It happened again; another double question:
A reader writes:
If life is suffering and we are supposed to disconnect from attachments, why fall in love or get married?
A caller phoned in a question:
Thanks for the weekly podcast. I try to lead my life considering the philosophy of Buddhism. I recently ended a relationship with a young woman, we had been together for nine months. The decision was not mutual; it was mine. I know I am causing her so much hurt. I do care about her very much, and I am feeling a lot of guilt and sadness for the heartbreak I am causing her. I am causing suffering, but I know that by staying with her I know this would be wrong also. What would be the Buddhist view on this situation?
This is a huge subject, and there’s no way I can cover it adequately, even if I had unlimited space. Also, I’m probably the last person on Earth to ask about relationship advice 🙂
The first question is much easier. There is much suffering in life, but suffering is not something we desire; it’s something to try to eliminate or avoid. Love is a good, positive outlet for us, but does involve some suffering. I’m not sure this is particularly a Buddhist problem, since everyone knows going into a marriage or long-term relationship that “till death do us part” implies some serious suffering later.Buddhism is not a negative thing; go ahead and enjoy life. Just don’t be too invested in expectations.
There is no harm in enjoying the moment and loving others. The suffering comes from aggressively holding on to things that must change. As the second question shows, the suffering comes from the change (the breakup) rather than the loving relationship that precedes it.
As the second caller says in his message, staying with this woman would also be bad. I don’t know the details, so I will have to trust his judgment in deciding that leaving is better than staying. There really is no “winning” in this situation, and the choice to take the road that leads to less suffering is probably the best one. It may be better to take some short-lived, intense suffering right now than try to survive years of drawn out problems later. One could argue that it might be better to have not loved at all, which brings us right back to the first question.
Love is a natural emotion, and if you’re lucky, it just happens. Trying to avoid love causes suffering too. Accept that the suffering will eventually come, and do prepare yourself for it, but don’t try to avoid it completely. Bad things are going to happen, you need some good things to help offset them to make life worth living.
My thoughts on this one are all over the place. Maybe a reader who has been there can offer some advice below.