is one of the three sobhana hetus, beautiful roots. A root (hetu or mula)
gives a firm support to the citta and cetasikas it arises together with.
All sobhana cittas are rooted in non-attachment, alobha, and non-aversion,
adosa, and they may or may not be rooted in wisdom, panna. Thus, non-attachment
has to accompany each sobhana citta.
We have many more moments with attachment than with non-attachment and
we are so used to live with attachment that we hardly realize that it is
akusala. A person who is leading the life of a layman takes it for granted
to be attached to people and possessions. We may think that such kinds
of attachment are not dangerous, provided we do not harm others, but all
kinds of akusala lead to sorrow. There is attachment time and again and
thus we accumulate it evermore. When we stand up, move around, reach for
things, eat or go to sleep, we want most of the time something for ourselves
and then there are cittas rooted in attachment. We are almost all the time
thinking of ourselves, we try to acquire pleasant things for ourselves
and we expect other people to be agreeable to us. Even when we think that
we apply ourselves to kusala, for example, when we listen to the Dhamma
or speak about the kusala citta, there are likely to be many moments of
attachment arising after the kusala cittas. We may be attached to "our
kusala'', we tend to like the idea of ourselves being good and wise, we
find ourselves important.
If We come to know more precisely the citta arising at the Present moment
we will be able to notice that the moments of clinging are entirely different
from the moments of unselfishness or detachment. There is non-attachment
with each kusala citta, but it does not last. There are many more akusala
cittas in our life than kusala cittas.
Non-attachment, alobha, has many shades and degrees. It can be described
as unselfishness, liberality or generosity. There is alobha when there
are thoughts of sacrifice and sharing, when there is renunciation and dispassion
(1 See The Roots of Good and EviI, p. 19, by Ven. Nyanaponika. The Wheel
no. 251-253, B.P.S. Kandy.).
The Atthasalini (I, Book I, Part IV, Chapter I, 127) gives the following
definition of alobha:
of greed (alobha) has the characteristic of the mind being free from cupidity
for an object of thought, or of its being detached, like a drop of water
on a lotus leaf. It has the function of not appropriating, like an emancipated
monk, and the manifestation of detachment, like a man fallen into a foul
(XIV, 143) gives a similar definition (2 See also Dhammasangani,
When there is a moment of non-attachment there cannot be attachment at
the same time. Non-attachment has the characteristic of non-adherence like
a water drop on a lotus leaf. The lotus grows in the water but it is not
wetted by the water, that is its nature. A drop of water glides off a lotus
leaf without affecting it, So it is with non-attachment, alobha. It is
not attached to the object which is experienced, it is unaffected by it.
That is the nature of non-attachment. Sometimes there are conditions for
non-attachment, but shortly afterwards we are affected again by objects,
Through right understanding one will become less affected, We read in the
Nipata (Khuddaka Nikaya, The Group of Discourses, vs. 811-813,) (3
I am using the P.T.S. translation by K.R. Norman.) :
... Not being
dependent upon anything, a sage holds nothing as being pleasant or unpleasant.
Lamentation and avarice do not cling to him, as water does not cling to
a (lotus-) leaf.
The function of non-attachment
is, as we have seen, "not appropriating, like an emancipated monk". A monk
who has attained arahatship does not hold on to any object which presents
itself; he is not enslaved but completely detached and thus free, emancipated.
Just as a drop of water does not cling to a (lotus-) leaf as water does
not cling to a lotus, so a sage does not cling to what is seen or heard
Therefore a purified one does not think that purity is by means of what
is seen, heard, or thought, nor does he wish for purity by anything else
(4 By any other way than the Noble Eightfold Path, according to the commentary.
See the Discourse Collection, Wheel Publication no. 82, B.P.S. kandy.)
. He is neither impassioned nor dispassioned.
The Atthasalini states that non-attachment has the manifestation
of detachment like someone who has fallen into a foul place. Someone who
falls into a cesspool does not consider that a place of shelter where he
could stay. He sees it as a danger, as something to be abhorred, and therefore
he would get out of it as soon as possible. It is the same with non-attachment,
it does not take refuge in what is actually a danger. Attachment to the
objects which are experienced is dangerous, because attachment leads to
all kinds of evil deeds which can produce an unhappy rebirth, Any form
of attachment, even if it is more subtle, is dangerous, because so long
as attachment has not been eradicated we are subject to rebirth and thus
also to old age, sickness and death.
It is difficult to know the characteristic of non-attachment, since the
moments of non-attachment are rare. We are often too lazy to do something
for someone else; we are attached to our own comfort or to quiet. Or we
may find some excuses: the weather is too cold or too hot to exert ourselves
for someone else. However, when there are conditions for non-attachtment,
we do not care about tiredness or discomfort, we do not think of ourselves
but we see the usefulness of helping someone else, We can learn from experience
that non-attachment is beneficial both for ourselves and for others. At
the moment of non-attachment we renounce our own pleasure and then there
is peace of mind. It may seem that at a particular moment a choice between
kusala and akusala can be made, but there is no self who makes a choice;
each moment of citta is conditioned by many factors, It is not self but
the cetasika alobha which performs the function of detachment. We cannot
force ourselves to renounce sense-pleasures, but we can learn the difference
between the characteristic of kusala and of akusala when they appear, Thus
we will gradually see that kusala is beneficial and that akusala is not
beneficial but harmful.
Whenever kusala citta arises there is non-attachment accompanying the kusala
citta. Non-attachment can arise in the sense-door processes of citta as
well as in the mind-door process. In each of these processes there are
javana-cittas (translated as "impulsion"), which are, in the case of non-arahats,
kusala cittas or akusala cittas. When kusala citta arises there is "wise
attention" to the object which is experienced, there are no attachment,
aversion and ignorance. Non-attachment which accompanies the kusala .citta
may, for example, arise in the eye-door process of cittas which experience
visible object. We usually ding to visible object but when there are conditions
for kusala citta there is non-attachment to the object.
When we perform a good deed, there is non-attachment already, we do not
have to try to be detached or to renounce something. When we perform dana
we give up out selfish inclination and we think of the benefit of someone
else, at least for that moment. When we refrain from harsh speech we give
up something, we renounce evil speech by which we harm both ourselves and
others. When there is loving kindness, which is the cetasika non-aversion,
adosa, there must be non-attachment as well which renounces selfishness.
When there is selfish affection for other people there cannot be loving
kindness at the same time. When we are attached to someone, our attachment
does not do him any good, we only cling to our own pleasant feeling we
derive from his or her company. It is essential to know our own different
feelings. We should find out when pleasant feeling goes together with selfishness
and when it is the joy which may accompany kusala citta. We are so attached
to just having pleasant feeling that we do not notice when it is akusala
and thus useless. At the moment loving kindness or compassion arises there
is genuine concern for someone else and we forget for a few moments the
"I" we often consider the centre of the world.
There are many degrees of non-attachment. Right understanding is the condition
for higher degrees of non-attachment. If there is right understanding which
knows when there is akusala citta and when kusala citta, there can be the
development of calm. Calm can be developed with meditation subjects such
as loving kindness, the contemplation of the Buddha's virtues, the foulness
of the body or other subjects. The citta with calm is accompanied by non-attachment.
When calm has been developed to the degree of jhana, defilements are temporarily
subdued but they are not eradicated. Attachment to one's attainment
of jhana may arise. Only the development of insight can eventually lead
to complete detachment from all objects.
The direct understanding of nama and rupa will lead to detachment from
them. So long as there is still the wrong view of self, attachment cannot
be eradicated. We are attached to persons, to "self', and we may not be
ready to accept the truth that in the ultimate sense no 'people" exist.
If right understanding of realities is developed we will know that what
we take for people are only citta, cetasika and rupa which do not last.
In the beginning it is difficult to persevere being mindful of seeing,
visible object and the other realities, because we do not notice an immediate
result and we sometimes doubt whether it is really useful. Is helping someone
else not more useful than being aware of visible object which appears now?
All degrees of kusala are useful and we should not neglect any one of them.
If we help someone else or listen to him with loving kindness and compassion
there are moments of giving up out selfishness. But shortly after the kusala
cittas have fallen away there tend to be akusala cittas with clinging to
"our kusala" or with attachment to people. Also while we help others there
can be mindfulness of realities such as seeing or visible object. In this
way we will become truly convince that what is seen is not a person, only
a reality which can be experienced through the eyes. There is already a
degree of detachment, although it is still weak, when there is mindfulness
of visible object and understanding of it as "only a reality", not a person.
In the beginning understanding is weak, but we should have confidence that
it can be developed through mindfulness of whatever reality appears through
one of the six doors. Thus clinging to "self" or to beings can decrease.
The sotapanna has eradicated all clinging to the concept of self, but he
still clings to sensuous objects. The sakadagami has less clinging to sensuous
objects but he still has not eradicated it. The anagami has eradicated
clinging to sensuous objects but he still clings to rebirth and he still
has cittas rooted in attachment which are accompanied by conceit. The arahat
has eradicated all forms of clinging and this shows how hard it is to eradicate
it. We may think that we cannot be happy without attachment, but complete
detachment means the highest happiness, it is freedom from all sorrow.
We may have read in the scriptures that clinging is the root of sorrow,
but we tend to forget this. We read, for example, in the Middle Length
Sayings (II, no. 87, Discourse on "Born of Affection") that the Buddha
explained to a householder who had lost his only son, that "grief, sorrow,
suffering, lamentation and despair are born of affection, originate in
affection". However, the householder did not accept this truth. We read
that King Pasenadi spoke about this subject with Queen Mallika. When the
Queen said that she agreed with the Buddha's words, the King was displeased.
Further on we read that the Queen tried to explain the truth of the Buddha's
words to the King with examples from his daily life. She said :
do you think about this, sire? Is your daughter Vajiri dear to you?" "Yes,
Mallika. My daughter Vajiri is dear to me."
The Queen then asked the
same question with regard to the noble lady Vasabha, the King's consort,
General Vidudabha, the son of the King and Vasabha, and the peoples of
Kasi and Kosala. The King then understood the truth of the Buddha's words
and he thereupon paid respect to the Buddha and uttered words of praise.
"What do you
think about this, sire? From an alteration and otherness in your daughter
Vajiri would there arise in you grief sorrow, suffering, lamentation and
"From an alteration
and otherness, Mallika, in my daughter Vajiri there would be a change for
me, even for life. How should there not arise in me grief sorrow, suffering,
lamentation and despair?"
"It was in
reference to this, sire, that it was said by the Lord, who knows, who sees,
perfected one, fully Self - Awakened One: 'Grief, sorrow, suffering, lamentation
and despair are born of affection, originate in affection.'..."
We often forget the truth that suffering is rooted in desire. There is
most of the time clinging after seeing, hearing or the other experiences
through the senses, We have to read and reread the scriptures many times
and consider the Buddha's words. His teaching is like food for our mind.
If we realize that clinging is the root of all sorrow and suffering we
will develop right understanding at this moment so that, eventually, there
will be detachment from all objects.