Let's take 2 examples:

  1. A Buddhist notices a crying girl. After asking it turns out that she lost her mother, and don't know where to find her
  2. Alice and Bob has a complicated relationship. Bob wants to communicate with Alice, but due to her misunderstandings and prejudices, she doesn't accept his words. Helplessly, he turns to a Buddhist that is an important friend with Alice, hoping that he will help him to tell Alice that she needs to listen to Bob carefully

Would the Buddhist helps them?

  • Yes, because explicit sufferings (losing mother, being unable to communicate, having prejudice) are more suffering than implicit ones (staying in the attachments)?
  • No, because ultimately it's still helping them staying in the attachments, while the Buddhist goal is aiming at the ultimate freedom? Or is that because helping others also a kind of attachment?

Related: Is there any source saying that Buddhists can temporarily form relationship to help people?

  • The two examples seem quite different. In the first example, are you asking whether it would be good to let a lost preschool-aged child remain lost and unaided, so that they might learn non-attachment?
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 17:11
  • @ChrisW yes... (it looks silly I agree)
    – Ooker
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 17:13
  • Unfortunately it seems that my question is not clear enough, and most answerers read it as "would a Buddhist take that opportunity to teach Buddhism?" What I mean is that the Buddhist refuses to help them because they don't want to involve in relationships. Helping them necessarily requires a form of relationship to the persons who get help, and this is the kind Buddhist wants to avoid
    – Ooker
    Commented May 22, 2019 at 3:02
  • 1
    Oh, so the question isn't about teaching the child non-attachment, and is instead about the about the adult Buddhist not wanting to become involved/attached in other people's emotional dramas? So when you say "their" attachments in the title, you meant the Buddhist's attachments rather than the non-Buddhists'?
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 22, 2019 at 3:17
  • @ChrisW your question makes me realize that the word "their" in the title refers to two different interpretations, and I am asking both of them at once without noticing. As this question has been settled in one interpretation, I will ask the other in a new question.
    – Ooker
    Commented May 22, 2019 at 3:35

6 Answers 6


Reading your question I feel like you are little misled about what Buddhism is (or maybe I don't understand your question at all). So however, I will give you an answer as I understand your question.

First of all, as I know the word "attachment" is wrongly translated from the "Pali" word "Ragha". The meaning of "ragha" can philosophically explained by using the words like greed, sensuality, desire, attachment or excitement for sensory objects, lust, sexual desire and passion. Now, because of the "ragha" when you lost something or someone you love or even when you can't have something or someone you love, you face an unbearable pain. This unbearable (or bearable) pain called in 'pali' as "dukkha".

Now, you cannot control losing things or people and not being able to having things or people you love. Nothing and no one last forever. Things decay they brake, people age they die. Even we didn't lose them when we alive, we die eventually then we lose them in the moment of our death.

In Buddhism it teaches about reincarnation, a cycle of birth, living and death (Sansara). After someone died they reborn again based on what they did in their past lives(Karma). Every living being suffer in various ways sicknesses, injuries, pain of losing loved things, does't matter rich or poor, powerful or not, every one suffer as life goes on. So, as the cycle of livese goes on the pain (dukkha) continues. So the Buddhism is all about braking this cycle of lives and ending the continuous pain (attaining nibbana). Buddhism teaches us that holding onto things/attachments (Ragha) is one of the reason this cycle goes on. To break the cycle you have to lose the 'Ragha'. The way to lose ragha is being well aware of that everything is not lasting forever and accepting the reality of world (practicing Upekha). If you truly master this 'Upekha' you wouldn't be in pain of loses. This doesn't mean that Buddhists have to leave or stop protecting their loved ones, loved things or Stop trying to achieve things, earn money and doing jobs. People need those things to be alive, to survive. Buddhism teaches to be aware of the fact that things don't last. Love people knowing that someday we lose them, use things knowing they break, they don't last, Earn money to survive not out of greed, Eat food only to be healthy not because taste good.

Now about your question, If you understand what I explained above you will realize that helping a child to find her mother is not helping her to stay in attachment. Doesn't matter you help her to find her mother or not she always will be attached to her mother, even the mother is dead. As long as the girl don't understand and not accept the concept of 'dukkha' she will always feel the pain of losing her mother, doesn't matter you didn't help the girl or not. One cannot be removed from attachment(ragha) by just being away from others. That attachment(ragha) is a state of mind, a way of seeing the world. Helping the girl doesn't make her or you any more or less 'ragha' person. It's not ultimately helping her to be in attachment it will only be helping her to survive and allow her to be with the people she loves.

Same like that helping Bob and Alice will only be helping them to communicate and understand the situation and helping them to continue with their lives.

Helping others to live or helping them to continue their lives with ease doesn't make any bad effects on your ultimate freedom (Nibbhana). However, if someone did those things with 'ragha' mind that will affect his 'nibbana'.

My vocabulary is not that good to explain things in the Buddhism. I don't know the most suitable english words and phrases to explain these things. I hope you understood and got the answer you needed.


A Buddhist notices a crying girl. One would hope that a Buddhist, or any reasonable person for that matter, would assist a reunion.

Alice and Bob has a complicated relationship Most everyday communication is complicated by identity view. I.e., "why won't she listen to me?"

Here again a Buddhist, or any reasonable person for that matter, could assist by asking open and non-partisan questions that promote understanding and communication. Here are some examples:

  • "Bob, what is important to Alice?"
  • "Bob, what is important to Bob?"
  • "Bob, what does Alice expect from Bob?"
  • "Does Bob always do what Alice expects?"
  • "Does Bob expect Alice to always do what Bob expects?"
  • etc.

This actually happens a lot as younger friends seek advice from an old fart like me on relationships. Oddly, the help always revolves around compassion and relinquishing craving. People are rarely aware of the asymmetry of their own expectations. They are unaware that they often expect what they are not willing to give. When they become aware of the inconsistency of their expectations, compassion usually unfolds into a letting go and acceptance of others.


Those who are "virtuous Buddhist", keeping precepts, observe "not to speak of what is not true" and inside of this precept, some would try to help, sometimes with silent as well and if possible, and understand them selves right, when time is proper, point toward the path of liberation, asked or not. A good instucted disciple would not give a gift that actually harms on long term.

Whether one could give the gift of release or not, depends on ones own state of liberty, right understanding and skill and foremost on Upanissaya. One is how ever not asked to help but simple able voluntary (aside of ones possible duties in a relation).

(Not given for trade, exchange, stacks, entertainment, but for release from this wheel)


The question is based in a extremely serious & dangerous wrong understanding of Buddhism.

Buddhism has two levels of teaching: (i) moral, which includes attachment; and (ii) non-attachment (MN 117). The Buddha said his teaching of non-attachment was only for a minority of people (MN 26).

Therefore, a Buddhist would help ordinary people maintain their important social relationships. In fact, this is a duty of a monk (DN 31). The duty of a monk & of a Buddhist is not to "strip" ordinary people of their attachments & identities.

Only psychopathic gurus & their brainwashed disciples try to "strip" ordinary people of their attachments & identities.

  • No. I mean they just refuse to help them, not to try to convert them. Ordinary people can have that right too: they are busy. The Buddhist can be busy to attain ultimate freedom.
    – Ooker
    Commented May 22, 2019 at 1:42
  • DD, is it even possible to strip one's idenity without vipassana? I mean even monks engage in certain 'identities' while on the path, i.e., samanasañña.
    – Val
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 18:16

Generally speaking people are the most receptible to help they themselves ask for, and vice versa. Advice not asked for are the spam emails of life.

  • So I understand unsolicited advice are not preferable. But if the Buddhists are asked for help, would they do so? Or it depends on the individual?
    – Ooker
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 16:21
  • @Ooker I was primarily referring to your second example, where i don't see Alice asking for help, essentially. My point is that suffering does not equal wanting relief. And my second point is that it doesn't necessarily equal wanting a buddhist helping out either, for that matter. How can we beforehand know that these people wouldn't rather need a police officer, a doctor or a priest? Or more drugs or alcohol? How can we assume that others know what they want? Et c. What if we're most fit to help those who specifically ask for what we can do?
    – user11699
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 16:59
  • I suppose what Alice wants does not mean Bob has to follow that. If Bob has a valid reason to do so, then ignoring the reactions based on false perceptions and continuing his action is also Buddhism I think. This is more valid if Alice also practices Buddhism, because in that case she doesn't have the right view
    – Ooker
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 17:06
  • @Ooker Sorry, long answer. What i left out is that your question seems to be phrased from a buddhist frame of understanding. Nothing bad in that, but sometimes compassion is about giving the other person the prerogative to frame their own understanding, and that may even require us to set aside our preconceptions even if they're as noble as a buddhist perspective ever may be.
    – user11699
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 17:07
  • this is why Bob turns to her Buddhist friend. This means if the friend seeing that Bob's point is valid, and that correcting Alice understanding is beneficial for her, then there is nothing wrong to have a talk to her
    – Ooker
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 17:16

Buddhism teaches the pursuit of happiness and the elimination of suffering.

And of course, the highest happiness, the highest bliss is Nibbana (Dhp 204). It is also the long term goal of happiness.

The medium term goal of happiness is stream entry (for Theravada).

The short term goal is worldly happiness, and that includes happiness in relationships, when it is achieved through virtue, merit, charity and harmony.

Not everyone has the capacity to pursue the highest happiness of Nibbana right now. For these people, like those you have mentioned, at least they could be guided towards the short term goal of worldly happiness.

A person hungry for food or emotional support or shelter has no interest in Nibbana, because they need to fulfill their short term needs and desires first. Helping them alleviate their worldly sufferings is an expression of Buddhist compassion too.

From AN 5.58:

He always does his duty toward his parents;
he promotes the welfare of his wife and children.
He takes care of the people in his home
and those who live in dependence on him.

The wise person, charitable and virtuous,
acts for the good of both kinds of relatives,
those who have passed away
and those still living in this world.

He benefits ascetics and brahmins,
and also the deities;
he is one who gives rise to joy
while living a righteous life at home.

Having done what is good,
he is worthy of veneration and praise.
They praise him here in this world
and after death he rejoices in heaven.

From AN 5.43:

For one desiring long life, beauty, fame,
acclaim, heaven, high families,
and lofty delights
following in succession,
the wise praise heedfulness
in doing deeds of merit.

Being heedful, the wise person
secures both kinds of good:
the good in this life,
and the good of the future life.
By attaining the good, the steadfast one
is called one of wisdom.

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