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TOPIC: Non-attachment/non-aversion and traditions

Non-attachment/non-aversion and traditions 17 Apr 2012 10:59 #6400

I went down a wikipedia rabbit hole earlier, reading about Jainism, and it occurred to me that asceticism seems to be a very common way of teaching non-attachment in many, many wisdom traditions. Of course there are extremes, like going naked or living on gruel eaten while sitting on a stone pillar, doing prostrations or walking on ones knees on pilgrimage, self-flagellation, etc. But you find it in a minor form even if you go on retreat in a modern Western setting: no eating after noon, no talking, plain/modest clothing, etc.

In other words, the general attitude that the attachment to the body and world and senses is so much of an impediment to realization that it must be denied through deliberate physical actions that avoid social norms.

Now it occurs to me it could be quite possible for a person to set out on an ascetic sort of life, and actually end up cultivating attachment to *that* in an unhealthy way. Because if you really are not attached to worldly things, you shouldn't be particularly stuck on your robes or cave or monastic hairdo, or diet, right? And if you have cultivated non-aversion, you shouldn't be particularly threatened if someone drops by to visit wearing worldy fancy clothes, humming a popular song, and bringing a big cake to share, right?

Just pondering. Any thoughts on the subject?
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Non-attachment/non-aversion and traditions 17 Apr 2012 13:18 #6401

Ooo, great question!
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Non-attachment/non-aversion and traditions 18 Apr 2012 01:59 #6402

It was partially inspired by some back and forth on twitter today about renunciation, austerity and non-attachment, and later in the day Hokai Sobol tweeted this, which I thought was quite a nice way of looking at things:

"RT @hokaisobol: Non-attachment has nothing to do with detachment, and everything to do with being able to keep moving on."

I'd love further thoughts on this. It struck a nerve (the topic in general) because I do feel sometimes in this strangely precarious place where I feel not attached to or less attached to things that used to be quite important to me. Sometimes that feels perfectly delightful (it is after all, liberating in the most literal sense to not be attached to something, right?), but at times it is somewhat disorienting or strange.

It also reminds me of an essay a friend of mine wrote, about adjusting to a new way of relating to work, when she discovered she was (to her surprise) no longer attached to being a type-A workaholic. That used to satisfy some ego need that simply vanished, and for a while she just wasn't quite sure how that was supposed to work. (http://karengifford.org/prose/meditation-as-a-radical-act/)

So non-attachment is becoming another one of those themes that pop up at times, linger for a while, kick my ass, zen whack me, and then fade away. :)
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Non-attachment/non-aversion and traditions 18 Apr 2012 02:24 #6403

Caroline Casey, who has a radio show called 'The Visionary Activist', likes to quip: "No sense hanging onto the rocks that are falling with you." So, yeah, the sense of free-fall; with accompanying surprise, interest, concern, dread, illumination, dislocation, disorientation, disturbance. The full catastrophe, in short; we only misremember that it was otherwise, 'before.' Memory is like a bunch of selected still shots that misrepresent the movie-- because the movie was moving.

I like what Hokai said; it makes me reflect that trying to adopt a 'better, more spiritual' position, in place of the old unenlightened one, is a major missing of the mark: which is to cultivate 'the mind that abides nowhere,' a capacity, not a concept.
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Non-attachment/non-aversion and traditions 18 Apr 2012 09:18 #6404

Kate, that's going in my journal. Love it! Especially: "not hanging onto the rocks that are falling with you," "the full catastrophe" and "cultivate the mind that abides nowhere".
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Non-attachment/non-aversion and traditions 18 Apr 2012 18:41 #6405

One thing I heard in a dharma talk recently was the Buddhist Precepts were originally formulated in the form "in order to advance my practice, I vow to refrain from harmful actions", something like that. Regardless of how the second part of the sentence gets translated, the initial clause is the little nugget of wisdom.

There are lots of things that can be adopted as practice or an inquiry. If it helps us gain wisdom/insight/compassion, then it's a good practice. If not, it's window dressing, it's trying "to be right", it's dogma, it's a dead weight around our neck.

Sometimes others behaviors can be contrary to the practices we've adopted, no big deal. But someone who is indulging in their actions can sometimes make me suck in my breath in shock, in awe. But what happens next is important: I'll look for a sense of how much they "own" their actions and how much space they leave for others. If it's just unconcious vanity, I'll probably feel adverse to what they are doing (honestly). But if it really is just heartfelt expression, that's variety, that's the spice of life!
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Non-attachment/non-aversion and traditions 18 Apr 2012 19:12 #6406

Here I go, repeating an exhortation I sent elsewhere, but the thing is-- I see the before-Siddhartha roots of some 'Buddhist' views-- precepts, 'triple gem' refuge... a whole slew of 'siddhas', and so forth

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jainism

"Jainism encourages spiritual development through cultivation of one's own personal wisdom and reliance on self control through vows (Sanskrit: ????, vrata).[16] The triple gems of Jainism - right vision or view (Samyak Darshana), right knowledge (Samyak Gyana) and right conduct (Samyak Charitra) - provide the path for attaining liberation from the cycles of birth and death. When the soul sheds its karmic bonds completely, it attains divine consciousness. Those who have attained moksha are called siddhas, while those attached to the world through their karma are called samsarin. Every soul has to follow the path, as explained by the Jinas and revived by the tirthankaras, to attain complete liberation or nirvana. "
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Non-attachment/non-aversion and traditions 19 Apr 2012 13:18 #6407

Kate, I think you would like this... Over on KFD, someone posted the "Buddhism before the Theravada" talks:

http://www.audiodharma.org/teacher/207/

The speaker makes the case that a lot of the language of early buddhism was taken from hinduism and jainism and he >spun them< to point out the limitations of such ritualistic religions (as opposed to meditation/inquiry). So would be like a pacifist talking about the "shock and awe of Peace" -- taking the parlance of militarism and spinning it 180 degrees.

What subsequently happened in buddhism is the cleverness of the usages of the buddha slowly evolved back again, closer toward their previous cultural meanings. So you get the religiousity that the buddha was critiquing inserted back into the practice, you get "Buddhism".

It's a really interesting talk and teases out the distinctions between between the solidity of the buddhist religion/dogma and the original pointing instructions of the buddha.
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Non-attachment/non-aversion and traditions 19 Apr 2012 13:36 #6408

Ah, perhaps that is what led to that spate of tweets about Jainism the other day. Interesting. Lots of religions seem to originate that way, with a critique of the existing system(s), a teaching of wisdom through personal experience...and then it gets turned into another religion. Which points to some need that many people have to just have a simple system of dogma and rules that doesn't require any inquiry or exploration. And the need that other (fewer) people have to try to upturn that and re-emphasize exploration.... and so it goes, generation after generation. Thoughts?
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Non-attachment/non-aversion and traditions 19 Apr 2012 19:31 #6409

Yeah, that spate of tweets sent me off on the unexpected research on Jainism; I'm not profoundly interested in it, per se. What is interesting to me, is discovering that I really don't much care about the 'authority' or 'authenticity'-- or purity or correctness, or any of that sort of thing-- of any form of spirituality or philosophy. I'm more interested in the evolution and dynamism of these conceptual systems.

I hereby out myself as one big old picker-and-chooser, and hog-on-ice independent.
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