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Buddhism on attachments

  1. Sep 17, 2008 #1
    In buddhism are these statements true?

    1. You shouldn't become too attached to external things that are ultimately temporal.
    2. All happiness must come from within.

    If these two are true, then what should you do in life? Sit and meditate? Family and friends should not be invested in?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 17, 2008 #2


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    It's not so cut and dry. The first point is to overcome desire or craving, and part of that is not to attach oneself or one's desire/craving for material thing.

    The second point is correct - happiness or misery does come within. Clearly happiness or contentment is a state of mind. Of course, human behavior/psychology is complex.

    What should one do in life? How about - 'do the right thing'.

    Meditation is a tool. The point of the 'Middle way' is not to focus on an extreme, which would be the case if one did nothing but 'sit and meditate'.

    One should invest in family and friends. Afterall, humans are social creatures. But what does it mean to 'invest' in family and friends?
  4. Sep 17, 2008 #3
    So if I happen to be interested in cars and driving I should not get a BMW because I'd suffer if the car got in a crash or a few months later I'd wish for a Ferrari?
  5. Sep 17, 2008 #4


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    That would be one's decision/choice. One must decide for oneself.

    With regard to attachment, the goal in this case would be not to get attached (or too attached) to the car.

    Another part of Buddhist thought is not to be too extravagant.

    I'd love to have a Porsche 917 K, but if I had that kind of money, I'd spend it on more important things. But then again, I'm not unhappy that I don't have one.
  6. Sep 17, 2008 #5
    In the Four Noble Truths it states that "the cause of suffering is rooted in desire." I don't mean to extend this claim so much, but if I desire a hamburger, does that mean the cause of it is some form of suffering? I'm not sure that logic is completely sound.

    You could say that yes I am suffering from hunger, but if I'm hungry I'll eat anything to satisfy my hunger. What I am desiring is a specification, and I don't think that's truly caused by some form of suffering. Individuality is a complex subject matter that I don't think hammering everything down to four absolute truths is giving us much insight.
  7. Sep 17, 2008 #6
    That's a thought I don't understand. If there was a logical fallacy for this I'd name it "appealing to simplicity". It's like they're saying the following:

    X is simple, Y is extravagant.
    Therefore, X is true.

    Obviously we can say the converse is also a logical fallacy. It falls under the same umbrella as "appealing to tradition/novelty."
  8. Sep 18, 2008 #7
    Detachment doesn't mean that you shouldn't invest in family or friends. What it means is that you shouldn't rely on them or expect them to create your own happiness. Instead you should rather take your life into your own hands as you yourself are responsible for your own happiness, not the people around you.

    As Astronuc pointed out, happiness is a state of mind, and therefore unrelated to the situations that you may find yourself in or to the people around you. Simply put, it is our own perception of a situation or another persons action that makes us feel the way we do. If we see the event as something negative, it will cause suffering. If we associate it with something positive it will cause bliss.

    This is exactly why suffering is rooted in desire, because as long as one desires, there's a chance that you may be disappointed if you do not get what you want. As opposed to that, if you are free from desires, you will not expect anything from anyone or anything, so there's nothing that can cause suffering in the first place. You simply accept reality as it is without expectations, with eliminates a dualistic view of positive and negative or good and evil.
  9. Sep 18, 2008 #8
    That's more like a nihilistic viewpoint.
  10. Sep 18, 2008 #9


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    There's no logical fallacy.

    As simple example would be a choice between wearing simple cotton robe, or one that is gilded and studded with jewels. A Buddhist monk would select a cotton robe, or one that is simple, rather than the gilded one. It's something like the vow of poverty that some monastic orders take. In fact, avoiding overindulgence is a principle of the major religions.

    In the western industrial nations, it would be a choice of a simple car, e.g. a Honda Civic (which gets 40 mpg), vs a Cadillac or Continental or Ferrari or Porsche or Corvette, . . . (which get 14-20 mpg). Interestingly, the US is materially more wealthy than any nation or empire in history, yet the happiness has not increased proportionally.

    This is not nihilistic (based on 1 a: a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless b: a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths).

    It's simply a matter of overcoming desire or craving. With desire/craving, there are two possibilities: 1) one obtains/attains/achieves what one desires, yet one's craving is not satiated, and the craving for more, or 2) one does not obtain/attain/achieve what one desires, and one is left disappointed. So putting things in perspective and reducing or eliminating craving, one overcomes disappointment or unhappiness.

    Hunger by the way is not suffering. It's simply a physiological function that indicates the need for nourishment. Starvation on the other hand is suffering - for most.
  11. Sep 18, 2008 #10
    Yes, but to say something is true just because it's simple is not logically sound. It's the same as appealing to tradition/novelty or appeal to poverty/appeal to wealth.

    Our desires are essentially based upon our value system. All of us have different value systems which is why we all have different desires. Nihilism believes that all values are baseless. Buddhism is applying this same belief by portraying desire in a negative overtone. Buddhism also wants us to detach ourselves from expectation. This is also implying a nihilistic viewpoint of "nothing can be communicated." We expect to portray our desires through means of communication. Both Buddhism and Nihilism take an extremely pessimistic view on this.
  12. Sep 18, 2008 #11
    If you can't let desires move your life, what is there to live for? Why work for that job promotion? Is desiring a life to help the poor wrong? Without desire I see a life of sitting in my room rocking back and forth till I die.
  13. Sep 18, 2008 #12
    Hence why Buddhism is Nihilistic in its principles.
  14. Sep 18, 2008 #13
    Far from it. You're missing the point. Buddhism isn't about not having desires, it's about becoming detached from your desires. There's a difference and I think Astronuc explained it pretty well.

    Buddhism doesn't place any negative tone at all. It simply states that desires are the root of all suffering and that if you want to be free of suffering, you should be free of desires. But again, there's a very large difference between being free of desires and having no desires at all!

    Being free means not that you don't have desires, but rather that you are not attached to them. It simply means that you accept reality a 100% as it is. Or in other words: that you don't resist the situations around you based on whether your desires are actually fulfilled or not. If you are able to accept any outcome, regardless of whether it matches your expectations, you become incapable of suffering and you will start experiencing joy even in the worst possible circumstances.
  15. Sep 18, 2008 #14


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    I don't let desires run move my life. I prefer to just do (which I learned from Buddhism, Taosim and others). I am not quite sure how to explain to someone from western society/culture.

    I don't work for a job promotion or more money, I just do the best work that I can. If I get a promotion or more money fine, if not that's fine too, but I keep working, learning, contributing to the field and being successful.

    It more about not letting one's desires to control one's life - hence the goal of moderation.

    It's about not putting emphasis or importance on a given desire, and ultimately achieve without effort.

    Rather than desiring to help the poor, one can simply go out and assist the poor. I will post about that elsewhere. Perhaps in it one will find part of the answer.

    A Buddhist would recognize the value of something, but the idea is to refrain from over-valuing something, especially material items. In other words, don't make things more important than they are.
  16. Sep 18, 2008 #15

    So free of desires essentially means "indifferent desires" which is a load of mumbo jumbo.
  17. Sep 18, 2008 #16


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    Not quite.

    Seiryuu wrote "but rather that you are not attached to them." In other words, recognize desire for what it is and do not let is control oneself.

    Western psychologists take about needs and wants. Wants are essentially desires, which are things that it would be nice to have, but are not necessary. The problem for some is the development of yearning or craving for something. Sometimes is can be obtained or attained, and for some brief time, one is satisfied. But then the craving for more appears, and one can be on a never ending cycle of craving, satiation, craving, . . . . Or, perhaps one does not obtain or attain the goal of one's craving, and one becomes disappointed, upset, miserable, angry, . . . . (all negative feelings).

    One of the utilimate goals in Buddhism is to release oneself from the cycle of craving and the negative feelings of not satisfying the craving.

    And actually, Judaism and Christianity have a similar trains of thought, and perhaps Islam as well.

    Otherwise, don't worry - be happy. :smile:
  18. Sep 18, 2008 #17
    So are you saying that one is incapable of action because of desire? Because there are plenty of examples of one desiring and then acting to fulfill those desires. Hence no "suffering."

    Why are they so negative about material items? Our physical world is material.
  19. Sep 18, 2008 #18
    And how is this line of thought in any way esoteric?
  20. Sep 18, 2008 #19
    These are just words made up by someone long time ago that stumbled upon some principles of psychology, hypnosis, and NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). They sure indeed sound as if they are absolute and hence project a sense of power that can captivate someone.

    These guides are good if you want to avoid getting emotionally hurt.
  21. Sep 18, 2008 #20


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    No - nowhere is that stated or inferred. There can be action with or without desire.

    They are not negative on material things. It is simply of avoiding attachment to materials things (i.e. avoid materialism), especially if that attachment leads to unhappiness or suffering.
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