I recently came across a question in a discussion group, which went..
“Attachments and expectations are the main reason for suffering and disappointment, It’s easy to say let go of attachments but how in ‘real’ life can we be without attachments and emotions, I mean not everybody can leave our loved ones in the midnight and go to a forest and just meditate under a tree, come on lets be practical, so my question is how to be like Buddha in this modern age?”
This is an interesting question, and one I’ve contemplated myself many times. The question misses something though. There is another element that is required for suffering to take place. As well as EXPECTATIONS and ATTACHMENTS you need PERCEPTION OF REALITY. These are all elements of what is known in spirituality circles as “THE PAIN GAP”, otherwise known as the EQUATION OF EMOTIONS. If we can change our perceptions, which are conditioned into us by the society we grow up in, we can break the pain gap. Our perceptions come from our beliefs and values, which are built on assumptions and inferences rather than facts and evidence. If you don’t believe me, question yourself about your own beliefs and values, where are they from, what are they based on?
As well as dealing with our perceptions of reality, we can work on reducing or removing our EXPECTATIONS for any given situation, whilst reducing or removing our ATTACHMENTS.
Rather than holding any EXPECTATIONS, we should instead embrace a sense of appreciation. Nothing in life is promised, so being grateful is a much healthy psychological position to take.
ATTACHMENTS are, by their very nature, impermanent. The life that you live, the house that you live in, the car that you drive, the relationships that you share, are all destined to end one day. Accepting this fact, while enjoying them while they last is much more pain free than refusing to accept the reality of the situation. Surrendering to WHAT IS, is the sensible thing to do.
If any one of these elements is resolved, PERCEPTION OF REALITY, EXPECTATIONS, or ATTACHMENTS, we can reduce or remove the pain gap (otherwise known as the equation of emotion), which will reduce or remove suffering from our lives.
However ultimately we should aim to do as Thrangu Rinpoche advises in Pointing Out the Dharmakaya.
“We cannot get rid of suffering by saying, “I will not suffer.” We cannot eliminate attachment by saying, “I will not be attached to anything,” nor eliminate aggression by saying, “I will never become angry.” Yet, we do want to get rid of suffering and the disturbing emotions that are the immediate cause of suffering.
The only way to eliminate suffering is to actually recognize the experience of a self as a misconception, which we do by proving directly to ourselves that there is no such personal self. We must actually realize this. Once we do, then automatically the misconception of a self and our fixation on that self will disappear. Only by directly experiencing selflessness can we end the process of confused projection.”