Detachment is the essence of the spiritual path. I was going to say essence of Buddhism but I have no right; detachment is the essence for Lay Wai. Basically we detach the ego (and self), we are left with spirit, and if we live through spirit nothing can go wrong. So simple!!
It is of course not simple to do, and I have no desire at all to suggest that it is simple to do. But what I do want to do is cut through all the concocting, and arrive at something simple. And detachment as the essence of spirituality, detaching the ego is a simple description.
Follow the path. What does this mean? Somehow we connect with Gaia, somehow recognise our path – the spirit, and follow it. On this path there are tribulations, and these are in one form or another egoic, and if we can detach these tribulations - egos then we can follow the path. Done and dusted . Simple to say, impossible to do? Yet we need to try.
For most of my spiritual life, what I referred to as second childhood here, I was only token with my detachment. I was lucky to fall onto the path, and when on it any detachment arose was also in many ways fortunate because I had no analysis or discipline. I would always argue that I was following the path but in retrospect maybe I could have done so much more. This is where Buddhism comes in because Buddhism gives the analysis and the discipline. The discipline comes from daily meditation and the analysis comes from the tradition.
In this paragraph I am going to give Buddhadasa links if you want to study and learn it …. properly(?). I will be discussing them below with Lay Wai style – ego? To understand ego in general, begin with the 4 Noble Truths. To understand how ego is conditioned, understand paticcasamuppada. As ego arises from clinging to desire (4NT) look at where this clinging can occur “Grasping and Clinging” LINK, the 4 levels in this overview of realisation LINK, and this talk Still Waters Flowing Banks on the 5 khandhas which I have summarised in this meme:-
Apart from terms in the meme, in the links we have 4NT – ariya sacca, paticcasamuppada, clinging to kamupanana, ditthupadana, silabbatupadana, attavadupadana, desires of kama, rupa and arupa - along with the quenching of nirodha, the 5 khandhas of rupa – body, vedana - feelings, sanna – perceptions, sankhara – mental activities, and vinnana – consciousness leading to the end of ego, end of self and connecting to sunnata. This is a veritable Pali of verbiage alienation, and yet there is so much truth contained therein that we could learn from.
Remember detachment is the essence – the key, detaching from ego. How do we detach? We just let go – again simple to say. Let go of what? Ego. What is ego? Understanding ego means coming to terms with desire. When I watch this TED talk from Thandie Newton my desire hits the roof. Physically she is so beautiful, and she has such insight. So why wouldn’t I get desirous? Is that ego? Described only in this way, no. The desire is perfectly natural, but what I do with this desire could create all kind of egoic problems. The ego comes from clinging to the desire. I wrote about her talk as part of this blogpost, and I let it go. No more. Desire arose, and I let it go. Clinging to that desire becomes a self, an ego, and as the ego builds up over life we have all the issues of defiled distorted mind that lead to the world’s problems – the minds of clinging. So we detach and let go.
Let me be clear, Lay Wai is only interested in the spirit – the path. Lay Wai can talk of grandiose Nature with its wonderous beauty, how the spirit of Nature has such great joy, the wonders of love, how all of these are the path. That is all Lay Wai is interested in – spirit/path. But what prevents us from accessing this spirit – the ego – the ongoing build-up of ego that happens from moment to moment for all our lives. The path is the way of ongoing detachment. It’s in the details. Of course it’s grandiose nature but it is in the details. Sorry!
But the huge addictive egos of the 1% and our politicians which cause the problems are not because we desire Thandie Newton or some such detailed desire. These egos have been built, they have been conditioned – fashioned. From birth, and when we were born we could not know how to detach.
Let’s examine this. From birth our egos are built up through instinct. Nature gives us the instinct to be attracted to our mothers. Instinct brings learning, it brings love, clinging and attachment. And as we grow instincts bring us egos, we are too young to know better. For a more detailed discussion of this you can look at the Treatise on conditioning and addiction, but it is not necessary. It is simple, as we grow our instincts direct us and we build up egos – this is just the natural conditioning of the immature. Sadly because of the egos of the 1% and politicians we also have unnatural conditioning that makes us consume, that accepts destruction of Gaia by resource exploitation, and that accepts wars for profit and wage-slavery. But the process is the same, the fabricating of egos through conditioning – natural and systemic.
The path of maturity teaches us to detach from these egos, and it is not easy. As we become adults we think of our egos as who we are because that is our conditioning. It is rare amongst us to find spirit yet the spirit is always with us even from birth. But once we find spirit, we follow the path, begin to recognise that we are not our egos, and gradually we can mature into the spiritual beings nature intended us to be. Unfortunately our world leaders have not recognised their own spirits, do not follow their paths, live the lives of immature focussed on clinging to greed and desire, and with their power and influence impose their own immaturities on the rest of us through the conditioning I described above.
To recognise the conditioning the Buddha taught us paticcasamuppada as linked to above, and as discussed in the Treatise here. Do you want to know more details about how we are conditioned? If so read them. If you accept that we grow up conditioned, then reading them might not be necessary. What is necessary to understand is that all that conditioning produces an ego or self, and that our conditioning teaches us to identify with that self or ego. And only spirit can teach us to end that identification – follow the path.
What has Lay Wai said so far. As young adults we have built up egos by instinct and by clinging to desire, we identify with these egos, and that spirit can detach us from these egos. But I have not talked about what are the attributes of these egos?
The key to understanding what egos are comes from desire. If we cling to what we desire we build up egos. So let’s look at what Buddhism and Buddhadasa talks about that we desire – kama, rupa, arupa (the fourth level of nirodha I will discuss later). So we have sensual desires – kama, material desires – rupa, non-material desires (such as fame, honour) – arupa, when we think of desires that we have they could fit into one of these categories. Then we could think of the things we cling to, such as clinging to sensual objects (kamupanana), clinging to ideas or idealisms (ditthupadana), or clinging to rites or rituals without discerning meaning (silabbatupadana). When we think of these 3 types of desire, and 3 types of clinging, then you can see just how many different egos can be built up. What initially looked like a dubious assertion that all our problems can be put down as ego can make more sense now, with these 3 types of desire and these 3 types of clinging, it would be quite possible to make up the complex egos we hide behind.
So this gives us a way of working. If we know that we need to detach from clinging to desire, then we can examine these 3 types of desire and these 3 types of clinging to see what makes up our own egos and work to detach from them. Once we recognise what our ego is, it becomes a lot easier to detach. And the best tool I know of to help us recognise our own egos is meditation. By becoming still and reflecting on the 3 types of desire and 3 types of clinging we can begin to detach from the ego we were conditioned with.
Today has been a bit special for me, it is what I think of as a bhavana day. Bhavana means “development”, and to improve development I think of extra concentrated meditation; I felt the need for this. Out of this bhavana meditation came two major things, and I want to talk about one of them – nirodha – quenching. Now we have been talking about desire and clinging to desire. So let’s imagine desire as a fire such as a relationship in which the passions are dying and people are clinging to the past. Maybe one partner recognises that their relationships is finished, and that they are both clinging to the past; this partner suggests they should let go of the relationship – detachment. It would be nice if both decided to let go but maybe the passion of one is clinging. Something stronger than detaching is required, then maybe that strength could be quenching the fire of the clinging.
Consider an actual natural campfire. Gradually that fire burns out. By clinging we might add wood to the fire, but if that fire dies down there are still embers that could relight the fire. Or a bucket of water could completely quench the fire. Note, desire could start a new and different fire that could be clung to, but by quenching the remaining fire with a bucket of water the old desire and its clinging have finished.
So we have two ways of ending the attachment (upadana) that forms ego. First there is letting go, seeing the desire, seeing that we might become - are becoming - attached to that desire, and letting go. Recognising the clinging and letting go. In addition recognising that simply letting go is not enough and that we need to put out the fire of a desire, so we need some form of quenching to deal with this.
I have a suggestion for doing this - a visualisation that can be used in meditation. In meditation we achieve a sense of stillness however this is done, Buddhadasa recommends the technique of anapanasati using the breath as a meditation object. By this I mean watching the breath as it comes in through the nose down deep into the abdomen, and then breathing out watch it leave the body. Over time such a technique would bring about stillness, for details study Buddhadasa with a teacher or find a meditation guide for yourself. But once you have developed a sense of stillness you can start to look inside your body and notice any irregularities. Start to view these irregularities as egoic objects that can be detached with your mind and let go. Combine this with a search for ego using the 3 types of desire and the 3 types of clinging. Recognise the egoic attribute in yourself and search for it inside your body. After a while you will visualise detachments inside yourself and you can let them go. Or maybe there is some clinging that is particularly strong, you think about it and try to let it go but it is still clinging. So maybe you imagine your mind quenching the fire of that clinging ego until there is nothing left and it is washed away. Such visualisations can work, try them. One thing is for sure, if you don’t try them they won’t work.
So at this stage I have asked you to recognise ego as the problem and detach from it. The Buddha talked of desire and how clinging to desire produces an ego. Over time young people build up these egos, and begin to identify with these egos as themselves. To follow the path spirit wants us to separate from these egos, and we can try to do this with detachment and quenching.
Some might ask what is left if we have detached from all the egos, if we have detached all the egos what is the self that remains? To help us understand the answer to this the Buddha taught of the 5 khandhas or aggregates. We are made up of these 5 khandhas, body, feelings, perceptions, mental operations and consciousness. Typically an event happens. We see this event with our senses and become conscious of the event, we maybe feel some emotions about the event, we perceive something or remember something related, or we analyse about the event. Up to this point the 5 khandhas or human aggregates have been acting naturally – doing what they do. Now desire and clinging could start to kick in and we could get ego forming as described throughout. But if no ego is formed, then the event is over and the khandhas move on to the next event.
What becomes conscious of the event is consciousness itself – spirit. So if we accept humans as being made of these 5 aggregates - the 5 khandhas – and if we prevent ego from forming there is only spirit – sunnata. This is the Buddhist teaching of anatta, Buddhadasa calls this “removing I and mine from the 5 khandhas”. If there is I or mine or some form of self that is not 5 khandhas this is what Buddhadasa talked about with the fourth clinging - attavadupadana (the Pali for self is atta).
This last is difficult for many. Consider our conditioning of egos building and building into personality. It is often spoken of as ourselves. It is still instinctive (conditioned in us as instinct) to have a self around which all these egos aggregate. So if we remove the egos we would be left with self. But that again is an instinctive teaching, the self must survive. But once we are mature we can see that by removing egos the spirit that comes from the collective Unity, from Mother Earth, from the Creator, from Nature, from the Voidness – sunnata, from Gaia is sufficient with the 5 human aggregates for life.
For our daily existence there is spirit and the 5 aggregates. This is the way of nature. As we encounter new events the khandhas function and we move on, this is the path. But the mind in daily life wants to form egos but through spirit the mind can detach from egos (quench stubborn egos).
Follow the path, embrace spirit, and detach from egos – quenching the stubborn.
Finally I want to consider the words I have capitalised – Unity, Mother Earth, Creator, Nature, Voidness, Gaia. These are all one and the same, they are Earth of which we are a part. Except in ego. It is only ego that creates disharmony, that is greedy, that destroys the Earth. In its blind desire to survive the ego is killing itself by destroying Gaia. It is not a separate climate out there that we are destroying, it is our spirit, our Gaia, our Nature. Following the path is our survival.
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