Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Non-attachment and love -- can you have both?

Is it possible to really and truly love someone and at the same time practice non-attachment?

  • Love is caring intensely about another person's happiness. More so than one's own happiness.
  • Non-attachment means that we observe their happiness or unhappiness but do not become either elated or despondent about what happens to them. No matter what happens to them.


  • Love wants to have contact with the beloved. To see, to hear, to touch, to talk with, to experience.
  • Non-attachment accepts the time together and the time apart with equal satisfaction. It does not want the beloved to go away, but neither does it seek to prolong time together, nor minimize absence.


  • Love seeks intimacy by knowing and understanding the beloved.
  • Non-attachment accepts what is shown or given, but does not seek to create intimacy through seeking or asking.


  • Love remembers and imagines the beloved when they are not near, recreating their presence through memories, personal mementos, or perhaps a shared favorite song.
  • Non-attachment accepts separation and does not seek to create a feeling of connection through memories or objects. And of course, non-attachment never has a favorite song.


  • Love wants to be loved in return
  • Non-attachment accepts one's own feelings without expecting or even wanting anything from another.


Today I am far from my beloved. And I miss him. I played a song that reminds me of him. I have been thinking about the fun things we've done together, the wonderful talks we've had. I've imagined our next visit.

And I have failed entirely in non-attachment. Or have I?

It is my personal feeling that non-attachment was never meant to apply to people. That loving and caring for people is the whole point of this sometimes otherwise pointless existence. Non-attachment is wonderful for freeing us from loving things, from wanting things, from keeping things from others who might need them. From putting a love of transient objects as the center of our lives.

But the Buddha was a compassionate man. He taught skills to help people overcome suffering. He did not sit by, dispassionately while people suffered and keep his enlightenment to himself. He cared. He loved. The way other people felt mattered to him and he spent the majority of his life trying to relieve suffering and increase happiness.

How did we get from that gentle, compassionate man to a place where we see virtue in not becoming attached to PEOPLE? For never really opening our hearts to the beauty of love.

Haven't we missed the whole point?

5 comments:

asdf said...

Increased Consciousness, Decreased Suffering

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWO5Oj4yG-Q

Myo said...

the virtue of not become attached to people saves us alot of suffering. it is not saying that we should not love people with all our hearts. you should strive to love without attachments to give freely and expect nothing in return. Attachment has a far reaching implication that it binds us to the world of suffering.

seeker said...

Myo, I hear what you're saying, but I can't seem to put both in action at once. That's why I listed all these things that SEEM like contradictions to me.

I am very non-attached to objects and possessions. I give away stuff all the time, and if something gets broken, I just cannot find a good reason to get upset about it. It was just a thing, and if it was an "important" thing, like an heirloom, I still have the memory.

But with people, it is different. If I cared so little about them, that they could come or go without any major upset, how would I ever stick it out during the hard times? I would just walk away or let them walk away. It's the commitment to them that gives me the reason to work through differences, etc.

Anonymous said...

after reading you blog, you non- attachment is more of "detachment" rather than non attachment. the two are very different and to be non-attached, is love.

Realizing Non Attachment part one ( i have to do this in two comments because it's a bit long)

Attachment to things, to people, and to outcomes, is a great source of spiritual pain.

First, it is important to understand what Non attachment is not. Non attachment does not mean that one does not love or care about people, things, or outcomes.

Non attachment means that we should not become emotionally attached to persons, things or outcomes to the point where we become emotionally dependent.

Emotional dependency is where one's inner peace and happiness depends upon others, upon people and things and outcomes. This is a psychologically and spiritually unhealthy state in which to live.

In a spiritual sense, non attachment is key to inner peace and balance and happiness. We are all just passing through life. Not allowing yourself to get too attached to things and people, and the ability to let them go, is a vital realization.

Non attachment is high spiritual work. Its not easy and it takes time to take it fully onboard. This applies to all profound realizations. Some take a lifetime or more....

Non attachment is all about living in the now, and about appreciating what the now presents us with in any given moment of the now.

Emotionally clinging to the past (what has happened before now) causes depression, and worrying about the future (what might happen in the future) causes anxiety.

Anonymous said...

Realizing Non Attachment part two
The clinging pain of attachment, of loss and potential loss, blinds us from seeing all that the now is presenting to us in the moment. Golden opportunities for experience and growth can easily slip past us, if we do not see them.

Negative emotions block the experience of living in the now, eg, pride, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, etc. All negative emotions involve some form of attachment. But all negative emotions have opposite positive aspects. Pride becomes humility, anger becomes tolerance, hatred becomes love, jealousy becomes feeling good about the success or good fortune of another, greed becomes generosity, etc.

Try as they might, many people experience great difficulty mastering this realization. Being detached, in a spiritual sense, does not involve being cold and unfeeling, of cutting oneself off from caring and feeling. The opposite applies. Non attachment involves handling (crafting) ones emotions and attitudes in positive and non destructive ways.

Non attachment does not mean that one should not care about things and people. One can love people and things and want them always close. But when they move on or away, then that's ok too.

Life is a fluid metaphor, way more fluid than most people think. And other people are just other aspects of ourselves. If we believe this truly, then we give other people the right to make decisions that are best for them at any given moment. Sometimes these do not seem good for us, or they might take the ones we love away from us, for better or worse. We each have our own journey to make. And we each need freedom and autonomy to find our own way through life.

When one door closes, the wise person listens carefully to hear the quiet creaking of other doors opening all around.

Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed. For every action there is a reaction. The energy of one door closing firmly causes many other doors to crack open.

Most people need to suffer the pain that comes with attachment and loss, in order to glimpse the power of this realization.

Detachment can be a way out for many, a way to stop the pain of loss, to shut it out, say when one is grieving. But this approach can lead to coldness and emotional isolation. This can lead to erecting barriers around ourselves. This leads to spiritual isolation and stagnation, which comes with even more pain. ( detachment and non-attachment are two different things).

If we refuse to feel, we cannot be felt. If we refuse to love, we cannot be loved. If we refuse to live, we cannot have life.

The negative aspect of non attachment is detachment, which is to become emotionally disconnected from life. This disconnection becomes an attachment in its own right, because one then cling (become attached) to being detached and isolated.

But real spiritual non attachment comes with warm and fuzzy feelings. It does not mean that we stop loving or caring or missing or wanting to be with someone, or to have some thing or other. It just means that we can let these people and things move on to other pastures and feel happy about this when it happens.

To fully realize non attachment generates a profound sense of peace and happiness, inner balance and contentment, and emotional security.

Non attachment produces self confidence and self reliance and great resilience. It also produces a kind of quiet but also an excited sense, as one wonders what life will manifest next. This is a little bit like how a child feels on xmas eve.

I hope this helps some. :)