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Ajahn Sumedho

  • Attachment
  • Taking Personal Responsibility
    Butterfly Picture


    First, you must recognize what attachment is, and then you
    let go. That's when you realize non-attachment. However, if
    you're coming from the view that you shouldn't be attached,
    then that's still not it. The point is not to take a position
    against attachment, as if there were a commandment against it;
    the point is to observe. We ask the questions,
    "What is attachment?"
    "Does being attached to things bring happiness or suffering?"
    Then we begin to have insight. We begin to see what attachment
    is, and then we can let go.

    If you're coming from a high-minded position in which you
    think you shouldn't be attached to anything, then you come
    up with ideas like, "Well, I can't be a Buddhist because I
    love my wife, because I'm attached to my wife. I love her,
    and I just can't let her go. I can't send her away."
    Those kinds of thoughts come from the view that you
    shouldn't be attached.

    The recognition of attachment doesn't mean that you get
    rid of your wife. It means you free yourself from wrong
    views about yourself and your wife. Then you find that
    there's love there, but it's not attached. It's not
    distorting, clinging, and grasping. The empty mind
    is quite capable of caring about others and loving in
    the pure sense of love. But any attachment will always
    distort that.

    If you love someone and then start grasping, things get
    complicated; then, what you love causes you pain. For
    example, you love your children, but if you become attached
    to them, then you don't really love them anymore because
    you're not with them as they are. You have all kinds of ideas
    about what they should be and what you want them
    to be. You want them to obey you, and you want them to be
    good, and you want them to pass their exams. With this attitude,
    you're not really loving them, because if they don't fulfill your wishes,
    you feel angry and frustrated and averse to them. So
    attachment to children prevents us from loving them. But as we
    let go of attachment, we find that our natural way of relating
    is to love. We find that we are able to allow our children to be
    as they are, rather than having fixed ideas of what we want them
    to be. When I talk to parents, they say how much suffering there
    is in having children, because there's a lot of wanting.
    When we're wanting them to be a certain way and not wanting them
    to be another way, we create this anguish and suffering in
    our minds. But the more we let go of that, the more we discover
    an amazing ability to be sensitive to, and aware of, children
    as they are. Then, of course, that openness allows them to respond
    rather than just react to our attachment. You know, a lot of children
    are just reacting to our saying, "I want you to be like this.

    The empty mind-the pure mind-is not a blank where you're not
    feeling or caring about anything. It's an effulgence of the
    mind. It's a brightness that is truly sensitive and accepting.
    It's an ability to accept life as it is. When we accept life
    as it is, we can respond appropriately to the way we're
    experiencing it, rather than just reacting out of fear and

    Excerpted from 'The Mind and the Way'

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    Taking Personal Responsibility

    With mindfulness, we can be independent of the positions other
    people are taking. We can stand on our own two feet and take
    responsibility for acting in a virtuous way, regardless of what
    the rest of sociery is doing.I can be kind, generous, and loving
    toward you, and that is a joy to me.But if I make my happiness
    dependent upon your being kind to me, then it will always be
    threatened, because if you aren't doing what I like-behaving the
    way I want you to-then I'm going to be unhappy. So then, my
    happiness is always under threat because the world mightnot behave
    as I want it to.

    It's clear that I would spend the rest of my life being terribly
    disappointed if I expected everything to change-if I expected
    everybody to become virtuous, wars to stop, money not to be wasted,
    governments to be compassionate, sharing, and giving-everything to
    be just exactly the way I want it! Actually, I don't expect to see
    very much of that in my lifetime, but there is no point in being
    miserable about it ; happiness based on what I want is not all that

    Joy isn't dependent on getting things, or on the world going the way
    you want, or on people behaving the way they should, or on their
    giving you all the things you like and want. Joyfulness isn't dependent
    upon anything but your own willingness to be generous, kind, and loving.
    It's that mature experience of giving, sharing, and developing the science
    of goodness. Virtuousness is the joy we can experience in this human
    realm. So, although what society is doing or what everyone else is doing
    is beyond my control-I can't go around making everything how I want it-
    still, I can be kind, generous, and patient,and do good, and develop
    virtue. That I can do, and that's worth doing, and not something anyone
    can stop me from doing. However rotten or corrupted society is doesn't
    make any difference to our ability to be virtuous and to do good.

    Excerpted from 'The Mind and the Way'

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