How can we love others without being attached to them?
Venerable Thubten Chodron

Q: How can we reconcile the Buddha’s teachings on non-attachment with those on love? How can we love others, like our friends, without being attached to them? – C.G

A: Non-attachment is a balanced state of mind in which we cease overestimating others’ qualities. By having a more accurate view of others, our unrealistic expectations fall away, as does our clinging. This leaves us open to loving others for who they are instead of what they do for us. Our hearts can open to care for everyone impartially, wishing everyone to be happy simply because he or she is a living being. The feeling of warmth that was previously reserved for a select few, now can be expanded to a great number of people.

With some people we share many common interests. It’s easy to talk to them; we understand each other well and help each other grow. We may spend more time with these people than with others. They can be our friends without our clinging to them with attachment. The focus of such a friendship is mutual growth, not fulfilment of our selfish desires.

Since it is difficult to free ourselves from attachment, initially our friendships will be a combination of attachment and genuine love. But, being aware of the disadvantages of attachment, we’ll try to eliminate it so it doesn’t cause problems in our relationships. Slowly, the quality of our friendships will improve.

Instead of a “take take” mentality where we view everything and everyone in terms of what we can get from them, we develop a “give give” mentality, thinking of what we can do for others. When we have this attitude, we’re happy whomever we’re with. Others are happy, they like us, and inside our hearts, we’re satisfied, for we know that our lives are meaningful.

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