Eliminating Attachment to Worldly Emotions and Desires


How Dharma Help Us Eliminate This Attachment?

Chen : Since we all have worldly emotions and desires, and our attachment of them is the source of our suffering, how can the Dharma help us eliminate this attachment?

Isolate Ourselves from These Emotions and Desires?

M.S.Y. : One way to be free of attachments is to isolate ourselves from these emotions and desires; to give them up all at once. When encountering emotions and desires, we brace ourselves to keep away them. But this is like pulling up weeds by their roots, and that is actually not easy. Moreover, rigorous practice in solitude may not eliminate all emotions and desires. Though physically away from the environment of the five senses, we may still be attached to our own body and to what goes on in the mind. There’s still conflict and contradiction whining which are no easily eradicated. However, isolation or renunciation – leaving home and practicing the Way – can still serve as a method.

Become Immune to Emotions and Desires

Another way is to constantly use thoughts to help us become immune to emotions and desires; when these appear us, we use concepts to adjust ourselves. This may sound easier in that you only need concepts to correct yourself, but it is not; it takes long practice. And very often, when we encounter a situation, it’s already too late to apply concepts.

Say that beauty, fame, fortune, position, and power appear to tempt you; can you say you don’t want it? It’s indeed hard to say “no.” Even though you say no at the moment, it’s still hard to reject them. At such a time it will be very difficult to try to use concepts to guide yourself. So this takes daily spiritual practice. Immediately adjust your mindset whenever something striking, tempting, and simulating appears in front of you. First, refrain from seeing and hearing it; then focus on your breathing, and recite the name of Amitabha Buddha. Have you ever noticed that when some people are yelled at they simply recite “ Amituofo”? Or, when there is a temptation, they simply ignore it and concentrate on their breathing? By not seeing and hearing it as a way to keep ourselves pure, we get to reject temptation. This also takes practice, day and night, or whenever we’re not occupied.

Look Within Yourself Rather to the Outside

Look within yourself rather to the outside. When we look outside, we are affected by our environment. So the next time I see delicious food or a big cake, I must look within and consider how many calories it contains. If people who want to stop smoking, drinking, or taking drugs do not have access to these things, they may be able to give them up. But in the face of the slightest temptation they’ll fail to quit their old habits. Therefore, we need to constantly guard against what tempts us. On one hand, we have to correct our mindset; on the other, we should try to keep away from those temptations.

Some people have had kleptomania since their childhood, and always covet other people’s belongings. It’s not because they urgently need these things, or because they lack them. They just have to takings from others because they want to, or else they’ll feel bad. They just have to possess it. Then this becomes a habit, and it is also due to temptation. They can train themselves to walk away or to keep away from the things they covet, instead of getting close to them. We may like something, which we don’t need or shouldn’t want. Then we should walk away, whenever we see or smell it.

For example, some people enjoy eating meat; when they smell the aroma of cooked meat, they immediately want to eat it. Isn’t that so? It’s been a very long time since I ate meat. When you haven’t eaten meat for a long, long time, it really doesn’t agree with you when you try it again. But if you’ve only recently given up meat, you can easily resume eating it. At this moment, in the presences of delicious-smelling meat, just walk away as best as you can or its aroma will tempt you. So you need to strengthen you will and leave the temptation as soon as possible!

Correct Our Thinking, and Avoid Temptation

To cut our attachment to desires, one method is to change and correct our thinking; another is to train ourselves to avoid the temptations of the five senses.

Love is More Difficult

Chen: But love seems different from these situations. Everyone pursues love. So when it comes to a loving relationship, how can we maintain it but not attach to it?

M.S.Y.: Love is more difficult. Maintaining a loving relationship without attachment is never easy. However, I personally do not have such experiences to answer your question. Maybe we can continue this topic in our next program, to see if the Dharma can be helpful.


Zen and Inner Peace, Volume One, Pp108-111,
Talks given on March 3, 1999

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