As a further incentive to ditch the attachment and grow the love, as described in this article, I find the following analogy very helpful.
Buddha likened samsara to a prison. Imagine you’ve been in a ghastly, sickening, sepulchral prison for as long as you can remember, but that there is finally and miraculously a way out – a helicopter is hovering in the clear sky above and letting down the escape ladder. And you have made it to the roof, you’re about to put your foot on the first rung ….
But … you look behind you instead, and fall for a fellow prisoner ….
And for a little while the prison seems more bearable, even pleasurable – you are wedged into a comfy sofa in a corner somewhere and — lulled or dulled into complacency, ignoring the need – you forget those plans you had to escape and bring the whole disgusting structure down.
Chained and bound to you
Buddha said we are in the prison of samsara due to our ignorance, but chained to its walls, unwilling or unable to escape, by our attachment.
Then the relationship falls apart — maybe they fall for another prisoner, maybe they die/get transferred to another cell block, maybe our feelings just change. Standing there in our prison stripes, we now feel all forlorn.
Maybe at this point we remember the ladder on the roof again. Maybe we even put our foot on the first rung. After all, the ladder is still there, for now … But then we get all curious – we want to quickly nip back down again just to check what our ex and everyone else is up to, check their Facebook feeds, see what’s on the samsara channel, what annoying headlines we’ve been missing, or go buy a Kit Kat for the journey … and in we are sucked again. Maybe while we’re there we decide to settle a debt, tell someone what we really think of them. Or we are drawn into jealousy once more, or experience some prison-work-related stress.
You get the picture. We don’t need to go back, part of us may not even really want to, but we keep going back anyway. Meanwhile our Spiritual Guide, who is flying the helicopter, waits patiently for us to make up our minds.
With our precious human life, it is as if we have made it temporarily to the roof of samsara and the best shot at escaping we’ve ever had. We’ve been queuing up for this for aeons. We are probably amongst the 0.000000000001% luckiest people in samsara right now. We put in a lot of work to get to this place – do we really want to blow it?
A prisoner no longer
This is why we need the self-confidence mentioned in this article: “I will conquer my delusions of attachment, anger, and ignorance and destroy this prison – that is what I want and that is who I am. I will identify with being a prisoner no longer.”
We can change our idea or imputation of ourselves. And along with that it’s not hard then to change our imputation of everyone else too, including our objects of attachment. They, their friends, their families, all badly need rescuing, along with everyone else, and they can be rescued as they have the same potential for freedom as us. Being attached to them as they are, in their prison uniforms, just solidifies the status quo and doesn’t help them. We need to stop our attachment and DO something. We don’t need to get our sense of security from partners, friends, and family, but from refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, the way out. We need to “escape now, hug later” as Han Solo impresses on Finn and Rey (who are about to get disastrously distracted in The Force Awakens.)
Hey, hang on, are you saying “Relationships, why bother?!” then?!
No. I’m not. This doesn’t all mean that we shouldn’t have relationships, just that we need to keep our eye on the prize and not lose our heads. In fact, we are always and already in relationship with everyone! We are all interconnected, we only exist in dependence upon others; and sometimes, as well, strong karma with individuals ripens in close familial, or student-teacher, or romantic relationships. So, how to square this away — just a few thoughts while we are still here …
I think the happiness we derive from a partner or close friend, for example, comes from love, respect, and admiration, wishing for their success, happiness, and free agency, and not from trying to bend them or their behavior to our will. This love can be a doorway to sustained bliss, and to equal compassion and love for everyone, wide open like the sun. Attachment, on the other hand, leads automatically to expectations wanting more and more, which make us vulnerable to disappointment and then irritation and anger, just more samsara.
Knowing that happiness really comes from a peaceful mind, perhaps try this if you feel the craving or heart sickness or fear or tightness or confusion or powerlessness coming from uncontrolled desire. We need to allow the waves of attachment and anxiety to settle down through breathing meditation or something like that. We need to realign our mind, to go for refuge to love and wisdom and the restorative power of our own mental peace. We need to try loving everyone in our life and beyond. If we get back in control, the relationship will then take care of itself, whatever happens or indeed doesn’t happen.
To conclude …
My first thought of the day is not, therefore, how am I going to scritch scratch for happiness today in samsara, but how am I going to burn this whole thing down?!
“My first thought of the day is not, therefore, how am I going to scritch scratch for happiness today in samsara, but how am I going to burn this whole thing down?!”
This is actually extraordinary! As is the whole article in fact. Thank you! 💗
My pleasure, i’m glad it’s useful 🙂
This optimistic article asks me: “Where is my mind all day long?” How much time am I thinking about tolerating and coping with and trying to suck transitory respites from suffering out of samsara? And how much time am I spending practicing Dharma and seeing samsara through Buddhist eyes? I need to be through with the former and obsessed by the latter. Thank you as always for reminding me. 🙏🏻
Great comment! xxx
I want to read this again and again as it is so powerful. Thank you again and I always look forward to all of the articles
Love Kelsang Nyema💖
Aw, I’m glad you like it.
Thanks a lot for that wonderful morning thoughts 😊. It feels like you would have been red my mind. Perhaps we dreamed the same dream last night? 🤔
Just kidding – it is the dream, the strong wish to become a savior of all living beings (ourselves included!), the mind of bodhichitta…at its best.
The union of love and wisdom is the real 🗝 to happiness. Love without wisdom is blind.
💔…I pray for us and all others 🙏…
Have a good day, Katja
Yes, I agree. And love without wisdom is hard to sustain because we get compassion fatigue if we hold onto everyone as really limited and suffering. We need to identify them as their boundless potential.
Wonderful post, LUNA and helpful……
I’m glad you like it 🙂
I also read your article when i very must needed it! thank you very much 🙂
Hugs from France
Hi Luna, I too read this just when I needed it.
Sleepless the other night, I was spiralling down into negative minds when I read your article. I soon realised I’d just gone back for a Kitkat and what I really mean to do is tear down these prison walls!!!! How shockingly easy it is though to be distracted and discouraged. I pray we never lose a mind refuge. I love your posts thank you 😘
so glad it was timely 😘
Thank you Luna. Your articles are always great but this one popped up just when I needed to hear this. You hit the spot and I shall try to apply it.
Very helpful. I do feel like this is a last ditch opportunity to escape. There are things holding us all back.
We are now in the boat together, rowing together. Sometimes we are rowing falling I’ll or sometimes sleeping but heading together towards liberation. See you there too.
….always good to hear good news…..