MCTB The Emotional Models
The Emotional Models are so fundamental to the standard ideals of awakening as to be nearly universal in their tyranny. You can’t swing a dead cat in the Great Spiritual Marketplace without hitting them. Almost every tradition seems to have gone out of its way to promote them in the most absurd and life-denying terms available, though there have been attempts at reform also. I must give thanks for the attempts, however ineffective, bizarre, mythologized, cryptic, and vague, that the Tibetan and Zen traditions have occasionally made in this regard, and mourn their nearly perpetual failure to make these issues clear. At least they tried, whereas the Theravada basically has really not tried in any significant way in 2,500 years so far as I can tell. If I am wrong, please let me know.
These emotional models basically claim that enlightenment involves some sort of emotional perfection, either gradually or suddenly, and usually make these dreams the primary criteria for their models of awakening, often ignoring or sidelining issues relating to clear perception of the true nature of phenomena. Usually these fantasies involve elimination of the “negative” emotions, particularly greed, hatred, anger, frustration, lust, jealousy, and sadness. At a more fundamental level, they promise the elimination of all forms of attraction and aversion.
As I am sure you can already tell, I am no fan of these models of enlightenment. In fact, I consider their creation and perpetuation to be basically evil in the good old “You Should Burn In Hell For Perpetuating Them” kind of way, though as guidelines for trying to be kind and behave well (training in morality) I find them of value. I know both what hints of truth they contain and also what a marketing ploy they are, and will attempt to make both aspects clear. This is not easy to do, and the dogma of the Emotional Models is so deeply ingrained in us all that shaking it can be the work of a lifetime even in enlightened beings.
The practical application of making this distinction is based upon the fact that we will try to realize the model we consciously or unconsciously adopt. It is extremely tempting if we buy into the limited emotional range models to go around imitating an emotionally limited state, repressing or ignoring aspects of our basic human nature. There are some benefits to repressing the manifestations of negative emotions while simultaneously being conscious and accepting of the fact that difficult emotions occur. However, if we repress them and also pretend that they don’t exist, this sort of cultivated denial can also produce huge shadow sides and a lot of neurotic behavior.
A far more practical approach is to accept that we are human, try to be decent in a normal sort of way rather than in a grandiose spiritual way, and to assume that reducing and eliminating the illusion of the dualistic split is possible through doing basic insight practices. Reducing the sense of a split can provide more clarity, allowing us to be the human beings that we are with more balance and less reactivity in the face of that humanity.
Additional commentary on the Emotional Models: