I wonder why there is this rejection of anything that smacks of even the slightest form of clinging.
In SN 22.55, a form of contemplation is advocated by the Buddha that leads to Non-Return, namely the "It might not be, it might not be mine; it will not be, it will not be mine" contemplation (no cassaṃ, no ca me siyā, na bhavissati, na me bhavissatī
). The ahaṃ
conceit (embedded in the me
) responsible for the niggling clinging sense of individuality persists in this recommendation. Yet, there is the promise of Non-Return if one practices in this manner.
It's not until one has completed the task underlying this contemplation that the final vestige of clinging to the sense of "I" is to be abandoned. This process is set out famously in MN 106 -
When this was said, the venerable Ānanda said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, here a bhikkhu is practicing thus: ‘It might not be, and it might not be mine; it will not be, and it will not be mine. What exists, what has come to be, that I am abandoning.’ Thus he obtains equanimity. Venerable sir, does such a bhikkhu attain Nibbāna?”
“One bhikkhu here, Ānanda, might attain Nibbāna, another bhikkhu here might not attain Nibbāna.”
“What is the cause and reason, venerable sir, why one bhikkhu here might attain Nibbāna, while another bhikkhu here might not attain Nibbāna?”
“Here, Ānanda, a bhikkhu is practicing thus: ‘It might not be, and it might not be mine; it will not be, and it will not be mine. What exists, what has come to be, that I am abandoning.’ Thus he obtains equanimity. He delights in that equanimity, welcomes it, and remains holding to it. As he does so, his consciousness becomes dependent on it and clings to it. A bhikkhu with clinging, Ānanda, does not attain Nibbāna.”
I get the sense from these suttas that some forms of clinging are tolerable in the path and practice, or at the very least, are not obstructive to Non-Return. The residue just needs to be dealt with on the final leg to awakening.