Attention and Emotions

By Matthieu Ricard on April 25, 2009

Attention is a quality that is indispensable to the attainment of our goals, whether they are oriented to the world and others, or focused inwardly to self- transformation. When attention is focused, directed, free from bias, and sharpened by penetrating insight and logical investigation, it will help to ascertain reality correctly.  When attention is permeated with wholesome mental states, such as altruism and compassion, it will strengthen these states and help them to fully develop.

However, when attention is colored by afflictive emotions, such as hatred, desire, arrogance and jealousy, it reinforces these afflictions and distorts our perception of reality. This will result in biases that cause us to perceive objects of our desire as 100% desirable and objects of our repulsion as 100% abhorrent.

Attention remains a tool that can be used both in constructive and destructive ways. Attention is colored by the motivation that underlies it, like a crystal what takes the color of the cloth upon which it is laid. To qualify as a wholesome quality, attention needs to be combined with an altruistic motivation and with insight.

(to be continued)