A few weeks ago I went to a meditation course with one of my best friends. We are both channeling change at the moment so I thought it appropriate to give her this experience for her birthday. The day course focused on people’s desirous attachment, and on how this restricts us in the pursuit of happiness and leading a fulfilling life. I have attended other meditation courses before and I meditate whenever I feel that I would like to, or feel that I ought to for whatever reason. I had not heard teachings from a Buddhist monk before though, and I found the day to be greatly insightful. First of all Gen Kelsang Daö, the resident teacher, was very funny. If you are in Sydney and have the opportunity to attend one of her teachings, I seriously recommend it. She has a great sense of humour and engages her audience beautifully and manages to posit very big ideas in very simple and elegant ways that I felt many could relate to. See below for more details.
This misguided attachment is identified as leading to constant craving, anxiety and ultimate dissatisfaction. Because searching for happiness externally cannot sustain a sense of satisfaction, this leads to addictive patterns where we constantly seek out more and more, which prevents us from obtaining true contentment. Unattachment is not a lack of caring, nor is it a lack of loving, but rather it is not having an expectation of obtaining happiness from external objects or from other people. It simply came down to this: true happiness is cultivated within, and you cannot expect anything outside of you to bring you happiness. Objects will always lose their shine with time (if not literally, their novelty will wear off) and others have to exist to live their own lives out and will therefore not always behave in a way that you would prefer.
While this sounds simple enough though, when you actually start to unravel this further and think about how we all live, it then becomes apparent how much time and effort we invest into chasing down happiness in all of the wrong places through desirous attachment. Two examples that were spoken about at length are the purchasing of beautiful things, and the attainment of a beautiful partner; both very common situations. Without going into too much detail, the key message was to make the attainment of things about their utility first and foremost, without obsessing over them. You are allowed to like them, and it’s even a good idea to purchase something expensive if it is going to be useful for you. The key is to not dwell on the object, nor to purchase it in the attempt to make you feel happy. Retail therapy *thumbs down*. Similarly, a person should be sought out as an object of love rather than an object of attachment. Only like this are you truly able to connect with and enjoy the company of the person, rather than ultimately always be seeking to obtain happiness through their behaviour, which you are ultimately not in control of. To “love” someone because you need them, is not doing anybody any favours. Here the old saying “If you love somebody set them free” definitely comes to mind.
I don’t really want to go into more detail as I am no expert myself, but I got a lot to think about out of this course and I bought a few books to further delve into this philosophy, so you can expect some further thoughts on this to appear further down the track. I hope that this has been interesting and helpful.
This course was run at the Mahasiddha Kadampa Buddhist meditation centre in Surry Hills, Sydney. If you are curious to attend the meditation centre just check them out online at www.meditateinsydney.org or give them a ring on (02) 9699 9902. Please note that I have no affiliation with the organization – I just attended one of their courses and am sharing this information as I found the course to be interesting and useful.