There are many good answers in the question Would Buddhists help non-Buddhists continuing their attachments?. I'll summarize some of the points here:

  • Buddhism only teaches that things don't last, not stop doing them. Love people knowing that someday we lose them; use things knowing they break; earn money to survive not out of greed; eat food only to be healthy not because taste good. Even if the girl is attaching to her mother, helping them or not will not make them less attaching anyhow. (ashen25's answer)

  • Dhammadhatu's answer even cites the suttas:

    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.

The consensus in there is clear: helping them, not converting them. However, psychologically speaking, I think helping people necessarily requires both parties forming a relationship, or requires the helpers involves/attaches in other people's emotional dramas. Or when they are helping them, they need to have expectations on the outcomes. These are things a Buddhist would like to avoid.

They can simply say "sorry, my goal is not to get attached with relationships. I'm not a suitable person to help you. I hope you get well with your life." Not only this is an acceptable manner, this would also conveniently help the helpees understand the value of non-attachment without the need to teach them anything.

I think the solution is simple: as long as the helpers acknowledge that after the problem has been solved they can detach to it, then it would be fine. However, are there any sources discussing this?

  • 1
    I think your question should be 'Can a person help another without forming a relationship ?' If that's the question, Yes of course can. The Buddhism encourages to interact with the world with loving-kindness(metta), compassion(karuna), empathetic joy(muditha), equanimity(upekka).
    – ashen25
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 11:52
  • 1
    I feel it is better for questioner to define what is a "relationship". You can have a conversation with someone without forming any "relationship". Yet, the conversation could have helped the other person. Furthermore, what is the big deal of "forming a relationship or not" when somebody decides to help another person ? Would appreciate the elaborations. Commented May 24, 2019 at 3:56
  • @Krizalid_13190 when I said "psychologically speaking, I think helping people necessarily requires both parties forming a relationship", I was thinking that someone is in desperation and you feel pity for them and want to save them. That is quite dramatic/extreme, but it does illustrate the way emotions work in a helping situation. Does that answer you?
    – Ooker
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 9:06
  • Get what you mean, but -- "psychologically speaking, I think helping people necessarily requires both parties forming a relationship", this statement implies forming a relationship "must be a prerequisite", can be the problem and kind of limiting your way of thought. The only line to draw is whether the helper is attached to the helped, and the answer is both situation can happen, a Buddhist or not. Commented May 24, 2019 at 9:41

4 Answers 4


I think of the "brahmaviharas" as the right attitude[s] to have towards other people -- which include "may you be well" (i.e. wishing them non-suffering), and kindness, as well as equanimity.

So if a child needs help, I think it's not wrong to offer it -- isn't that what anyone would do? -- even if you know that form of help is temporary.

There's a Zen story which includes that-- Is That So?

Buddhism is also willing to distinguish between "attachment" and "need" -- and IMO a young child "needs" her mother (as well as being attached) -- everyone, not even excluding monks, are allowed "requisites".

Also "non-attachment" isn't the only goal, maybe not even a primary goal. Another goal (and maybe a more immediate goal) is "non-remorse" -- i.e. don't do things you regret, and do things you don't regret -- where "regret" and "remorse" have a moral aspect, e.g. you should feel remorse over what's morally wrong.

This fits with the "brahmaviharas" too, by the way -- e.g. if "non-remorse", and possibly therefore joy, is the purpose of "skilful virtue", then "mudita" (one of the brahmaviharas) is "sympathetic joy" you might experience as a result of someone else's virtue.

But anyway I'd expect it's right to help a lost child if you can -- that's an action or intention which you needn't regret -- and, conversely, it's "choosing not to help" that might be regrettable.

Whether and how, and how much, you'd be willing to get involved in adults' relationship/attachment problems may be another matter -- pertly because it's more complicated (than e.g. "phone the police" which you might do for a lost child), and less certain that you can be not only virtuous but skilful, but also because it's less obviously a morally right thing to do.

I think I decided a while ago that it's fine if someone is enlightened -- but that I'm a bit inclined to regard it as an illness, if "enlightenment" means that they're less skilled, less competent, or more immoral than normal.

  • I thought once you have eradicated your ego, then helping every one in needed in your ability is the natural thing you would do, not just the right thing to do? Therefore, there should be no morally distinction between two cases?
    – Ooker
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 10:58

The following three quotes from the question are merely more annihilationist wrong views (per SN 12.17) based on the original annihilationist wrong view:

  • Requires the helpers involves/attaches in other people's emotional dramas.

  • When they are helping them, they need to have expectations on the outcomes.

  • My goal is not to get attached with relationships. I'm not a suitable person to help you.

The above ideas are "annihilationist" (per SN 12.17) because these views ignorantly assume a "self" exists that must non-attach from itself & from other "selves", "persons" or "beings".

When the mind is enlightened with right view, it does not think it is helping "people". It is only helping "ignorance" become wiser. Since the enlightened mind has no view of "persons" or "beings", it naturally also has no attachment when helping.

Please refer to SN 12.17 and also MN 102.

Just as a dog, tied by a leash to a post or stake, keeps running around and circling around that very post or stake; in the same way, these venerable contemplative & brahmans—through fear of self-identity, through disgust for self-identity—(nevertheless) keep running & circling around self-identity.

MN 102

Therefore, if & when "helping necessarily requires both parties forming a relationship", one party (the helped) is attached & the other party (the helper) is non-attached. In other words, the helper is free from fear & is unconcerned about whether the other party attaches to them. The helper trusts in virtue, appropriate boundaries & the Dhamma. The helper does not need to and should not physical touch the helped, let alone engage in sexual relationship. Thus, pure metta will always be harmless to both, even if the helped becomes attached. When a Virtuous One acts with pure metta, the helped will always remember & love them but this type of love is not harmful.

As Volkov wisely said elsewhere:

As my teacher explained, it's only when the person is completely abandoned by the currents of normal life, is when they get picked up by the current of Dharma.

In other words, those looking for help can even spend months in a monastery, where they may speak each day for one or two hours with a monk. But, eventually, such ordinary worldly individuals will leave the monastery when they feel better or restored (to try their luck again in the world of attached relationships).

  • If the enlightened mind has no view of "persons" or "beings", then would they continue to help if the helped ones aren't willing to accept the words? Of course this does not mean they will force them to listen, but can they be persistent in helping them? (This would have a big assumptions that the helped ones don't have the right view)
    – Ooker
    Commented May 22, 2019 at 6:48
  • To help requires educating the other in proper morality & relationship skills & duties. Helping is not some magical cure based in some sort of profound transmission or wisdom. The duty of a monk is to educate laypeople in morality. The Western Buddhism money making business of selling meditation is not really how monks should help people. People are best helped by teaching them proper morality or relationship skills. Regards Commented May 22, 2019 at 8:41
  • I ask this as a separate question here: What is the view of Buddhism in correcting others' view in spite of their willingness to accept it? Hope to see you there
    – Ooker
    Commented May 22, 2019 at 9:40

The Buddha placed no such as inherent duties, but "if liking this, that needs to be done" and in regard of helping (sangaha) it's the same. Your merits or demerits, one might be able, one not. To maintain a health relation it's a duty. How ever, this duty resits only if no violation of precepts are secured. Hurting someone to help another is not to be done.

Rendering benefical assistence is one of the 4 Sangha-vatthus, and the highest help is fond in the Balasutta.

Others then many tell wrong, it's not so that one should not turn another toward path, convert, but the opposite, and taken for example the pay back of goodness toward parents and other supporters, the converting toward path is said to be the only way that one could pay something back, if possible.

“But anyone who rouses his unbelieving mother & father, settles & establishes them in conviction; rouses his unvirtuous mother & father, settles & establishes them in virtue; rouses his stingy mother & father, settles & establishes them in generosity; rouses his foolish mother & father, settles & establishes them in discernment: To this extent one pays & repays one’s mother & father.“

AN 2:32

For more to develope right gratitude see: [Q&A] How to develope, learn and maintain gratitude (right view)?

(Not given for trade, exchange, stacks, entertainment that binds here but as an exit)


Shakyumuni the original Buddha gave up his wordly goods and ventured out into the world to discover why people suffered. One was their attachments to external things, another was that the minds of people are deluded and that the Buddha nature exists in all humans...so the point of this is if you are s Buddhist or Bodisatva of course you would help people as much as possible. The practice of Buddhism is for yourself and others. Like a domino effect. We live by example and hope others will follow to eradicate most of their sufferings or to understand why we suffer.....

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