Maria Heim

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion

Published in print December 2007 | ISBN: 9780195170214
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199892150 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology


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Buddhism deals directly with the emotions as a chief concern of its doctrine and practice. The Buddha's core teaching of the Four Noble Truths begins with an emotional truth, that is, that life inevitably involves sorrow, suffering, and grief. Given their foundational concern with human vulnerability to suffering, it is not surprising that Buddhist traditions developed various systems of knowledge that explore human feeling with great subtlety, and advanced certain technologies to redress the pain in our emotional experience. In the various languages used by Buddhists, however, there is no term that corresponds exactly to the generic category “emotion,” and thus emotion as such is not theorized in Buddhist thought. This article reflects on how Buddhist thinkers have shaped human experience in distinctive ways through their analysis of affective life. It first discusses the Abhidhamma texts as the most systematic rendering of early Buddhist treatments of psychology. It then considers meditation techniques and their work with mental processes and examines the nuances of friendship and the social nature of other emotions.

Keywords: Buddhism; friendship; human experience; affective life; psychology; Abhidhamma texts; meditation

Article.  9023 words. 

Subjects: Sociology of Religion ; Buddhism

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