Last week our house was burglarized. I believe it was a random event, and it’s been a learning process. This week we’re taking steps to minimize the risk of this happening again. We live in a very nice neighborhood, and perhaps that was part of what made our home a target.
I’m surprised that I never felt angry. After the shock wore off – and relief that my dog was safe – I wondered what was the thief’s motivation. Drug money? Economic desperation? Just a thug? In the end it doesn’t matter because we’re safe. Then I chuckled to myself – “well, non-attachment is an important zen principle that’s hard to learn. Is there such a thing as forced non-attachment?”
I’ll return to regular posts once things are back to normal and I get mildly re-attached to some new stuff – like a replacement computer!
by Ven. Thich Thien An
One of the most important teachings of Zen Buddhism is non-attachment. The teaching of non-attachment may be easy to understand, but it is not easy to practice. Nevertheless, it is very essential to cultivate non-attachment if we are to live a serene and happy life in a world of constant change ; for this reason it is introduced here.
Our world is a world of desire. Every living being comes forth from desire and endures as a combination of desires. We are born from the desire between of our father and mother. Then, when we emerge into this world, we become infatuated with many things, and become ourselves well-springs of desire. Through desire we give rise to attachments. For every desire there is a corresponding attachment, namely, to the object of desire. For example, we are most conspicuously attached to our bodies. When someone threatens the body, we grow anxious and try to protect it. We relish physical comforts and the enjoyment of the senses. Thus, we are strongly attached to the body. But if we consider this attachment, we will see that it is a potential source of suffering. For the body is constantly changing. We wish we could remain alive forever, but moment after moment the body is passing from youth to old age, from life to death. We may be happy when we are young and strong, but we contemplate sickness, old age and the ever present threat of death, anxiety overwhelms us. Thus, we seek to elude the inevitable by evading the thought of it. The lust for life and fear of death are forms of attachment.
We are attached not only to our bodies but also to our possessions. We continually weave a net of clinging around our clothes, or car, our house and our wealth. We loath to part with these things and always try to accumulate more of them. We are also attached to memories concerning the past or anticipations of the future. Many people write diaries because they cannot part with their experiences, but wish to preserve them in such a form that they can always recollect them. When explorer climb a high mountain peak, what do they do ? They leave their name on a rock trees. When the astronauts landed on the moon, they left their footprints ant the American flag. These attachments are based on the egocentric point of view, with its offspring, the notions of ‘me’ and ‘mine’.
Even spiritual experiences may become objects of attachment. Through meditation we may gain some unusual experience or even satori ; then we become attached to these attainments. This is another form of attachment. Zen Buddhism teaches us to extinguish attachment in order that we may discover the state of absolute freedom which is rightfully ours. The path to freedom is difficult to follow, but if we have sufficient determination, we can do it.