So it turned out that we had to participate a podium discussion following a wonderful lecture on “Pleasure and the Emotions in Tantric Saiva Soteriology” (18.6.2013) by Prof. Dr. Alexis Sanderson (Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics, All Souls College, Oriental Studies, University, Oxford). We were supposed to discuss “emotions.” The discussions made me think of emotions in a Buddhist doctrinal context.
§1. Which word in Sanskrit or Tibetan would best express what one calls “emotion”? Would tshor ba be a word pretty close to it though never coextensive with it? What about lus kyi tshor ba? Is it emotion? Perhaps all types of nyams (rasa) can certainly be called emotions.
§2. Can emotions or emotions-like sems byung can be a starting point? Of the many nyon mongs pas, many would certainly be emotions, right?
§3. How should one, if one is compelled to do so, define emotion from a Buddhist perspective?
§4. How does emotions arise? Think of: phra rgyas spang pa ma yin dang || yul ni nye bar gnas pa dang || tshul bzhin ma yin yid byed gsum || tshogs pa las ni nyon mongs skye || (adapted by Mi-pham from the Abhidharmakośa, and cited from memory). This refers to only negative emotions but it would apply also for positive ones.
§5. What would be the status and role of emotions in Buddhism? Certainly positive emotions would be better than negative ones? Can we say that there are also neutral emotions in Buddhism? Perhaps? If so, neutral would be better than the negative. But positive emotions alone would not be sufficient for causing the soterical breakthrough because salvation in Buddhism is not an emotional episode but rather an cognitive one.
§6. Some negative emotions (such as rāga) are said to be compatible with bodhyaṅga? What about dveṣa? I would think never! What about dveṣa in sgrol ba practices? Not even there!
§7. Is a buddha or the Buddha said to possess emotions? Well, it would depend on the definition of emotion and the Buddhology according to various Buddhist systems.
§8. What about devotion? There would be all kinds of devotions but generally positive. Ultimately : rgyal la sogs la chags pa phra.
§9. For Chos-thams-cad-rab-tu-mi-gnas-par-smra ba, all emotions will have to go away in the end.