realising that even this haven is impermanent, he might train further for the cutting off of all bonds and for the attainment of all insights necessary to an unshakable, permanent liberation.


Noticing that you got cheated or tricked,….

……instead of running wild seeking revenge, you look at the painful feeling, you look at the anger, you look at the restlessness ….directing your mind thus inwardly (mind-door adverting) …..you may ask “why?”…

understanding that the cause was more or less your own weakness…. ….you collect yourself and determine to get stronger…..so that such thing can not happen again in the future,

….having such psychological perspective on life….everything that happens in life will make that person stronger (and wiser).

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