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My partner has an active interest in Buddhism and I have been confused about his state of mind for two years. Kindly help us out. The past two years have been a depression time for my family and myself and I'm coping with it with the help of God and only God.

This person has had loads of problems in his life. He stayed in a bad marriage for years before leaving. He had a high profile job which he quit and moved back to his home town. Just after moving back he was diagnosed with Non-Hogdkins lymphoma and underwent surgery and five rounds of chemotherapy.

He has never been well since he has gone back home. We entered into a relationship nearly two years ago and I frequently seen his wrath, anger, jealousy and many more problems which I can only attribute to his traumatic history. He has never been able to get back into a job. He used to be interested in a vast array of things from photography to painting and since three years he finds nothing interesting. He has stopped talking with all his friends because he says that they "don't understand" him. He has pretty much locked himself in his house under the pretext that he has to "take care of his old parents".

During his chemotherapy he told me he was suicidal which he vehemently denies now.

I tried to help him as much as I could. I have approached one of his gurus for help. I tried getting to get him to see a Buddhist psychotherapist. He has refused help.

The reason he refuses help is because he says he is on the verge of enlightenment and that normal therapists cannot do anything to help him. He says he frequently speaks to God but when I say I speak to God too he rejects it outright.

He has weight issues because he binge eats when he is depressed.

He keeps imagining he has liver diseases, coeliac disease or cancer relapse symptoms. Each time the tests come out negative and his doctors constantly tell him he will not have a relapse.

He says he's conquered all fear and anger and negativity but I have seen first hand his massive anger issues. He has deep resentment against his parents and there has not been one day that he has not complained about them. He says he has deep anger issues against his father who he says was not good to his mother when he was in the womb or because of past life karma. He openly told his parents one day that they should not have even given birth to him.

He says he feels love and compassion for everyone and then he made the statement "attachment is for idiots".

My parents too have tried to support him. They have been nice to him until they lost their cool too about him just sitting at home being depressed and not doing anything about it. He then accused my father of abusing him and calling him names. My parents have yelled at him, yes but they are not the kind to ever call anyone names.

He's had issues against my past relationships which caused a major rift between us for a major portion of the last two years. He got extremely jealous and even now he says he finds it difficult to be intimate with me because he has images of other men with me.

He says the cancer has not affected him, his past relationship has not caused him trauma and it was meditation that guided him to not have mental issues. He frequently compares himself to other cancer patients and how their mental states were affected during their treatment. He almost gloats about it without seeing that he too is mentally unwell.

Another day he said that the reason he pushes me away is because he has lost so many things in life - a marriage, a career, good health even though he worked hard for it that he is scared of losing this too. He says that being detached like this is his way of not feeling any more pain.

Each time I try to help him he accuses me of being unkind to him and trying to change the way he is.

Today he mentioned that he is worthless and when I asked him persistently to talk to God and tell God why he felt worthless he called the cops on me and tried to have me attested.

He denies that he is depressed but every person I have spoken to tells me that he shows clear signs of depression. I have spoken to at least three therapists about him and even they agree that he is depressed.

My questions are:

  1. Is this behaviour justified for a person who is on the verge of enlightenment?

  2. Does non attachment mean giving up things you love?

  3. Is attachment for idiots?

  4. It the fear of losing things you love the right reason for being non attached?

  5. Does non attachment mean having a strong sense of detest for modern life like malls, the cinema etc?

  6. Does non attachment mean you have to stop talking with your friends who are different from you?

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3  
Thank you very much for your question and welcome to the site. There is a lot going on in this question and in your life - i wish you all the best with it. As far as the question goes I think you would get the best response if you asked a number of different questions to cover the different questions you have about attachment. I do appreciate they all come from the same issues for you and may make most sense to you if you ask them like this - but you might not get someone who is able or willing to cover all the areas you raise. Just a suggestion and all the best – Crab Bucket Jan 17 at 19:03
9  
How do you intend to use the answers to these questions? It is obvious that you try to help and understand your friend, but having these information just so you can say to him "you are not right" will not help him or you as a team. What you can do is help him see you are on his side by listening to him and validating his feelings. And take care of yourself. Find a suport group for family members of cancer pacients. I hope somenone will answer you questions. Just be aware how you use them. Be well. – Anca Jan 17 at 19:43
    
Do you have access to a Psychologist or Psychiatrist who is also a practicing Buddhist well versed in the Buddhist texts? If you are in London I can recommend someone for the both of you to go and have a talk. – Kaveenga Wijayasekara Jan 20 at 9:23

As a (roughly) beginner practitioner, who has had a share of problems as well, I feel I can contribute. Mostly, my answer would fall in line with Andrei. Presuming this is accurate, this sounds like someone who has some large internal stress, and is possibly using "enlightenment" as a defense for his actions, rather than letting actions spring from some wisdom. This person sounds like they need to talk to someone, but is also pushing everyone away.

But I answer instead of comment to give you perhaps a beginners perspective. To speak to your questions in order:

  • Is this behaviour justified for a person who is on the verge of enlightenment?

Having never been on the verge of enlightenment I can't say for sure what it's like. Most of what I hear relates to peacefulness, and this does not sound anything like peace.

  • Does non attachment mean giving up things you love?

It can. Some kinds of love aren't as deep as we imagine them to be. Some things we call love are actually just selfish little habits. I would call those things attachments, the first that should go, or at least thought about so they can be understood. Letting go would be very different than pushing away. People I hold close I cannot imagine pushing away. I can imagine stepping back, looking at how I treat them, what I might be doing that's harmful or selfish, like clinging to what I like or want from that bond. That does not sound like what you are talking about though.

  • Is attachment for idiots?

Erm. Attachment is human. It's what we do. Sometimes it's instinct. Sometimes it's learned. It doesn't mean someone is stupid. Maybe a better way to say it is that too much attachment can nudge people into doing the wrong things.

  • It the fear of losing things you love the right reason for being non attached?

I feel most lost in this question, so maybe the better experts can say. But I would say fear is a strong motivator into doing the wrong things. And I would also say avoiding attachment purely to avoid fear or avoid that wrong thing is also the wrong thing; that's just translation into a fear of fear. I would say understanding and letting go of fear is way more important than letting go of people.

  • Does non attachment mean having a strong sense of detest for modern life like malls, the cinema etc?

Another erm. I'm a bit of a hermit. I do have a strong detest for malls, and more for the endless advertising that comes with them, or occasionally shoveled into my mailbox. I think I just reject the materialism of it. Doesn't mean that I would just stay home if there was an opportunity to meet a friend. Doesn't mean I wouldn't go to a cinema if I thought there was a good story to see, or something to learn. My impulse, or detest, is actually attachment, a desire that the world isn't the way I want it to be. That shouldn't lead me to reject the world, I'm in it, aren't I? If I want (and yes, there's that word again) more of what I'd like to see in the world, I should start putting some of it out there. That's the difference, as I see it, between wrong actions and right actions. It's more complicated than that, but I'm rambling, and I think I've said it close enough.

  • Does non attachment mean you have to stop talking with your friends who are different from you?

Nope. It would first mean you have to not be attached to the idea of them being who you want them to be. Seeking enlightenment isn't a way to fix everyone else. It might be a way to fix yourself, but even that's an attachment. Before anything else, and especially at my level, it's about being aware of yourself, and all the little impulses that experience has built inside you, and letting go of those. Only starting from that foundation would that depth of awareness spread outward, to your surroundings and other people. If it doesn't start that way, your conceptions, your intent, your attachments, are still in the way, and they will be all you see.

I hope this was helpful.

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Thank you and welcome /|\ – Andrei Volkov Jan 18 at 1:04

1. Is this behaviour justified for a person who is on the verge of enlightenment?

From your explanations above it sounds like this person is very disturbed, not almost enlightened. You could be reading it wrong, but here I will go with the assumption that your observations are precise.

Questions 2-6

From my perspective (Mahayana), such behavior is unhealthy but rather typical for a beginner in a so-called phase of "dharma-fever". When a person has a very strong but pretty limited idea of "right" and when the real world (obviously) mismatches it most of the time, then on the basis of this attachment and this mismatch a strong sense of wrongness is generated. This sense of wrongness can get very painful and overwhelming as to make the person want to avoid any exposure to the "wrong" experiences.

What this person would need to do is to learn to give up their attachment to their idea of right, while at the same time learning to self-reflect (through mindfulness and meditation) until they see the mechanism of "attachment to should => is/should mismatch => pain" first hand.

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Is this behaviour justified for a person who is on the verge of enlightenment? Meditators can seem antisocial but this person described here seems to have the wrong view on how we do certain things in Buddhism but meditators can often have the wrong view.

Does non attachment mean giving up things you love? It means giving up things one likes alot and giving up attatchent that unfortunately can often be mixed in with love.

Is attachment for idiots? Nobody calls people "idiots" with ill-will in they're hearts and are still in harmony with Buddhism. Attatchment is like when one spouse can't let the other spouse leave because they fear they might find someone else or cheat. Love is when one spouse wants they're love to be happy and therefore lets them go anywhere they want to go. I like this song that is called "If you love someone, set them free".

Is the fear of losing things you love the right reason for being non attached? Not at all. The fear of losing the things you love or the fear of losing anything is itself attatchment. Detatchment is about neither liking nor disliking things or having no partiality(if that was what was meant by "non attachment")

Does non attachment mean having a strong sense of detest for modern life like malls, the cinema etc? A meditator will try to avoid(avoid not necessarily with attatchment) worldly places like malls and cinema but to have any partiality for or against anything is attatchment. To "detest" shopping malls and cinema sounds like having partiality or attatchment against shopping malls and cinema, although I could be wrong as some advanced meditators or those rumoured to be enlightened sometimes seem to speak kind of rough about worldly things.

Does non attachment mean you have to stop talking with your friends who are different from you? No, but this often happens with beginning mediators.This doesn't necessarily mean that the meditator no longer likes or loves these friends at all. Generally, this is the meditator learning the value of conseptual truth and silence(some have called silence, "the language of God").

Then again, if the friends arent really friends then it is totally in harmony with Buddhism to end such a relationship.

Romantic love is different from love in a Buddhist context. Buddhist love is to love all beings unconditionally and to be partial to one's spouse and Mother Theresa but not partial to someone like Adolf Hitler is not unconditional love. If we can't love or have compassion for someone like Hitler then, I think its safe to say that we want to be seperate from a certain part of humanity just as Hitler wanted to be seperate from a certain part of humanity. -May you be happy

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  1. Is this behaviour justified for a person who is on the verge of enlightenment?

    My experience of a vaguely analogous situation was that doctors were not willing to diagnose mental illness (e.g. "depression") of someone they hadn't interviewed.

    Further experience of people having marital disagreement is that two people see things differently, remember different things, and overlook (ignore or edit out) different things from their story.

    It isn't that I don't believe you, but for these kinds of reason I want to judge neither your description of "this behaviour", nor judge the partner.

    You sound disturbed by what you're describing, if I may say that.

    My advice to anyone whose family member may be incompetent due to mental illness, is to talk with a real professional if you can: i.e. a medical doctor (family/general practice or psychiatrist), and/or a lawyer, who may be able to advise on how to proceed.

  2. Does non attachment mean giving up things you love?

    Maybe not exactly. Instead I think that what Buddhism teaches about attachment is that:

    • The things you love are subject to change (they may be called impermanent): for example the person you married (and the feeling you had when you married them) isn't exactly the same now as they were before.
    • Attachment within Buddhism is defined as a type of desire, especially a desire for something that is known.
    • A fundamental problem is that known things change, and if you're attached to (if you desire) what you used to know in the past, what they used to be, rather than what they are now, then that attachment is a cause of suffering.
    • I suspect it may be a cause of ignorance also, i.e. the attachment to what it used to be interferes with perceiving it as it is actually.

     
    The italic words above are key/fundamental Buddhist technical terms.

    In other words:

    • The things you love/loved change (or even cease), whether you want them to or not.
    • Attachment to how they used to be is a cause of suffering, and prevents you from seeing them as they are now.
  3. Is attachment for idiots?

    I wouldn't say that, because "idiot" sounds like a harsh word, to me.

    For example, here is a definition of 'Right Speech' -- it recommends speaking gently and affectionately rather than harshly.

    I wouldn't even call a dog a idiot (instead a dog is a sentient being, with feelings).

    There is a style of Buddhist practice in which one might speak angrily emphatically or powerfully -- see for example What is a wrathful Buddha? I think that the intention of that might be to protect. An example of that I found amusing once was some relatives, who live on a tidal estuary, talking about their children, saying:

    "Oh yes, the children would never take the boats out without permission, without telling us. They know we'd kill them!"

    I'm not sure though how much wrath is necessary and/or skillful (if indeed it ever is). It could be used as an excuse venting anger (which, typically isn't skillful) or used to protect the wrong thing (e.g. to try to dissuade someone for selfish rather than altruistic reasons). I avoid it!

    Having said all that though, about "idiot", it is true that Buddhism does recommend that it's better not be to be attached, for the reason given in item #2 above. On the other hand that doesn't mean that Buddhism is anti-everything (it's arguably not meant to be nihilistic), so being in some sense attached to being virtuous (good) might be regarded as a correct form of attachment.

    To be honest it might be worth remembering that Buddhism is also known as a doctrine of the Middle Way between extremes: i.e. an extreme attachment or an extreme detachment might each be more-or-less inappropriate, especially within a lay relationship or marriage (conversely a reason why some people become monks or nuns might be because they want a life which allows them to practice with more detachment, a different collection of social responsibilities).

  4. It the fear of losing things you love the right reason for being non attached?

    Well attachment is defined/understood as being a cause of suffering and a result of ignorance (e.g. ignorance of the fact that things are impermanent). Conversely, enlightenment might be defined as a state of non-attachment, non-ignorance, and non-suffering.

    Furthermore (but this is a subject on which different schools of Buddhism may have disagreed), some people like to ask whether your wanting to become enlightened is in order to benefit yourself, or, to benefit others (or to benefit both self and others).

  5. Does non attachment mean having a strong sense of detest for modern life like malls, the cinema etc?

    I suspect it might manifest that way:

    "I'm so sick of consumer society, shopping, of having to earn money in order to spend it on stuff that doesn't make me happy, I wish I could detach from that."

    Note that's backwards to the way you said it though, for what it's worth: it's not that detachment causes hatred -- it's that suffering may cause a desire for detachment (given that unskillful attachment is a cause of suffering).

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Question :01 -
No he is not enlightened or even close to it. He seems to be an angry person just making excuses to justify his behavior. Remember he might actually believe this stuff, so be careful when you try to have your little debates.

The best way to get him out of this would be to make him realize what's wrong in his own head. There is a way to do that, stop showing any offence to his ideology and provide him his needs for few days without question and afterwards ask for his teaching and guidance and say "now i feel what you seek, help me learn too". As he teach you ask very logical questions on very fair situations. You will see that he struggle with his efforts and you should not interfere.

If you feel like you do not know what to ask from him we can help, There is a Kind monk among us here in this site called "Ven. Samana Johann" and you can start a chat with him if you like and i'm sure he will help. or you could ask any of us.

Question :02 - Giving up attachments does not mean complete disregard for family and loved ones. If a person needs that kind of freedom Lord Buddha clearly asked such people to be monks. If a Buddhist stay in a household he must give the love and affection to his loved ones and Lord Buddha clearly said that.

Question :03 - Lord Buddha did not expected all beings to give up all hope and wander like zombies. letting go means understanding that everything is temporary and living with that realization. Not calling other Dumb. Tell him attachment not only exist with the things he love but also with the things he hate. And also tell him that anger is also a product of attachment and therefore in his own version of right and wrong he is an idiot too.

Question :04 - No, The reason you walk away from greed,lust is that it eventually brings discomfort.And as Buddhists believe it brings more and more lives to suffer in samsara.

Question :05 - Detachment has nothing to do with modern or old. It is simply an understanding of things being temporary. And being detached does not mean that a person should run away from society. Tell him that Kings who were way above in the path ruled kingdoms just fine without the whole drama that he is putting out.

Question :06 - Madam let me break it very simply for you as you seem to be the person that's most harmed by his actions. What you partner preach and what he pretends t be is not Buddhism.And there is no point trying to explain his wrongs to him as he is clearly wanting to lash out his decades of rage o something or someone, and he just found a way to do it and he has some strong excuses this time.

Either him or his sub-conscious knows that no one will fight back at his anger because of his condition and his belief. I even have doubts about his need to be a Buddhist. Because this might as well be another way that he found to make himself different from the rest as he seems to be very fond of that concept.


If you want to help him....

There are two ways.

  • The soft way

Find some time and go together on a getaway. Not the regular, go to a monastery. If you tell us where you live we might be able to provide you with a location near your city. There learn true Buddhism together and have small discussions with monks about what you learn and other topics while he is present and make him talk in front of the monks and directly ask about his belief and their truthfulness from the monks.

  • The backhand

As I see it you have taken a lot of damage from all of this and because you love and care you have not told him the true pain he has caused to you. But now might be the time to do just that. This would be nice if this discussion happens over a dinner table of a regular place that you two go to (may be where you had your first date). Tell him what you really feel and do not try to make him feel bad. Just mention what you feel and tell him that you need a little time to find some relief. Don't be afraid i'm not trying to break a pair, sometimes people take the closest people for granted and they never realize what they have until it goes away. We are doing this to give him some alone time because he must learn to tame his anger without making other collateral damage.


Last but not least I have a simple recommendation to you. There is a movie you two must watch and do not be fooled by it's cast or cover. It might look like a comedy at first but it is about the same issue that your partner has and how a man get over it. The movie is called "A Thousand Words". make sure he watch it from the beginning to the end and be there with him.


For your own safety,remember if someone clearly needs help and continue to refuse it while the condition is getting worse that is clearly not going to end well. There is a reason why people abandon ships and jump into the sea, Because until the ship can be saved you can try, but if it is clear that it is going to sink your staying will only cost your life and you will obviously go down with it.

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In Buddhism there is a path called the Three Trainings. This is the first thing to understand about Buddhism: even before the Four Noble Truths! But most people do not know it and apply it. They are:

  1. Morality: get your life together, be virtuous, be loving, get rid of anger issues, etc., have a livelihood, etc.
  2. Concentration: to be done AFTER THE 1st TRAINING IS RELATIVELY WELL-ADDRESSED.
  3. Insight: to be done after the 2nd training is somewhat established.

What is the overall idea here?

A person should be doing intensive meditation until he/she can live as a good person (with or without Buddhism). He/she should not rely on the advanced practices of Buddhism until he fixes his heart.

If this rule is not followed, then the person will escape into all sorts of fantasies and poisons for oneself and others!

I suggest you get your friend to read "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha" (it's a free ebook, google it) and ask him to really dive into the book and ask himself if he has these basic things before he goes off thinking he is Enlightened or talking to "God."

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protected by Andrei Volkov Jan 18 at 15:37

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