A Zen Master Explains the True Meaning of Non-Attachment and Why Most People Get it Wrong

A lot of people tend to misunderstand the non-attachment concept inspired by Buddhism.

While some people think it’s negative, non-attachment actually provides several benefits to everyone.

For one, it brings a deeper form of love, freedom, compassion, and care, beyond what is readily imagined. 

To clear up some misinterpretations about non-attachment, we’ve summarized an article written by spiritual guru Osho on the subject. We’ve also shared a YouTube video at the bottom of this article where Alan Watts breaks down non-attachment in 3 minutes. 

So what is non-attachment or detachment really?

Zen non-attachment

Firstly, Osho says that the non-attachment principle does not mean that you have to be as cold as stone. Feelings and emotions will still exist even if you decide to free yourself from them. The only difference is how you respond and relate to them.

Even those who are famous for being the best spiritual teachers are capable of playing, laughing, smiling and crying. There are times, though, when they also experience moments of frustration and impatience. It’s because just like us, they are also human beings, so they will never be exempted from those negative feelings.

How do they handle those emotions?

People who have mastered negative emotions avoid getting entangled in them. Instead, they acknowledge, accept and even embrace them. 

They don’t stifle their emotions but let them arise naturally and dissolve on their own.

They understand that change is the only constant in the universe, and realize that no matter how uncomfortable a negative feeling is, it will eventually pass.

While it takes time and effort to practice this concept, all of us are capable of practicing acceptance. 

Mitch Albom explains why accepting your emotions allows you to detach:

“Take any emotion—love for a woman, or grief for a loved one, or what I’m going through, fear and pain from a deadly illness. If you hold back on the emotions—if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them—you can never get to being detached, you’re too busy being afraid. You’re afraid of the pain, you’re afraid of the grief. You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails. “But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, ‘All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment’.”

Benefits of Non-attachment

Once you’re able to embrace acceptance and detach from your emotions, you’ll experience some wonderful benefits. They are: 

  • Your life will no longer be ruled by expectations – This results to less frustrations and disappointments and more satisfaction.
  • You will enjoy more space even with all your existing emotions 
  • You can better relate to the world – You will start seeing it as what it actually is, instead of viewing it based on your own concepts and standards. That said, you have higher chances of appreciating those around you, allowing you to embrace long-lasting and genuine happiness.
  • You will have better mental clarity – This allows you to see things based on what is true as you won’t attach yourself to limiting mental concepts. 
  • You will have less worries – Things and scenarios around you will have less impact on you, no matter how negative they are. 
  • You become more compassionate – Problems affecting the world will no longer stir too much anger on you. In fact, it will cultivate compassion.
  • You will be genuinely happy – If you practice detachment, you will be satisfied with what you have. You get the chance to enjoy what is present, instead of running after happiness desperately.
  • You let your life unfold and flow naturally – There is no need for you to control all the things around you.
  • You continue to love – Loving will become a natural part of you – In fact, you will notice your heart becoming more and more compassionate as you seek the actual sufferings of the world.
  • Helping will become a natural part of your system – You will most likely be a Good Samaritan as your detachment will naturally compel you to extend your help to those who need it the most. The good news is that you won’t be too attached to the results of your good deeds.
  • You will feel free – This feeling of space and freedom is actually genuine. This makes it easier for you to be content with everything that’s happening to you right now.

Non-attachment makes you embrace freedom because it gives you the chance to have full control over your emotions and your mind, instead of the other way around. This form of freedom makes it possible for you to enjoy all your experiences without any form of disappointments and frustrations.

Here is a brilliant video from Alan Watts which breaks down the art of non-attachment in 3 minutes. Check it out:

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