(Prologue: I’ve got first-hand experience that a real understanding of the laws of karma can substantially change our lives for the better. I created this weblog to share information and personal experience with others. May it be of benefit!)
A few years ago I noticed that certain music evoked a kind of bittersweet longing, a particularly difficult emotion for me. It was causing me suffering.
I discovered that this particular music — a kind of Top Ten on my own personal hit parade — turned out to actually trigger deep-seated habitual desires, cravings….and it was mainly the negative ones that were triggered. So everytime I listened to these songs, it strengthened negative habitual tendencies.
- Roy Orbison: You Got it
- Bonny Raitt: Something to Talk About
- Huey Lewis and the News: Power Of Love
- Elton John: I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues
- Climax: Prescious (sic) and Few
- Melissa Manchester: You Should Hear How She Talks About You
- G. Rafferty: Right Down the Line
- Glass Tiger: Don’t Forget Me (when I’m gone)
- Sister Sledge: We Are Family
- Barry Manilow: Read ‘Em and Weep
- Whitney Houston: How Will I Know If He Really Loves Me
What is longing? I need to understand it.
I am grateful to get some insight into this longing and the habitual patterns behind it from a wonderful book entitled Transforming Problems into Happiness that discusses situations like longing as a fixation on desire; craving.
I contact a friend of mine, Randy Chakerian, the director of the Corvallis Meditation Centre, Oregon. He is also involved with the Prison Dharma Network, through which he teaches meditation and dharma to prison inmates.
Here’s a transcription of our correspondence.
Question: We hear people say “I’m longing for those old days,” etc. etc.
In terms of the factors that create and maintain our karma, what is longing comprised of? e.g. If I listen to certain music, it seems to trigger certain memories that I feel positive towards. But those situations are gone. I long.
Answer: For some reason the term mogu popped into my mind when I was thinking about “longing.” I Googled it (mogu) and up popped a page from the glossary of Jeremy Hayward’s Warrior-King of Shambhala. I can’t copy the entry because it’s a weird Google Books page, but here’s the URL .[Scroll down to devotion: (Tibetan: mogu)]
Basically he says mogu, devotion, is a combination of mopa, longing, and gupa, humbleness.
I’m assuming that it would still be a karma-generating situation, although the resulting karma would be quite positive [in the case of "mogu"], of course. As far as the nidanas go, I should think longing is a form of attachment, so it would be a “klesha,” albeit a somewhat benign one in this case [of "mogu"], but if that’s right that would make it, what, the 8th/9th nidanas [factors that create and maintain our karma]?
Question: You mention devotion. I think that something my ego has been devoted to in past lives has not been very positive. And that whatever it is is triggered by these songs. That’s about as far as I’ve been able to understand.
Answer: I’d say the problem(s) about “longing for the old days” are (a) it’s just stubborn clinging to habitual tendencies/patterns, and (b) it’s not relating fully to the present moment. I know that sounds harsh — there’s some sort of bittersweet comfort in clinging to past experiences, no matter how painful they may have been — but as Philip Whalen, the great beat-zen poet wrote somewhere, “This [very moment] never happened before” — which is always true, if you think about it…
Question: What exactly are habitual tendencies\patterns comprised of?
Answer: Two components:
- Kleshas (heavy emotions, including my “clusters of thoughts” idea)
- Karma (action) – body, speech and mind
My conclusion: I wrote the e-mail re the nature of longing to you because I noticed a few years ago that when I listen to certain songs, it triggers something that I don’t think is very positive. I need to understand what happens here. Would like to write a post for my ‘log on the nature of longing and relate it to my overall theme of karma. I ask myself What exactly is triggered?” Is it my negative karma\habitual patterns (or something)? After writing to you, I came across this quote from His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV in The Path to Tranquility, the reading for October 23:
“What is reborn are our habits. Enlightenment is the ending of rebirth, which means a complete non-attachment or nonidentification with all thoughts, feelings, perceptions, physical sensations, and ideas.”
Answer: and, one might add, complete non-attachment, therefore, to one’s past, and an end, therefore, to any vestiges of “longing…”
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