Gautama Buddha stated attachment to loved ones are causing us to suffer. When some people hear this they say things like, ‘so I can’t love my family, friends or children?’ They say this because they are getting attachment and love confused. They really are not the same thing.
Of course we should love and have compassion for our families and friends, in fact we should love and have compassion for everyone. Gautama Buddha wasn’t cold-hearted or a killjoy, he was stating a fact of life, holding onto people causes us endless suffering. Love people, for sure, but what we shouldn’t do is hold onto them as though they belong to us and they are going to be around forever. It is this holding on tightly, and thinking people are permanent, that is causing us to suffer.
We think this person is mine and I will always have them. So when they die, leave us or simply stop caring for us we are not mentally prepared for it and we invariably suffer. This is attachment, it is not love.
If we understand that things change and nothing lasts forever, we will be able to love without attachment, and in my eyes that is true love. Enjoy the people around you at the moment, but keep in mind that someday they will not be there. This is love.
There is a fine line between love and attachment, but if you can separate the two, you will be able to cherish the people around you without causing them or you suffering.
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What if you love everyone but have no attachment? This sounds like the ideal place but in reality I find that I just feel lonely and disconnected from others. I feel everything as being connected, but my life as something that is inconsequential (having no children or partner) in the worst moments I just await the sweet release of death and try to stay alive in order to minimize suffering to my parents.
Thank you for your comment Mekabear. You are correct to say that everything is connected and that includes you. Sometimes we can feel lonely and inconsequential, but these thoughts stem from our own minds, they are not an inherent part of our lives. Thoughts, feelings and emotions come and go. Nothing is permanent. Today you may feel sad but tomorrow you may feel happy. That is the wonder of our lives – nothing stays forever. So concentrate on the positive thoughts, feelings and emotions, and let the negative ones go. Our thoughts lead to actions, so if the thoughts are positive, our actions will also be positive. Of course it is the same for negative thoughts, so don’t follow them, let them go.
Everyone’s lives are precious. We do not truly know if we have been here before or if we will come back again. But what we do know is that we are here now. So make this life meaningful. It doesn’t mean you have to have a wife and children to make it meaningful. You can help people who are poor and needy. This really is making your life meaningful.
What I don’t understand is how to differentiate between the hurt feelings that come from one’s own needy attachment to a relationship partner, and the partner just not being a healthy fit. When we “let go” of uncomfortable thoughts and emotions brought on by interactions with a partner, with the justification of loving them, isn’t that a classic abusive relationship? I’m having a hard time separating these concepts.
Dear wise Mr. Yeshe,
I understood that
the Buddha sais attachment leads to suffering. He also sais that we should be kind and avoid causing suffering to all living things. But if we detach ourselves from the living things arround us ( husband/wife, kids, pets etc.), will we not cause them suffering from taking our attention away from them? Because sometimes attachement makes you more attentive. And the stress of perceiving life without them makes you more aware and loving of creatures arround you. I know it is a difference between love and attachement but maybe other people/creatures do not understand the difference and will notice a certain difference, maybe perceived as coldness in us and we will end up hurting them as we do not respond to them in the way we used to.How to detach ourselves from people or other living things without hurting them?
I’m really sorry for aprocing you with such a banal question but I want to understand the Buddha’s wisdom better and avoid hurting anyone arround me.
Thank you so much for everything that you do.
Thank you for your question.
The opposite of attachment is not detachment, it’s love. I am not talking about detaching yourself from people – I agree, that would seem cold hearted. I am simply saying we should stop trying to control them and cling to them as though they belong to us.