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Attachment and the Meaning of Life

DimmesdaleDimmesdale Illinois New
edited November 16 in Philosophy

Hello people,

If I can, I'd like to talk a little bit about myself and my attachment to having Meaning in Life.

I think all of us to some extent have desired our lives to have meaning, whether that meaning may be said to be subjective or objective. For there to be purpose to existence, a reason for why things are, or simply significance to what is going on, I think this is very relatable. However, I think it's also a given that some people are more affected by this issue than others, that some people are in fact obsessed with it. Such is myself.

There is an aspect of megalomania here, I'll admit in my case at least. I think when one lacks sufficient emotional support/reserves one quite naturally darts out and grasps at whatever meaning there can be found in life, even if it's only an abstract kind.
Pain necessarily compounds the issue, and in my case, I ended up literally grasping at straws.
As Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Finding meaning in vanity. That became my chief cardinal sin. This is because I could not pin anything with sufficient meaning to my life, until recently. Now, what gives me great meaning is freedom, mystery, life, ethics and all the great things which together comprise the tapestry of existence. And the totality of this Existence, is what I gain as Meaningful.
But this is still an attachment, it seems.

It is a better attachment. For before I clung to the doctrine of determinism with unreasonable tenacity, maintaining that "all must be determined" in order to be supremely Meaningful, disregarding even my innate dignity. At this time my mind was exceptionally deluded, I'll admit. Back then I wanted every TINY detail of the universe to have perfect, non-accidental, eminently special MEANING.

Now I am more fluid and less concerned with particulars. Reality is NOT ALL LIKE a perfect Crystal, with every atom of existence necessarily being in a perfect position and lending coherence to the ALL in an immaculate way. No. Life may be deeply and interwovenly connected, but it is not all perfect. It has rough edges. And the rough edges may have redeeming value, but they are NOT ALL PERFECT and some are, it is true, meaningless....

But does not chaotic flux as a whole have meaning? I think it does. The Whole has meaning. The Whole has significance. Even if that significance, that meaning, is opaque to us. That is when I rest in Mystery. Mystery itself is now precious to me.

Is all such attachment delusion? Or is some of it legitimate? Is it necessary to demolish all such strongholds of the mind, to be open only to what is in the moment? And in that sense, leave behind even intimate relationships, and count it as dung?

Am I perhaps just playing a shell game with myself, and fooling myself that I have overcome the need for petty meaning while really
only masking it over and claiming that I derive Truth from Mystery now?

Is there room for Ultimate Meaning in Buddhism or is it non-admissible?

person

Comments

  • DimmesdaleDimmesdale Illinois New
    edited November 16

    I'm sorry but I'm not sure this is the right forum to post in. To any moderator who would think of a better place to place this post, I would appreciate that. Thank you!

    Mod. Edit: Moved to 'Philosophy'.

    You're very welcome. :)

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited November 16

    I think there is meaning. And that which finds the meaning is the meaning. So the mind which finds the meaning is the meaning. The heart and mind if you will. Waking up in other words to the nature of mind.

    The cosmology of Buddhism (at least in Mahayana) is that this world was created by our minds in some way through karma. And so if the world has meaning I guess it is only one given it by our minds. So that is coincident in some ways with like extistentialism.

    A lot of this western people didn't grow up with. So we start with meditation and non-self and compassion (a common link to everyone even non-Buddhists)

    And I sense that maybe you're reacting to doctrine of 'being mindful' 'in the present' and that might feel a pinch with philosophies and ideas? Which I guess those are outside the present? Or are they?

    kandoDimmesdale
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran
    edited November 16

    I have relinquished my project of figuring out a meaning to life as I witnessed all the pointless dukkha pervading this world.
    When, a bit like @lobster, one is faced with a ruthless, chaotic, entropic universe ruled by its own cryptic laws.

    Since early childhood, I got exposed to a pensierosa Western philosophy that pondered too much, and a laid-back Eastern philosophy that went with the flow.
    So I chose to savour life's mystery and working out a purpose that works for me, rather than striving to unravel a one-size-fits-all mystery that is not meant to be linear nor coherent.

    I think that at some point in our life, the biggest attachment we should give up, is trying to neatly pigeonhole life into squares that fit our whims or our understanding, and simply enjoy the ride while it lasts.

    lobsterpersonDimmesdale
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    I think the universe in its entirety is probably just to big and complex for our tiny ape brains to derive any sort of grand, ultimate meaning without grasping at metaphysical straws. While I love to ponder and attempt to sort it all out in the hopes of gaining a truer understanding, from a practical perspective, in the mean time, I feel its probably better to embrace the mystery and uncertainty and create whatever meaning we can find in our tiny section of reality. And then use it loosely rather than tightly with a healthy dose of intellectual and epistemic humility.

    Is there room for Ultimate Meaning in Buddhism or is it non-admissible?

    More directly to your question. It really depends on the tradition, the importance of the question really varies quite a bit in my understanding.

    lobsterShoshinBuddhadragon
  • I feel @person is right 'hold loosely' to the meaning. One day it might be meaningful to let go of meaning ...

    @Dimmesdale you use the word 'fluid'. Good use of words. Crystals can grow out of fluids. Fluids may dissolve crystals ...

    The ape brain that @person mentions can engage a more wholistic understanding. In Buddhism this is enlightenment; a widening and encompassing. Still not all that may be possible ...

    Dharma is moving us in a direction ...

    paulyso
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Attachment and the Meaning of Life

    Is there room for Ultimate Meaning in Buddhism or is it non-admissible?

    A nutshell answer...

    Yes....to let go and just go with the flow

    More in depth answer....

    I'm reminded of this...

    "Everything evolves...Will come to mean 'Nothing' is true!"

    ~Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche ~

    Ultimately (pun intended) we all wish to be free of Dukkha AKA Unsatisfactoriness ,,,.....which is part & parcel of the ongoing cycle of birth & death AKA Samsara....

    If form is emptiness and emptiness is form...it's the clinging mind which creates life's storm

    If form is emptiness and emptiness is form...it's the Teflon mind which rides out life's storm

    And a final word from our sponsor ...AKA ~The Buddha~...
    "Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" ...."Nothing whatsoever should be clung to"

    (...If you get his meaning drift ;) )

    BuddhadragonpersonHozanmisecmisc1
  • DimmesdaleDimmesdale Illinois New
    edited November 16

    @Jeffrey said:
    I think there is meaning. And that which finds the meaning is the meaning. So the mind which finds the meaning is the meaning. The heart and mind if you will. Waking up in other words to the nature of mind.

    The cosmology of Buddhism (at least in Mahayana) is that this world was created by our minds in some way through karma. And so if the world has meaning I guess it is only one given it by our minds. So that is coincident in some ways with like extistentialism.

    A lot of this western people didn't grow up with. So we start with meditation and non-self and compassion (a common link to everyone even non-Buddhists)

    And I sense that maybe you're reacting to doctrine of 'being mindful' 'in the present' and that might feel a pinch with philosophies and ideas? Which I guess those are outside the present? Or are they?

    So, in your estimation it is the subject who gives meaning. Just like when I decide to give meaning to a word. A spoken word may be a simple combination of phonemes, but if I decide upon a given meaning, and perhaps when I and others mutually assent to the given meaning, there is meaning that accrues to the word for all intents and purposes.

    In a sense, this is meaningful. What is also meaningful is when the mind comes up with a standard and a goal to meet that standard or surpass it. So when I bench a certain amount of weight, and live up to a certain standard, I can find satisfaction that I met my goal.

    In existential freedom, I can find meaning that I am the controller of my own destiny, if only to a small degree. There is meaning because there is joy that I am determining from my own self what I truly want.

    But if in reality there is no mind, because there is no self, and no world on top of that, meaning seems to slip between the cracks. It is not eternal. Words when they have lost their use, are forgotten. When the body is no longer strong enough to lift, the athlete's trophies and reputation rust away. Freedom on the other hand, may have a permanent meaning, insofar as the act of freedom has a permanent effect in establishing oneself in a certain state of freedom, if you can catch my drift. But then again, I'm more of an Advaitin than a Buddhist and do believe in a certain universal Self, so I'm a bit different...

    person
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited November 16

    I meant that the mind/heart has qualities of feeling meaning. Even if we find things meaningless already we are wishing it did have meaning right? So what is it that responds that way? So we at least sense there could be meaning and that we would enjoy it if it did.

    I am not meaning that if I decide that certain thing is very meaningful that that is true. So I guess it's not like existentialism but still similar idea. So say I decided that doing good deeds was meaningful. In existentialism I could do that and I had assigned meaning subjectively.

    But what I mean is that our heart/mind from square one already has the capacity to sense meaning or a lack thereof.

    No mind and no self are usually misunderstood particularly if cherry picking and not knowing a teacher to ask questions etc. Or thinking of them as something that you can realize fully in a couple weeks study.

    The school of Buddhism I am from is quite similar to Advaita Vedantists like Mooji.

    And yes when there is meaning there is joy. But it isn't something conceptually graspable like you can say "and the meaning is such and such". Usually those moments when we sense meaning immediately it gets deadened again quite soon. And I think the general teaching is that we let go of a lot of false things moreso than formulate what the meaning is. It's like the meaning is already there in our being and integral to the universe. So I suppose it will find us in a way as we let go of things like our body having pleasure or whatever and just let that be. So like the athletes trophies are in the past. But when the athlete was alive and doing their sport there was some aliveness in their mind and enjoyment. And now that time is gone.

    Dimmesdalepersonlobster
  • DimmesdaleDimmesdale Illinois New

    @lobster said:

    Attachment and the Meaning of Life

    Hello @Dimmesdale <3

    As someone non-attached to a meaningless life, I find meaning, order, structure and grandiose ideas of static wisdom always good for a laugh. 🥳

    As creatures biologically programmed to order the chaos, survive the environment and ultimately think ourselves sane, we are crazed ...

    Emptiness is form and form is emptiness

    ... and now back to the dance ...

    That is a good point in my opinion. That we are prone to ordering our world on account of our evolutionary hard-wiring. I think it may have gone beneath the radar for me for a number of years...

    jettson
  • DimmesdaleDimmesdale Illinois New

    @Jeffrey said:
    I meant that the mind/heart has qualities of feeling meaning. Even if we find things meaningless already we are wishing it did have meaning right? So what is it that responds that way? So we at least sense there could be meaning and that we would enjoy it if it did.

    You mean like the concept of justice, or feeling hungry. Or making two sticks even (that they can or should be even). There is something in us that wants to fill a longing or that thinks things "ought" to be a certain way.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited November 16

    Maybe but I'm not sure. those are all three examples of a feeling so maybe. But they seem to have concretized things moreso. Like what if you could be convinced that unequal length sticks were just fine to be as they are? In that case it seems that the original idea was quite concretized. But it was a feeling of the mind of the sentient being that they should be something. But it wasn't a rigid idea in that you could change your feelings about stick length or justice even. But without any feelings of right and wrong it would be quite hard to have ideas of aesthetics or fairness and so forth.

    So in Buddhism we start with right view and then the things we do and think and say are based on that. We take refuge for example. Or we long to do what is necessary to walk the Buddhist path. And then things follow onwards from there. (If based on right view we took refuge and acted etc. on it then eventually our meditative samadhi would be based on the dharma.) I think quite concretized things like ascetics of arranging marbles there is our mind and sensitivity. So we can work with those aspects of our nature (sensitivity of wellness or rightness) even in concretized things.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited November 17

    In my opinion, 'Ultimate Meaning' means being hit with a metaphorical thunderbolt which stops you in your tracks, and blasts every single flippant and inconsequential thought from your mind - you experience an instant of replete void; a moment of perspicacity and clarity, that may well leave you breathless.

    In other words, Ultimate Meaning is not contrived or constructed. It is not deliberated or or calculated.
    It is an instant of such profound understanding and Emptiness, that words are inadequate.

    ... and I do want fries with that ... ;) B)

    Exactly so.
    If anyone thinks this perspicacity and clarity is an enlightenment myth. Thunk again. :p Many of us engage with and dance with an emptyness of us, formed of 'beyond meaning'.

    It is wholly life that is the holy life.

    To dance on the far shore, we need no-props. Fortunately over the centuries the dharma has evolved a fine set of footprints including:

    • Sangha training
    • Meditation
    • Precepts
    • Dharma


    https://buddhasteps.com/tag/enlightenment/

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Dimmesdale , it's important to note, following from @Jeffrey 's insightful post, above, that the gift of 'Speech' is not only mentioned in the 8Fold Path as a virtue to strive for, but that it is a Primary component in the 5 Precepts. It is the only recommendation mentioned twice.

    Measuring our words carefully needs to be a belt-and-braces consideration.

    It seems significant to me that the Buddha would recommend such attention and care.

    I mention this for no particular reason, other than to indicate that too much time spent in our heads, 'wondering' about ' this, that or the other' might (although not always so) be better spent paying attention to what is actually happening, and keeping our feet (thanks you, @lobster, for the image) firmly on the ground.

    If we are to follow the Buddha's Footsteps, sometimes, action is better than words, and walking is better than talking...

    Please don't mistake this as any form of censure or chastisement.
    I am not a Moderator that curtails fruitful and constructive dialogue and discussion.

    This is just another penn'orth of thought....

    Dimmesdale
  • That is a good point in my opinion. That we are prone to ordering our world on account of our evolutionary hard-wiring. I think it may have gone beneath the radar for me for a number of years...

    Hooray! 🤸🏽‍♀️✔️🙏🏽
    Normally I have to send myself to the naughty corner ... So making a good point is always welcome ...

    We have to differentiate between intellectual, comprehensible, behavour and emotionally satisfying meaning and the Buddhist experiential meaning, which is not so easily grasped ...

    In fact grasping is not going to work ...

    What we enact and have 'faith'/experience of is an unfolding pragmatic methodology ... The Path:

    • Be Kind to all - even to fish, Christians and The heretical Mahayana. ;)
    • Practice virtue but don't be a dick about it o:)
    • Hang out with spiritual/positive people <3

    In other words, prepare the conditions for the possibility of fruition o:)

    We haz plan!

    person
  • DimmesdaleDimmesdale Illinois New

    @federica said:
    @Dimmesdale , it's important to note, following from @Jeffrey 's insightful post, above, that the gift of 'Speech' is not only mentioned in the 8Fold Path as a virtue to strive for, but that it is a Primary component in the 5 Precepts. It is the only recommendation mentioned twice.

    Measuring our words carefully needs to be a belt-and-braces consideration.

    It seems significant to me that the Buddha would recommend such attention and care.

    I mention this for no particular reason, other than to indicate that too much time spent in our heads, 'wondering' about ' this, that or the other' might (although not always so) be better spent paying attention to what is actually happening, and keeping our feet (thanks you, @lobster, for the image) firmly on the ground.

    If we are to follow the Buddha's Footsteps, sometimes, action is better than words, and walking is better than talking...

    Please don't mistake this as any form of censure or chastisement.
    I am not a Moderator that curtails fruitful and constructive dialogue and discussion.

    This is just another penn'orth of thought....

    I think this may very well be good advice for me, (and, well, for everyone in my situation). You know, my mind is typically a blank most of the time except for thoughts that seem practically useless (such as obsessing over the meaning of life). It is difficult for me to stay in the present moment. I actually have multiple issues mental health-wise and don't currently have a job.

    Still, I think it is worthwhile to try and get to the root of why I think the way I do and, in a way, such exploration is worthwhile, to an extent.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    It is difficult for me to stay in the present moment.

    @Dimmesdale you are always in the present moment, (one can't escape it)... it's awareness that's dragged elsewhere....

    lobster
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