Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Spirituality - Attachment

I was telling over the air that I missed my spiritual mentor and someone warned me to be careful of attachment, a taboo in Buddhism.  I feel there're many misunderstanding to Buddhism and would like to clarify on this, highlighting "attachment" since it was brought up.

Human is an emotional animal, and no human is devoid of it.  It's impossible.  One may not looked like it, but trust me, they feel alot.  Just maybe even better at putting it away from the expressions.

In the Buddhism spiritual trainings, none of us is required to be a cold robot.  In fact, it's more wrong than attachment to be a cold robot.  Because that means one can't feel for the sufferings of the masses.

If one can't feel, how are they going to help others?

The clutch is then dealing with the emotions.

It's wrong to react with, "Oh no!  I'm having an attachment now!  Quick!  Quick!  I must get rid of it now!!"  Then force the feelings to be rid of the heart.  I can guarantee that this not only backfires, it only serves even more attachments.  Either by way of holding onto the same issue or others, if not now then in the future.

And this isn't what Buddhism teaches one to be.  Buddhism emphasize on holistic and organic growth.

Now we hear this "holistic and organic growth" around every corner these days, what does it exactly means?

It means to handle issues at the right pace an individual can handle.  It's the same as some people take 3 days to recover from a cold, while some take 1 week.  It's different individual's body constitution that paces the healing process.  Applying on the the issues of the heart, it's the same.

To overcome attachments, the first key into that door is knowing where and why that attachment lies.  Please refer to the below examples, kindly note that they're not exhaustive.


  • Guilt - Because one procrastinates too much thus lost the opportunity, and fall into incessant "mourning" stage
  • Ego - Because one don't want to be defeated by the one they most hate e.g spouse, one of the parent, a very doted sibling etc etc
  • Dependency - Because one thought they can't live without that person/thing, hence the attachment

For most attachments, they're temporal and would dissipate in a short time like, in hours or a couple of days.  But for some, they are related to core issues in the heart that require counselling and therapy.  And without overcoming it, it would manifest into other external issues.

Like, affecting the feeling of self-worth, relationship with others, productivity at work and health etc etc.

Please note that "memories" are not attachments.  Attachment is a persistent, consistent and strong feelings to an issue able to affect the daily life.

The next key to overcome attachments is acknowledge and accept that one is holding onto it.  Acknowledgement is "to recognise it's there", while acceptance is "to admit". 

This is the most difficult step to healing an attachment because most human being don't like to feel defeated, or hates to know that they themselves are the one who created so much heartache.

It's normal, and exist in everyone before one learns to let go.

Once one overcomes this second key, the healing stage is about learning the lesson.  Learning the lesson means:


  • Setting off to correct the wrong emotion that gave the end-effect
  • Heal that emotion
  • So it won't occur again
  • Or, rein it in before it creates any trouble once it rears it's head next time. 

Then, what about, "But it's others who did this to me!"

If the whole house is solid, well-locked and well-guarded, would outside thieves have a chance?  If the family is a loving one, would internal stealings take place?

Buddhism isn't all about undiscerning kindness, it's about reacting to things in life by a "pure heart".  By "pure heart", it can mean:


  • If "scoldings" are needed, it should be out of a love e.g parents educating their children
  • If "quarrels" are needed, it should be to voice out without intention to hurt/harm/disgrace etc
  • If "lying" is needed, it should be to protect one from great emotional upset e.g lying to an elderly that one of the child/grandchild has died.

It is then, highly important to explain why you are doing all these to the other party so they won't get the wrong idea about you at the best chance later.  It's very important to tell them that it's out of love that you're doing this.  If they don't like the way it's done, try to work out a neutral channel of communication.

However, when a big white lie is told, sometimes, it's better not to owe up.  Especially if it's to an elderly in the above example.  If the truth bursts later, in my opinion, I'd reassure them that the deceased went away peacefully without struggle to mitigate the effects of the truth to the best I can.  Though of course, we have to guage the situation before a white lie is told.

If we know the elderly would suffer even more without the last farewell, then maybe it's good to reveal the truth before anything is too late.

Buddhism is all about flexibility too, the flexibility of not to hurt as first priority.

Having said all these, we all know everything is easier said than done.

Well, life is all about learning and overcoming obstacles, isn't it?

You're not alone, we're all in it together.  =)