Anonymous asked: I just read the "developing equanimity" post. I am a very new meditator and am trying to understand meditation better. The exercise seems like an excellent practice for becoming more compassionate towards those we like, but i feel like those that I am very attached to bring me the most joy, and it is through my attachment to them that I experience this joy. What is the benefit of removing this attachment, and does this exercise entail fully removing the attachment or only to a certain extent?
That is a very good question, and I’m glad you asked. This is a common source of confusion to those new to Buddhism and I’m sure there are plenty of others who are thinking the same thing.
Buddha taught there there are three main delusions that we all have within our minds that cause us problems and suffering: ignorance, attachment, and aversion/anger. Aversion/anger and ignorance are easy to understand how they cause suffering, but attachment is much more subtle and harder to see. Attachment is also the most difficult delusion to overcome, partly because we live the desire realm, the realm of attachment, and partly because attachment is so deceptive.
We tend to think that attachment isn’t so bad, or maybe even a good thing, because we do get some pleasure from our sources of attachment. This is what deceives us, however. Our sources of attachment are impermanent, and when we get attached to something (or someone), when that object is gone, we feel the pain of loss. Also, our sources of attachment cannot give us lasting happiness and often cause us pain. For example, if we have attachment to a certain food we like, that attachment causes us to eat too much of it, and then we feel overfull or sick. Or, if we have attachment for a person close to us, we tend to set up high expectations for them and their behavior, and when they do something we don’t want them to do, we feel let down, disappointed, and maybe even betrayed by them.
Most people confuse love and attachment and think they are sort of the same thing or that love is supposed to cause attachment, but this is not the case. One way to look at the difference between love and attachment is the following: love is when you have concern for the other person, and want them to be happy no matter what they do. Attachment is when you are thinking, ‘what can this person do to make me happy?’ or ‘I like this person because they do XYZ.’ Bottom line: attachment causes all of us suffering, but love cannot cause suffering and only produces peace and happiness for all involved.