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The most common question

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

I came across this on another site and I thought it would resonate with a lot of starting Buddhists, so I thought it might be worth discussing here...

Since a few months I have become very interested in Buddhism. One thing bothers me and I wonder how you cope with it.

I like life. I sometimes like desire and sometimes I like to live in the past or the future.

I understand that desire is treacherous and lying, then the past and the future are illusions and that it is 'now' what matters, that all kinds of experiences and feelings keep me trapped in samsara. But I also like some of those experiences and feelings. No, I don't explain it well. I will give an example:

I became a father for the second time two weeks ago. And I hope my daughter will have a good life. With suffering but also with pleasure. I even hope that her life will be 'worth it'. Yes, this is a better explanation. The Buddha gives the feeling that life is not worth it. That we have to do our best to escape from it. I know I'm exaggerating. Because the Buddha also lets us understand life better and therefore appreciate it better. But according to him, samsara remains a circle to escape. Detachment is the motto, but sometimes I enjoy attachment so much.

Do you understand what I mean? Does a good Buddhist allow self-attachment or does it ultimately remain something bad? I find it difficult to become part of a religion that tells me that I can love my daughter, but that I had better transcend that kind of feeling.

It struck a chord with me, because I think so many people think like that. There are quite a few experienced Buddhists here, we can probably come up with a few answers.

If you met this man, what would your response to him be?




  • Ren_in_blackRen_in_black Georgia Explorer

    As a fellow starter, I would share with him a trap I fall into and one that I think many other starters and outside observers fall into. Despite the 2,500 year distance and the nuances of language translation, I think we get these notions of what the Buddha "is saying."

    But I think in the beginning what bothers or confuses us is what we "are hearing" as beginners, as Westerners, what have you. I think it takes some study and some practice before we can attempt to truly discern what the Buddha is saying. It would behoove us to withhold judgment and give ourselves time to meditate, read the words of the masters and monks, maybe join an online forum... ;)

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited March 2020

    @Kerome said:
    If you met this man, what would your response to him be?

    "I like life too. I have a good/bad time with desire, as I'm sure you do too. When what we desire is affirmed by our peers, we have a sense of community and home. When what we desire is rejected by our peers, it can bring social despair. Sometimes what we want is a good healthy life, a strong loving united family, meaningful gainful employment, happiness for ourselves and those around us. Sometimes what we want is a good long drag of a cigarette, to have just a little bit of an affair, to buy that chocolate bar because we just feel down today and could use a pick-me-up.

    The Buddha doesn't always tell us things that we're ready for. The Buddha never planned to be written down in texts necessarily. He said what he said to specific audiences who were engaged in specific practices, and consider if you are the target audience for a given scripture of the Buddha's. I know I certainly am not the target audience of a great many discourses of the Buddha.

    Everyone you love will leave you ultimately, whether by choice or not, when you are dying. You know this more than anyone. I know you know this because you are in love, and when you are in love, like I am also incidentally, nothing weighs on you more than separation from the beloved and union with the hated. That is how the Buddha defined "duḥkha:" separation from the beloved and union with the hated, the hated being the absence of the beloved.

    Even this body we use to enjoy these wonderful sense pleasures: food, a book, a minor indulgence, a sight, a sound, a smell -- as you well know, this will end too. That is what Buddhism is supposed to get us ready for, things we don't really want to happen.

    Nandī dukkhassa mūlan.
    Joy is suffering's root.

    (Majjhimanikāya Sutta No. 1, Mūlapariyāyasutta)

    Harsh words, I agree, but I don't plan on abandoning my loved ones. I imagine you don't either."

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    Firstly I’d ask him where the hell he got the idea that he should stop loving his daughter??!!

    Being a Buddhist means he needs to take that unconditional love he has for her and expand it in ever widening circles to ALL beings. Because all beings have been our daughters at some stage right?

    Check out the Four Noble Truths too.

    There is suffering / dissatisfaction in life - learn to understand it and find out exactly what it is. You’ll probably find that a lot of things you previously thought brought you pleasure also bring their fair share of suffering.

    Try meditation. Make it a pleasant experience and don’t get too hung up on whether you meditate every day or not. That’s just perfectionism and doesn’t help any.

    Simplify your life. You don’t have to always be busy doing something.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    If you met this man, what would your response to him be?

    In time this kind of thinking too shall pass

    "Great Faith and Great Doubt are two ends of a spiritual walking stick. We grip one end with the grasp given to us by our Great Determination. We poke into the underbrush in the dark on our spiritual journey. This act is real spiritual practice—gripping the Faith end and poking ahead with the Doubt end of the stick. If we have no Faith, we have no Doubt. If we have no Determination, we never pick up the stick in the first place"
    ~Sensei Sevan Ross,~

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited March 2020

    I think that it is a misunderstanding that Buddhism is about not having enjoyment. I think what is said is that attachment to things that do not bring enjoyment enduringly (example power over others, wealth, etc) is a negative. But that doesn't mean that a Buddha or being on the way to becoming a Buddha stops experiencing enjoyment.

  • Great answers/quests everyone. 💗🙏🏽🕊

    “Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you can not bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond that pain.”
    Bodhi Kalil Gibran

    ... or to put it in Buddha-speak ...

    For the soul walks upon all paths.
    The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
    The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran UK Veteran

    @lobster said:
    Great answers/quests everyone. 💗🙏🏽🕊

    “Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you can not bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond that pain.”
    Bodhi Kalil Gibran

    ... or to put it in Buddha-speak ...

    For the soul walks upon all paths.
    The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
    The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

    Beautiful quotes @lobster. My partner and I are getting married in the summer and we will have a reading from The Prophet. I'm also going to read the Karaniya Metta Sutta. Perhaps that's the text I'd most recommend to this person. And then I'd tell them to go talk to @Vimalajāti :)

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    I think the whole frame of reference in thinking about samsara and renunciation like that is tied up with the belief in past and future lives. If we've had endless numbers of children or positive experiences previously and rebirth in lower realms is far more common then escaping the round of rebirth starts to make more sense.

    Most westerners tend not to think of the Buddhist path in that light. And there really isn't a monolithic way the western mind applies Buddhism. I would say that most of us think of detachment more as some space in our mind that can help us not get so caught up in our thoughts and emotions. That allows us a pause between reaction and response. Also, as @Bunks said not as a way to decrease our love towards our close ones, but to increase our circle of affection. I also think of it as a way to look at the world from a less biased perspective.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    You are right @person, Buddhism looks different to someone who has been brought up to believe in endless rebirths and karma. If you don’t have that, it makes more sense to believe in a deeper peace of mind and being in this lifetime, which is also an aspect of Buddhism. It’s still about not attaching to things, but if you meditate and let it come naturally, you don’t let go of those deep ties until the time is right for you.

    Often the ties we have with near family members can be quite complex, and they change over the years, and as you relax more you will end up letting go a bit more, things are no longer as frenetic. Being blissful and being at peace is something that comes with meditating and disentangling the self.

  • Desires are neither good nor bad. where we are coming from, where we are at and where we are going to in relation to our own lives and the lives affected by our actions which make a desire good or bad or of no consequence.
    To wish help others in any way is a desire.
    To win in a contest is a desire.
    To become or stay healthy is a desire.
    To want something another person has is a desire.
    To suppress desires is a desire.
    It is, again, not the desire itself that is good or bad. It is your words and actions relative to that desire and it's impact upon you and others/the environment which makes a desire good, bad or of no consequence.

    Peace to all

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