Demarous wrote:With regards to Dissattachment, what does it actually mean?
My conception of it i believe is wrong, and the only thing holding me back from committing to Theravada fully as my path.
Everything else seems to work and sit well with me but this word Dissattachment and disspassion, as a family man, concern me, if i intend to keep them of course!!!
It's a common misunderstanding that, in Buddhism, attachment or clinging is the cause of suffering. But the second Noble Truth actually states that the origination of suffering (dukkha
) is "the craving [tahna
] that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming" (SN 56.11
). As Thanissaro Bhikkhu explains in Wings to Awakening
Craving for sensuality, here, means the desire for sensual objects. Craving for becoming means the desire for the formation of states or realms of being that are not currently happening, while craving for non-becoming means the desire for the destruction or halting of any that are. "Passion and delight," here, is apparently a synonym for the "desire and passion" for the five aggregates that constitutes clinging/sustenance [III/H/ii].Upadana
is the Pali word that's generally translated as "addiction," "attachment" or "clinging," and which can also mean "the act of taking sustenance" (which is why clinging is often described as the feeding habits of the mind). In MN 9
, clinging is defined as:
"And what is clinging, what is the origin of clinging, what is the cessation of clinging, what is the way leading to the cessation of clinging? There are these four kinds of clinging: clinging to sensual pleasures, clinging to views, clinging to rituals and observances, and clinging to a doctrine of self. With the arising of craving, there is the arising of clinging. With the cessation of craving, there is the cessation of clinging. The way leading to the cessation of clinging is just this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view... right concentration."
Much like the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who we're told in Plato's dialogue Cratylus
believed that all things flow and nothing stands (401d), the Buddha observed the characteristic of impermanence that's inherent to all conditional things as well. In Buddhist philosophy, all things that are conditional, or in other words all things that arise from causes and conditions, are seen to be impermanent, subject to cessation, to dissolution. In the discourses of the Buddha that are preserved in the Pali Canon, this idea is presented in numerous ways, with the basic formula being, "Whatever is subject to arising is all subject to cessation" (SN 56.11
). Everything in this world is in a state of flux, i.e., nothing in this world remains unchanged, and it's precisely because of this characteristic of existence that attachment gives rise to suffering.
To begin with, what is attachment? Attachment involves clinging to some object of sensory contact (forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations or ideas) due to of some degree of gratification and pleasure derived from that object. When pleasant feelings arise, our initial reaction is to grasp at that pleasure and cling to whatever it is that happens to give rise to such pleasant feelings. Therefore, with the presence of attachment, the object of contact along with the corresponding feeling associated with that contact becomes essential to our experience of happiness.
How, then, does attachment give rise to suffering? The Pali word dukkha
, often translated as "suffering," is philosophically complex. The Buddha detailed three types of suffering, one of which is called viparinama-dukkha
—the suffering that results from change. Suffering of this kind arises when either the object of contact or the pleasant feelings that arise changes in some way, whereby the gratification and happiness that's dependent upon those conditions ceases, thus giving rise to unhappiness. Hence, separation from that which makes us happy is suffering.
This particular form of suffering isn't as obvious as the suffering experienced in the form of physical pain, but it's a sense of sorrow that one experiences when the moments of happiness, moments of sensual gratification and pleasure, fail to last. Therefore, unlike the unhappiness that arises when we experience something unpleasant, the suffering that results from change arises because a particular form of gratification and pleasure that we've become accustomed to producing an emotional state of happiness fades away.
The way I see it, the human organism is a complex assortment of mental and physical processes, and since one of the underlying motivations behind our actions is the desire for happiness and pleasure, it's no wonder that the ever-changing circumstances in life are sometimes so hard for us to bear. But most people have trouble understanding the teachings on clinging from a Buddhist standpoint. People often take it to mean that they should give up everything completely—that all possessions, relationships, likes, dislikes, etc. must be discarded. That's not a correct understanding of this concept, however. How can you discard a feeling for example? Is it any more possible to get rid of your brain? Ha, imagine that! No, to truly become free of "clinging" we need to understand the mental process itself, not throw away all of our belongings.
Clinging in this context is basically when our sense of self (our ego or sense of identity if you prefer) creates the illusion of need through its craving (i.e., want or desire to the Nth degree). In the simplest of terms, clinging is our security blanket in life. Anything that comforts, protects or gives rise to a continuation of the our sense of self is a security blanket, and the mind and body use many things effectively for this purpose.
There's rarely a moment when the mind is not clinging to this or that in one or more of the four ways (MN 11
). Our identity jumps from one thing to another, wherever the clinging is strongest. Our sense of self is something which is always in flux, ever-changing from moment to moment in response to various internal and external stimuli, and yet at the same time, we tend to see it as a static thing. It's as if our sense of self desires permanence, but its very nature causes it to change every second!
Change is, of course, a fact of nature. All things are in a perpetual state of change, but the problem is that our sense of self ignores this reality on a certain level. From birth to death, we have the tendency to think that this "I" remains the same. Now, we might know that some things have changed (e.g., our likes and dislikes, our age, the amount of wrinkles we have, etc.), but we still feel as if we are still "us." We have the illusion (for lack of a better word) that our identity is who we are, a static entity named [fill in the blank], and we tend to perceive this as being the same throughout our lives.
For example, we cling to our names. "I am Jason." Nevertheless, if we hear a name that we like better, a nickname perhaps, we'll cling to that. We may even get angry if someone calls us by a different name. "I'm not James
, I'm Jason
!" It's clinging that gives rise to this sense of ownership, this sense of "mine." With the presence of clining, our mind is not unlike one of those horrid glue traps for rats. Whatever gets stuck in there becomes a part of it, even though they're truly two separate things. (Just as we can "feel" and yet our feelings are not "us.")
That said, the conventional use of personality is a function of survival, as well as convenience. However, clinging to our personalities as "me" or "mine" is seen as giving continued fuel for becoming (bhava
), i.e., a mental process of taking on a particular kind of identity that arise out of clinging. Our sense of self, the ephemeral "I," is merely a mental imputation — the product of what the Buddha called a process of "I-making and my-making" — and when we cling to our sense of self as being "me" or "mine" in some way, we're clinging to an impermanent representation of something that we've deluded ourselves into thinking is fixed and stable. It becomes a sort of false refuge that's none of these things.
So from a Buddhist perspective, all of this clinging is unhealthy for our mind. The weight of all these things we pick up internally creates huge burdens, burdens which we then must carry around with us. They oppress our heart, they cloud our judgment and they cause us suffering.
Meditation and contemplation are seen as excellent methods for developing insight into this process. From the Buddhist point of view, we're simply slaves to our craving and mindfulness is our best weapon. Constant attention and awareness of these things is said to help shed light into the dark corners of our mind. Meditation allows us to see these processes in action, and once we begin to see the potential stress and danger that's hidden within the process of clinging, we become less passionate about it. We remove its appeal and cease to be blind to our predicament. Dispassion is then said to lead to relinquishment — to letting go of our craving fully — thereby ending our mental addictions and enabling us to enjoy life with a truly free heart.
At least that's what I make out of it.