Letting go of everything


Can you imagine, letting go of everything in your life?
Monks do this when they become Monks, they let go of everything including their Family.
The thought of this is almost mind boggling to me. And imagine right now as you read this, letting go of all physical possessions and all relationships you have in this World. What would you have left?
I would bet that the thought of this brings on an instant sense of loneliness in you. No connections, no attachments, no home, no Family or loved ones. It’s just you.

I sometimes wonder why anyone would choose the monastic life, and how a person could accept this aloneness and absence of possessions.
But I also have come to see the beauty in the monastic life, and how this absence of attachment allows complete equanimity towards all beings. I have also witnessed the peace and tranquility that monastics exude, with acceptance and loving kindness towards all beings and all situations.

Every single Buddhist Monk and Nun that I have ever met seems to have such joy, peace, compassion and gentleness. Yet, every single one has chosen to let go of everything!
How can this be? Don’t they want to have love connections that they can depend on and turn to? Don’t they want to own a nice house, car, TV and stereo?
I see that they don’t, because possession is not love, and attachment is the cause of suffering.
Monks and Nuns have seen that there is a path away from suffering, and this joy radiates from within them. Following this path is cause for happiness, not despair. Their love is not contained or constricted by expectations or demands on anyone. It flows effusively and openly with no thought of any reward or reciprocation.
And physical possessions mean little, as they have learned the impermanence of all things.
I think some examples might be: “I have a TV, great I’ll watch it” or, “I don’t have a TV, great I can read!”. If they had no books, I’m sure they would say “Great, I can meditate!”.

I think that seeing how monastics are able to be filled with joy in letting go of everything, they serve as an example to all of us. How our view of letting go can be one of happiness and not of loneliness or desperation.
In the Eightfold Path, I would consider this part of Right View. And we always have the opportunity for Right View in every situation that arises. Even our feelings of fear, regret and remorse can be released when one is able to clearly see that there is no benefit in clinging, desire or attachment.

I hope this gives you something to think about, and as always I wish that you may be free of suffering.
May you be well, happy and peaceful.

  • SandraZaffinaKerth

    Hello, interesting article. .I certainly see how attachment to things or life situations, good or bad, can cause suffering. But I can’t help but ask myself when this topic comes up, how can we build loving peaceful communities without attachment to families and friends? Isn’t it a natural part of us, to find a mate, have children, and be “attached” to them…unlike lets say a bird that has a mate just for reproduction, and just takes care of their young until they are ready to fly, then never to see their young ones or mates again? Isn’t that what makes our species wonderful, the ability to cultivate love and devotion to each other, staying with our children and families until death? Building communities of people helping each other or helping others who are suffering because of our ability to have deep empathy and compassion? Without attachment to family or friends, how would we have that level of love and how would we be different then animal species…driven by instinct to reproduce and raise offspring, then to move on, and off we go??

  • SandraZaffinaKerth

    Hello, interesting article. .I certainly see how attachment to things or life situations, good or bad, can cause suffering. But I can’t help but ask myself when this topic comes up, how can we build loving peaceful communities without attachment to families and friends? Isn’t it a natural part of us, to find a mate, have children, and be “attached” to them…unlike lets say a bird that has a mate just for reproduction, and just takes care of their young until they are ready to fly, then never to see their young ones or mates again? Isn’t that what makes our species wonderful, the ability to cultivate love and devotion to each other, staying with our children and families until death? Building communities of people helping each other or helping others who are suffering because of our ability to have deep empathy and compassion? Without attachment to family or friends, how would we have that level of love and how would we be different then animal species…driven by instinct to reproduce and raise offspring, then to move on, and off we go??

    • san

      @SandraZaffinaKerth I completely understand your concern, Sandra! Love is great as long as we get what we want. I think, love that you are talking about has a lot limitations, conditions. I kind of like unconditional love. It can be developed beyond mundane level. Love somebody without expecting in return. Take care them, hold them, be there for them when they need help and the same time let go when the time comes. ownership is not love. it’s about freeing yourself and others. I don’t think we love freely. I see a lot fear, hate, jealousy and anger involved with that kind of love. More than we enjoy being with them, we try to hold on to them. It’s possible to do anything above and beyond and the same time not attach to it. It just need little practice that’s all. :)

      • WHPDave

        @san @SandraZaffinaKerth Wow San, what a wonderful explanation. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. (and love too) :)

      • SandraZaffinaKerth

        Hello, thanks for your reply. Perhaps I don’t understand attachment in the context here. I see how love with expectation can result in anger, fear, ect…but what I meant by attachment was that thing that differentiates us from other species, our ability to tend to our children and our communities when there is nothing to gain for the self from those acts. While I agree that attachments to material things or thought illusions create unnecessary suffering, I still can’t help but feel that suffering from love attachments is a beautiful thing because it comes out of compassion and empathy…caring for other people/animals without self gain. Can you have deep empathy and compassion for another if you cannot understand their suffering with your heart? And how can you understand suffering with the heart if you don’t actually feel other’s suffering?Like when Buddha went out in the world and saw suffering, he cried, or when Christ sacrificed himself and suffered out of his love for us. Whenever you feel suffering within you because of your love for someone and someone else, it cultivates compassion and empathy. It’s what keeps people from harming or judging others, because they can empathize with their pain. It was lacks in the heart of abusers and murders. Thanks again for your reply, really enjoy your website.

        • san

          @SandraZaffinaKerth Do not get confuse by the idea of letting go of things. All this Buddhist teachings are optional. Actually, this is very interesting, we enjoy suffering. This is what we called ignorance or illusions. Of coures that love beautiful but, to a certain degree. What I like about life is suffering is optional. If you think the way you love to others make you happy, go for it. There is no exact answers for these things. Love is an abstract concept anyway.

        • jms_kail

          @SandraZaffinaKerth I completely agree with you Sandra. Human compassion comes with suffering. You cannot see a sick child (especially your own) and not hurt. And this is an awesome, beneficial adaptation from evolution.

    • jms_kail

      @SandraZaffinaKerth There is no reason why we cannot be both attached and not attached at the same time. Our minds are certainly vast enough for this. For example, we desire a piece of chocolate cake for the pleasure it gives, but another part of our brain blocks the behavior due to a desire to lose weight. Our intelligent area of the brain houses completely different ideas as compared to the emotional area, but they are both under the same roof. Same with attachment. I love my daughter and was very attached to her while she lived with us with all of the suffering that goes along with this human love. However, another part of my mind cultivated through meditation and the reality of impermanence, told me that someday she would grow up and leave (which she did). This part of my brain prepared me for when she grew up and I suffered less because of it. I was both attached and not attached at the same time when she was growing up.

      • SandraZaffinaKerth

        @jms_kail You really may like this article I just found, kind of along the lines of what you said above. http://progressivebuddhism.blogspot.com/2010/07/empathic-society.html

        • jms_kail

          @SandraZaffinaKerth Thank you so much for thinking of me Sandra and sending me this article. It concerned a comment from Jeremy Rifkin that humans are softwired for empathy and not aggression which makes humans basically good. I suspected something was off since science tells us that humans have mechanisms for both aggression and empathy and we are not good or bad but both. I looked up Rifkin and found out that he is not a scientist but a religious activist. Stephen Jay Gould (an eminent evolutionary biologist) described his writings as “anti-intellectual propaganda”. My feeling is that if you really want to understand the human mind, stick to scientific sites such as the one for the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology.

  • JenniferSlad

    It’s so interesting to think about. A little scary, but freeing, too! As much as I love my family, sometimes I become overwhelmed and long for a life with no attachments-no one to take care of, (seemingly) no worries. But, for me as a parent, that thought is usually just a way to avoid pain.

    • SandraZaffinaKerth

      @JenniferSlad can relate, with three small children under 5! lol. But that’s were I ask, then what is that thing in us, that keeps us from waving good bye to the kids and heading for the beaches in Mexico…it is attachment? Maybe that comes out of our deep love and concern for them over are own self gratification. :)

      • JenniferSlad

        @SandraZaffinaKerth I guess that’s why Thelma and Louise was such a great movie! :) I read this great book by Jon Kabat Zinn called Everyday Blessings. Its about mindful parenting. On the first page there is a quote that has always stuck with me: once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.
        This was so scary to me at first, but when I started to understand it and let a little space grow between my kids and I, they started becoming their own little men. It’s amazing to watch. I guess I’m grateful to have whatever it is you are talking about that keeps us connected to our kids (at times I think for me it might even just be fear of what others would think!) and I’m also grateful to be learning how to keep that connection and still feel happy and free.