Looking for suttas about managing emotions

Buddhism in the West is virtually all about managing emotions and leading to a good life here and now, but most pieces of advice are too standard: “watch your thoughts arising and passing away,” “practice meditation,” “give up attachment.”

I’m struggling to find some source that talks about emotions from an EBT perspective. There are just so many books on Buddhism and emotions, but almost all of them are mere self-help books or don’t base themselves in the early suttas. Of course, the Pali Canon is full of texts talking about sensual lust and anger, but other emotions like fear, anxiety, and worry are more scarce.

So please share your favorite passages about emotions and feelings that may help lay Buddhists. These are my favorite ones:


When you get angry at an angry person
you just make things worse for yourself.
When you don’t get angry at an angry person
you win a battle hard to win.

When you know that the other is angry,
you act for the good of both
yourself and the other
if you’re mindful and stay calm.

People unfamiliar with the Dhamma
consider one who heals both
oneself and the other
to be a fool.”
SN 7.2

Conquer anger
with lack of anger;
bad, with good;
stinginess, with a gift;
a liar, with truth.
Dhammapada 223


“Mendicants, a mendicant should use these five methods to completely get rid of resentment when it has arisen toward anyone. What five?

You should develop love for a person you resent. That’s how to get rid of resentment for that person.

You should develop compassion for a person you resent. …

You should develop equanimity for a person you resent. …

You should disregard a person you resent, paying no attention to them. …

You should apply the concept that we are the owners of our deeds to that person: ‘This venerable is the owner of their deeds and heir to their deeds. Deeds are their womb, their relative, and their refuge. They shall be the heir of whatever deeds they do, whether good or bad.’ That’s how to get rid of resentment for that person.
AN 5.161

“Mendicants, there are these nine methods to get rid of resentment. What nine? Thinking: ‘They harmed me, but what can I possibly do?’ you get rid of resentment. Thinking: ‘They are harming me …’ … ‘They will harm me …’ … ‘They harmed someone I love …’ … ‘They are harming someone I love …’ ‘They will harm someone I love …’ … ‘They helped someone I dislike …’ … ‘They are helping someone I dislike …’ … Thinking: ‘They will help someone I dislike, but what can I possibly do?’ you get rid of resentment. These are the nine methods to get rid of resentment.”
AN 9.30

"Therefore, O monks, if you, too, are reviled, abused, scolded and insulted by others, you should on that account not entertain annoyance, nor dejection, nor displeasure in your hearts. And if others respect, revere, honor and venerate you, on that account you should not entertain delight nor joy nor elation in your hearts. If others respect, revere, honor and venerate you, you should think: ‘It is towards this (mind-body aggregate) which was formerly comprehended, that they perform such acts.’”
MN 22


As I was staying there a deer came by, or a peacock snapped a twig, or the wind rustled the leaves. Then I thought, ‘Is this that fear and dread coming?’ Then I thought, ‘Why do I always meditate expecting that fear and terror to come? Why don’t I get rid of that fear and dread just as it comes, while remaining just as I am?’ Then that fear and dread came upon me as I was walking. I didn’t stand still or sit down or lie down until I had got rid of that fear and dread while walking.
MN 4


“Mendicants, a mendicant with five qualities is overcome by timidity. What five? It’s when a mendicant is faithless, unethical, with little learning, lazy, and witless. A mendicant with these five qualities is overcome by timidity.

A mendicant with five qualities is self-assured. What five? It’s when a mendicant is faithful, ethical, learned, energetic, and wise. A mendicant with these five qualities is self-assured.”
AN 5.158

Anxiety and worry:

“This mind is always anxious,
this mind is always stressed
about stresses that haven’t arisen
and those that have.
If there is a state free of anxiety,
please answer my question.”

“Not without understanding and austerity,
not without restraining the sense faculties,
not without letting go of everything,
do I see safety for living creatures.”
SN 2.17

"Monks, I will explain to you grasping and worrying, and also not grasping and not worrying… Here, monks, the uninstructed worldling, with no regard for Noble Ones, unskilled and untrained in the Dhamma of the Noble Ones,… of those who are worthy… regards body as the self, the self as having body, body as being in the self, or the self as being in the body. Change occurs to this man’s body, and it becomes different. Because of this change and alteration in his body, his consciousness is preoccupied with bodily change. Due to this preoccupation with bodily change, worried thoughts arise and persist, laying a firm hold on his mind. Through this mental obsession he becomes fearful and distressed, and being full of desire and attachment he is worried. He regards feeling as the self,… change occurs to his feeling… he is worried. [Similarly with ‘perception,’ ‘the mental formations’ and ‘consciousness’]. In this way, monks, grasping and worrying arise. And how, monks, do not grasping and not worrying arise?

“Here, monks, the well-instructed Ariyan disciple, who has regard for the Noble Ones, is skilled and trained in the Dhamma of the Noble Ones,… of those who are worthy, does not regard body as the self, the self as having body, body as being in the self, or the self as being in the body. Change occurs to this man’s body, and it becomes different, but despite this change and alteration in his body, his consciousness is not preoccupied with bodily change… Not being full of desire and attachment, he is not worried. [Similarly with ‘feeling,’ ‘perception,’ ‘the mental formations’ and ‘consciousness’]. In this way, monks, grasping and worrying do not arise.”
SN 22.7

Gain and loss, fame and disgrace,
praise and blame, and pleasure and pain.
These qualities among people are impermanent,
transient, and perishable.

A clever and mindful person knows these things,
seeing that they’re perishable.
Desirable things don’t disturb their mind,
nor are they repelled by the undesirable.

Both favoring and opposing
are cleared and ended, they are no more.
Knowing the stainless, sorrowless state,
they understand rightly, going beyond rebirth.”
AN 8.6


"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared, if there were someone to receive their gift.
Itivuttaka 26

“When your house is on fire,
you rescue the pot
that’s useful,
not the one that’s burnt.

And as the world is on fire
with old age and death,
you should rescue by giving,
for what’s given is rescued.

What’s given has happiness as its fruit,
but not what isn’t given.
Bandits take it, or rulers,
it’s consumed by fire, or lost.

Then in the end this corpse is cast off,
along with all your possessions.
Knowing this, a clever person
would enjoy what they have and also give it away.
After giving and using according to their means,
blameless, they go to a heavenly place.”
SN 1.41

Sensual lust:

“On a later occasion, having understood as they really are the origin, the passing away, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in the case of sensual pleasures, I abandoned craving for sensual pleasures, I removed the fever of sensual pleasures, and I dwell without thirst, with a mind inwardly at peace. I see other people who are not free from lust for sensual pleasures being devoured by craving for sensual pleasures, burning with the fever of sensual pleasures, indulging in sensual pleasures, and I do not envy them, nor do I delight therein. Why is that? Because there is, Māgandiya, a delight apart from sensual pleasures, apart from unwholesome states, which surpasses even divine bliss. Since I take delight in that, I do not envy what is inferior, nor do I delight therein.”
MN 75

If one, longing for sensual pleasure,
achieves it, yes,
he’s enraptured at heart.
The mortal gets what he wants.
But if for that person
— longing, desiring —
the pleasures diminish,
he’s shattered,
as if shot with an arrow.

Whoever avoids sensual desires
— as he would, with his foot,
the head of a snake —
goes beyond, mindful,
this attachment in the world.
Snp 4.1

Not even if it rained gold coins
would we have our fill
of sensual pleasures. ‘Stressful,
they give little enjoyment’—
knowing this, the wise one
finds no delight
even in heavenly sensual pleasures.
He is one who delights
in the ending of craving, a disciple of the Rightly
Self-Awakened One.
Dhp 186-187


On condescendence, by the poet monk Vaṅgīsa:

SN8.3:1.4 ff:
“It’s my loss, my misfortune, that I look down on other good-hearted mendicants because of my own poetic virtuosity.”

Then, on the occasion of arousing remorse in himself, he recited these verses:

“Give up conceit, Gotama!
Completely abandon the different kinds of conceit!
Besotted with the different kinds of conceit,
you’ve had regrets for a long time.

Smeared by smears and slain by conceit,
people fall into hell.
When people slain by conceit are reborn in hell,
they grieve for a long time.

But a mendicant who practices rightly,
winner of the path, never grieves.
They enjoy happiness and a good reputation,
and they rightly call him a ‘Seer of Truth’.

So don’t be hard-hearted, be energetic,
with hindrances given up, be pure.
Then with conceit given up completely,
use knowledge to make an end, and be at peace.”

There are more Suttas where Vaṅgīsa exhorts himself because of various unskillful emotions, which I just find very inspiring! :heart:


Shame and guilt:

"And what is the treasure of conscience? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones feels shame at [the thought of engaging in] bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, mental misconduct. This is called the treasure of conscience.

"And what is the treasure of concern? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones feels concern for [the suffering that results from] bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, mental misconduct. This is called the treasure of concern.”
AN 7.6

“A disciple has faith in that teacher and reflects: ‘The Blessed One in a variety of ways criticizes & censures the taking of life, and says, “Abstain from taking life.” There are living beings that I have killed, to a greater or lesser extent. That was not right. That was not good. But if I become remorseful for that reason, that evil deed of mine will not be undone.’ So, reflecting thus, he abandons right then the taking of life, and in the future refrains from taking life. This is how there comes to be the abandoning of that evil deed. This is how there comes to be the transcending of that evil deed.” [same for stealing, indulging in illicit sex, and the telling of lies]
SN 42:8


Yes, while they play such a great role in my life. Those emotions are especially treated in those texts about seeing rupa, vedana, sanna, sankhara and vinnana as me and mine. In texts about the result of clinging. Texts dealing with the 20 kinds of sakkaya ditthi, such as MN138, SN22.7.

Emotions are covered in the doctrine under the general heading ‘passion,’ and are contrasted with ‘views,’ which are mental. This relates to the last two fetters, restlessness and ignorance. All passions are overcome basically by the development of tranquillity:

""When tranquillity is developed, what purpose does it serve? The mind is developed. And when the mind is developed, what purpose does it serve? Passion is abandoned.

“When insight is developed, what purpose does it serve? Discernment is developed. And when discernment is developed, what purpose does it serve? Ignorance is abandoned.”—AN 2.30

These functions are separate paths relating to the first two components of the NEP, the insight group:

“The moment the cultivation of the Noble Eightfold Path begins, the factors of right view and right intention together start to counteract the three unwholesome roots. Delusion, the primary cognitive defilement, is opposed by right view, the nascent seed of wisdom. The complete eradication of delusion will only take place when right view is developed to the stage of full realization, but every flickering of correct understanding contributes to its eventual destruction. The other two roots, being emotive defilements, require opposition through the redirecting of intention, and thus meet their antidotes in thoughts of renunciation, good will, and harmlessness.”— “The Noble Eightfold Path,” Bikkhu Bodhi.

To see the way the Buddha-to-be used investigation of these three to achieve awakening, study MN 19.


I can’t recall being happy with books meant for a general audience for managing emotional health via Buddhism. It seems like you get a lot of “heartwarming stories”, but when you are done and ask yourself what you have learned to do you don’t have an answer.

It would be cool to have a BPS Wheel or other ebook that covers how to handle emotions, directly connected to the suttas, written for modern lay audiences. Such an ebook would of course interpret the suttas, state a technique, and maybe illustrate it some examples.



Let it be whether or not he thinks
he endures himself out of fear
Of goals that culminate in his own good
None is found better than patience

When he is endowed in strength
Patiently endures a weakling
They call that the supreme patience
The weakling must be patient always

They call that strength, no strength at all
The strength that is the strength of folly
No one can reproach a person
Who is strong because guarded by the Dhamma?

He who repays a man with anger
Thereby makes things worse for himself
Not repaying an angry man with anger
Her wins a battle hard to win

he practices for the welfare of both
his own and the other’s
when knowing that his foe is angry
he mindfully maintains peace
when he achieves the cure of both
his own and the others
the people who consider him a fool
are unskilled in the Dhamma
-SN 11.4 Vepacitti Sutta

I collected a good amount here are there. I found it helpful to have a blank notebook. On one side just write the sutta verse, poem, or set and on the other side comment on what you learned, how you feel about it, and so forth. Then when feelings like anxiety come up you can look back at it. Another addition on the comment side is to write an experience in which you experience the positive of these emotions. When you look back you say "okay, I can be happy or I can be calm. Easily said then done, I know.

Majhima Nikaya 137 is relevant:

Here are some readings on Vayama I’ve collected. Some may be relevant: Vayama: Facing Challenges - Google Drive


I think the sutta’s teach, in general, that anxiety, fear, worry is related to clinging, to attachment, for any person.

If i look at myself i think i see that anxiety, worry, fear is very closely related to a kind of idealism and perfectionalism that rules the mind. The mind is constantly trapped in judgements. The feraful grasping mind judges like this:

  • health is good, sickness is bad
  • youth is good, aging is bad
  • poor is bad, rich is good
  • blooming is good, decaying is bad
  • gain is good, loss is bad
  • living is good, dying is bad

Personally i do not see an escape for worry, anxiety, fear as long as these kind of judgements exist.

Timely, I just came across Fear by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu


I personally spent a fruitful decade investigating emotions by way of the pañcūpādānakkhanda, but I haven’t written a book or pamphlet about it. In brief, viewing emotion as having a common underlying function of protecting and perpetuating the life of the individual, as dukkha which should be fully understood, which can be broken up by all the analytical teachings. So every sutta passage about the 5 khandhas can usefully be applied to emotions.
Then in Saḷāyatanavibhaṅgasutta MN 137, the three renunciate feelings can be read as wholesome emotions … which lead to transcending the base impulse towards protecting the individual and getting more life. Likewise the brahmavihāras can be read as wholesome emotions leading to transcendence.


Hello, I suppose we can apply the same to all forms in the futur, that is, what we usually call expectations ?

Hello, “disregard” which in some languages can be translated as contempt, somewhat contradicts the previous directives; moreover as far as resent is present in one’s emotional body, “disregard” (even if translated as “to ignore” someone) will not work. Why? Well, as far as there will be resent in one’s emotional agregates, in one’s “heart”.