PROBLEMS ARISING WITH ATTACHMENT & THEIR 9 BUDDHIST ANTIDOTES

"Grasping at things can only yield one of two results: 
Either the thing you are grasping at disappears, or you yourself disappear. 
It is only a matter of which occurs first." 
- S. N. Goenka


SOME DEFINITIONS:

It may be important to know the following definitions and descriptions in order to understand the problems we have with attachment, and make sense about the ways in which we can deal with them.


ATTACHMENT :

Definition: Exaggerated not wanting to be separated from someone or something. (Exact opposite of Aversion) Because the label of "pleasant" is very relative and based upon limited information, Attachment includes an aspect of exaggeration or "projection". 
Lovers
Near "enemy" (or not to be confused with): Real appreciation, love and compassion. 
Opposite: Wanting to be separated from someone or something: aversion. 
Main quality: exaggeration of positive qualities, which can only lead to disappointment. Falling in love will usually fit very well in this category.

LOVE :

Definition: Wishing others to be happy. 
Near enemy: Conditional love (attachment). 
Opposite: Wishing others to be unhappy: hatred --or-- not wishing others to be happy: which is indifference or egotism. 
Main qualities: Unconditional, no self-interest, but based on self-acceptance.

COMPASSION :

Definition: Wishing others to be free from suffering. 
Near enemy: Sorry for someone, pity. 
Opposite: Wishing others to suffer: cruelty. 
Main qualities: Sorry with someone, com-passion means with-feeling, urge to help.

RENUNCIATION / DETACHMENT :

Definition: wanting to be free from all problems of cyclic existence, not wanting objects that cause more misery. It is not, that someone suddenly gets excited, abandons all his belongings and escapes to a cave in the mountains, simply hoping to escape his present problems; these people usually return in a week or two, weak and discouraged. 
Near enemies: Not caring about anything or extreme asceticism, suicidal attitude. 
Opposite: Attachment to "worldly" happiness; ultimately leading to misery. 
Main qualities: Discovery of what ultimately leads to misery and avoiding that. 

Lama Yeshe: "Renunciation comes from within, it is inner wisdom, inner knowledge."

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH ATTACHMENT?


Although attachment may at first appear to be much less destructive than anger and hatred, in terms of being caught up in the uncontrolled process of rebirth, it is actually the bigger evil. Attachment to pleasure and ultimately to life itself as our inborn survival instinct, is the main type of misunderstanding that holds us prisoner in samsara. 


An example to illustrate attachment that I love:

In the South of India, people used to catch monkeys in a very special way. Actually they let monkeys catch themselves. What they did is cutting a small hole in a coconut, just large enough for a monkey to put its hand in. Next, you fix the coconut to a tree, and fill it with a sweet. The monkey smells the sweet, squeezes its hand into the coconut, grabs the sweet and .... finds that the fist does not fit through the hole. Now the trick is, that the last thing the monkey will think of is to let go of the sweet; and it holds itself prisoner. Nothing could be easier for a human being who comes and catches it.
The Buddha compared desires to being in debt. If you owe money to the bank for your house, every month you have to pay. In the end, you will own the house. With sensual desires however, you cannot pay off the debt; they arise again and again. Hunger, thirst, lust for sex, warmth, coolness, they all come back again and again. Trying to fulfil our desires is like carrying water to the sea; a never ending task and ultimately completely useless.

In some very direct words of the Buddha:

"I have killed all of you before.
I was chopped up by all of you in previous lives. 
We have all killed each other as enemies. 
So why should we be attached to each other?"
Ajahn Sumedho, in 'Teachings of a Buddhist Monk':
"Desire can be compared to fire. If we grasp fire, what happens? Does it lead to happiness? 

If we say: "Oh, look at that beautiful fire! Look at the beautiful colors! I love red and orange; they're my favorite colors," and then grasp it, we would find a certain amount of suffering entering the body. And then if we were to contemplate the cause of that suffering we would discover it was the result of having grasped that fire. On that information, we would hopefully, then let the fire go. Once we let fire go then we know that it is something not to be attached to. 

This does not mean we have to hate it, or put it out. We can enjoy fire, can't we? It's nice having a fire, it keeps the room warm, but we do not have to burn ourselves in it."


John Snelling, from 'Elements of Buddhism':

"If the basic project of mainstream Buddhist practice is to unmask the ego illusion for what it is, one of the main prongs of attack is directed against desire. Desire gets a very bad press in the Buddhist scriptures. It is a poison, a disease, a madness. There is no living in a body that is subject to desire, for it is like a blazing house. 

Now, desire lives and grows by being indulged. When not indulged by the application of ethical restraint and awareness, on the other hand, it stabilizes and begins to diminish, though this is not an easy or comfortable process, for the old urges clamor for satisfaction for a long time. 



This kind of practice cuts directly against the main currents of modern consumer society, where desire is energetically encouraged and refined to new pitches and variations by the powerful agencies of marketing and publicity. But it also cuts against the more moderate desires-for family, wealth, sense-pleasures and so on sanctioned in simpler, more traditional societies, including the one into which the Buddha was born. We can never be at peace while desire is nagging at us."

HANDLING ATTACHMENT:


“One man can conquer a thousand times thousand men in battle,

but one who conquers himself is the greatest of conquerors.”
-The Dhammapada

The following antidotes can be applied throughout daily life, but are profound meditation exercises as well:


ANTIDOTE 1 - Observe Yourself: Do I exaggerate positive qualities of things I am attached to, are they really worth all my troubles? Is it really worth to work hard for days, weeks or months to have an hour of fun?


ANTIDOTE 2 - Use Your Inner Wisdom: Discover how exaggerated attachment is and how desire works against oneself. Try to be wiser than the monkey and let go of the candy to be free.


ANTIDOTE 3 - Reflect on the Unsatisfactory Nature of Existence. This is also called the First Noble Truth. How much fun is fun really, and how much is it forgetting the pain? Do desires ever stop or is it an endless job to fulfil them?


ANTIDOTE 4 - Reflect on Impermanence. How important is the person or object: everything will end someday, people die, things break.


ANTIDOTE 5 - Reflect on the Problems of Attachment. Lying in the sun is great, but it quickly leads to sunburn. Eating nice food is great, but it leads to indigestion and obesity. Driving around in big cars is great, but how long do I have to work to enjoy this?


ANTIDOTE 6 - Reflect on bodily attraction (lust for sex). Loving someone is great, but what happens when the "honeymoon-days" are over? But what is the body really? What more is it than a skin bag filled with bones, flesh, disgusting organs and fluids?


ANTIDOTE 7 - Reflect on the Results of Attachment. Greed and craving lead to stealing and all kinds of crime, including war. Addiction to alcohol and drugs are simply forms of strong craving; they destroy the addict and the surroundings. Uncontrolled lust leads to sexual abuse. The feeling of greed, craving and lust in themselves can be easily seen as forms of suffering.


ANTIDOTE 8 - Reflect on Death. What are all objects of attachment worth at "the moment of truth" or death?



ANTIDOTE 9 - Emptiness. The ultimate antidote to attachment and all other negative emotions is the realisation of emptiness.

(From Views on Buddhism )



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