This week we present a guest blogger, my Buddhist teacher. The format is a question, and answer by him. I hope you enjoy it.
(Question) I’m sort of confused about the idea of detachment in Buddhism?
What does it mean to be detached in a Buddhist sense?
To me, it means you don’t care about anything, but if that were true of Buddhism, it would be pointless to care about reaching enlightenment or helping others to end their suffering.
Does it just mean that you don’t love any one thing or person more than anything else?
I don’t know if I could get used to that idea. The only things I really care about are my pets, and I don’t know if I could just not love them anymore…
So, could anyone help me out with this?
(Answer by stbb)
What causes you to be happy or unhappy? We human beings mistakenly think to get things is the cause of all happiness; so we spend 95% of our life, time and efforts to get what we think will give us happiness, the remaining 5% maybe used to take care our survival needs, like going to bathroom, drinking liquid, eating food and sleep.
To understand what happiness is we must examine what is the Nature of Suffering? Not the other way around! Unlike another answerer, he seems to have read Buddhism books, yet he didn’t fully understand the true teaching or theories of Buddhism. He assumes Buddhism is the teaching of understanding Suffering, and therefore he assumes that happiness is an illusion.
We must understand the Nature of Suffering is not our main concern; rather it is the byproduct of our activities in pursuing the happiness. It is true, most people confuse getting their desires fulfilled as happiness; if that is the case then this mundane happiness is truly an illusion as this answerer said. But the happiness in Buddhism I am talking about is, “Nirvana is Happiness”; the ultimate happiness that is every bit real, therefore the pursuing of Happiness is the ultimate teaching in Buddhism.
Whereas some people dwell in getting their mundane desires fulfilled, and then they are disappointed when they failed and can’t have their cake and eat it too; they get distraught, bent out of shape, become upset and unhappy, then this is truly suffering for them. So therefore we must learn to be detached from the outcomes of the activities of getting our desires fulfilled.
Many things we hold dear to our heart in this Samsara world are love, friendship, companionship, money, wealth, cars and houses,… etc.; but they are merely illusions of this life. You may have all of the above as your processions for a while, or for a long time, or even for the rest of your life; but in the end there is nothing you truly gain or can truly hold on to for eternity, as all things are impermanent.
You will die, your wealth can be lost, and your lover can fall out of love with you, your body and all things materials will fall apart. When you die, all things you posses will left behind, nothing you have can be taken with you. In the final end, what is there for you? And what is truly everlasting?
For most, obtaining things are happiness and losing things are suffering; as humans we get some and we lose some. If we have the attitude of detachment; if we can get what we want we can be happy and enjoy them; or if we lost them we might be upset for a bit but it won’t cause extreme Suffering.
Therefore Buddhism teachings suggest that we carry out our life with the attitude of detachment; then we won’t be extremely upset when we experience pain and suffering; and if we do get what we want, we won’t be overly exuberant and develop fear of losing what we have obtained, which then would turn into a type of suffering again.
How do we develop detachment, an attitude of Non- attachment? First we need to examine what is the motive of why we need something, or why do we want it so dearly; then we analyze do we really need it badly or it was just a momentarily passion? After a logical analysis we may come to a conclusion that a particular attachment is an unnecessary passion of our needy mind, and we can logically write it off and cross off the attachment. The attachment to that particular passion will fade like last year’s rose. This process is by logical deduction in Buddhism.
Any other way is more difficult for book Buddhists, and that is where you need training in real practices of meditation and Vajrayana Yoga’s, which cannot be done without a teacher. As we practice we come to realization of impermanence, all material and solid things fade into nothingness, so do our wrongful passions and attachments. In time you come to realize the 4 Noble Truths; then realizing the urgency of limited time in our life and what we can do to leave a mark or to obtain a permanence is more important than a trivial passions and attachments
My Personal Reflections
I’ve been working on an eBook based on a PDF “The Top Ten Ways to be Happy Today!,” which I am developing with my teacher. Point number one is: All I have is the moment (The moment is the only thing that counts. I take time each day to just be in the moment.) Over attachment to outcomes which I still suffer from I find pulls me out of the moment, and I meditate daily to work in exercising the letting go muscles. I’m happy to share the free PDF which my upcoming book is based. Anyone who signs up for the newsletter can request it for FREE!
As always I look forward to receiving feedback and developing constructive dialogs,