Desirous attachment is a deluded mental factor that observes its object, feels it to be attractive, exaggerates its attractiveness, regards it as a cause of happiness, and desires to possess it. It is one of the principal or root delusions giving rise to suffering and pain.
Desirous attachment sees its object of desire as intrinsically good and as a true source of happiness. For example, if we have a strong craving to eat chocolate, chocolate appears to us to be an intrinsically desirable object. However, once we have eaten too much of it and start to feel sick, it no longer seems so desirable and may even appear repulsive.
This shows that in itself chocolate is neither desirable nor repulsive. It is the mind of attachment that projects onto it all kinds of desirable qualities and then relates to it as if it really did possess those qualities.
THE FAULTS OF ATTACHMENT
When attachment arises in our mind it does not feel harmful; on the contrary, it usually feels beneficial. Therefore, it is important to contemplate repeatedly the faults of attachment and to recognize it as a delusion whose only function is to cause harm:
- When we have strong desire for someone or something, our mind can’t let it go.
- If the object of our desire is not available we feel frustrated or somehow cheated by life.
- If we manage to obtain our object of desire we worry about losing it or someone taking it away. We become jealous and possessive.
- If our object of desire fails to please us or leaves us for someone else we feel disappointed, angry and betrayed, we may even become violent.
HOW ATTACHMENT DEVELOPS
First we perceive or remember an object and feel it to be attractive.
- Then we focus our attention on the object’s good qualities and exaggerate them.
- With an exaggerated sense of the attractiveness of the object we hold it to be desirable, a true cause of happiness.
- We then develop desire for the object, the wish to possess it.
- Finally our desire attaches us to the object so that it feels as if we have become glued to it.
The first three stages of focusing on an object’s good qualities, exaggerating them, and considering the object to be desirable are called ‘inappropriate attention’. Inappropriate attention induces desire, and desire attaches us to the object.
‘We often say, “My mind, my mind.” But if someone were to ask us, “What is your mind?”, we would have no correct answer. This is because we do not understand the nature and function of the mind correctly.’