Amidst the Christian holidays, when attachment to desires and gratification can become inflamed to a fever pitch by advertising, it becomes obvious that Christmas causes as much, or more suffering, as it does joy. We know this, so why do we continue to suffer?
Buddhism, a study of discovery and eliminating suffering, claims a major cause of misery is attachment (desire). Examine, the Buddhist way, why some of us become hyper-agitated, temperamental and succumb to mass advertising this time of year.
Attachment manifests in four areas:
1. Attachment to sensual gratification (feels good, then suffer through craving for more)
2. Attachment to “I” ego “mine” (as attachment to self-image, possessions, things associated with “us” “we” “ours” including people, suffer through loss, decay)
3. Attachment to rigid and unyielding views, beliefs, prejudices (suffer through denial of the truth, being proven wrong)
4. Attachment to a group, ceremony, ritual, shared beliefs (suffer through persecution, competition, power mongering, frustrated ambition)
Though we suffer when our desires are not granted or when our beliefs are proved wrong, and we also suffer again when our desires that are fulfilled then become boring, broken, corrupted, stale, are proved false, evaporate or are stolen – or we suffer when the children run out of batteries Christmas morning (sic)!
If only we could get what we want! But have you ever noticed that when we are actively seeking desired objects that we become agitated? As proof, ask someone who is buying a new car or a cell phone, both powerful symbols of desire and attachment to self-image, if they are as a calm as when shopping for toilet paper.
But attempts at control through self restraint only increase mental tensions and require enormous energy to maintain. We tire out, the dam of self-suppression breaks, releasing a destructive flood of overindulgence, hedonism and gluttony.
Controlling the mind, like we do in meditation, will help with attachment, and is the start on the path deep to the roots of suffering. Further training and insight into one’s own true nature is required to cut out the roots of attachment, ignorance and aversion, but even small steps are fruitful and very powerful.
“Every journey begins beneath one’s feet” said Lao Tzu. Rather than emphasizing the first step, the author of Taoism regarded action as something that arises naturally from stillness. And stillness is cultivated through meditation.