Love vs. Attachment

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Love vs. Attachment

Postby Epistemes » Sat Aug 20, 2011 5:05 pm

I've started reading Open Heart, Clear mind by Ven. Thubten Chodron. I'm slowly wading through the text and considering much of what she says.

In reading the third part of section two, titled Love vs. Attachment: Distinguishing genuine care from unrealistic projecions, she talks in depth about human relationships. If I understand her correctly, most human relationships are superficial and based on superficial criteria such as race, gender, class, intelligence, etc. As such, we form relationships with particular people, treasure and protect those relationships, and overestimate the value of those relationships to the detriment of everybody else. For example, if somebody threatens my wife, I'd threaten that person in return or worse - avenging suffering with more suffering. Another example is to cling strongly to my wife, bragging about her achievements, telling anecdotes about how happy we were on our last vacation, or worrying when she's diagnosed with cancer - never facing the reality that my wife is an ever-changing being like myself, not static, and definitely not eternal; as a result, I suffer when she fails, or when we don't have fun on a vacation, or when she passes away. Instead of this form of self-defining attachment, Ven. Thubten Chodron advises a love that embraces all people universally regardless of race, gender, class, intelligence, etc. simply because that person exists - understanding that not only is that person like myself desiring happiness, contentment and well-being, but also recognizing that persons shares my fate of aging and death.

I don't have any problem with the second part. I can appreciate this universal definition of love. My problem is with the first part. For one, Western science has demonstrated that the attachment between mother and child is pre-natal, and only grows stronger through infancy. Mother and child spend so much time together, that the child literally begins to infect the mother's brain with its presence. The self-definition of "mother" and "child" are, therefore, biologically ingrained and far from superficial. Animals demonstrate this mother-child attachment, as well. Mother regarding child or child regarding mother with the sort of universal understanding love that Ven. Thubten Chodron advises isn't impossible, but abandoning attachment is not possible since it's in their very genetics.

Ven. Chodron's recommendation to abandon attachment leaves little room for romantic love between partners given that she criticizes the bases upon which these relationships are formed and sustained. Furthermore, though many cultures have long practiced the custom of arranged marriages with some success, arranged marriages allowing for greater opportunity of practicing Chodron's universal love without discrimination, even these marriages are arranged superficially, considering race, age, class, intelligence, etc. Again, Western science has proven that romantic love is biological: it is the result of a series of hormones, neurological realignments, and chemical flooding of the entire body. Even in the worst of arranged marriages, a husband will protect his wife for no other reason than to protect the mother of his children.

In sum, I find Ven. Chodron's words cold and distant. She writes as if she's never experienced the pleasurable pains of being a mother or falling in love with someone, enduring the joys and pains of marriage, and remembering that person with great energy and love when they're gone. She writes like a self-imposed grad student or like a monk. And that's my problem with Buddhism: you're required to walk, talk and think like a monk at all times. Watch out for those attachments, monk, you might actually die having been glad to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

I recall a man whose wife passed away. At the wake, the priest asked the man, "How long had you and your wife been married?" The man replied, "70 years, but it was too short." I'd rather be that man than a monk.
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby Malcolm » Sat Aug 20, 2011 5:26 pm

Epistemes wrote:...you're required to walk, talk and think like a monk at all times.


No, you are just required to understand all that is born becomes ill, ages and dies. What you do with that fact makes the difference betwee samsara and nivana.

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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby Madeliaette » Sat Aug 20, 2011 5:58 pm

As someone who definitely has -
experienced the pleasurable pains of being a mother or falling in love with someone, enduring the joys and pains of marriage, and remembering that person with great energy and love when they're gone.
- maybe my experience can help clarify things a little. I have seen love from both sides - and am still a mother, if not still married.

One of the things that helped me understand the difference was to reflect on now being a tiny speck compared to always. With every being forever changing, I can enjoy the feelings of being a mother 'now' whilst bknowing my son will grow and change, our relationship likewise, and in future lives we may not even be in teh same city, let alone family. The test for me is to see if I still love him the same way knowing that in my last life we were unrelated and in future lives we may or may not be related - if my feelings of love remain, it should then be the right love rather than attachment love. Also, would I love my son the same as I do now were he to be a pet dog, a best friend, an uncle, a schoolmaster - in the future, or do I 'only' love him because he is my son now?

The other main thing that helped my own understanding in the love/attachment dilemna was to observe a bird or bug. Did I love them as they are, as they might become, might have been - or did I just feed the bird seed and scoop the bug out the birds' water bath because I cared THIS time? If they became a mother, a brother, a schoolfriend, an employer, etc in my next life - would i also care about their well being then - or only now, when they were as they are?

So, to view things from the multi-life stance helped me and I am then free to feel love, knowing it is the right type.
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby dakini_boi » Sat Aug 20, 2011 6:37 pm

One huge difficulty when starting to explore Buddhism, is that it can be misinterpreted as nihilistic. From the point of view of ordinary, conceptual mind, aspiring to love every being impartially is as meaningless as aspiring to be completely devoid of emotion.

If you really contemplate Buddha's teachings and try to understand the causes of suffering, you realize that the conceptual mind creates suffering constantly. On the other hand, "renunciation" can seem as if it is giving up on all joy and pleasure altogether. This is a double-bind that cannot be escaped through ordinary cognitive activity - dharma practice is for escaping from such extremes. However, even the concept of "escaping from extremes" seems to imply a luke-warm, braindead compromise. Another extreme.

Perhaps Thubten Chodron's teaching style is not for you. You might need to find another teacher/author that you connect with more, whose style inspires you. Have you tried Chogyam Trungpa, Pema Chodron, or Lama Yeshe? I think the way Lama Yeshe explains Buddhist ideas to Westerners is very elegant. Don't give up! The only thing that really needs to be renounced in Buddhism is suffering.
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby justsit » Sat Aug 20, 2011 7:04 pm

Epistemes wrote:... For one, Western science has demonstrated that the attachment between mother and child is pre-natal, and only grows stronger through infancy. Mother and child spend so much time together, that the child literally begins to infect the mother's brain with its presence. The self-definition of "mother" and "child" are, therefore, biologically ingrained and far from superficial. Animals demonstrate this mother-child attachment, as well. Mother regarding child or child regarding mother with the sort of universal understanding love that Ven. Thubten Chodron advises isn't impossible, but abandoning attachment is not possible since it's in their very genetics.
.

If that were the case, mothers could never abandon nor harm their children, since there would exist some kind of genetic positive attachment. Sadly, that is not how things work in real life, cf., Susan Smith, et al - there are plenty of mothers who couldn't care less about their children, murder them, etc.

Abandoning attachment is NOT the same thing as not loving. It absolutely is possible to love fully, and yet not suffer when
object disappears, as it inevitably will.
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby Epistemes » Sat Aug 20, 2011 7:58 pm

dakini_boi wrote: Perhaps Thubten Chodron's teaching style is not for you.

...

Don't give up! The only thing that really needs to be renounced in Buddhism is suffering.


I don't think it's a matter of teaching style, I think she's wrong. For example, she says,

"The lack of emotional freedom linked to attachment may also make us feel obliged to care for the other rather than risk losing him or her. Our affection then lacks sincerity, for it's based on fear."

She speaks like someone who's never had to be a caregiver. You take care of "the other" due to responsibility and love, not obligation. Even when a doctor tells you that your child has .01% chance of surviving a relapse of leukemia, I don't care how exhausted you get, you care for that child because it is your responsibility, because of love, and because you want that child to have a chance to live. And yes, you fear. You fear for that child's life: you want them to have a chance. You don't just give up on that child and say, "Oh, well, she'll be re-born as a healthy prince in the next life."

These exact circumstances happened to my girlfriend. She was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two, relapsed, and given a .01% chance of survival. The doctors even told her mother to begin planning for another child, but through MUCH suffering - more suffering than I suspect any member on this forum has ever encountered - mother and father fought for her life, and they beat the cancer against all odds. It was fear and responsibility that kept her alive, and try telling her parents that the fear and responsibility wasn't worth it. Try telling them or her that the dharma of non-attachment would rather have it the other way.

My girlfriend is now battling a possible auto-immune disease, and I take care of her. Sure, there is some attachment there because I'd hate to see her pass so early when we're both so young (though I recognize it is bound to happen whenever, and I will miss her so much when that day comes), but I don't care for her obligingly or without sincerity. I care for her because she's hurting. I don't even think, "Would I care for her if she were a rock, or a deer, or a chinchilla?" I'll care for those things when the time presents itself. I care for her this time because she is hurting. I care for a trapped wasp this time because it is lost and possibly hungry. Caring presents itself as nothing else but a series of "this times." No, I don't fear for the wasp like I do my girlfriend, and I never will because, unlike my girlfriend who is capable of love in the face of death, the wasp will possibly sting me for helping it.

There's nothing to give up when you never begin.
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby dakini_boi » Sat Aug 20, 2011 11:45 pm

You make valid points. You may be correct that Thubten Chodron speaks/teaches from limited experience. Still, I don't think this makes what she's teaching wrong, and I wouldn't interpret her generalizations about relationships to be absolutes. One thing you should know about Buddhism if you don't already, is that there are many different teachings, characterized as "vehicles" or "yanas." They are different approaches suited for different types of students and occasions, and often they seem to be in direct opposition to each other. In this case, it sounds as if what Thubten Chodron has to say about relationships in the book you're reading is not particularly relevant to your life. But other people might find it helpful.

You obviously value compassion a great deal, which is excellent from a Mahayana Buddhist perspective. One of the Mahayana vows is never to give up on alleviating the suffering of sentient beings - certainly to throw up your arms and say "who cares" when someone is suffering or dying would be a complete violation this vow!

I think it's easy to interpret the Buddhist idea of nonattachment as indifference. It's somewhat confusing to the conceptual mind, but they are not the same thing. The "three poisons" to be purified are attachment, aversion and indifference. So what's left when you purify all these?

Just out of curiosity - what is it about Buddhism that appeals to you, or made you start reading about it in the first place?
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby Epistemes » Sun Aug 21, 2011 1:20 am

dakini_boi wrote:Just out of curiosity - what is it about Buddhism that appeals to you, or made you start reading about it in the first place?


I answered this in pretty good detail over on this thread:

viewtopic.php?f=34&t=4554&view=unread#p53032

I think the Biblical wisdom books of Job and Ecclesiastes renewed my interest to pursue the dharma. Ecclesiastes is especially laden with wisdom similar in scope to what the Buddha and Dharma have to offer. I appreciate the non-dogmatic nature of Buddhism and how the Buddha allowed his followers to question him and the dharma based on their own experience. With that said, I tend to agree with a lot of what the Buddha said. My experience in life has confirmed that the Buddha was more right than any designated prophet, sage, or mystic when it comes to unraveling the composition of life and death. I'm trying better to understand what my own death means now that I've pragmatically rejected any notion of heaven, hell or purgatory; and I'm trying to learn what the death of my loved ones will mean. In short, I'm trying to find answers having been fed incorrect answers by the Catholic Church and so many other sources throughout life. I'm trying to understand what all of this means while living something of a normal life, enjoying life, and not regretting anything when I die. Reading stuff like Old Path White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Tipitaka bring me understanding; reading slightly more dogmatic stuff like Thubten Chodron gives me reason to think but ultimately makes me more confused and angry.

:focus:
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby dakini_boi » Sun Aug 21, 2011 6:19 pm

After reading all that, it definitely seems like Buddhism has a lot to offer you. Stick to the books and teachers that inspire and help you. Forget about the ones that don't. I think Thubten Chodron might teach Mahayana from more of a Hinayana filter. Some people need that. But you already have developed some compassion and wisdom. Consider looking into the work of the authors/teachers I mentioned above, especially if you're drawn to Tibetan Buddhism.
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby Epistemes » Mon Aug 22, 2011 2:21 pm

Madeliaette wrote:With every being forever changing, I can enjoy the feelings of being a mother 'now' whilst bknowing my son will grow and change, our relationship likewise, and in future lives we may not even be in teh same city, let alone family. The test for me is to see if I still love him the same way knowing that in my last life we were unrelated and in future lives we may or may not be related - if my feelings of love remain, it should then be the right love rather than attachment love. Also, would I love my son the same as I do now were he to be a pet dog, a best friend, an uncle, a schoolmaster - in the future, or do I 'only' love him because he is my son now?


I don't know how old your son is. I assume he is still quite young from what you say. But all I can wonder is, Does your son feel the same way? Will you make your son feel the same way? Does reciprocity matter?

I don't see how a healthy relationship can exist if one person is practicing (or feigning) non-attachment while the other doesn't. I understand that practicing non-attachment doesn't render a person independent or aloof, but being the object of attachment can also create emotional barriers. Freedom is denied by the other person's desires. However, we can't control what others think or feel about us. We can offer advice and a piece of the dharma, but the minds of some of our loved ones aren't disposed to the complexity the dharma. To them, the dharma may seem cold, distant and alien. They don't want to love you yesterday or tomorrow as a kingfisher, a crocodile, or a dragonfly, but they want to love you deeply today as the person who provides them with so much more than just an impartial love.

Call me ignorant and caught in the tides of samsara, but I don't think a strict non-attachment in human relationships is possible - unless you're a monk or born in a certain culture that practices such. Accept it or not, but scientists have proven the biological and genetic predisposition of certain relationships wherein attachments are created and sustained. While some mothers abandon and murder their children, nobody can speak for the psychological condition of the mother or what was running through her head the moment she did such. Nobody can say but the mother. And two can fall in love, love each other deeply and compassionately, recognizing the individuality of the other, care for one another through sickness and health, but still have disagreements, arguments, and fights and yet forgive one another and move on...happily. I think we're deluding ourselves if we think the Buddha never had to forgive somebody.
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby Epistemes » Wed Aug 24, 2011 3:58 am

Does anyone care to comment? I mean, Jesus, I've raised (what I think) are some good concerns and this thread is just drifting with no input from anybody else? What a supportive belief network. :|

:ban:
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby justsit » Wed Aug 24, 2011 2:16 pm

Perhaps you might find this discussion of interest.

Also, this.
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby Epistemes » Wed Aug 24, 2011 2:28 pm

Thanks, but I've already read it. Seems like there's going to be no discussion on this. Just another example of "Think this and shut up."
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby Malcolm » Wed Aug 24, 2011 2:46 pm

Epistemes wrote:
Call me ignorant and caught in the tides of samsara, but I don't think a strict non-attachment in human relationships is possible


One needs to make a distinction between afflictive attachment and non-afflictive attachment. Non-afflictive attachment comes from a place of concern and caring, valuing others more than oneself. Afflictive attachment is all about "I, me and mine".

From a Mahāyāna perspective, non-afflictive attachment is perfectly appropriate, indeed necessary. Afflictive attachment is just another cause of suffering.

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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby daelm » Wed Aug 24, 2011 3:14 pm

Epistemes wrote:Does anyone care to comment? I mean, Jesus, I've raised (what I think) are some good concerns and this thread is just drifting with no input from anybody else? What a supportive belief network. :|

:ban:


this is a service announcement:

this is an internet forum, not a belief network. few, if any, of the people logged on may know you in person, be familiar with your circumstances, or regard your incredibly important issues with the same seriousness that you do. furthermore, only a very small number of them (possibly an astonishingly small fraction) logged on on order to provide you with the answers to your questions. this is not a flaw - it is a feature of the interaction model and therefore cannot be fixed by us.

the internet apologizes for the inconvenience, and offers you this symbolic heart :heart:
Last edited by daelm on Wed Aug 24, 2011 3:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby daelm » Wed Aug 24, 2011 3:15 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Epistemes wrote:
Call me ignorant and caught in the tides of samsara, but I don't think a strict non-attachment in human relationships is possible


One needs to make a distinction between afflictive attachment and non-afflictive attachment. Non-afflictive attachment comes from a place of concern and caring, valuing others more than oneself. Afflictive attachment is all about "I, me and mine".

From a Mahāyāna perspective, non-afflictive attachment is perfectly appropriate, indeed necessary. Afflictive attachment is just another cause of suffering.

N



:good:


also....what he said.

d
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby Epistemes » Wed Aug 24, 2011 3:16 pm

None of this answers the question of reciprocity which I've raised. If one person is trying to be non-afflictively attached but another person is afflictively attached then this creates the illusion of being non-afflictively attached for the person who thinks they are non-afflicitvely attached when, in fact, because of the emotional barriers created by the one who is afflictively attached, the non-afflictively attached person is actually afflictively attached as well.
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby justsit » Wed Aug 24, 2011 3:22 pm

Is there a specific question in there?
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby Epistemes » Wed Aug 24, 2011 3:26 pm

daelm wrote:this is a service announcement:

this is an internet forum, not a belief network. few, if any, of the people logged on may know you in person, be familiar with your circumstances, or regard your incredibly important issues with the same seriousness that you do. furthermore, only a very small number of them (possibly an astonishingly small fraction) logged on on order to provide you with the answers to your questions. this is not a flaw - it is a feature of the interaction model and therefore cannot be fixed by us.

the internet apologizes for the inconvenience.


It is a belief network insofar as the people here have some relationship with the teachings of Buddhism, whether to learn, teach, correct, debate, or refute. And you're right: no one here really seems to regard anybody else's issues with any importance, which seems cold and incompassionate.
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

Postby Epistemes » Wed Aug 24, 2011 3:28 pm

justsit wrote:Is there a specific question in there?


Not "in there" but there was above: Does reciprocity matter?
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