Well thank you Bloganuary, so many life lessons and you want me to pick just one? I can’t claim credit for this lesson as being an original of mine but is possibly the biggest one I have learnt from my dabbling in Buddhism. It is also one of the hardest to come to terms with in our society today and possibly the least understood. Let me preface this by saying that I am not a Buddhist scholar, I have no Buddhist credentials, and therefore my comments are entirely my own interpretation as all life lessons worth passing on are. Here it is.
The root of suffering is attachment.– The Buddha, from the Pali canon upadhi dukkhassa mūlanti
Let me start with pointing out a simple truth, you own nothing permanently and you control nothing. Every breath you take is probably the only thing you have any real control over and anyone with emphysema, or other breathing health issues, will tell you that isn’t a given either. Anything external to you can be taken away by others in one circumstance or another. What does this have to do with attachments? An attachment is simply anything that you feel defines you, to not only the rest of the world but to yourself more importantly. It is also something you rely on, depend on, and which you feel you couldn’t possibly live without. It isn’t necessarily possessions as many misunderstand this to mean. You can own as many houses, cars, gold bullion but the question is the effect that this ownership or possession means to you. It also applies to opinions, beliefs that you might hold strongly. If you think you wouldn’t be you without any of them then you have an attachment. That is the simple answer, it gets more complicated when you think the same way about some aspect of your persona or your physical appearance.
I wrote a piece called “Duggy’s Lesson” about an incident in my personal life that gave me a real understanding of attachment. In brief, a person I used to meet at the swimming pool got very upset when I showed up with a shaven head. He sported a massive comb over to cover his own baldness on top but it was his reaction which was the lesson. His suffering lay in his perception of himself, his attachment to a full head of hair as defining his worth. The problem is not with preferring to have a full head of hair but rather that his quality of life as he saw himself was being threatened.
We have to learn to accept who we are as we are and not to resist for instance the inevitable ageing process. Let go of any attachments you find in yourself. We do not gauge our self worth by external possessions or how we look, we love ourself as we are.
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”– Buddha