The root of suffering is attachment

This quote reminded me of an encounter with an aunt who could’nt even wait to see us comfortably seated before she went into an overdrive with her ailments. “This pain on my right side refuses to go,” she complained, “My diabetes condition is driving me crazy.”

Much later, listening to her litany and to my great relief the doorbell rang, and in walked another visitor, who I guess had no choice but to give a patient ear to my aunt’s monologue on her dreadful existence. No matter what we said or counselled her over the years, she refused to detach herself from the pain of suffering.

During my stay in Chicago last spring, we visited one of our son’s friends at teatime. Accompanying us were two kids, 8-year-old Charles and 10-year-old Althea. The hostess treated us to coffee and soft drinks and then apologized for the absence of cookies, the reason, “I can’t eat them. I might get tempted to have some when they are visible on the table.” Unfortunately, her attachment to cookies left us with no munchies. It was a let down on the hospitality.

Recently, I read this article in the Mumbai Mirror. Most employees are OK with unethical behaviour. Indian employees are increasingly justifying unethical behaviour at the workplace with a majority believing that Management would ignore ethics to accomplish revenue targets.

  • A survey says 58 percent of Indian respondents said they are willing to work for firms involved in a major bribe or fraud case.
  • 57 percent stated that Senior Management tends to overlook the dubious action of employees to attain corporate targets.

This is an unhealthy case of attachment to money made by hook or by crook. Morals, values and ethics are thrown out of the window unceremoniously.

A rich businessman once asked spiritual teacher, Osho, “Guruji, you keep telling the whole world that we should not be ostentatious; neither spend lavishly nor flaunt our wealth. But you  have the finest fleet of cars”.

Osho replied, “Yes, you are absolutely right,” adding, “Do you have a car?”

The business man replied confidently, “Yes”

“Do you like your car?”

“Sure, I do”

“Is it an expensive car?”

“Yes, of course”, the businessman proudly responded.

Osho queried further, “What happens when another driver scratches the entire side of your car?”

“Naturally, I am going to be upset”, retorted the man.

“That’s the difference between you and me. You are attached to your car, and you are going to feel bad. Osho continued, “I am not attached to my cars. If they are taken away from me tomorrow, I will not feel a thing”.

Just a few days ago, I observed the shoeshine boy conducting his business on platform one at Bandra station. Despite my friendly smile, he chose to ignore it and kept concentrating on my shoes. Attached to a singular thought process of seeking out prospective customers, regrettably his mind centered on shoes. In the bargain, the boy let life slip through his fingers, unable to detach himself from a perpetual downward gaze.

What came as an unpleasant shock was to hear the conversation of a desperate disgruntled father. Apparently, his son had disappointed him often. “What to tell you”, he complained, “My son is ever so clumsy. Just the other day he broke one of my favorite wine glasses.” “So what’s all the fuss about,” I asked. “Damn it, I am so attached to my set of wine glasses, really disappointed to lose one of them”. “Seriously, you are upset?” I queried. “Did you ever think that you can replace a wine glass? But, can you replace your son, once the relationship sours.”

These everyday scenarios at home or workplace, do they sound familiar? Why the attachment to things? What makes us acutely stubborn to let go of them?

When our thoughts concentrate on preconceived notions, our preferences and prejudices attach to biased opinions. Children are a remarkable example of detachment to any feeling. Take for example, anger. A child bursts into anger when he or she doesn’t get what they want. The anger is accompanied by screaming and tantrums. This continues till the child is tired. However, something wonderful happens, the child spans away from anger and goes back to playing. Unattached to the momentary want or need. On the contrary, an adult’s anger somehow continues to simmer for the rest of his or her life.

In reality, such attachments keep us prisoners to unwanted pain. Avoid making your happiness and success attached to any person, place or thing. One way is to forgive and forget. The other is detachment.

Do not dwell in the past. Do not dream of the future.

Concentrate on the present moment
-Buddha

by Lancy J. D’Souza