Meditations to Subdue Attachment

Meditations to Subdue Attachment

Date of Advice:
September 2013
Date Posted:
February 2021

A student had developed strong attachment to a monk. Rinpoche recommended meditating on impermanence, the impurity of the body, the sufferings of samsara, and the emptiness, or lack of true existence, of the object of attachment.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, 1989. Photo by Ueli Minder.

My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulling one,

A billion, zillion times thank you for your kind letter.

Yes, the strong attachment to the monk is also related to past karma, past connection, it can happen. Even if physically they don’t look beautiful, even if they are ugly, but you have a particular interest or attraction to that person, then that is the result of a past connection.

I just remembered a story. One very high-class Tibetan family had a daughter. They were a very rich family, but the daughter somehow left the family and joined with a very poor Indian family in the village, very simple, their house was made with cow dung. The Tibetan family got their daughter back, but then the daughter left again and went back to the very poor Indian family. One time when her family was going down to the village, they saw their daughter working with cow dung, putting wet cow dung on the wall of the house. Somehow she was drawn to that poor family, even though she was very rich and high class. That was due to past life connection.

It is very, very good, a success, that you didn’t have a sexual connection with the monk. That is very, very fortunate, so fortunate, because he is a monk. In this way you had great success that you didn’t make him disrobe, even though you had strong attachment. So now he is the object of your main meditation.

There is a meditation to look at the nature of the object of attachment, which is in the nature of suffering. It is impermanent, in the nature of suffering, empty, no self, not truly existent.

You can meditate on impermanence and also the impurity [of the body.] In every second we’re changing—year by year, month by month, week by week, second by second. Start from that, very small, subtle, so we’re getting older second by second, we’re getting older minute by minute. We’re getting older and decaying hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year; we’re getting wrinkles and signs of old age. So start slowly, slowly.

[Things] appear permanent to our hallucinated mind, we believe they are permanent, but that is a totally wrong concept. We are cheating ourselves, cheating our Dharma practice, which makes attachment arise, then it doesn’t allow us to practice Dharma, our mind does not become Dharma. Also, from that, anger arises. If not anger then ignorance, and from that basis anger arises, then attachment to samsara arises from that. Then we do not achieve renunciation from samsara, which means it blocks us from achieving realizations on the path to nirvana, it blocks us from achieving total liberation from samsara, ultimate happiness.

Also it causes the self-cherishing thought to arise and that blocks bodhicitta—it blocks us from actualizing the Mahayana path, the path to enlightenment, and it blocks us from being able to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings. It blocks us from freeing numberless sentient beings from each realm—freeing them from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bringing them to full enlightenment.

It also causes attachment to this life, attachment to that object, attachment to samsara, so that obscures the mind. It causes us to not realize emptiness, to not see emptiness, shunyata, of the object, so then we are not able to realize emptiness and we cannot cut the root of samsara, ignorance. From beginningless rebirths up to now, we are continuously reborn, die and suffer in the six realms, numberless times up to now. We still have not realized emptiness, but continually follow ignorance, the root of samsara, so then we have to be reborn in samsara and suffer endlessly. The question is, “Do I want that? Do I want liberation? Or do I want samsara?” Ask yourself that question.

You can also think [the body is] impure, dirty. You must think this very strongly. Look at his insides, peel off the skin, then there is blood, flesh, skeleton, nerves. So you take off the skin and put it in one place, then check if you still get attached or not. Without the skin it’s very frightening, even a small amount of blood, even if a needle goes inside and there is a small amount of blood, even that is frightening. Without the skin it is very frightening, very ugly, without going through the skeleton, so think a lot about this. Meditate on this.

The skin, if we take it off and put it separately, doesn’t have any shape like before. Actually like this it becomes very frightening and it changes appearance. We don’t see it like before, then the attachment changes, it stops. Also, we don’t get attached, generally speaking, but maybe it’s still possible if there is very strong attachment, I can’t say.

Now the skin itself, even if it’s on the body, if we look at it with a magnifying glass and see the skin, it looks like hills, so many bumps, not only bumps but hairs growing out of it, kind of very rough. If we look at the skin through a microscope it looks so different. When we don’t look at the skin through a microscope it looks OK. When the person becomes old, the skin has more wrinkles, it starts to change color, it becomes very rough, then there is no more object of attachment; it becomes less and less as the person becomes older.

Also, the smell coming from the body—if we don’t wash the body and don’t use perfume, there is soon a terrible smell. For example, if we don’t wash the mouth and don’t use toothpaste then the smell from inside is like kaka. This proves how dirty we are inside. The smell that comes out is like kaka, even from the mouth. Also, when we become old, we smell. I have smelled this many times from myself and from others—after not washing there is the smell of kaka. This really shows how the body is dirty. Thinking in this way helps to stop attachment.

It is said by Pabongka Rinpoche in Calling the Guru from Afar:

Thinking of this excellent body, highly meaningful and difficult to obtain,
And wishing to take its essence with unerring choice between gain and loss, happiness and suffering—reminds me of you, Guru.

What it is saying is that in every second—even in every second, not only year by year, month by month, hour by hour, but even second by second—we have the choice whether to go to hell or to achieve enlightenment. Whether to go to samsara or nirvana, whether to engage in the resultant happiness or the resultant suffering. Even second by second. Really, this is incredible, incredible. When we think of that, it reminds us of the kindness of the guru.

It is an incredible choice of freedom that we have. So it’s totally crazy, stupid, most foolish and ignorant in every second to take loss and not take profit. As it is mentioned in the lamrim, if we are in the land where we can collect so many wish-granting jewels every second, but then we go back empty-handed without any jewels, we are taking a loss. Here it means like that.

If you don’t understand the meaning of wish-granting jewel, you can think about diamonds, sapphires or a billion dollars. So you are in the place where you can get a billion, zillion dollars, you can pick it up, but you didn’t pick it up and you left empty-handed, so that’s silly. This is without mentioning tantric practice, the quick path to achieve enlightenment in one life. By practicing the paramita path it takes three countless great eons to create the cause of the dharmakaya, the merit of wisdom, and the cause of the rupakaya, the merit of virtue.

The third meditation, the way to think, is that samsaric pleasure is in the nature of suffering, also the suffering of change. Friends or material things, anything, after we receive it, then soon, day by day, week by week, month by month, it becomes more and more boring, we get tired of it, then we want another one. We even want to change our job, even though we were happy there in the beginning.

As we have heard Lama Tsongkhapa say: at first being in the sun is very pleasurable, then it changes and becomes too hot and then it becomes suffering. Then we get in the water, and at first it is very pleasurable then after a little time it becomes suffering, then another suffering. The suffering from the heat stopped and then the suffering of the cold started. So that is called merely labeled pleasure.

So we can see it is not pure happiness, but another suffering. It appears as pleasure but then it becomes another suffering. It’s called pleasure, merely labeled pleasure by the mind, but it is not at all in reality. To our hallucinated mind, right after it is merely labeled, it appears back as a real one, real happiness, existing from its own side, then we trust, or believe, that it exists from its own side, then we get attached, on the basis of that. Then there is attachment if we lose that, or anger arises if something happens to that object of attachment. So it becomes the cause of the lower realms, the cause of samara.

We can see it is only suffering, by checking, analyzing, we see it is suffering, we find out. So in reality there is nothing to be attached to.

Next, the fourth meditation. There is no self, which means no true existence. The object of attraction appears to the mind as if it exists from its own side, a real one. The mind trusts that, believes that, then attachment arises, and so forth. In reality there is no real one, no real object of attachment. The foundation that we believe or trust does not exist from its own side at all, it is totally empty.

Also if you get attached to that monk, to that body, you think, “I want that, I want this body to have sex with,” and so forth, but thinking like that, believing in that real I, which appears to your hallucinated mind and you believe in, if you look for it and check, it’s not there at all, it’s totally empty. You cannot find it from the tip of the hairs down to the toes, nowhere, nor does it exist separately from this body, the aggregates, so that means it doesn’t exist at all. I really want to say, you need to meditate on this.

The merely labeled I exists, but where is it? You cannot find it from the tip of the hairs down to the toes. Of course there is one which exists in the world, suffering in the world, it is where the aggregates are. But you can’t find even that merely labeled I, from the tip of the hairs down to the toes. Meditate on this.

There are two sufferings: the suffering of pain and the suffering of change. Samsaric pleasure comes from the third type of suffering—pervasive compounding suffering. These aggregates are pervaded by suffering because they are under the control of karma and delusion.

Therefore it is very important every day, every minute, for the mind to be in the meditation on renunciation of samsara, bodhicitta and right view, so that nothing becomes the cause of samsara, as much as possible.

Then to actualize the path. It is very important to have realizations of the path, then we will achieve the direct perception of emptiness from this and the seed of delusions can be ceased. When there is no delusion, there is no karma, there is no cause of suffering, so there won’t be suffering. We are free from the oceans of samsaric suffering forever and the mind is in a blissful state of peace.

This pervasive suffering, because of the contaminated seed of delusion, continues the consciousness from past lives, so it’s compounding, after ignorance compounded this life’s suffering and compounded the future lives’ suffering and rebirth.

As our mind is not in realization, not in the meditation on renunciation, bodhicitta and right view, then [we follow] ignorance, and after ignorance, comes attachment and anger. Ignorance, not knowing what is right or wrong, then we create karma, which leaves an imprint for the next life, then again we have to be reborn in samsara, then the next life suffering and again the next life suffering, and so on, like that.

This is the main suffering that Buddhists should get renunciation from—understanding how this is in the nature of suffering. Once we get renunciation of this, total renunciation of this, then we actualize the path and we can become free from this pervasive compounding suffering, as well as the two other sufferings, so we are able to achieve liberation from samsara. Of course, there is enlightenment to achieve for sentient beings.

Thank you very much. I am very happy you expressed your feelings, your difficulties. I am very, very happy to help you. I’m sorry I didn’t get to answer you quickly; it took time. I am very sorry.

With much love and best wishes ...