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Attachment, Compassion and Altruism

Our attachment does not only develop to people and objects, but also to abstract notions, such as reputation, glory or religion.

Many people believe that in order to uproot attachment, one must give up any affection or attraction to pleasant objects, thinking that the fact of considering an object attractive is completely wrong.

This means ignoring traditional spiritual teachings, because if we are not attracted to our own happiness, as well as spiritual evolution, how are we going to walk the path to it? If we do not truly want these for ourselves, we are not going to take not even a few steps in that direction, not to mention reaching the destination.

Love and compassion depend on the desire to make others happy. In this case, it is necessary to regard them as pleasant objects. We may doubtfully wonder:

„Isn’t the same thing as being attached to others?” It’s not! Love and compassion are specific mental states, relying on their way to grasp the object. Instead, attachment is characterized by exaggerating the positive qualities of the object and ignoring the true nature of it, thus perceiving the object incorrectly.

Given the fact that attachment is a disturbing concept, it is by its very nature a misconception. The wrong perception of its object leads to an exaggerated reaction of attachment. A disturbing concept is defined as a mental factor which, when a certain object appears, has the function to produce agitation and disobedience of the mind.

For instance, we are walking in a park and, at the sight of flowers, a new attachment may emerge within us. In this case, in order to please ourselves, we exaggerate the qualities of the flowers and thus we attach to our own distorted conception.

However, we can give up the attachment, without being forced to give up the pleasure as well, by offering the angelic beings all that seems attractive to us. Thereby, the selfish spirit of attachment cannot manifest, in which case we will be able to see the flowers free and easy, without letting the misconceptions influence us.

These mental states all have in common attraction, but the intervention of attachment causes unpleasant consequences, while love and compassion, with their objective nature, are sources of happiness.

“Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be obtained only by someone who is detached. ” ― Simone Weil

Post inspired by Geshe Rabten’s teachings.