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.
In addition to summarizing key concerns in Theravāda Buddhist Economics by scholars such as E. F. Schumacher and the Thai monk Payutto, this essay explores how descriptions of the West, Western development, and the “science” of economics serves in that literature to construct Occidentalist versions of Southeast Asian traditionalism and religious orthodoxy. It then introduces the previously unstudied work of Shérab Tendar, a prominent Tibetan Buddhist scholar in the contemporary People’s Republic of China who has written prodigiously on what he considers to be a scripturally based Mahāyāna and Tantric Buddhist Economics. Comparing these three influential iterations of Buddhist Economics, this essay argues that this movement has less to do with economics proper than with what I call trans-Buddhist “scales of value”: site-specific desires and measures of sought after outcomes that here privilege the economy and economic behavior as a technique for individual, social, and environmental well-being and emancipation.