attachment becomes generosity

POSTCARD#284: Delhi: Packing household objects for the move is simple enough, there are two categories: a) things to Give Away, b) things to Keep. There is, also, c) things I have to give away, but want to keep. Still some reluctance there, gazing fondly at these possessions, do I really need this? In the end it all gets caught up in the momentum of leaving. I begin to see how it belongs in the ‘Give Away’ group, except there’s this tenacity of attachment; fingertips adhere to surfaces of the object – it would have to be pulled from my grasp.

The urgency of having to pack up and leave, sweeps the attachment into another place where it becomes generosity. Much-loved objects become gifts, rather than possessions. Generosity is letting-go, and the Buddha’s teaching on self/no self reveals the suffering inherent in the human condition caused by holding on, when we should be letting go. Compassion for those of us caught in the suffering of possession and ownership; the system creates the predicament – across the board consumerism stimulates a hunger that doesn’t lead to satisfaction but to a sharper edge to appetite.

A change in acoustics, the rooms are emptying fast, the sound of a single handclap creates an echo: “clap!” Household objects are disappearing at the same rate as large sealed boxes are appearing – rooms starting to vanish, space enters through the windows, floor gives way, and for a moment, everything turns inside out. Then seeing it the way it was before this, is impossible… memory gives way and it’s gone.

Parts of the interior are deleted; a blank space appears where something large used to be – the place where a thought used to be but it got forgotten; what was I thinking about there? Can’t remember. More of these blank spaces, objects wrapped in bubble wrap lose their identity. Everything packed away in boxes, cubed, diced up on the chopping board. I can’t remember what it was before this… there’s a world of things, and then there’s not.

This is a difficult time, earthquakes, hurricanes, and natural disasters of the Trump kind. The world is watching, not sure, uncertain. The urgency of thought seeks the safest place to be, the midway point and holding the balance; a place of equanimity in the midst of uncertainty, find a calm abiding there and cultivate the disposition to be free of bonds of ownership – attachment becomes generosity, relinquishment, letting go, metta and loving kindness.

In Asian languages, the word for ‘mind’ and the word for ‘heart’ are the same. So if you’re not hearing mindfulness in some deep way as heartfulness, you’re not really understanding it. Compassion and kindness towards oneself are intrinsically woven into it. You could think of mindfulness as wise and affectionate attention. [Jon Kabat-Zinn]

Contains excerpts from an earlier post

21 thoughts on “attachment becomes generosity

  1. Dear Tiramit, how well I know how this is! For us when we sold our apartment in New York it was eerie. Because we took all our personal things to save or donate or discard, all that remained was all the furniture the buyers agreed to accept even though they intended to pay a lot of money to have carted off as soon as they took possession. Every drawer, cupboard and closet was empty. The TV was in the backseat of the car. Every surface was bare. All the paintings and photos had long been taken to our next residence. It was sort of like a hotel room we’d stayed in but felt no connection to. I guess it was the absence of attachment. But in all honesty, we still have a lot of the “stuff” from that home in our attic and crammed into the china closet and kitchen cupboards here. Ah me. My best to you, dear friend,

    • Hi Sunny, I’ve been thinking about this these last few weeks, and the hurricanes in the Caribbean, how these swept away personal things and chunks of the environment just gone. Stuff we take for granted, pieces of it like parts of a huge jigsaw puzzle, missing, lost. The mind is fundamentally changed. This has an effect of course, even more unsettling when there’s no noticeable reason for it – like moving house. We have moved a lot; six times since 2003, and there’s an opportunity to see the attachment in the form of books not unboxed yet, just moving on from house to house since 2003.

      • I have some boxes like that in our attic! I know what’s in them, sort of, but just don’t wish to sift through the contents and the memories that will be triggered by them. There’s one filled with letters written to me by my father, dead now for 32 years. You’ll get through this, as you always have! And learn to let go and embrace the next chapter of this life.

      • Good to know you’re the same as me. There’s definitely something about hoarding stuff, maybe it’s the time capsule idea. You open it sometime in the future and there are these letters to you, written by your father. It’s possible of course that your father had that in mind when he wrote the letters. For me it’s a move from one obscure address to another, always new countries. But this time is significant, returning to Thailand where we started off in 1994 and ending here, more than 20 years later. Then, in three years time, Jiab retires. It’s a homecoming…

  2. I think it sounds a little like very elderly people who start to give away possessions because they know they won’t be around for a lot longer. Hard to let go of treasured ‘things’, but they are only ‘things’, and nothing is forever 🙂

    • Hmmm, geriatric generosity, I suppose 🙂 Yes it all gets reduced down to ‘things’, nothing is forever, just going on and on like that, like Diamonds Are Forever, for ever and ever. But I read somewhere that the Buddhist observation, everything changes (aniccan) includes the statement that everything changes. So, when we say everything changes, it can be that it changes over very long periods of time, kalpas. So no one would notice it changing… you know what I mean? Yes but anyway, I was thinking of something different from that, of course; more like what can be done with the mind in a very short span of years, these days. Meditation and just being there (or here), quietly seeing it all, and allowing all of the toxic stuff to go. Re-possess the headspace and see where that gets you.

      • Your comment about change over long periods of time made me think of human life and ageing, and how we don’t notice our ageing day by day – and one day when we’re getting on in years we look in the mirror and think heck! What happened? I’m sure I was only twenty-five yesterday! I have become very aware of how important it is to enjoy each minute now that the sand in the old egg-timer is three-quarters gone!

  3. That you so perfectly capture Dharma subtleties by way of describing an imminent move and the emotions arising from that situation is something I truly admire. I know I’ve written many posts that attempt to explain aspects of Buddhadharma, but compared to the way you just allow the nuances of a situation to naturally illuminate the more esoteric points, I feel like I comparatively bludgeon people over the head with them. Beautiful prose, as always.

    • Thanks for these kind words, a friend of mine, slightly unhinged, spoke of just becoming the metaphor… that’s the direction I’m going in maybe. Gratitude to all the Western monks I’ve stayed with for days at a time, talking for 4 or 5 hours straight through with a few toilet breaks that’s all. Get up in the morning and start again where we left off. I’ve edited proofs of their talks to be compiled into books, and what I’m saying is I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to discuss many aspects of the Buddhadharma in detail, without being held by the monastic form. It’s been more than 20 years now. I started to put it all in book form, and one is available now Postcards From The Present Moment and another one will be ready before the end of this year. I’m glad to be able to get into this stuff with you. I like your writing, it has some really surprising narrative flow patterns running through. I have admiration for a lot of it, because these are chunks of figurative language I could never think of attempting.

  4. Very interesting writing! 🙂
    A lot of people are not only attached to material possessions but are also attached to mental attachments, such as beliefs, conclusions, methodologies, prejudices, and psychologically held systems. They often cling to those even more so than to their material possessions. Mental possessions (too) are material possessions; thinking involves (and is) a material/physical process.

    • Thanks Tom, yes this is what it is. Most people are stuck with it, because of whatever, causes and conditions. Maybe they can be helped to ‘see’ maybe not. Here in this forum we can share experience that arises from the psychological fingerprint formed when we were children, the pattern reinforced over the decades by repeating the actions and reactions which caused it to come about in the first place. This not to say it cannot be changed by focused intervention. Revelation kicks in from time to time. My feeling is all of this can be divided into holding-on and letting-go. We can be motivated to let go by thinking of it as generosity. Giving it all away always releases the cramped position when we’re holding on…

  5. Giving is the best medicine, the path to freedom. We have started and felt the elation of letting go. Acquisitions tie one down to the depths of despair. As you say, some things tug at the heaviness of attachment. Fighting those strings, an entangled web. Your beautiful post inspires me to give away more. Trying for minimalism. When the walls echo and the things are gone the apartment shows it is merely a box in which we lived our lives.

    • I can feel the ease when reading these words; giving is the best medicine. You have something that is, say useful for all kinds of things, and rather than keeping it, you give it away at the goodwill shops. It’s such a nice feeling that it’ll be used by someone. I like the idea of anonymous gifts, the recipient doesn’t know who sent the gift, and the sender doesn’t know to whom the gift was sent. Every time our minimalism level is breached, there’s an opportunity to give something away – the more expensive the better. Go on like that and the apartment walls start to appear through the layers of objects…

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