In the teachings of the Buddha there are mentioned the Brahma Viharas. These are usually translated as the divine, or heavenly abidings. This is from a literal translation: Brahma - God, and Vihara - Dwelling. They can be brought down from the heavens, to earth, by considering that as emotions they motivate and encourage the transcending of the limitations of basic human existence. This ‘transcending of limitation’ is a definition of growing…they can be considered the mature emotions.
Mature emotions are also those emotions that allow other people to mature. So when a person acts or responds with mature emotion, other humans are helped in a way that allows them to transcend, to grow beyond their limitations.
Mature emotions are those emotions that are the response of and fuel the movement of the mature person.
On a mundane level, if I wish to train myself to touch type, I have first to accept that right now there is not the ability to touch type; and only then can the effort be honestly made to learn to train the fingers and the eyes to work together in an automatic way. If I am unwilling to accept the fact that right now there is not the ability and yet I wish to touch type, then I can pretend, but the only person I will be really fooling is myself.
We do this on a grand scale when we would like to be mature and fulfilled people and we are unable to accept the limitations we find ourselves with. We can then pretend to be mature when we are in fact not really clear about our emotions or intentions and allow ourselves to be motivated by immature and damaging emotions. In the case of touch typing there is no real harm done; in the case of the person pretending to themselves and others that they are grown up, it is more dangerous both for themselves and others.
The four ‘maturing emotions’…may be realised, in practice, as being linked; only divided for the sake of convenient analysis and explanation. They are like different aspects of the same place, different ways of describing heaven. We describe the different aspects to help us to find a way of noticing them so we may express them, play with them in our lives.
This reflection by Ajahn Vajiro is adapted from the article, “Mature Emotions,” Forest Sangha Newsletter (FSN #31), January 1995.