By Kellie Schorr
“Kleshas are properties that dull the mind and are the basis for all unwholesome actions. The three main kleshas are passion, aggression, and ignorance.” Chögyam Trungpa. The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation.
As a child I went through a dinosaur stage so hardcore I not only knew each era by heart, but when I took chess lessons, I named every piece on the board after my favorite monsters.
Allosaurus was King, and Stegosaurus (my personal favorite) was Queen. Triceratops were my rooks and the knights were Spinosaurus because they landed on both black and white, just as the Spinos lived on both land and water.
To my mother’s dismay, I skipped right over the Barbie, beads and glitter pen stages and went straight to Greek Mythology. I even had two goldfish named Hera and Zeus. Of course, when I got old enough to read the real story, I discovered Zeus wasn’t really made for domestic bliss and would have been playing go fish in every tank in the neighborhood.
The next phase was comic books. That turned out to be my last first kiss. 40 years later, as my many Batman themed tattoos will testify, it was the stage I never left. I have lost count of how many comics I’ve owned and read, but I could look it up on Alfred, my phone, and listen to the answer on my computer speakers, Harley and Ivy.
Passion. I’m made of it.
I read passionately, I write passionately, I love passionately, and I live passionately. I empower every day with the fuel of a thousand fires burning in my heart like a giant furnace. In fact, the best compliment I ever received (that didn’t come from my partner) was from a dear friend who said, “You are so alive that when I am with you, I feel more alive too.”
Thus I was confused and a bit saddened to learn “passion” is one of Buddhism’s three deadly poisons and considered a cause of suffering. More learning, more reading, and I discovered the preferred translation for raga, a Sanskrit word, is usually “greed,” or sometimes “desire.” It is meant to convey an unquenchable thirst that grasps and clings, often with a consuming focus solely on the self.
Whatever the words we use to describe that poison, it should not be confused with our personal exuberant expressions of life. In a Buddhist culture where happy, calm thoughts and deep silent appreciation are exampled as the ideal, we cannot be afraid to live and learn out loud.
We should never feel the weight of judgement causing us to diminish our natural, liberating vitality. Passion is the combination of energy, interest, and action that can motivate us—to attend our practice diligently, to lean into a challenge with feet firmly planted in the “now” of it, and to study with such creative imagination we not only learn of the Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree, but we feel the silken kiss of the lotus that falls around him as Mara loses his grip on the light.
Passion is not something you generate. It grows from its own heart seeds.
Passion isn’t a goal, or a prize; it’s really a path. Our energetic interest in reducing our suffering and the suffering of others leads us to listen, to give and to lift. When you take your passion and you open yourself up to be with another person—to care, to invest—you get the following equation:
com =prefix “together” + passion = compassion.
When you take that action of walking together and move forward with the energy of care and hope—it gives you the direction to a path of liberation.
Buddhism at its most authentic level is the practice of being uniquely human—alive, embodied and open-hearted. Don’t stifle your passion under some false narrative that Buddhists are always surreally calm, rational people who breathe evenly and speak quietly. Be who you are, where you are, with all the energy and interest you have.
When people ask me what Buddhists believe, I often say, “We don’t believe. We practice. From our practice, we discover what we believe.”
My discoveries change and grow over time but one thing is clear. I practice, and I believe, with passion.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” ~ Maya Angelou
Editor: Dana Gornall
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