My experience of letting go and detaching

I know that meditating on letting go and detachment is a fruitful activity. I experience physical discharge when I see I am holding on to something, that isn't true, and I let it go. In other words, I detach from it.

As a variant to this meditation practice I also attach again. That is, I try to get myself back into that feeling that I had when I was attached. The moment that I notice the slightest mental activity of getting carried away again, I reevaluate that it isn't true and keep my focus there until I feel I am detaching again. I do this a couple of times until I know longer feel any interest arise anymore when I focus on attaching, and thus, the attachment doesn't happen anymore. To me it is like getting bored with the subject. There is nothing in it for me anymore that I want to grasp. It seems that all energy that caused any attachment dissipated.

Stop creating mental constructs instead of letting go of them

Now on the the purpose of this question. Today I realized that what I attach to is always a mental construct. And that mental construct is always created by myself. Then I came to think about the words 'letting go' and 'detaching'. These words seem to imply there is something there, that exist on their own, of which you 'need' to 'let go' and 'detach'. There is something, but not there in objective reality, but here in subjective mental constructs. What if, the moment I observe a mental construct, I realize I don't want to create that mental construct in the first place. Then there is nothing to let go, there is nothing to detach from, as it simply doesn't exist anymore. It isn't being created in the first place. That puts me in the chair of being the 'creator' of all my experience. So then I do not practice the 'letting go' and 'detachment' from anything anymore, I practice the 'stop creating' of unfruitful mental constructs, which leaves energy for creating mental activity that is fruitful.


  • Then I came to wonder, did Buddha really ment 'letting go' and 'detach'?

  • What are the actual sanskrit and pali terms for 'letting go' and 'detach'?

  • And do they really mean the same, or is it more like 'Dukkha' which is best translated to 'suffering', while it is not exactly the same. But suffering is the closest matching description.

  • 1
    I appreciate telling your experience of letting go, for me attachment is like a mental pressure and I can know I let go because that pressure dissapears thats how I feel it.
    – user4878
    Jul 21, 2017 at 13:21

3 Answers 3


What are the actual sanskrit and pali terms for 'letting go' and 'detach'?

Quoting from "Re: What is the last thing to let go?":

In the Suttas paṭinissagga and its synonym vossagga are the words that usually get translated ‘relinquishment’, ‘letting go’ and suchlike. What is relinquished is appropriation (ādāna) which is a term for taṇhā and upādāna.


Paṭinissagga (letting go) is the broad term and then nekkhamma (letting go) is a more specialised one. Nekkhamma is paṭinissagga with respect to desire for sense-pleasures.


There are different words here, such as:

'Nekkham­ma', which generally refers to 'renunciation' of sensual pleasures (eg. 2nd path factor).

'Pahānā' (SN 45.8 right effort) & 'pahāya' (MN 38 hindrances) & 'pajahati' (AN 3.40; SN 35.101), which generally refers to abandoning hindrances & unwholesome qualities.

'Anupādā': not taking as one’s own, not holding on to.

'Vossagga', which means 'giving up', 'relaxation', 'handing over' or 'surrender', and is generally found in meditation instruction about the (preliminary) development of the path, such as in SN 48.10 & end of MN 118; & found in DN 31 in respect to a husband giving (surrendering) authority to the wife in the home or an employer giving employees a share in profits .

a monk, a noble disciple, making letting go (vossagga) the meditation object, attains concentration, attains singleness of mind.... SN 48.10

'Paṭi­nissag­gā', which means means 'relinquishment' or 'giving back', possibly 'returning back', and is generally found in the fruition of the path, such as in 3rd noble truth (below), last (16th) stage of Anapanasati or in definitions of Nibbana (below).

the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, nonreliance on it.

dukkhanirodhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ — yo tassāyeva taṇhāya asesa­virāga­nirodho cāgo paṭinissaggo muttimutti anālayo.

sabba­saṅ­khā­ra­sama­tho sabbū­padhipa­ṭi­nissaggo taṇhākkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ

Calming of all formations, the relinquishing of all acquisitions, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, Nibbāna

Ultimately, 'letting go' means to not take something as 'being onself' or 'belonging to oneself', as summed up in SN 35.101:

Suppose a person were to gather or burn or do as he likes with the grass, twigs, branches, & leaves here in Jeta's Grove. Would the thought occur to you, 'It's us that this person is gathering, burning, or doing with as he likes'?

No, lord. Why is that? Because those things are not our self nor do they pertain to our self.

In the same way, monks, the eye is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit... The ear... The nose... The tongue... The body... The intellect is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit... Whatever arises in dependence on intellect-contact, experienced either as pleasure, as pain, or as neither-pleasure-nor-pain, that too is not yours (na tumhākaṃ): let go of it (taṃ pajahatha). Your letting go (pahīnaṃ) of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit.

SN 35.101

  • 1
    Great post!! -)
    – SarathW
    Jul 21, 2017 at 2:48

Anything comes naturally and goes naturally.

(1) Awareness remains uncaught, not starting to cling to a pleasant feeling.

As when we focus on it, singling it out - and losing the wholeness of the unlimited space. I think, singling out and losing the whole is the mechanism of attachment.

And that's how it leads to ignorance. Enclosing a feeling, we create limited view. Is it creating a mental construction around that sensory pleasure?

(2) Awareness remains uncaught, not trailing a deluded thought with more deluded thoughts.

(3) Awareness remains uncaught, not creating unnecessary constructions.

(Which would enchain the mind, making it busy, rigid and limited).

A Tibetan Teacher described different levels of mastery in letting go of thoughts as snow falling on earth, water and fire. Snowflakes falling on earth lie for some time, creating a layer of snow, even if it gradually melts. Snowflakes falling in water melt instantly. Snowflakes falling over fire melt even before they touch anything.

With mastery we can notice unnecessary thoughts when they only start to condense. It can be likened to a tablecloth and wrinkles. We don't need to deal with each wrinkle, as if it was real separate object. We can just pull a bit the cloth, and it's flat again. Perhaps it's a way to observe emptiness of mental creations.

Not creation of constructions, not re-creation of trains of thoughts and vexations... It can be called letting go - of the circular processes of samsaric thinking. In the sense: we don't keep these processes.

About letting go in Zen practice: http://www.chancenter.org/chanctr/ddp/channews/09-1982.html

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