Negative emotions such as anger, greed, and pride are the cause of all the suffering in our lives. According to the Tibetan spiritual traditions these emotions, which spring from ignorance of our true nature, are what have trapped us in the endless cycle of suffering known as samsara.
The teachings of the six realms, or six lokas, give us the means to profoundly recognize the negative emotions within us, clear them at a very deep level, and transform them into positive qualities that can empower and enrich our lives.
The knowledge of the six realms has for centuries been practiced in Tibet, particularly within the ancient Bon Buddhist tradition. In Bon this knowledge is found within the esoteric dzogchen teachings of the Zhang Zhung Nyan Gyud, one of the most important cycles of Bon teachings.
According to these teachings, every sentient being is born into one of six realms, each of which is associated with a given emotion:
The hell realms are characterized by anger
The hungry ghost realm, by greed
The animal realm, by ignorance
The human realm, by jealousy
The demi-god realm, by pride
The god realm, by lethargic pleasure.
As human beings we are of the human realm; yet, it is clear that aspects of all six realms are part of the normal human experience.
We recognize how the characteristics of the various realms are manifesting in our personalities, through our physical conduct, speech, and view and behavior of the mind clear these karmic obscurations of body, energy and mind, from the grosser, physical levels of experience to the higher, subtler levels of awareness transform our negativities into equanimity and other positive qualities. For example, love is the antidote to anger, just as generosity is the antidote to greed. Each negative emotion has its antidote, and each antidote is a doorway to one’s higher self, to one’s essence, to the joyful state of connection with one’s pure being.
Often, we fail to notice how a given emotion is shaping our personality and causing us to suffer. For example, we may come to identify with anger and remain stuck in it for years. But through the practice of the six realms we can become more fully aware of the darkness in which we have been living and begin to give light to that darkness. We can learn to guide our anger, tapping into its energy to move forward in our lives. When we are no longer blindly conditioned by our negative emotions and can cultivate their antidotes, our experiences of the realms can be more playfully and positively expressed. We can live more fully and productively.
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