MANDALA  Buddhism in Our Time
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The nature of mind
Ven. Robina Courtin interviewed His Holiness Sakya Trizin in Boston in June 2000.

Lama Yeshe once said to us in a teaching, "You Westerners think attachment has something to do with your senses, but it has nothing to do with your senses." This is rather shocking, because, like with anger, we completely associate attachment with something sensory. How can it not be sensory? How can we look at it?

His Holiness Sakya Trizin at this summer's lam-dre teachings. Photo by Bilbiana H. Matheis. It's difficult. With attachment there is no satisfaction no matter how much attachment there is. How much, for example, you're attached to a place, you're attached to food, you're attached to your friends and so forth, but there's no satisfaction no matter how much you take.

Then why is it so difficult to do it? Even as Buddhists we know all these words, but still we continually follow attachment. Why is it so hard?

Because we are so used to it. Because from beginningless time in the view of the Buddha's teachings we have been caught up in samsara, and we've been indulging such attachment. People who are involved with smoking or drinking, everyone knows that smoking is harmful. Not even from the spiritual view but from the medical point of view or health point of view, we know it's harmful, it can cause cancer, and no one wants to have cancer, and it can cause many other diseases, and it's expensive. Yet for people who are already used to such a habit it's difficult to give it up. So similarly, attachment is harmful, but since we've been so associated with it for such a long amount of time, it's difficult to give it up. But in the long run it is like poison. Poison can only create suffering.

But how can I prove this? In our culture where we can get what our attachment wants very easily, we absolutely believe it really is the cause of happiness. As long as I can keep getting it I'm not able to see it's causing suffering. It seems quite difficult for us ordinary beings.

For example, most people are attached to wealth, aren't they? People think that when you have wealth you're happy. But actually the wealth is really the source of all suffering. When you're accumulating wealth you have to bear physical pain and mental suffering to accumulate it. Then in the meantime you have to bear all the energy to protect it. People who are wealthy have so much more mental burden than people who don't have wealth.

To be peaceful doesn't sound like the ideal happiness. How can we convince ourselves that it's superior to the kind of happiness we get from following attachment?

That's quite obvious. When ordinary people indulge in attachment for long periods of time, all they accomplish is more and more suffering. But the noble ones, the bodhisattvas, give up all attachment and all they accomplish is the complete fulfillment of their own purpose as well as the purpose of others. So one can realize that it's far more sensible to follow the noble path than the worldly path, which doesn't go anywhere.

This article can be read in its entirety in MANDALA


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