5.5 mins read.
Attachment, or uncontrolled desire, is all about going “out there” and trying to bring stuff – people, things, situations – back “over here”, toward us, to feed the need. If we observe our body and mind carefully when we have attachment, we may even notice our inner energy winds flowing outwards, away from our heart.
Carrying on from this article.
When we drop into our heart and develop faith, love, wisdom, and so on, we can feel our energy winds drawing inwards, toward our heart, instead of flowing outwards. We immediately start to feel less dualistic – less of a gap between “in here and out there” – and more peaceful. This is a training, of course, but we may as well get started because it is all good.
In How to Transform Your Life Geshe Kelsang points out a choice we currently have between worldly attainments and enlightenment, using the example of possessing a magical jewel that can satisfy all our external wishes versus the happiness that comes from a pure mind. (Bit like Aladdin’s Lamp, only you get more than 3 wishes.)
Feeding the need
With attachment we are set up from the get-go in a state of need, in lack. We have never managed to satisfy our desires with attachment in any lasting way. As soon as we satisfy one longing — convinced at the time that this is going to solve my problems and make me feel content and whole — it is mere days or minutes before another need arises to take its place. We are all addicted to trying to solve our problems and find happiness through attachment, which is why we are chained to the prison walls of samsara and have made no attempt to escape.
We may try to find happiness in relationships, for example, by controlling the other person or allowing ourselves to be controlled. But with the confident self-contained happiness that comes from within, we need be neither puppet nor puppet master. We can just enjoy each other in each moment.
Careful what you wish for
One of the other problems about desiring things outside us is that these wishes are often contradictory, as Buddha pointed out. For example, we want to lose 10 lbs but also eat pizza, we want to be adventurous but also not wait in line at the airport, we want to be promoted but also not have all that extra work, we want to be rich but also not have to worry about taxes and other complicated financial stuff. Etc etc. Our wishes cancel each other out half the time!
The happiness that comes from a pure mind, and above all from enlightenment, is the only thing that won’t ever deceive us. Wishing to find happiness outside ourself does not get us any closer to lasting happiness – it just keeps us scratching itches all day long.
What have I been working for all this time?
And this example of the jewel also makes me think about what it is that we’ve been striving for since beginningless time. What exactly does it amount to? Where exactly has it gotten us?
Close your eyes and think about this for just a moment, if you would. If you were offered the choice of (1) having the most beautiful dream you could imagine, arising seemingly out of nowhere but lasting for ages and containing everything and everyone you’ve ever longed for, or (2) always knowing that you were dreaming …
… which would you choose?
Waking life is dreamlike. Even the most sublime waking dream, however long it lasts, is still fleeting and ephemeral. We have bought into every dream we have ever had, asleep or awake, invested in it all our hopes and fears when the truth is, as it says in How to Transform Your Life:
Impermanence spares nothing and no one; in samsara all our dreams are broken in the end.
Because we have believed that dream-like reality is not dream-like at all but can be found outside of our mind, from its own side, we have also not had any real control over it. Bottom line, this is why we suffer, even when our dreams have been good.
When we come to realize how mind is the creator of reality — that everything is mere projection and mere name with no existence from its own side, unfindable upon analysis — we can create any dream we want any time we want. And then help everyone else do the same.
This really is what Buddha is helping us understand through his teachings. He is saying we can gain control over our minds and our reality.
Escape to reality
Some people have the notion that finding all this peace and freedom from within is escapist navel gazing – we get all blissed out while the rest of the “real” world just muddles along having to take care of itself (or not, as the case may be). But nothing could be further from the truth. The deeper we go within, the deeper becomes our understanding of the reality of interconnection and non-duality. We become closer and closer to everyone and everything until our experience of self and other is non-dual. We are not separate from others, but they are us and we are them.
This growing realization of love and compassion suffuses our mind with more and more actual happiness and ability to benefit others, like a sun naturally radiating wider and wider. Without going within, it is hard to gain those deep insights into the real nature of self and other, and to exchange self with others, understanding that our sense of “Me” can cover all living beings.
We are instead stuck trying to feed the black hole of need, ie, catering to our tiny but rapacious limited self, the real and only and most important Me. The Me whose desires can never end because we have set this up all wrong out of ignorance and attachment – Me over here and everything I want over there.
Imagine healing ourselves and becoming a source of light and healing for everyone we know. Sounds good, right? But for this to work we need to think about changing direction – going inwards not outwards to find the happiness and freedom we have always longed for.
That is why the most important journey we can ever make is the journey into the heart.
Next and final installment is here.
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