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Attachment to ideas

Attachment to ideas

A Crown Ornament for the Wise, a hymn to Tara composed by the First Dalai Lama, requests protection from the eight dangers. These talks were given after the White Tara Winter Retreat at Sravasti Abbey in 2011.

  • How attachment to ideas and being right is a source of conflict
  • Attachment to political ideas, religious views, our way of doing things

The Eight Dangers 18: The flood of attachment, part 4 (download)

Sweeping us in the torrent of cyclic existence so hard to cross,
we’re conditioned by the propelling winds of karma.
We are tossed in the waves of birth, aging, sickness and death:
The flood of attachment—please protect us from this danger!

So I just want to wrap up on attachment. Because it’s usually spoken of in terms of our body, our possessions, and our friends and relatives. But I thought just to mention also that we get very attached to our ideas. [To audience] Oh no, never, not you. Just the rest of us. Because HER ideas are right! [Laughter] She’s not attached to them, they’re just right. [Laughter]

So that’s the way we think, isn’t it? “I’m not attached to my ideas. They’re just right and everybody should believe in them.”

But this is really the source of a lot of conflict. When we’re working together with people it’s not always, “you want this and I want that,” in terms of physical things. But it’s, “I want to do it this way and you want to do it that way.” And forget it.

And so we get very attached to our ideas. We see this in religion—people get very attached to their religious beliefs. And that creates a lot of sectarianism, a lot of prejudice. In America we keep inventing new religions all the time. It’s very interesting. Because back in Europe, when they got fed up they moved here. And then here each religion has so many different branches that it doesn’t have back in Europe. Because every time something happened here within one branch, then a splinter group came out of it, and they’re attached to their ideas and broke away and started a new denomination of whatever.

And we’re very attached to our political ideas. And this creates so much rancor and really disgusting talk amongst the politicians these days. No ability to work together because people are very attached to their ideas.

And even within a family, within a workplace, within a monastery, we can get very attached to our way of doing things. And what we think. Or our interpretation of a passage in the sutras. Or our way of washing the dishes. Or our way of doing something in the garden. And we just cling onto it.

I remember a friend of mine telling me that— I forget if it was the senior or the junior in the monastery telling me this story. But it was a junior who was in training who was really resisting the way the senior was teaching him how to do something. And the junior is saying, “But you keep telling me this is just a form, so if it’s just a form why can’t we change it?” And the senior says, “Well if it’s just a form, why can’t you do it the way the rest of us do it?” [Laughter] So you can see a lot of attachment there.

But you know, you come into a monastery and this is one of the big things is you need to get trained, and so there are all these little things that we have our way of doing, and we just won’t budge on. And one of the big trainings you go through here is to open your mind to the idea that there may be other ways of doing things besides our way. (I know what an innovative idea that is.) And that it could actually be enriching to us to do something in a new way, instead of doing it the same old way.

So, if we have this kind of idea, and bring it in to whoever we’re working with, then you could see in the business world, a lot of meetings would be a lot shorter if, instead of everybody digging their heels in and being attached to their ideas, just say, “Okay, well let’s try a new way of doing it, and then we can come back afterwards and reassess and everybody learn from it.”

So that could be a good way. Just kind of playing with things instead of being so attached to them.

So I know this is an idea, but it’s a right one. [Laughter]

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.