Love vs. Attachment

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
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Epistemes
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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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Malcolm
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

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





འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


Free of hope and fear, relax.
Human life spent in
a state of great spaciousness is enjoyable.


— Kunzang Dechen Lingpa

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Re: Love vs. Attachment

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


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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


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Re: Love vs. Attachment

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

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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

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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

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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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justsit
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Re: Love vs. Attachment

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

Perhaps you might find of interest.

Also, .

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Epistemes
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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





འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


Free of hope and fear, relax.
Human life spent in
a state of great spaciousness is enjoyable.


— Kunzang Dechen Lingpa

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Re: Love vs. Attachment

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

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


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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

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Re: Love vs. Attachment

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

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