Loving and liking
some years ago, when I was still a Mae Chii, a German long term Yogi, told me: liking is not the problem, it is only the attachment that is problematic.
Although I had many years of Zen practice as a lay person, and had some idea about the Dhamma from reading zen stories, I respected her comment as most probably correct and would not have said any thing against it even though my guts told me there is something wrong in this statement. But she was familiar with Theravada and vipassana since long, an authority so to say.
Today this instance came to my mind again. During the past weeks I am pondering about liking, disliking, love, attachment and the letting go of it all.
Yesterday on alms round I passed a certain place on the mud street and a wonderful scent caught my attention. So sweet and fresh and lovely, so healthy was the odor, like an aroma therapy, easing, filling with joy. I came to an hold and took some deep breaths to inhale the good aroma. It was so lovely, I loved it so much that I thought again of it during the day, I even thought about putting it into a poem. Then, in the evening, I had not written but forgotten about it.
This morning, when I approached the same spot, a few meters, before I got there I remembered the good smell and opened my olfactory senses and my heart and took a deep breath in expectation of the scent. What I smelled instead was cow dung and there was disappointment. I passed the spot, could not make out the good smell. I didn’t really think anything but I was aware of the slight frustration.
On the way back I passed the same spot. I had not thought about it in the meantime but when I approached the place, I reacted in the same way as before. In anticipation of the good aroma I sniffed carefully, and noticed sniffing and noticed that I had learned out of the cow dung experience to be more careful. Then I noticed the aroma was just not there and with every step I took which took me further away from the spot I could notice the disappointment grow. And then I remembered the above sequence, the sentence ‘Liking is not the problem, the attachment is’ and knew what is wrong with it: It is just not applicable to daily life when one is not an Arahant or a non-returner. I was lucky that I could be slowly and mindful walking through this cold but beautiful winter morning. I could feel the little gravel hurting the soles of my feet, could hear the birds sing beautifully and see the sun coming over the top of the mountain, shedding its light on the different shades of green, smell cow dung etc. and see parts of the mental proliferation of this deluded mind. In other life circumstances it would not have been possible.
In fact, the attachment is the major problem, but still – every liking, loving, triggers almost instantly and automatically attachment. That we are not aware of this happening does not mean it does not happen. When we are not aware of it we can’t stop this process going on. Hence the whole process of the dependent origination takes its course. With contact comes feeling, with feeling comes craving, with craving becoming (becoming is a totally unsatisfactory translation of the word bhava, but language is limited… it could be it more like the power, the force that makes becoming possible, like a motor which keeps the samsaric circle spinning), with becoming comes birth and with this the whole mass of suffering.