Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on October 14, 2013

The Fourth Thought is a doozy, certainly the most difficult of the group for me to understand, and I still work on it each and every day. Here is how the Tibetan I use for this translates:

Just like a feast before the executioner leads me to my death,
The homes, friends, pleasures, and possessions of samsara,
Cause me continue torment by means of the three sufferings.
I must cut through all attachment and strive to attain enlightenment.

This fourth thought is about all our attachments and, obviously, we are by definition attached to them. Seeing through our attachments to the point of actually volunteering to detach is much easier said than done, It is very, very difficult and there is no real substitute for natural detachment, that is: giving up attachments because we finally see through them and don't want them anymore.

There are whole armies of folks whose job it is to tell us to not do what we can't help but do, saying "No, no, no," and things like that – forcible detachment. Yes, we can force ourselves to not-be-attached, to try to not love which we obviously love and care about.

As mentioned before in these blogs, my first dharma teacher Andrew McIver (a traveling Rosicrucian initiator) explained this to me carefully using the analogy of the two kinds of peaches, the Cling and the Freestone. The cling peach is so attached to the pit that the stone literally has to be torn out (attachment), while with the freestone peach, the stone just naturally separates or pops out (natural detachment). Our attachments are like the cling peach.

There is no real good in tearing ourselves away from our attachments because, given the opportunity, we will just attach ourselves to something else sooner or later. When we are finally ready to give up an attachment, we just effortlessly separate from it. It will be no sacrifice and no loss because we are done with that attachment. We see through it. It becomes transparent.

It would seem that in my life I am not very quick to give up attachments, even when intellectually I know they are bad for me. I am really attached to them, and insist on sampling them again and again and again until I am absolutely certain that every time I try them I suffer unpleasant consequences. I am very scientific when it comes to abandoning attachments. I want to try every possibility to keep them around.

For example, I used to smoke. I didn't just intellectually analyze that smoking is bad for me and give it up. No way. Instead, it was very difficult for me to give up smoking and I found myself falling back into it, again and again. I quit smoking dozens of times before I finally quit quitting and quit. That is how it is for me with attachments, and not just addictive ones.

I will stick by an attachment until the last dog dies before I will let it go. Multiply that by the myriads of attachments (likes and dislikes) I have and you get the idea. I don't give up easily, at least attachment-wise.

The Buddhists point out that most of our suffering comes from our attachments. Like pinching ourselves, if we just could let go of what we are clinging and are attached to, we would feel so much better. I hear that, but have trouble doing it.

The Fourth Thought is often expressed as developing "revulsion of samsara." Now samsara is basically this cyclic world of attachment we live in, I mean, all that we are attached to, certainly our day-to-day world. I take particular issue with that idea. Obviously I don't feel revulsion for what I am attached to because, well, I am attached to it. I like it. So it is a wide stretch of the imagination that I'm about to give it up. Quite the contrary, I love it, like it, possess it, and all of that. For many of us, our attachments are who we think we are. It is a lot of everything we know and love.

This idea not giving up what we love so much (what we are attached to) is a big stumbling block for many would-be dharma students who interpret the "revulsion of samsara" as that we are not allowed to love living or our life, and are supposed to not love this life, but rather should somehow tear ourselves away from our attachments, like the cling peach tears away from the stone. This is a huge miss-take.

The problem is that most of us have never given up any attachment naturally, effortlessly, so we don't have the experience of letting go of what we see as no longer necessary. We have little idea that our life feels better without it; we feel better, and that there is life beyond our attachments.

In other words, we can't seem to just naturally detach from many of our attachments. In my case, I need to take an indirect route to detachment, one that involves discovering the downside of that attachment.

And since our life is pretty much all about our self and its attachments, there is not a lot of wiggle room in the beginning, no gaps in our clinging. We are pretty much stuck on ourselves. We are attached.

For those of us in this state, we must take a more indirect and round-about route to detachment. I am not about to just tear myself aware from my dear detachments. I don't seem to do it, so don't try to convince me to give them up please. I won't do it, especially if you lecture me. After all, I love this life and living it, including most of my attachments.

In other words, I don't naturally seem to give up my attachments; rather, it is just the opposite. The more I am told they are not good for me, the tighter I cling, and so it goes.

For those of you, like me, who are really attached, we will have to suffer "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" as Shakespeare said, and eventually discover and acknowledge the undependability of samsaric cyclic existence a bit at a time. Our attachments let us down slowly, but they do let us down. Eventually we figure it out.

I was always certain I could make this Rube Goldberg life I am living work. Others couldn't do it, but I am definitely smart enough to game the system, and finally get my ducks all in a row. You can't do it, but I can, and will. That was my thought.

Well, I won't ever game the system (or can't) because this ephemeral life we live is not built to last, but will (thanks to impermanence) eventually fail. The best I can do is to learn to fail successfully. I will never game the system, because it is rigged from the start to fail. I mean, that is what impermanence is all about. Its impermanent!

How long it has taken me to figure this out is a measure of how foolish I am, and putting all my eggs in the one basket of my Self (and its attachments) was a big mistake. Those attachments will ultimately fail and become detached at death. Think about it. We will give up each and every attachment before we are done.

The moment we figure this out (I mean really figure this out) is the moment we naturally begin to detach, life the freestone peach. We stop caring about them. For sure we will do this at the moment of death. Of that there is no doubt. We can't take our self and attachments with us when we go.

However, we each have the choice to start detaching early on and have a better life for it, one free of attachments, and I am told that awareness is portable beyond this life; we CAN take it with us.

There you have a quick overview of the Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind. Obviously I am still working on this fourth thought. We could discuss.