"A buddha is someone who sees the way things really are. When we see the way things really are, we see that we're all in this together, that we are all interdependent. A great surpassing love arises from that wisdom, and that love leads buddha to wish that all beings would open to this wisdom and be free of the misery that arises from ignoring the way things are. Buddhas appear in the world because they want us to have buddha's wisdom so that we will love every single being completely and protect every single being without exception and without limit -- just as all the buddhas do." -- Reb Andersen, The Third Turning of the Wheel: Wisdom of the Samdhindirmocana Sutra
I was a bit grumpy yesterday from reading one more wrong-headed web essay about how Buddhism is not really about compassion because it teaches "detachment." Then I read some of Reb Andersen's Third Turning of the Wheel and felt much better.
Ultimately, what Buddhism teaches is that we can't "detach." Detachment is an illusion. Attachment is the other side of the same illusion. Attachment and detachment are rooted in the illusion of a separate self, which causes us to relate to the world in a "me versus everything else" way.
The teachers tell us that when we cease to relate from the perspective of "me" we are non-attached. Non-attachment is not the same thing as detachment. In non-attachment there is neither clinging nor avoiding; we cease to try to manipulate the world to our own ends. In non-attachment there is no separation.
The confused writer also misunderstands "suffering," the English word usually used to translate dukkha although that's not exactly what it means. And he assumes that suffering and pain are the same thing, which ain't necessarily so. Pain is a physical sensation; suffering is how we choose to experience it.
In point of fact, the historical Buddha may have been liberated from the suffering of old age, sickness, and death, but he did not avoid old age, sickness, and death. He got old, and he died of some kind of stomach sickness, possibly food poisoning. From this, we ought to be able to see that to be liberated from suffering means something other than escaping unpleasant things.
In fact, there is no escape. But I'll write about that in the next post.