In Buddhism, attachment is one of the key hindrances that causes suffering among humans. The Buddha taught that attachment generates craving, wanting, and insecurity. Attachment is the wanting to hold onto and keep a permanent state and not be separated from a thing or person. The general principle behind non-attachment is to cultivate a mind of detachment. Once we do this we can then move towards a mind of oneness which involves compassion, an understanding of impermanence and seeing experiences for what they are.
Not only do humans become attached to physical objects or things, but also to relationships, ideas, and opinions. We anchor or associate happiness, success, and fulfilment with these external objects in the hope that we will find lasting happiness. So what do we do? Like the mouse on the treadmill, we hope we will eventually get to where we want to be. We are always trying to achieve, in a never ending cycle of wanting and having, thinking this will lead us to lasting happiness. The current Western economic system, with the mantra of growth and prosperity, has been largely responsible for this increased wanting and external gratification. Most of us have been herded onto the plains of consumerism with the promise that this will bring us closer to fulfilment. While on the forest fringes, we see a small group of enlightened beings that realise happiness and contentment come only from within and cannot be bought, sold, acquired, or accumulated.
Non-attachment gives us the freedom, space, and time to contemplate the true meaning of life. Attachment distracts us from reality. It influences how we perceive and react to our immediate world. A world of excess leads to a roller coaster of highs and lows. This in turn motivates us to seek out more of those high moments of pleasure. We enter into a hedonistic world of want-fulfilment which creates further wanting in an attempt to bring lasting happiness.
Lao Tzu, widely regarded as the author of the Tao Te Ching, describes the Dao (or Tao) as the source and ideal of all existence: it is unseen, but not transcendent, immensely powerful yet supremely humble, being the root of all things. People have desires and free will (and thus are able to alter their own nature). Many of us act “unnaturally,” becoming attached to certain things, thus upsetting the natural balance of the Dao. The Daodejing intends to lead students to a “return” to their natural state, in harmony with Dao.(1) Below are five quotes from Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching which illustrate how we can act naturally and return to our true state of harmony and non-attachment.
Sources: excerpts from One ~ A Survival Guide for the Future…
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