In buddhism there are four noble truths, and in a society that looks for spiritual understanding, these core concepts in Buddhism are often turned to for understanding.
One of the basic ideas, as interpreted by the Western Mind, is that attachment is the bane of happiness, and if a person is attached, then they have some serious issues. It is their fault for having attachments, and the subsequent pain and unhappiness that arises from this perceived mis-alignment is karmic and well-deserved punishment. I claim hog-wash.
The focus on non-attachment is the very definition of attachment.
When I hear people talk about attachment, and how a person is deluded because they are attached to a person, or work, or prosperity, I am hearing the words of a person caught in limiting judgments. While it is true that certain types of attachment may inevitably lead to pain, the suffering of longing is available only because of attachment. It is a blessing in disguise. And though unfulfilled or broken attachments may lead to suffering, the bliss that can be discovered through that suffering leads to wisdom.
I am attached to my family, to my ideals of an ethical life, and to certain people in my life. I am attached to having food, shelter, and security. I am attached to taking care of my body and living a fulfilling life. Those attachments are gifts that are normal and healthy in life. They give a direction and purpose. Without positive attachments, a person becomes a lump, or worse, an desensitized person who robotically uses spiritual ideals to remain separated from experiencing the gifts of life.
And I will feel pain when separated from my loved ones; I will yearn and suffer for the want of company; I will feel a deep ache because my beloved pets die; I will have agony for falling short in my desires. I know the trepidation of illness, pain and death. And I am enriched for the experience, and have deepest gratitude for being able to feel life to its fullest.
Attachment is not the problem, attachment to desires are the issue.
The issue with attachment is the imbalanced desire that everything only be positive and good: that life only fits within the box of personal attachments and expectations, and when it does not, we become agitated and have tantrums; or the attachment to a certain future outcome, where all efforts are guided to manipulate a certain course of events and final result; or attachments to belief structures and ideals that may or may not serve the best interests of an individual on the path of self-discovery.
Life does not operate like that. There are many unexpected twists and turns as we live. With every attachment that goes in one direction, there is an underlying aversion that leads in the opposite. Understanding, recognizing and honoring the balance between aversion and attachment is liberating. But it does not mean that a person becomes not attached. Attachments are necessary for operating in daily life.
Equanimity occurs when living in balance, and seeing the full scope of life.
Dukkha are the sufferings associated with aging, illness and death. It is also suffering associated with holding firm to things that constantly change, and a dissatisfaction with existence because it never meets up with personal expectation. By recognizing and accepting the transitory nature of life, the attachment to expected desires is released.
Naturally, one accepts the conditions of embodied existence. The demand that life be only as we see and demands life to be, fades away. The attachments to our loved ones will always lead to agony when they are gone, yet the agony only happens for the deeply sensitive heart who has experienced love. I would choose that agony over a vulcan-like non-emotional state any day, because it means I have also discovered and lived the fullness of love.
Judging a person for being attached violates the premise of non-violence.
One of my primary irritations are with spiritual know-it-alls who claim a person is attached and caught in illusion. Do you know anybody who isn’t? Do you know a Christ, Buddha or Krishna? Are you one?
No, you aren’t. Neither am I.
So the next time you want to put down a person, or point out how they are failing because of being attached, I might suggest allowing yourself to detach from your own idea of what non-attachment is, and to allow the person to be who they are.
The people who claim to be not attached are, in my experience, the ones who are most deeply ensnared by attachment. It is the failing of blinding pride that points condemning fingers with snarky comments about being attached, and fails to see the truth of one’s own self. After all, since those types of people are so not attached and liberated, they should please feel free to take their enlightened selves and transcend to the next dimension of existence and allow us poor mortals to live in peace.
Compassion supports where judgment fails.
The classical cures for the pains of life are love, compassion, faith and other spiritual virtues. Nowhere does it say to point out to the person who is hurting from a break-up, divorce, illness or other life trauma that they are going to be better because you tell them they are suffering from attachment.
All the ancient sources point out the virtues, and how they lead to liberation. It is why love is the focus, and not book knowledge. When focusing on love, one becomes naturally detached from egoistic concepts and control structures, and the true selfless nature emerges.
One becomes sensitive and aware to the conditions of life and, when faced with the shadows and tribulations of the body, allows these events to occur with less and less struggle. It does not mean there is an absence of pain, it is just that the pain is accepted as part of the path, and a transcended perception arises that recognizes the necessity and value of the shadow side of life.
A different response becomes available, both within oneself, and to others. A gentler, expansive, and more holistic perspective of the experiences of living and dying.
Love remains the path, and the cure.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Paige Vignola
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