Attachment and Detachment

“The root of suffering is attachment.”
-The Buddha

Does attachment to something or someone always hurt us in the longrun? Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Jainism have always said so.

From a practical point of view it makes sense. As human beings, we all have a heart and feelings. You never know when these two elements will act up and cause a rift between you and a family member or a friend.


And even if that doesn’t happen, death will surely snatch them away at some point. Either way, when you’re separated from someone you’re close to, it hurts.

From an emotional standpoint, however, it’s a whole different story. To tell someone never to get attached to someone else would be asking them to become robots. It’s biologically and emotionally impossible.

That’s precisely why people who express a desire to attain monkhood or nunhood have always fascinated me. While smaller intricacies may vary culture to culture, every religion that offers this path, be it Christianity, Buddhism or Hinduism, claims the path of monkhood is primarily to become detached from the outside world.

The physical requirements of this (specific attire, shaving your head, living in a monastery or convent etc) might become easier by the day simply with habit. But psychologically, can one really attain a mental state where they can be that nonchalant or indifferent towards their loved ones?

In my opinion, no. And if one claims to be able to do it, I would guess that that’s more of an act of suppression than nirvana.

With materialistic things it’s a bit easier. We all move place to place at various stages in our lifes and our accumulation of things such as clothes, electronics, furniture, etc change as well. Along the way, the loss of certain mementos or gifts with sentimental values might hurt but not nearly as much as losing a person.

But how can you possibly forget loved ones? Even if they’re not there physically, you can’t erase their memories unless you’re specifically dealing with a desease like dementia or using drugs that alter your mind.

To conclude, I would say detachment of certain elements like materialistic things is possible, albeit not always easy. But detachment of people close to us is not nearly as easy as stating it in a philosophical text or preaching about it in a religious context. Even amongst monks and nuns, I would argue that the illusion of detachment is more suppression than anything else.

But then again, I’ve never tried to attain nirvana. I’ve never meditated with the specific intention of enlightenment. Perhaps one day, should a desire to do so awaken within me, I’ll have an entirely different opinion.

How do you feel about attachment and detachment? Do you think it’s as simple as some philosophies suggest? Have you ever known a monk or nun who were able to detach themselves completely? Share your experiences and thoughts by commenting below.

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