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Old 08-25-2013, 08:14 AM
 
Location: Golden, CO
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Have any Buddhist writers explored whether lack of attachment might be a bad thing? Personally, I don't mind enduring some suffering from time to time that comes with attachment, because I would not want to miss out on the joys that come from attachment.

I don't see completely ending all of my suffering as a good thing. I think it takes courage to take risk - to enter into and develop attachment because you know you may experience suffering, but the joy of the attachment is worth the risk. I believe it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Could someone point me in the direction of a discourse or dialogue discussing this exact issue?
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Old 08-25-2013, 09:36 AM
 
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I actually haven't read any articles on that but there's some people/things in life that I'm unwilling to detach from. I'm okay with suffering in those regards.
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Old 08-25-2013, 02:32 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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I have always struggled with how to be unattached to particular outcomes without being indifferent / resigned. It is one thing to realize that certain things are illusory and/or not as important as you thought they were, it is another to just take life as it comes in every case and pretend it doesn't matter to you.

On the other hand, I have to admit that objecting to / stressing about things that are basically not under any kind of meaningful direct personal control, is a waste of energy.

I suppose the problem for me is that a lifestyle of not clinging to particular outcomes, ever, requires a certain faith that it will be alright in the long run or that you can manage to be so sanguine about everything that whatever happens is alright (the so-called "suchness of all things"). I have been far from alright much of my adult life so that's a hard one for me to completely buy into. I have witnessed too much human suffering and meaningless dissolution that is definitely not okay. Just rolling with the punches feels like infinite lowering of one's standards to the point where life becomes meaningless in an almost nihilistic fashion. And yet: what else, really, can you do? There is no Orchestrator, no "fairness" to carry on about. Things just are.
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Old 08-25-2013, 05:30 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mordant View Post
I have always struggled with how to be unattached to particular outcomes without being indifferent / resigned. It is one thing to realize that certain things are illusory and/or not as important as you thought they were, it is another to just take life as it comes in every case and pretend it doesn't matter to you.

On the other hand, I have to admit that objecting to / stressing about things that are basically not under any kind of meaningful direct personal control, is a waste of energy.

I suppose the problem for me is that a lifestyle of not clinging to particular outcomes, ever, requires a certain faith that it will be alright in the long run or that you can manage to be so sanguine about everything that whatever happens is alright (the so-called "suchness of all things"). I have been far from alright much of my adult life so that's a hard one for me to completely buy into. I have witnessed too much human suffering and meaningless dissolution that is definitely not okay. Just rolling with the punches feels like infinite lowering of one's standards to the point where life becomes meaningless in an almost nihilistic fashion. And yet: what else, really, can you do? There is no Orchestrator, no "fairness" to carry on about. Things just are.
Attachment isn't pretending that things don't matter to you. You can care about things without being attached. Attachment comes when the outcome is so important to you that you'll cause others to suffer in order to bring it about. Attachment is being unable to accept that things didn't turn out as you had wanted, and so you either deny the reality of the situation, or carry grudges about how things came out. But while there are ways to influence the outcome of events, up to where you cause people suffering, it isn't attachment to care about them, or to take what steps you can to bring about the outcome you want.
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Old 08-25-2013, 06:46 PM
 
Location: Golden, CO
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RockJock1729 View Post
Attachment isn't pretending that things don't matter to you. You can care about things without being attached. Attachment comes when the outcome is so important to you that you'll cause others to suffer in order to bring it about. Attachment is being unable to accept that things didn't turn out as you had wanted, and so you either deny the reality of the situation, or carry grudges about how things came out. But while there are ways to influence the outcome of events, up to where you cause people suffering, it isn't attachment to care about them, or to take what steps you can to bring about the outcome you want.
Your understanding of the word attachment is quite a narrow definition compared to what I have previously come to believe. I need to find out whether your definition is unique to a small subset of practitioners of Buddhism or whether it is the common understanding of Buddhist teachings in each of the major traditions.
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Old 08-25-2013, 06:49 PM
 
Location: Golden, CO
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mordant View Post
I have always struggled with how to be unattached to particular outcomes without being indifferent / resigned. It is one thing to realize that certain things are illusory and/or not as important as you thought they were, it is another to just take life as it comes in every case and pretend it doesn't matter to you.

On the other hand, I have to admit that objecting to / stressing about things that are basically not under any kind of meaningful direct personal control, is a waste of energy.

I suppose the problem for me is that a lifestyle of not clinging to particular outcomes, ever, requires a certain faith that it will be alright in the long run or that you can manage to be so sanguine about everything that whatever happens is alright (the so-called "suchness of all things"). I have been far from alright much of my adult life so that's a hard one for me to completely buy into. I have witnessed too much human suffering and meaningless dissolution that is definitely not okay. Just rolling with the punches feels like infinite lowering of one's standards to the point where life becomes meaningless in an almost nihilistic fashion. And yet: what else, really, can you do? There is no Orchestrator, no "fairness" to carry on about. Things just are.
Thank you for your post. You bring up an issue that has been a source of my hesitancy to adopt Buddhism.
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Old 08-26-2013, 06:09 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Hueffenhardt View Post
Your understanding of the word attachment is quite a narrow definition compared to what I have previously come to believe. I need to find out whether your definition is unique to a small subset of practitioners of Buddhism or whether it is the common understanding of Buddhist teachings in each of the major traditions.
It may be unique to a subset of one; it's how I've been trying to resolve the problem mordant raised. And I may have it wrong according to several (most?) major traditions. Plus, I'm trying to keep things concrete in this discussion, because I'm not sure dealing in abstractions would help.

The problem with characterizing lack of attachment as being indifferent/resigned to things is that it would justify benign neglect. You don't weed the garden, you don't feed the dog, you don't put shoes back on the horse if they fall off. And that doesn't seem to me to be the goal in letting go of attachment. The goal, to me, seems to be not getting hooked into a way of thinking of how things aren't. That's very different from not caring about anything.
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Old 08-26-2013, 09:08 AM
 
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I find these thoughts very arresting. Perhaps this is because I have had to deal with them, and in some measure continue to. And, from what I have observed - mostly in Buddhist environments - is that the points you have brought up have to be dealt with by many people who are looking to Buddhism for direction, excepting, possibly, those who are focused strongly on devotional religious practices.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mordant View Post
.....I suppose the problem for me is that a lifestyle of not clinging to particular outcomes, ever, requires a certain faith that it will be alright in the long run or that you can manage to be so sanguine about everything that whatever happens is alright (the so-called "suchness of all things").
Perhaps not-clinging is something that has stages or degrees. It looks that way to me sometimes, based on my life experience. I have been balking at this point, stuck on what I want to say - and I think it is that word "alright" (in the above quote) that has me stuck. At one time, many years ago, "alright" actually meant something on the order of good-to-perfect for me. Over many decades "alright" went on to become OK-to-okayish; and now it seems to have become I-can-deal-with-it to one-foot-in-front-of-the-other.

I think what I am trying to say is over time "alright" as come to be a vaguer level expectation, more nebulous. Perhaps it also sounds negative, so I should add that over the same span many aspects of my life experience and my psychological mood improved remarkably.

If I were to graph my physical well-being from age 21 to the present, it would be an almost constantly descending line quickly going below any midline designated "acceptable," with several plunges near to zero and jagged ascents than have never again approached to that midline. On the other hand, if there were another line representing my psychological well-being over those same years it would start out probably somewhat below the midline, take frequent plunges toward the bottom, and then begin a steady ascent to the midline and then well above it. The two lines, thus making something of an X.

(This above obviously makes no attempt to include those "social" and external life events that come upon you from outside - i.e. what kind of people were your parents, accidents of any sort, social discrimination, friendships, winning the lottery, etc. And, of course, these would also be part of anyone's life graph as I have characterized it.)

I would not claim to have arrived at a state of existence characterized by not clinging. But if there is a clinging scale with ten being totally attached to specific outcomes and one being unattached to particular outcomes; then I have gone from a full bore 10 slowly down over many decades into territory below five.

The point at which the two lines I described above crossed was approached in the mid-1980's, when the AIDS epidemic in NYC, where I was then living, was rushing to its peak (both epidemiologically and sociologically.) A Zen teacher long ago is reported to have said: "Let he who would learn Zen, learn the Zen of the lone lamp burning in the death room." While not a follower of Zen, I would say, in that spirit, that this experience helped to accelerate the changes happening in my life. This was the era when most people already manifesting signs of full-blown AIDS died within 18 months max, and the majority of the rest within two to five. I was involved with ten or eleven men in various capacities - in most cases as a kind of home-visitor/confidante and with three - a former junior staff member, a long-time friend, and a stranger I was assigned to but became good friends with, I was their physical caretaker, as well, and was with them when they died at home.

After a little more than two years of this, I became interested in Buddhism and slowly got involved in the life of some centers. At the end of this period, I was involved in an accident, became unemployed and unemployable and as things became abominably worse, I also began enjoying my life perhaps more than ever before, even as there was less of it.

So, what is "not clinging"? In all fairness, I have to say, "Dunno." I am inclined to think that (for me) it does not entail "a certain faith that it will be alright in the long run or that you can manage to be so sanguine about everything that whatever happens is alright." That rather sounds like the Roman Catholicism I was familiar with, and that proved both unpalatable and unrealistic. The OED sums sanguine up with "optimistic, confident." I can't match that up with not clinging. It seems to me that one can want a specific outcome, but if you can accept that that outcome may well not come to pass, then we are talking about not-clinging. I don't think it means we don't feel disappointment, I think it means that we do not nurture and play with our disappointment, working to make it hang around. And I would say the same with those outcomes and events that are very pleasing.
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Old 08-26-2013, 09:18 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RockJock1729 View Post
.... The goal, to me, seems to be not getting hooked into a way of thinking of how things aren't. That's very different from not caring about anything.
I should have gone back and reread a few articles before I made my own posting. I am inclined to think that this is pretty much what I was trying to get at in my much longer, prolix posting.
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Old 08-26-2013, 10:50 AM
 
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Originally Posted by kevxu View Post
I should have gone back and reread a few articles before I made my own posting. I am inclined to think that this is pretty much what I was trying to get at in my much longer, prolix posting.
Not at all. I've come to enjoy your posts, both the prolix and the terse. And the stage idea of not-clinging has a certain intuitive appeal.
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