2018-05-29

Raven 56: The Eightfold Path

Is attachment really the root of suffering? Apparently, Buddha said so, but it's buried in a subordinate clause at the end of an obscure sutra:
"When a bhikku practices restraint in the six bases of contact, and having understood that attachment is the root of suffering, is without attachment, liberated by the destruction of attachment, it is not possible that he would direct his body or arouse his mind towards any object of attachment."(Sunakkhatta Sutta: Majjhima Nikaya 105).
Though attachment may be the source of some suffering, it's clear Buddha recognized that attachment is not the source of all suffering. The central Buddhist text, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (Samyutta Nikaya 56.11), says that suffering comes from birth, aging, illness, death, union with what is displeasing, separation from what is pleasing, and not getting what one wants. No matter how nonattached you get, there's still going to be old age, sickness, and death. Even total nonattachment doesn't end all suffering. And, anyway, we need our attachments. As Brown Bear says, "What would you be without attachments?"

The trick is to have your attachments, but hold them lightly. Let your attachments be -- to put it in the language of Nonviolent Communication -- the requests that you make of life rather than the demands.

What is the eightfold path? Clear seeing/thinking, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Is nonattachment implicit in this? Only insofar as we are prone to get attached to wrong views, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, or concentration.

Case
Spring finally came, and Raven entertained her old teacher, Brown Bear Roshi, and invited her to speak. After the talk, Badger came forward and asked, "How can I get rid of my passions?"
Brown Bear said, "What would you be without passions?"
Badger said, "Maybe I should reword that. How can I get rid of my attachments?"
Brown Bear said, "What would you be without attachments?"
Badger said, "Isn't nonattachment one of our ideals?"
Brown Bear asked, "Where do you find it taught?"
Badger said, "Isn't it implicit in the Eightfold Path of the Buddha?"
Brown Bear said, "Cling to that Path."
Raven commented, "I'm clinging to Brown Bear."
Verse
"All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature of change. There is no way to escape being separated from them." (Upajjhatthana Sutta: Anguttara Nikaya 5.57)

To know it is fleeting
To have this in heart-mind
Colors love piquant and precious
Dissipates the fog of eternity
Touches the real.
To know it is fleeting.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 55

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