Thursday, July 01, 2010

Learning non attachment

It is human nature to attach ourselves to someone (parents / spouse / children / relatives / friends) and/or something (house / pets / car / clubs etc). However attachment to someone or something invariably affects our emotions. And emotions can at times make us lose control of ourselves.

Take for example, the fans supporting their favorite football team in the ongoing World Cup 2010 in South Africa. Whether they watch their team play in the football stadium or live on TV, their hopes and emotions are governed by its performance during and even after football matches. Fans can turn boisterous, rowdy, or angry after each match result. No one can blame them, if no laws have been broken. They are just enjoying living their lives the way they want to.

If we study what the great masters – Laozi, Confucius and Buddha – taught, the heart can be stilled by moderating our own emotions. And emotions can be easily aroused arising from our attachments to kin, friends, and favorites not unlike the football fans if anything good or untoward happened to them.

Therefore non attachment or detachment, the opposite of attachment, is part and parcel of Tao cultivation. Non attachment helps in stilling the heart.

While it is easier for Daoist priests, Buddhist monks, and nuns to learn or practise non attachment since they are supposed to cut off family ties on entering vows of their choice, a lay person cultivating Tao only need to do so at the later stages of neidan practice.

Leaving the family and home behind to progress through the stages of neidan is nothing new to those familiar with Tao studies and the lives of Laozi, Confucius, and the Buddha. More examples can be found if we study the early history of Quanzhen.

If fellow lay travelers of the Way really think about it, learning and practising non attachment at the later stages could be better. At the time, our parents could be long gone with our children fully grown up having their own families and friends; leaving less broken hearts and dependants. And unless you are so inclined, you do not have to be a Daoist priest or a Buddhist monk or nun to learn and practise non attachment.

Meanwhile just watch your emotions and moderate them. It is easier for older folks since we are less hot blooded. This is another reason why you should not practise neidan if you are still young. Try cultivating virtues for a start.


Mark said...

Hi Allan.

This describes my predicament very well.
I'm in my 40's, married, with my parents still fit and healthy, and two young sons. So my attachments are strong. My only time of seclusion is early morning between 4-7am. This is when the majority of my cultivation takes place (qigong and sitting meditation).
I was once attracted to the Buddha way but found the obstacle of attachment to be too strong.
The way of the Tao seems to offer more in the way of flexibility. Like you say, when my parents are gone and my children are grown up, maybe that would be the time to relinquish attachments.
But, then again, I might have grandchildren to consider.
Oh dear, what a pickle.

Allan said...

If you are still practising neidan by then, you would probably know the best choice to take, and when to do so.


baroness radon said...

This is very profound (and timely) to me. As an only child (of an only child and with an only child who seems unlikely to reproduce) in a small widely dispersed and not very close family, I am constantly bemused by the way people's lives become so dramatic, so soap operatic, because of all these attachments. I just don't get it.

Neidan seems very natural to me. I have a long way to go, and sometimes I wonder if I am "cold-blooded." But your comments here are very ...inspiring? comforting? affirming? None of these are quite right, but thank you for this post.

Allan said...

My pleasure, baroness.