Dear Aunty Shakun,
I love this topic (Dal Sabzi – ‘On Suppressed Feelings‘) , so I’d like to share to add to your reply:
Broadly speaking, I think there is a general lack of free-flowing emotion in society in general, partly result of necessary socialization and not because of religion.
This is because biologically speaking, we have an animal ancestry, we have animal instincts that are very strong. In civilized society, you just can’t express your crude feelings and emotions. You might feel like murdering someone, but you just go and do it. You might feel like stealing something, but that doesn’t mean you are at liberty to do so. A certain amount of socialization – a suppression of the cruder emotions – is necessary. Some of the emotions at work, say, the behavior of a cricket or football crowd just needs to be suppressed in everyday society. The trouble is that this suppression may be carried to such an extreme that the greater part of people’s emotional life is stifled – all the more so if their emotions are generally crude and unrefined.
In order to forestall the destructive expression of crude emotion, society conditions us to develop self-control. Someone whose emotions are very crude and unruly can start refining them by becoming a positively functioning member of society, assuming that the society is a relatively positive one. If you are lucky with the sort of family you are born into and the sort of school you go to, you can emerge as a healthy group member and a potential individual, ready for the next step. You need the socialization, the discipline, of the group to some extent before you can begin to be an individual. However, it is as though society insists on self-control to such a point that we get into the unconscious habit of it. We then cannot let go, even when occasionally society permits it, or when letting go feels a perfectly justifiable and positive thing to do. What happens is that the individual is crushed by too much control.
As individuality starts to blossom, we need to move progressively from discipline, especially unconscious discipline to genuine refinement of the emotions. An individual of high emotional development does not need external of even much internal discipline in order to behave in positive helpful ways. You can see that children are emotionally quite spontaneous until their parents start conditioning them!!! In adults, this is usually not the case. Very often, the older people grow, the more they become emotionally blocked and unable to express themselves from the heart. There are various reasons for the blockages: Worry, difficulties, criticism, tension can cause unpleasant reactions and blockages. One’s emotions are more likely to be blocked and one’s blocked emotions are more likely to be negative, if one does not have satisfactory communication with other people.
These are only a few examples, there are many. So this is a glimpse of the social background to the difficulty we sometimes experience in feeling and suppressing our emotions – a difficulty which can stop us from putting our hearts into the spiritual life as a result of it being blocked, wasted or too coarse.
Suppose somebody is engaged in an undertaking which he knows he ought to be doing, but does not apply himself to it very well and makes a poor job of it. Don’t we usually say, “His heart is not in it??” In other words he is not emotionally involved. If there is no emotion, there is no energy, no drive and for that reason the work is not done well. Our thinking centre can only influence our action centre through the emotional centre.
Fortunately these emotional blockages can be removed. As a first step, we can develop greater self-knowledge. I certainly don’t like to think myself as emotionally blocked, but I am nowhere close to the Bhaktis whose unconditional love are legendary and I recognise that I do not fully express the emotional love/drive within myself. So this is why pujas are important in that pujas are concerned with refining emotional energies and removing emotional blocks when we are engaged in it with faith and devotion, as is meditation. That is why sometimes in midst of a meditation or puja or bhajans, we can start crying, laughing etc. it is the releasing of an emotional blockage and its a positive thing (contrary to what society thinks – again the conditioning!) Like you said, People who have gone on meditation retreats during which there are extended periods of silence experience feeling more alive. I know I did when I was silent for 2 weeks in retreat. This is partly because talking in itself takes effort ..a silent person avoids wasting energy on verbage!!!
Another way of overcoming blockages or refining emotional energies is through the arts, poetry, music, painting etc. This is the easiest and the most enjoyable and natural way or refining one’s energies.
In a nutshell, to me, Hinduism and Buddhism, as a practitioner, are gradual paths of inner transformations to enlightenment to discover our Buddha-nature, Christ-nature, Shiv-nature or Krishna-nature. Unfortunately due to our own karma, we need to keep purifying our negativities until we can reach that state….
I am only writing from my Gurus teachings, own experience and observations…I hope this gives your reader some insights to help her/him on his/her path to liberation/enlightenment.
With much love and respect,