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Attachment

Ajahn Sumedho

First, you must recognize what attachment is, and then youlet go. That's when you realize non-attachment. However, if you're coming from the view that you shouldn't be attached, then that's still not it. The point is not to take a position against attachment, as if there were a commandment against it; the point is to observe. We ask the questions, "What is attachment?""Does being attached to things bring happiness or suffering?" Then we begin to have insight. We begin to see what attachment is, and then we can let go.

If you're coming from a high-minded position in which you think you shouldn't be attached to anything, then you comeup with ideas like, "Well, I can't be a Buddhist because I love my wife, because I'm attached to my wife. I love her, and I just can't let her go. I can't send her away." Those kinds of thoughts come from the view that youshouldn't be attached.

The recognition of attachment doesn't mean that you get rid of your wife. It means you free yourself from wrong views about yourself and your wife. Then you find thatthere's love there, but it's not attached. It's not distorting, clinging, and grasping. The empty mindis quite capable of caring about others and loving in the pure sense of love. But any attachment will alwaysdistort that.

If you love someone and then start grasping, things get complicated; then, what you love causes you pain. For example, you love your children, but if you become attached to them, then you don't really love them anymore because you're not with them as they are. You have all kinds of ideas about what they should be and what you want themto be. You want them to obey you, and you want them to be good, and you want them to pass their exams. With this attitude, you're not really loving them, because if they don't fulfill your wishes, you feel angry and frustrated and averse to them. So attachment to children prevents us from loving them. But as we let go of attachment, we find that our natural way of relating is to love. We find that we are able to allow our children to be as they are, rather than having fixed ideas of what we want them to be. When I talk to parents, they say how much suffering thereis in having children, because there's a lot of wanting. When we're wanting them to be a certain way and not wanting them to be another way, we create this anguish and suffering in our minds. But the more we let go of that, the more we discover an amazing ability to be sensitive to, and aware of, children as they are. Then, of course, that openness allows them to respondrather than just react to our attachment. You know, a lot of children are just reacting to our saying, "I want you to be like this.

The empty mind-the pure mind-is not a blank where you're notfeeling or caring about anything. It's an effulgence of the mind. It's a brightness that is truly sensitive and accepting. It's an ability to accept life as it is. When we accept life as it is, we can respond appropriately to the way we're experiencing it, rather than just reacting out of fear and aversion.

Excerpted from 'The Mind and the Way'

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