6 mins read + video
But even if we do understand the beginninglessness and endlessness of samsara’s sufferings, sort of, we are still like barnacles stuck to the bottom of a boat due to our attachment to samsaric pleasures. For it’s not so obvious to us how they’re deceptive. They make life bearable, surely – what’s wrong with a beer?! And what about the passion of romance? Or the R &R of a vacation?
Carrying on from this article.
Nothing, on one level, unless they are keeping us from spiritual progress (which, thanks to attachment, they often are.) We have been going after the places, enjoyments, and bodies of samsara for millennia X millennia, and just where has this gotten us?
The main problem with worldly pleasures is that they are “contaminated” by ignorance, ie, they appear falsely to exist from their own side and we assent to that appearance. Someone or something appears attractive due to our karma, and instead of just enjoying the mere appearance we must be like moths flying right into the flame by believing they are inherently attractive and then exaggerating their attractions until we simply cannot do without them.
Not having non-attachment is like a prisoner being attached to prison food and entertainment. Sure, the billiards are fun, and we enjoy the raisins on our gruel as a treat; but we’re still trapped in prison. Plus it is only a matter of time before we are dispatched back to the dungeons.
This mental asylum
Actually, I have been thinking recently that we are not just in a prison but more like a mental asylum, more like something out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. We are all rendered insane by our delusions — hallucinations are the order of the day.
We have been here since beginningless time. But perhaps we are ready to leave. And there is a Buddha emanation posing as a doctor who knows this and is encouraging us – “There is a whole world for you out there, free from insanity and any form of suffering!”
To begin with, we may be a bit like, “I don’t want to leave! I know it here. I like it here. Plus, I have a thing for that person in the corner over there – yeah, I know she drools and is cranky and is getting sicker and older like the rest of us, but still, she’s cute … And anyway, I like Bingo night. And how those meds make me feel nice and high and dopey. And the way the sun sometimes dapples its way through the murky glass of the windows.”
The doctor may continue to encourage us, “Not only can you help yourself, but you can help everyone else in here. Have you noticed how already some of them showing some interest in you because you seem a bit more free, kind, and insightful? If you get out, you’ll be able to get your friends out too, like we are doing. Everyone has the potential to break free. However mad they are, they never lose the potential to wake up.”
We might say, “But I can’t get out! I’m too stuck and ordinary! I belong here.”
And the doctor would reply, “That’s not true. We know different. You don’t belong here. No one does. Trust us.”
And we should.
What’s the alternative? What happens if we just stay in here?
We need to think that through.
Samsara’s pleasures are deceptive
As explained in this article, samsaric enjoyments are deceptive because they do not make us happy — we are just scratching itches. But even all that scratching is not working because pursuing worldly pleasures actually seems to cause most of our annoyances, disappointments, and heartaches:
Most of the problems we experience come from our seeking satisfaction in the pleasures of samsara when no real satisfaction can be derived from them. ~ Joyful Path of Good Fortune
Attachment weighs us down — like a bird with stones tied to its legs. Even if we sort of know we are in prison, we are still too attached to the billiards or other inmates to bother making a serious attempt at escape. So we have no lift off. We can’t fly in the sky.
Attachment distracts us from love and equanimity. We have some of this, it feels so good when we do; but then someone we think is gorgeous comes along and it’s like, “Sorry caged shelter cats or elderly aunts or countless other living beings, no more attention from me, I’m a bit preoccupied … I’ll get back to you later.” Months or years later we remember them … so what was that about?! Attachment is fundamentally small-minded and selfish.
Also, without renunciation we are attached to the status quo – we are only wishing others freedom from the temporary sufferings of this life at most, not of samsara, because we are attached to things being basically the way they are, just sort of better. And we are not even wishing ourselves to be free from samsara, so we cannot extend that radical compassion to others.
Because attachment is so deceptive, we (me) need to be honest about its workings in our own life — asking ourselves, “Is this true?”
Thinking about the shortfalls of changing suffering helps us develop renunciation, the wish for freedom. As Geshe Kelsang says:
We need to reduce our attachment to worldly pleasures by realizing that they are deceptive and cannot give real satisfaction. ~ How to Transform Your Life
Attachment vs anger
It is more obvious perhaps that anger has nothing to recommend it and causes us suffering because it gives rise to unpleasant feelings whereas attachment can give rise to pleasant feelings (qv, the suffering of change.) Perhaps this is one reason why anger is said to be easier to wash out of the mind – it is likened to dirt in cloth as opposed to the oil of attachment soaked into cloth.
Water from a stone
With non-attachment itself we already feel peaceful, light, contented, and unburdened, and as a result can enjoy everything as a result. Trying to get true or lasting happiness, enjoyment, or bliss out of samsara is like trying to squeeze water from a stone – the harder we grasp, the more uncomfortable we become. Knowing this, we give up the squeezing, relax, and just enjoy the stone without attachment.
Better yet, know with wisdom that the stone is not really there to begin with, so what are we doing squeezing it?!
Renunciation is utterly unlike boredom. Then we have a stable basis for love and wisdom, which make us even more happy and fulfilled. And we also have a very good basis for transforming enjoyments with Tantra – learning how to have our cake and eat it. More on that important subject coming soon(ish), and have a look below in the comments for some very helpful conversation points from a reader.
Going round in circles?
This is an incredible spiritual path, an incredible journey. Without renunciation however, we’re not going anywhere. Imagine being in a boat trying to cross an ocean to dry land, to a transcendent destination. We row and we row and we row, but we get nowhere – just going round and round in circles. This is because attachment is an anchor wedging us firmly into the bedrock of samsara’s ocean, stopping us from traveling to liberation or enlightenment, let alone bringing anyone along with us.
If you have strong attachment today, here is a checklist of things you could bring to mind: (1) Impermanence. This object and state of mind are going to go away, plus I might die today, so do I really want to spend my last day all hung up on it? (2) Emptiness — where is this attachment exactly? We can try pointing to it in our body, our mind, or anywhere else. It is nowhere to be found. (3) The faults of the mind of attachment as above, coming to enjoy the freedom and peace of non-attachment instead. (4) The faults of the worldly objects themselves, eg, the 32 impure substances, to rebalance the mind. (5) You’re not alone in suffering from attachment. (6) As mentioned, see the comments below for a Tantric approach to transforming attachment.
And if you need any further encouragement to meditate on renunciation, check out this other teaching by Gen Losang:
Over to you!
Thank you Luna for yet another of your inspiring pieces. You are so Precious and Kind to give us these teachings week after week endlessly . ❤️ They are a spiritual attachment I crave just as a child looking through the glass counter at the many delicious ice cream flavors and feeling like each one I choose is better than the last . If we take these teachings to heart and practice them in our daily life we will eventually find ourselves in the Pure Land of Enlightenment. Thank you for choosing to live life meaningfully for the benefit of others 🙏 Mat you live for a very long time…❤️
That is a very touching comment, and makes me want to live up to it, so thank you Kelly 😍
Dear Luna, I hope you won’t be mad at me because of my endless questions.
I can’t get no pleasure in nothing. Nothing attracts me anymore. Is this a sign of spiritual evolution (of non-attachement) or maybe I’m going mentally ill?
Please tell me.
Thank you very much !
It depends how you feel. Are you peaceful, happy, even blissful? Joy is essential on the spiritual path. And we will always find pleasure in people if we have affection for them.
You had asked for a paragraph, this is what I came up with. Its too long, please edit/crop/improve:
If you cant give up your attachments, try this..
Sometimes our attachment is so strong that even though we have received clear instructions from our kind teachers, we find that our mind does not have the power to put them into practice. At this point, we may be vulnerable to repressing our attachments and practicing only superficially, or continuing our practice as a discouraged practitioner rather than a joyful and confident practitioner. Another problem that may arise is that due to our wisdom initially being very weak, we are unable to differentiate between enjoyment and attachment and it seems to us that we either need to give up both or in order to enjoy, we need to keep our mind of attachment activated. If we are in this situation, we don’t need to fight our attachments, we can let them be (for now) and just seamlessly tack on some skillful ways of thinking on top of our attachments.
Without necessarily attempting to overthrow our attachment, we can train is getting curious about our enjoyments. Whenever we are enjoying we can think: is the enjoyment is coming from the object or is it inside my mind? If this enjoyment really inheres inside the object then three consequences will follow: (1) every single sentient being should enjoy the object equally, (2) it should give me the same enjoyment every single time without fail, and (3) the more of such objects I had, the happier I would be. This is clearly not true. The enjoyment is coming from within my mind. Instead of just using my mind to enjoy objects, maybe I need to dig deeper in my mind. We become interested in exploring: how can I prolong my enjoyment and can I tap into it at will?
Without trying to give up our attachment and continuing with business as usual, when we are enjoying our object of enjoyment, we can start training in tuning into s Buddha’s mind (or blessings). Whenever we are having a good time, we want the good time to continue forever, or at least last longer. There is a practical way to do it and no, its not eating more cookies, playing that song on repeat, or getting married to that person, that actually is not even a valid way at all as it quickly turns into suffering (we have all tried it!). When we are enjoying something, we can train in enjoying the good feelings in the mind rather than paying too much attention to the object. We can channel these pleasant feelings to connect to a much deeper experience of joy or bliss of a Buddha’s mind. We can think that we are sharing our enjoyment with Buddha and in turn, we are partaking of the Buddha’s experience of reality by enjoying this object as a mere appearance to mind (you can gently remind yourself that you cant find the object upon investigation). In this moment, we are seeing everything as a Buddha sees things and feeling as a Buddha feels, very joyful! Its like using the object of enjoyment as match to spark a few pleasant feelings in our mind and then dropping it into the blazing sun that consumes the match completely. We can then abide with our mind mixed with a Buddha’s mind for as long as possible, even after the object of enjoyment is long gone, or just remember our experience from memory and re-connect to a Buddha’s radiantly joyful mind at will. Just like the sun shines all the time, a Buddha’s mind is on tap 24/7 and we can do this anytime, anywhere. How wonderful!
Thank you Yona, I think this is explained beautifully 😃
It is too long to add to this article, but I am planning on incorporating it into another article I have up my sleeve about transforming enjoyments per Tantra. I have added a sentence to this article to direct readers to look at your comments in the meantime.
Yay! Sounds great to me!
Love and gratitude, Yona.
I have two of my most beloved teachers to thank for their patience with my questions and their skillful means with me: Kadam Morten and you! It’s through your kindness that I have the audacious confidence to think that my strong attachments (or rather the energies underlying them) are not impediments but the very means to go deeper into my practice. THANK YOU!
thank you too 😍
Thank you for much for the insightful article.
Would you please add some more explanation in the article or some points to the “quick checklist” that comes from Tantric teachings such as “the enjoyment is coming from the mind and not the object, hence, I can get more interested in going deeper in the mind than clinging to the object” or how blessings can be used here?
Thank you so much.
I might just add what you say here 🙂 How about you edit that up into a paragraph i can add? …
Thank you Luna, I am moved to tears by your response that you were even open to the suggestion.
I have struggled with attachment for years and I still do. There are some approaches (coming from Sutra) that directly oppose attachment and they were very hard for me to practice in the beginning, my mind had very little power. I would get attached and find it hard to put those instructions into practice and get angry at myself and get discouraged.
There are some other approaches (coming from Tantra) that attack attachment from the side (but not directly, at least in my experience) and I was able to put them into practice first. Once I was able to train in them, all these other sutra instructions became accessible to me and I was able to put all of them into practice. All my struggles continue but I am no longer in a rut.
I will edit and send by end of day today. THANK YOU!
Thank YOU! See reply to your comment above.
I would love it if we added these two, I started out with practicing (6) a lot, then I trained in (7) and only then, I was able to FULLY practice the steps from (1) to (5). It all continues to be a work in progress. Thank you!
(6) The enjoyment is in my mind and not the object. Therefore, I need to go deeper in my mind, and not deeper into the object. I can let go of the object and become more interested in my mind. (7) The pleasant feelings in my mind are connecting me to the blissful experience of a Buddha’s mind. I can share my enjoyment with a Buddha and in turn partake of a Buddha’s experience of reality by enjoying this object as a mere appearance to a pure mind.
You are awesome. Thank you.
Thank you for this helpful article. My attachment is at times ridiculous it’s almost funny, but not really. It’s like I’m attached to my own suffering and once I tell myself I don’t want something, I seem to want it more, even though I know it’s no good for me. Yukky craving. Small minded as you say. What a mind. At least with practicing dharma I can begin to recognise and differentiate these minds, a spiritual practitioner after all, not a spiritual practiced 😉 which helps me be less hard on myself. Bring on the joyful renunciation and remember I tell myself, it’s nothing to do with willpower.
Actually, I have been thinking recently that we are not just in a prison but more like a mental asylum, more like something out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. We are all rendered insane by our delusions — hallucinations are the order of the day.”
I have been experiencing the emotions in having to isolate myself away from the 4 with whom I just don’t gel with anymore. It is rather painful, and I woke up in time with realizing that the hope I carried for right relationships, was and is still, keeping me in disappointment, cos how can one try alter other beings behaviours?
I have also had a kinda war going on in my head. Keep emanating metta from my dungeon (I mean bedroom) Or go out there and demand what is mine. The money needed for my next chapter to begin.
I have been, for quite sometime, behaving as I believe the Bodhisattva Tara purely is.
Since I have to make this make-believe fairy tale as real as possible, I am taking on Wrathful Tara’s behaviour, in order to get things done, despite the all-too-real expectation for them to come up with the money.
So, my mind is taking on Wrathful Tara / Wonder Woman personas.. Just a thing to get the emotions to fizzle enough away, that I can Really get things done for myself. Your articles have inspired me, as always.. I especially like this quote:
“Everyone has the potential to break free. However mad they are, they never lose the potential to wake up.”
I wish for it ..
Thank you for this article. I found it very timely in reminding me and putting things back into prospective. Sometimes daily life sweeps you along and without daily meditation I find myself regressing into attachment and the focus of renunciation fades into the background. So thank you again. Much love Jo 💕
My pleasure. I agree, we need to meditate at least a little every day to stay in touch with the truth.