Monday, November 10, 2014

Dharma Hall insights on attachment by Lauren

During the several years that I spent studying at the Dharma Center supervised by Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche, it was impossible not to talk about attachments. Initially, I didn’t understand why one would want to completely rid oneself of attachments. After all, aren’t attachments what lead us to follow our passions and undertake great projects, many of which benefit others? Aren’t attachments what enable us to support friends and families throughout awkward growing periods and personality clashes?  
Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche Blog Image
Lauren studied at Rinpoche's Taipei Center for many years and returned to the US earlier in 2014.
Over time, I thought about this idea in more depth, honestly observing the amount of satisfaction or discomfort that I experienced from my interactions with others, and realized that attachments exist on every level of our awareness, coloring most of our thoughts and determining most of our preoccupations. For example, I worried about how fat I looked on a given day, or if the person sitting across the dinner table from me thought that I was reacting appropriately to what they were telling me. Although I ostensibly told myself that these concerns of how others perceived me arose from a concern for them, realistically, these attachments caused me to constantly focus on myself and prevented me from really listening to the other person. It was such a waste of mental energy, and a waste of how to experience interactions with others.

During the time that I spent at the center, I somehow came to feel lighter. While teaching English to kids who ranged from the elementary to high school age in Taiwan, I had plenty of opportunities to observe how I reacted to students who hadn’t yet learned how to reign in their emotions. I noticed how when a student suddenly got in a temper when faced with a new idea that contradicted all he previously knew about the English language, instead of responding with a mounting frustration of my own at his sudden refusal to listen, I could instead try to find the reason for his confusion and lead us in a more constructive direction.

Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche
Thangka painting of Shang Rinpoche
Attachments affect every interaction that we have with others, for they determine our expectations for every given situation. We were often taught to examine our thoughts, and to accept them all, making friends with the negative ones in order to transform them. Although this sentence sounds beautiful, I’ve often struggled to understand how to actually put it into practice. 

One of Buddha Shakyamuni’s sayings stayed by me throughout all of my studies, which was not to take any teaching purely on faith, but to observe if it had any positive affect on one’s life or on other’s lives, and to go from there. In the same vein, I’ve observed that while I spent time at this center, many of the negative, or comparative thoughts that would often float around in my mind became absent at times. That lighter feeling was a reduction of mental baggage, the heaviest of anything that we can carry.

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