“Attachment is the cause of suffering.”
Many a times, Buddhists hear of such a statement, and typically nod in agreement. However, knowing the cause of suffering is one thing – working towards eradicating the root cause is a totally different story altogether. And most of the time, we all agree it’s easier said than done.
In this article, we aim to discuss what attachment is about, the cause and how we can reduce the frequency of having this hindrance in our cultivation.
What Is Attachment?
Attachment is a form of emotion whereby our sensual desires want to cope up with our desirable needs. All our yearning of continuing our desirable wants come from our five senses.
Our five senses of desires come from:-
- our tongue to taste
- our eyes to see sights of beautiful sceneries
- our ears to listen to good and welcoming news
- our skin that allows the sensation of affections
- our nose that constantly wishes to breathe fresh air and fragrant scents
Attachment is a never everlasting phenomenon. Our worldly affairs and activities are always impermanent or fluctuating in status, which make us keep clamoring for an intact and permanent possession of things, and if possible, inherit all these belongings forever till the end of living.
Attachment, The Major Cause of Suffering
As humans, we cannot escape from having attachments. Consequently, this arises suffering in ourselves as all these desires and needs are unreal and illusionary in thoughts.
It is like a dream that seems real and yet illusionary in real life. Upon waking up, we have discovered our apparent reality is only a dream. Somehow, in the midst of our dream everything seemed so real and genuine.
Precisely, we are now living in this kind of illusionary world where everything looks real and substantial. When we are so attached to our earthly existence and at the end of the tenure of our living, everything is revered to its original truth. By then, we come to realize that all this while we are actually living in false assumptions of our worldly existence.
There will come a time when all of a sudden, we meet an accident or fracture our leg or arm that will land us into hospitalization for months. Only at this point of time do we suddenly come to our realization that we are helpless to stop our eternal working habit or working career for a moment of respite. Abruptly, we are forced to stop work even though our mind are still relentless to work on and on without any sense of human touch. All of a sudden, we feel the lost of missing in action on our temporary ceased employment.
Here on, we could not help to ponder if this working habit of hectic schedules is truly necessary or only in our state of mind. When our body movement is incapacitated and we need to stay in hospital to convalesce, we will forcibly come to our sense that it is indeed our human folly that is blinding our true perception of living in attachment.
Only when we have truly come to this stage of awareness, then we have finally gained realization that this world is really an illusionary world and full of impermanence. Our inner perception of attachment is then born and we are on the way to become truly remarkable in gaining insight onto our alienation of our earthly attachment.
Unfortunately, not everyone is presented with this misfortunate incident which is actually a blessing in disguise that could help overcome the unbeneficial cause of attachment. Many of us will still keep on working until the last day on this earth especially in this new generation where everything is viewed materialistically and everyone is chasing after the shadows of wealth and rank.
Sadly only upon demise from this earth existence will mankind start to realize that attachment is illusionary and impermanent, and is what causes them to not progress in spiritual cultivation.
Understanding The Birth of Attachment – The Six Consciousness
As attachment is related to our fives senses desires, we need to understand that controlling our five senses’ desires is the only way to gradually absolved this attachment.
This full understanding of attachment was propounded by Blessed One when the Tathagata mentioned that the mind and the five senses are collectively called the six consciousness. It is this six consciousness that create the habits of attachment.
However, we should not misconstrue that these five senses are a nuisance to our life and cultivation. It is because without these five senses in our physical body, we will be robotic in nature and possessed no feeling of affections and needs.
While our five senses are the cause of attachment, it is these needs and affections that have the capability to mold us into higher faculty of thinking and evolve us into a humane, caring and compassionate entities. With these positive development of our mental state , we will progress into higher entities of attainment such as Arahantship or Bodhisattvaship.
On the other hand, many of us could not make good use of our fives senses and the mind to enhance our mental cultures of purifying our mind, heart and body. Most of the time, humans tend to misuse the five senses and the mind to indulge in all sorts of immoral characters and vices mainly to satisfy one’s ego of sensual satisfaction.
It is this wrong usage of our six consciousness that degenerate our human species into a wild beast character. Our wrong attachment to these earthly defilements bring us downfall into the Hade world existence. Contrarily, if we could initiate these six consciousness into good training of discipline, respect, well manners and obedient to laws and orders, then we have purify our attachment in this world to become the noblest man among men.
The Cessation of Attachment
In the Karaniya Metta Sutta, the Blessed One emphasizes the importance of ceasing our attachments in this world through eradicating our ten fetters. Otherwise, we will forever be waiting to enter into our mother’s womb to be reborn into this world of Samsara, otherwise known as the cycle of rebirth and death.
Furthermore, attachment does not lie only in our physical world of illusions but also in mental relation to lost opportunities in life. This may include scenarios such as yearning for higher position and wealth when one’s career is only mediocre and always living in meagre consumption.
When such entity suddenly passed away, one is forever attached to this worldly objective and become a source of unbecoming to be reborn into earth again. Others yearn for continuous span of partnering up with a mutual spouse into their next lives, which also lead to eternal attachment of rebirth into this world.
Develop Humility, Simplicity & Moderation
As long as our mind is unsteady, uncalm and defiled as well as constantly indulging in our five sensual desires of pleasurable and luxurious living, we would always bound to be attached with our next round of existence on this earth.
It is imperative to develop characters of humility, simplicity and moderation in our living in order to offset and alleviate our human defilements – illusion, doubt, wrong rites and rituals, sensual desires, ill will, attachment to form world existence, attachment to formless world existence, pride and conceit, restlessness and lastly ignorance.
Through avoiding all these shortcomings, we will automatically destroy our earthly attachment. By living our natural way of harmony with simple outlook and contentment, we will live a more meaningful life and gained insight. Anyone who has gained insight will naturally obtained Jhanas and ultimately achieve emancipation into Arahantship and Pureland realms existence.
Indeed, attachment is such an abstract perspective that widen beyond the scope of understanding even pertaining to the stage of Arahantship. Many Buddhists have not come to realise that as long as we do not attain full Arahantship, we will still be subject to the shortcomings of the next five fetters namely:
- Attachment to form world existence
- Attachment to formless world existence
- Pride and conceit
With all these five defilements, an Arahant of First stage (Sotāpanna), Second stage (Sakadāgāmī) and Third stage (Anāgāmī) will still be subject to attachment in this world. Even those in the Third stage of Arahantship will still return to this earth world without rebirth but in formless stage to perform their cultivation.
The best form of reducing our attachment is to reduce our five senses desires into moderate level and gradually to finer level of five senses into a combination of one sense desire only. In other words, we have to ensure our mastery of combining our five senses’ desires that come from each weak desire, thereby uniting them all into one sense. This means that we will eat little, wear little, see little, hear little and sense little in our daily living towards experiencing one sense.
Attachment is a common trait seen in every human being, and it is through this obstacle that one learns to refine one’s character to elevate his or her own spiritual cultivation and break past the endless world of death and rebirth. By understanding the cause of attachment and how you can overcome this cause of suffering, you will have more awareness and mindfulness pertaining to your own sensual desires and greed.
Hopefully with this seed of realization, and with a consistent practice of living a simple life, will you truly master your destiny of liberation across the ocean of Samsara into Nibbanaship and Pureland realms existence.