David Loy on Attachment

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David Loy on Attachment

Postby Jikan » Wed Mar 20, 2013 3:38 pm

The Buddhist term for all this is attachment, yet that is such a vague, indiscriminate concept that this is an area where Buddhism has much to learn from psychotherapy.


this is on page 14 of David Loy's book Lack and Transcendence.

Can attachment (point nine on the traditional twelve-link chain of dependent origination) be fairly described as a "vague, indiscriminate concept"?

If so, is psychotherapy (Loy is particularly interested in existential psychoanalysis ala O. Rank, R. May or H. Becker) a suitable archive to draw on in specifying this concept?
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby randomseb » Wed Mar 20, 2013 3:51 pm

I don't find it particularly vague personally.. Everything is in a state of constant changing flux, but our tendency is to try to hold on to something as it was, not wanting changing conditions and circumstances, we're attached, that is to say we are grasping at this changing fading condition, but this is never possible over any length of time, and so we suffer.

For example, we are attached to, cling to, desperately hold on to feeling happy, so when we feel sad, we suffer. "Oh, why am I sad? I don't want to be sad!" so we despair and intensify and escalate by virtue of wanting this happy feeling again. But if we were to just say, "Oh I am sad, how interesting, let's enjoy this", then sad comes, flows through, and leaves. Then you are back to joyful emptiness. Perhaps happy comes, and in the same way it flows in, then out, then back like joyful emptiness.. Like a sound frequency oscilloscope, you know?
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby BuddhaSoup » Wed Mar 20, 2013 4:28 pm

Jikan wrote:
The Buddhist term for all this is attachment, yet that is such a vague, indiscriminate concept that this is an area where Buddhism has much to learn from psychotherapy.


this is on page 14 of David Loy's book Lack and Transcendence.

Can attachment (point nine on the traditional twelve-link chain of dependent origination) be fairly described as a "vague, indiscriminate concept"?

If so, is psychotherapy (Loy is particularly interested in existential psychoanalysis ala O. Rank, R. May or H. Becker) a suitable archive to draw on in specifying this concept?



I haven't read Loy's book, but I'd make the argument that psychotherapy, with its overfocus on the individual dual 'self,' has much to learn from Buddhadharma. Attachment has a specific meaning. What I understand of the meaning of attachment in Buddhist thought is the idea of the harmful duality of attachment. We suffer because we see others, and things, and objects and forms, as separate from our sense of self. Once we meditate on the idea of not-self and work toward release from seeing the world in "me vs. it/them" terms, we liberate ourselves from attachments: liberated from craving something disconnected from our 'self.'

The balance we can achieve with this liberation is freedom from craving what we can't have, and freedom from running from what we do not seek.

That's my two cents, having not read Loy's book...I'm reluctant to comment without more understanding of his position, but what the hell...
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Wed Mar 20, 2013 4:47 pm

:shrug:

IMHO people in modern society aren't "attached" and don't "grasp". When was the last time you heard someone say they were "attached" to chocolate or "grasped at" an identity?

Modern alienated people are "addicted".

IMHO that's karma in a nutshell - a habit that's almost impossible to break.

Just language.
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby Jikan » Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:05 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote::shrug:

IMHO people in modern society aren't "attached" and don't "grasp". When was the last time you heard someone say they were "attached" to chocolate or "grasped at" an identity?

Modern alienated people are "addicted".

IMHO that's karma in a nutshell - a habit that's almost impossible to break.

Just language.


Fair enough. But do the convictions of ordinary people about their condition correspond to their actual condition in as represented by a philosophical language that they don't know? Would a reasonable person be expected to diagnose themselves of any Buddhist-derived category of afflictive emotion (golly am I ever in the grip of upadana with this bit of chocolate) in the absence of having studied Buddhism carefully?

I'm asking because some descriptions of upadana, usually translated as "attachment" or "grasping," really do sound like being stuck in an addictive pattern: chasing after experiences that never satisfy out of compulsion or overwhelming force of habit, for instance.
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby Jnana » Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:35 pm

Jikan wrote:Can attachment (point nine on the traditional twelve-link chain of dependent origination) be fairly described as a "vague, indiscriminate concept"?

In terms of suffering and liberation, upādāna needs to be considered in the context of craving (tṛṣṇā), defilement (kleśa), karma, and the four noble truths, etc. I think that if you were to look into the Sarvāstivāda and Yogācāra treatises you would find sufficiently detailed analysis of all of these terms and relevant doctrines.

Jikan wrote:If so, is psychotherapy (Loy is particularly interested in existential psychoanalysis ala O. Rank, R. May or H. Becker) a suitable archive to draw on in specifying this concept?

The difficulty with approaching the Buddhadharma through psychotherapy is that psychotherapy offers different goals than the Buddhist paths do (i.e. śrāvakabodhi, pratyekabodhi, or anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi). And the goal of a path informs view and practice.
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby Jikan » Thu Mar 21, 2013 2:23 pm

Thank you all for the thoughtful responses.
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby Simon E. » Thu Mar 21, 2013 2:35 pm

I have only just seen this Jikan.
I think comparisons between the modalities presented by Dharma and by Psychotherapy are fraught with difficulty.
This in my view ( as a therapist and a Dzogchen student ) is largely due to their differing aims.
Therapy aims to restore the person to conventional functioning, in the same way that dentistry or
physiotherapy aims to restore the ability to function in society,
This is absolutely not to disparage dentistry, physiotherapy or psychotherapy. Each of them can and do reduce suffering.

But they do not and cannot lead to Realisation.
I would go so far as to assert that psychotherapy seeks to reinforce healthy and appropriate attachment.
Which may be a necessary prerequisite to the possibility of renunciation.
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby Jnana » Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:52 pm

For anyone who may be interested, the four types of upādāna are given in the Pratītyasamutpādādivibhaṅganirdeśa Sūtra:

    There are four attachments (catvāryupādānāni): attachment to sense pleasures (kāmopādāna), attachment to views (dṛṣṭyupādāna), attachment to virtue and practice (śīlavratopādāna), attachment to self-theories (ātmavādopādāna).

This same list is given in SN 12.2, MN 9, DN 15, etc. The general context and analysis of the four types of upādāna is given here.

Ven. Anālayo's entry on Upādāna from the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism is informative: Upādāna.

Ven. Anālayo's entry on Taṇhā from the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism is also relevant: Taṇhā.

The four types of upādāna are also mentioned and commented upon in the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya (Ch. 5) and the Abhidharmasamuccaya.
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby jeeprs » Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:08 pm

I think that in practice, we are often 'made' out of attachments, they constitute our normal sense of who we are. We are usually not even aware that they are attachments until we face loosing them. But I would think they include your career and family. I know that I am thoroughly embedded in all of these. When you try and speak about them theoretically, it is very difficult, but only because they are actually so close to us, that when you talk about them in theoretical terms, it doesn't come to grips with their concrete 'embedded' reality.
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby Jnana » Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:38 am

jeeprs wrote:But I would think they include your career and family. I know that I am thoroughly embedded in all of these. When you try and speak about them theoretically, it is very difficult, but only because they are actually so close to us, that when you talk about them in theoretical terms, it doesn't come to grips with their concrete 'embedded' reality.

According to Sn 4.1 Kāma Sutta, sensual pleasures as objects (i.e. vatthukāmā) include things such as "fields, land, gold, cattle, horses, servants, employees, women, and relatives." In the social context of the discourses these items would be related to both career and family as potential sources of attachment.

jeeprs wrote:I think that in practice, we are often 'made' out of attachments, they constitute our normal sense of who we are. We are usually not even aware that they are attachments until we face loosing them.

In ābhidharmika terms there is a close relationship between what we are attached to and what we are, i.e. the five aggregates of attachment (upādānaskandha). And the notion that what we are attached to conditions what we will become is also indicated by the links of dependent arising where craving and attachment are conditions for becoming and future birth.
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby jeeprs » Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:35 am

I've thought about this some more. Where i think that psycho-therapeutic perspectives can be very useful in the modern Western situation, is in helping us to unpack the very deep kinds of samskaras and vijnanas that constitute our view of who we are and what the world is.

The above quotes are quite intelligible from the perspective of renunciation. But few of us here are renunciates or are ever likely to become one. So sometimes we need a way to dig deep, to really examine the basis of our identity and the deep unconscious urges that constitute that. Getting to terms with those deep complexes is easier said than done. If we don't do that, we are just mouthing phrases and using a sense of Buddhist identity to avoid the real deep-seated problems.

Carl Jung for instance was very much aware of that, as were some of his followers, like James Hillman.
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby Jikan » Mon Mar 25, 2013 12:22 pm

Are there not forms of renunciation that are appropriate to a householder or layman/laywoman?

jeeprs wrote:So sometimes we need a way to dig deep, to really examine the basis of our identity and the deep unconscious urges that constitute that. Getting to terms with those deep complexes is easier said than done. If we don't do that, we are just mouthing phrases and using a sense of Buddhist identity to avoid the real deep-seated problems.


^^In my (admittedly very limited) experience, this is the teacher's job: to point out to you directly and without compromise just what it is you need to resolve, release, cultivate, and so on. Practicing with a sangha is also very good for this purpose. I can't speak to the question of whether depth psychology is adequate to this task.

At the level of comparative philosophy, I've always been more attracted to the Erich Fromm side of the psychoanalytic side of the street than the Jungian. Fromm was able to think dialectically, showed an interest in Dharma and meditation practice (as in his contact with DT Suzuki), and wasn't particularly an essentialist or eternalist. I do know that many have been interested in Jung's approach or have found it helpful to them.
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby Jnana » Mon Mar 25, 2013 7:50 pm

jeeprs wrote:The above quotes are quite intelligible from the perspective of renunciation. But few of us here are renunciates or are ever likely to become one. So sometimes we need a way to dig deep, to really examine the basis of our identity and the deep unconscious urges that constitute that.

I think that every Buddhist path -- whether śrāvakayāna, mahāyāna, or vajrayāna -- includes some degree of developing awareness of attachments and working with this awareness in various ways that include renunciation.

jeeprs wrote:Getting to terms with those deep complexes is easier said than done. If we don't do that, we are just mouthing phrases and using a sense of Buddhist identity to avoid the real deep-seated problems.

Yes, indeed.
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby Anders » Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:01 pm

I think the degree to which attachment/clinging/upadana is left broad and generic is a largely deliberate one. Certainly it is not a big step to turn to both the Nikayas and mahayana sutras, nor for that matter the shastras and abidharmas, for a wealth of variegated and much more specific classifications of the types of clinging and their causal relationships with other dharmas. Where zen eschews technical language it is just as often by choice. Linji for example was a Yogacara expert. The systematic and technical mode of exegesis would not have been foreign to him at all, though his own teaching betray little of such familiarity. I think it is worth asking why he opted for a more informal approach himself.
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby Simon E. » Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:49 pm

jeeprs wrote:I've thought about this some more. Where i think that psycho-therapeutic perspectives can be very useful in the modern Western situation, is in helping us to unpack the very deep kinds of samskaras and vijnanas that constitute our view of who we are and what the world is.

The above quotes are quite intelligible from the perspective of renunciation. But few of us here are renunciates or are ever likely to become one. So sometimes we need a way to dig deep, to really examine the basis of our identity and the deep unconscious urges that constitute that. Getting to terms with those deep complexes is easier said than done. If we don't do that, we are just mouthing phrases and using a sense of Buddhist identity to avoid the real deep-seated problems.

Carl Jung for instance was very much aware of that, as were some of his followers, like James Hillman.

In fact rigorous audits of the outcomes of Jungian therapies are at best inconclusive ...
It may be that the very idea of deep seated complexes is itself the result of cultural conditioning and that there are more satisfactory ways to express the layered nature of dukkha.
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby pueraeternus » Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:24 am

Simon E. wrote:It may be that the very idea of deep seated complexes is itself the result of cultural conditioning and that there are more satisfactory ways to express the layered nature of dukkha.


True. Sans the doctrine of rebirth, I find that western psychology tries to link such deep seated complexes with events experienced in the current life, and sometimes ends up making connections where there is none, or causing the memory to imbue childhood events with significance that never quite occurred that way...
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby jeeprs » Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:33 am

Well, maybe - but, aside from Depth Psychology, which other indigenous Western discipline even approximates the kind of framework required to work with the notion of 'levels of mind' that we find in Buddhism? Jung's ideas of the archetypes actually do provide a kind of framework which can accomodate the idea of re-birth.
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby pueraeternus » Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:48 am

jeeprs wrote:Well, maybe - but, aside from Depth Psychology, which other indigenous Western discipline even approximates the kind of framework required to work with the notion of 'levels of mind' that we find in Buddhism?


None that I am aware of, but even if some form of western psychology did delve into deep layers of the mind, by eschewing rebirth and yogic direct perception, it will turn out to be a completely different animal from the Buddhist paradigm.

Jung's ideas of the archetypes actually do provide a kind of framework which can accomodate the idea of re-birth.


I guess so, but that will have to extrapolated into areas he didn't touch. Also, such extrapolations would not make it to clinical practice, and as a result will only remain as a fringe of a already somewhat fringe science! :tongue:
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Re: David Loy on Attachment

Postby Simon E. » Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:26 am

jeeprs wrote:Well, maybe - but, aside from Depth Psychology, which other indigenous Western discipline even approximates the kind of framework required to work with the notion of 'levels of mind' that we find in Buddhism? Jung's ideas of the archetypes actually do provide a kind of framework which can accomodate the idea of re-birth.

A " framework" which Jung himself warned against.
I have not the time at the moment, but will find the references wherein Jung makes clear his grave concerns about westerners attempting to practice Buddhism or Yoga.
He was convinced that it would be dangerous for those encultured by western thought to attempt to do so.
He was of his time. A pioneer.
The fact that neither Jung nor Freud nor Adler appear on the syllabus of any current university based courses in psychology, psychiatry or most current psychotherapies except as historical footnotes is not through ignorance or neglect.
The variants on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy by contrast are fully compatible with Buddhadharma. Although at best they provide only a preparation for Dharma.
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