[In a long discussion thread on atheism, Buddhism and who atheists should be critiquing in response to the article on karma and Sharon Stone’s comments at Talking Philosophy the subject of attachment and desire came up. While I have this little series on Buddhism I may as well look at it as it is one of the points of the Buddhist teachings that is least well understood (judging by the questions that I have seen asked to Buddhist teachers). Here is a lightly edited record of my reponses to Eric MacDonald.]
It is true. The fact that we are transient beings means that to love is to give a hostage to fortune. It does not follow, however, that forgoing love and attachment will preserve us from suffering. It may just mean that we live lives of a semi-detached loneliness instead. I have never been convinced by the Buddha’s message. It has always seemed to me that the way of non-attachment is an invitation to pointlessness. Desire may be the root of suffering, but non-attachment is not the cure. Is there one? Should we be looking for it?
You would be quite right to be sceptical of such a philosophy, but it is subtly different from the Buddhist teachings, at least as I have understood them. […]
William Blake’s lines are often quoted here:
He who binds himself to a Joy,
Does the winged life destroy;
He who kisses the Joy as it flies,
Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.