Happy feelings from contact with objects of attachment don’t last

Aug 17, 2023

We all want happiness and don’t want suffering, that’s a fact. So we need to know what it is and how to get it, right

Our usual method – Buddha calls it samsara – is to get the objects of attachment: bodies, handbags, nice sounds, food, you name it. Our logic is pretty clear: when we get what attachment wants, happy feelings come.

Yes, they do. Buddha wouldn’t disagree. But basically he’s saying that if we look carefully we’ll see that those happy feelings don’t last. And not only do they not last, they turn into unhappy feelings.

So there’s this attachment, this emotional hunger, and we decide on the chocolate cake; then comes the anticipation of the cake and the pleasure it will bring. Then, the moment the cake goes in the mouth, the pleasure, the happy feelings definitely come.

And you’d think that would be the end of it.

But no. What happens instead is that attachment is not satisfied with that moment of pleasure so we eat a second mouthful hoping that that will bring the satisfaction. But we know it doesn’t. Attachment is still not satisfied with that level of pleasure, so in goes a third mouthful.

As the attachment keeps being dissatisfied with the pleasure, and another piece goes in the mouth, the sad thing is that with each mouthful, each piece, the pleasure diminishes and before we know it it’s turned into unhappy feelings – disgust – and we have to stop eating, otherwise we’d vomit.

We know this experience. The trouble is when we hear Buddha suggest that we need to give up attachment, we get depressed because we have no other method for getting happy other than getting the objects of attachment.

So what’s Buddha’s approach? Simply, he’s saying that’s he’s found a method to get happiness, pleasant feelings, joy – you name it – that doesn’t depend on getting the objects of attachment. His method is to give up attachment!

Of course, this is long term; we can only go one step at a time.

When we understand this, we’ll see that as we become more conscious of the attachment, the emotional hunger, and learn not to buy into it, even then we’ll start to experience pleasure of a different kind. It’ll be more wholesome, more fulfilling than the pleasure that comes when we’re not conscious, when we instinctively believe in attachment; they call that pleasure contaminated: it’s polluted by the attachment.

The long-term approach to getting happiness is to practice virtue and give up non-virtue and eventually achieve wisdom as well.

Then we’ll accomplish the natural state of our own mind when it’s unencumbered by all delusions: joy, bliss, goodness, wisdom.

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