Talk:Detachment (philosophy)

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expand from stub[edit]

To expand upon this article stub and precisely clarify the terms "attachment", "nonattachment" and "detachment" deserves a better articulation that I can offer. So, I'm asking for (divine and/or secular) editorial intervention from a more authoritative source to manifest, and be organized into the proper format. No, I'm not too lazy to do it myself, I just know my limits--and when to defer.

These are conceptually complex topics that can be easily muddled in English by our using multiple derived prefixes with similar meanings as much as by the assumptions that saturate the various translation paths from the 2,500+ year old context of Siddhartha Gautama (the historical Buddha) into our contemporary Western one.

There is no Buddhist doctrine promoting "detachment" as described in this article, but Buddha advised deliberately cultivating "non-attachment"; even though the two terms can appear interchangeable, they are not.

"Attachment". Buddha described a principal cause of human suffering as "attachment"; that is to say any sentient being's attitude that clings to or grasps at anything (ANYTHING: including the notion of ego/self, the notion of other/not-self, emotions, concepts, memories, desires, events, outcomes, judgements, objects, places, beliefs, relationships--really ANY phenomena which can occur, be experienced, imagined, noticed and/or labeled) as if "it" were limited by an imposed judgement, fixed in status, space, or time, permanent, self-existent, controllable, or even tangibly real. Attachment drives an insatiable frustration of grasping vainly at that which can not truly be held onto because of its illusory, impermanent nature.

"Non-Attachment". Non-attachment is that state of mind whereby a sentient being is able to perceive, discern, understand or otherwise appreciate anything (once again--ANYTHING--any phenomena that can be said to occur, be imagined, be labeled and/or be experienced)--sometimes called "an object of mind" or simply "labeled phenomena" as it is, in its fullness as a temporary and illusive occurrence within an infinite web of interdependent interconnected occurrences, but ABSENT the desire to judge it, control it, view it is as permanent, self-existent, and/or indepedendent of causes and effects. Non-attachment is not clinging, not grasping. Non-attachment is related to equanimity: that equalizing yet discerning observance from all sides simultaneously without judgement or expectation. Non-attachment is necessary for the cultivation of the omniscient (enlightened) mind.

"Detachment" Detachment is a different concept altogether, and it's description in this article stub is largely accurate, but it has nothing to do with Buddhism. Detachment is that illusion whereby the sentient being holds an object of mind at the artificial distance of aloof denial; it means to actively not care about something whether it is noticed or not; to willfullt or carelessly attempt to deny it power or essence with the numbing opiate that is correctly called apathy, or disassociation.

Neither attachment nor detachment are exemplary of the enlightened mind; both can be described as unskilled activities common to sentient beings, both are breakable habits, and both equally keep the sentient being in the realm of samsara (the infinite cycle of the common incarnate existence that includes birth, sickness, suffering, death, bardo, re-birth, etc). Detachment flees; Attachment chases. Buddha spoke of practicing non-attachment as the necessary middle path beyond ever-fragmenting samsara into all-absorbing nirvana. 11:57, 30 November 2005 (UTC)DBS SFCA94110USA

Buddhism -> Detachment -> Apathy?[edit]

This line of reasoning along with the use of terms such as "supposedly" betrays what appears to be a philosophical bias in the author. According to Buddhist philosophy, the formation of attachment finds its manifestation in the mind of the Buddhist practitioner during a subjective analysis of his or her own experience. His or her goal is the creation of an unbiased perspective that ultimately reveals the natural ability that we possess as human beings to experience the true, unfiltered nature of reality and to act compassionately toward fellow human beings regardless of one's personal preferences (attachments).

To a practicing Buddhist, attachment equates to personal preference (manifested by repulsion, desire or indifference), not to detachment or apathy as stated by the author.

Buddhism (including Zen)[edit]

The link backs to Buddhism and Zen contain no cross references back to detachment. Furthermore, detachment is not an aspect of mainstream Buddhist philosophy. So the article was modified accordingly.

Detachment in Zen[edit]

Detachment is a central concept in Zen Buddhist philosophy. One of the most important technical Chinese terms for detachment is "wu nian" (無念), which literally means "no thought." This does not signify the literal absence of thought, but rather the state of being "unstained" (bu ran 不然) by thought. Therefore, "detachment" is being detached from one's thoughts. It is to separate oneself from one's own thoughts and opinions as to not be harmed mentally and emotionally by them.

In the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, it is theorized that from contact with external objects, thoughts arise in the mind. And that from these thoughts, erroneous views are formed. And from the formation of erroneous views, mental afflictions and vexations are thus created. (Ch.17)

The method devised to solve this problem does not entail ridding the mind of thoughts. To do so, the Platform Sutra repeatedly emphasises, enculcates indifference rendering one no different from an inanimate object as well as reduces the capacity of the mind far below its vast potential. (Ch.25) (This misinterpretation of detachment (or "emptiness") seems to have been as wide spread in Zen circles during the time of Sixth Patriarch as it perhaps is today.) Instead, the Sixth Patriarch Huineng advocated the practice of not clinging to or rejecting thoughts as they arise, but instead actively contemplating (guan zhao 觀照) them in order to understand not only their natures, but the nature of one's own self as well:

"Contemplate all dharmas (things) with wisdom while neither clinging to nor rejecting to them. This is to see your own nature and complete the Buddhist Path." (Ch.27)

The state of detachment from one's own views and assumptions gives one the "space" to objectively examine all phenomenon, both internally and externally. Since one no longer identifies oneself with one's views, one is free to pick up or drop any view as one sees fit. This aspect is termed "non-dwelling" or "non-abiding." Non-identification with thoughts allows all thoughts to continually flow as one engages with reality:

"As for 'non-dwelling,' it is the fundamental nature of mankind. Thoughts succeed one another without dwelling; past thoughts, present thoughts, and future thoughts all succede one another without discontinuace...During each thought, do not dwell in any dharma whatsoever. If you dwell in one thought, you will dwell in all. This is known as being 'fettered.'" (Ch.17)

"The Vimalakirti Sutra says, 'Externally be skilled at distinguishing all the various marks (forms) and dharmas. Internally be unmoved and firmly established in the First Principle." (Ch.17)

Therefore, for the Zen practitioner, detachment is the state of ultimate human freedom. She becomes essentially free from herself, which means free from her own views about phenomenon. Even the concepts of "detachment" and "no-thought" are seen to be but useful objectifications and names for an experience, like "dreaming" or "loving," that language might otherwise wonderfully describe but never become a substitute for:

"It is thus that this doctrine sets 'no-thought' as its guiding principle to enable the people of the world to separate themselves from objects and not become stirred up by thoughts. And when there is no attachment to thought, then it will likewise will be unnecessary to set up 'no-thought' as a teaching." (然此教門立無念為宗﹐世人離境﹐不起於念。若無有念﹐無念亦不立。)

The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch Translated by Philip B. Yampolsky


.Detachment and the search for truth .Detachment and non suffering .Detachment and compassion —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:07, 27 February 2009 (UTC)

I don't think that the article can please everyone or even be exhaustive. I have tried to balance it as much as I can. But still, the English words "Detachment" and "Non-attachment" themselves are a compromise and should be regarded as such. They cannot be expected to reflect all the differences in shade, emphasis and degree that meet the requirements and needs of the whole array of philosophies and religions which have "detachment" as an ideal or main principle. Whew! Xufanc (talk) 04:01, 19 June 2009 (UTC)

Move from Detachment (religion)[edit]

This article was just moved from Detachment (religion), which seems to have been a better name, as all of the material is religious, not philosophical. Editor2020 (talk)