Attachment (aka craving or greed) is one of the Three Poisons. Why is attachment to Buddha not a poison? Perhaps it's related to the Tibetan Buddhist lojong "Don't make gods into demons"?

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    Who says it's not a poison? Sounds poisonous to me :) Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 16:56
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    Why does being a monk necessitate attachment to the Buddha? Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 21:47
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    @yuttadhamo, I asked first. ;-)
    – user50
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 21:57
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    My question is better :P Commented Jun 20, 2014 at 1:11
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    One Zen master stopped using the word "Buddha" because people overused the word so. He [taught] "From now on, every time I use the word 'Buddha,' I will go to the river and wash my mouth out three times." His statement is completely in accord with the dialectics of prajnaparamita, but when people heard his words, they thought he was being disrespectful. Only one [person] understood. He stood up and said, ["I appreciate your words. Every time I hear you say the word 'Buddha,' I will go to the river and wash out my ears three times."] - Thich Nhat Hahn - The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion
    – dgo
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 12:41

12 Answers 12


Sez who?

Attachment to Buddhism and to Buddhist philosophy is a very serious problem, which every practitioner should be careful about, since it's so seductive: it's easy to be perceived as progress, whereas it's the very opposite of progress.

To counter this hazard, some Zen schools recommend that "if you come across the Buddha on the road, kill him!" (Not to be taken too literally.)


Buddhism is a "kayak" (a guide) that takes one from the endless sea of sufferings to find a harbor. What would one do in order to commence and land on the harbor?

Leave the kayak - Buddhism - and disembark.

If not, one is attached to the kayak. Still at sea.

The sea of sufferings.


My understanding is that the Buddha taught that we should not attach ourselves to him or his teachings. If we find that his teachings don't work, then we should feel free to leave them behind and pursue other paths.

That said, there is also the idea that some attachments are better than others. For example it is probably better for an alcoholic to replace their attachment to alcohol with an attachment to the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Likewise, it would be better for someone who is attached to suffering or causing suffering in others to replace that with an attachment to the Buddha's teachings.

  • Good answer. The umbilical cord always has to be cut sooner or later, but definitely better to be attached to eating food than eating, say, rocks.
    – dgo
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 12:57

If someone is insulting the Buddha and the Dhamma, and you become hurt, you are poisoned! But if you feel neutral (Uppekha) or compassionate (Karuna) towards the person, you are fine!


Do the teachings of the Buddha cause you suffering? If not, perhaps it's ok to hang on to them for a little while longer on this journey. :)

I find Buddhism refreshing in this manner as the teachings of some other religions actually do cause suffering for their followers. For example people who are excluded from participating fully in their chosen houses of worship due to sexual orientation.


Identifying with something doesn't necessarily mean you're attached to it, especially if that something is just your way of living. I identify best with Zen Buddhism, but I'm not attached to it any more than I'm attached to my own consciousness; it's just become how I think, which dictates how I feel.

Attachments are bad because if you lose them, you suffer. I can't 'lose' Zen without completely losing myself, which is going to happen to all of us one day or another :) Preference is also commonly confused with attachment. I prefer a certain knife in my kitchen drawer for slicing tomatoes, but I wouldn't be at all upset if it wasn't there one day, I'd simply replace it.

A part of daily meditation can be imagining losing that which you value the most, so you've experienced it when it ultimately happens, which softens or even mitigates the suffering that might otherwise ensue. If you can't do that with something, then it's probably not something you could become attached to, but more just a part of your being.


Actually Buddha stated in his suttas after following the Eight Fold Path to attain Nibbana, you should give up the path when you attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana. It is something like this; think that you wanna cross a river. There's no boat near by. So you collect wood and creepers and finally build a small boat and you cross the river using it. After crossing the river, will you carry the boat with you where ever you go thinking "this boat helped me to cross the river"? No. You'll leave the boat by the river and you'll go where you need to go. Buddha state that similarly one should give up the eight fold path after perfectly attaining the supreme bliss of Nibbana.


@THelper to elaborate on Toby's point. To call oneself a buddhist is to identify oneself with an ideological construct and therefore to dwell in a mental fabrication. The ideas of buddhism are arranged into a belief system more commonly known as a view. To associate your self with this view, is exactly the kind of housebuilding which the buddha espoused against in practically every sutra. Buddhism is the only "religion" which fervently encourages its followers to abandon any part of the belief system when it begins to hold them back rather than help them.


I think there is a misunderstanding here. Buddha was not a Buddhist, he was not attached to the previous Buddha (Kassapa) and still the attained the maxium goal. Becoming a Buddha or an Arahant does not require attachment, on the contrary, it requires deattachment and equanimity.

Don't think about Buddhism as a tradicional religion, it is more like an analysis of the laws of the universe (both inside and outside), Buddha was simply explaining how things work, what the mind is, the best path to take and the consequences of good and bad deeds.


If one calls oneself a Buddhist, one has already missed the point. --- from a teacher my daughter had.

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    Welcome to Buddhism SE! Could you please elaborate on this? We prefer all answers here to be self-explaining. I think I understand what you mean, but I'm not sure all future readers will also.
    – THelper
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 15:21
  • @THelper This answer elaborates on Toby's point.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 17:15

You should have confidence and gratitude towards the Buddha. If this becomes a strong attachment this will hinder your progress on the path. The story of Vakkali is a good example.

If you are dealing with Buddhism as a phylosophy then you are dealing with matters at a conceptual level. This is feeding into your perception than helping towards the cessation of perception.


Why is attachment to Buddha not a poison?

Because Buddhism (attachment to Buddha, Sangha, Dharma) has meta-attachment: it teaches to even let go of Buddhism itself--but only once one has mastered Buddhism's practices and not a moment sooner. To be detached from Buddhism a moment sooner would be like a HS student dropping out before he finished.

In short: Buddhism teaches detachment from Buddhism itself. No other tradition does this.

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