Attachment to Ideals

Ajahn Jayasāro

Attachment to Ideals

The attachment to an ideal can be so intense that people are willing to kill or die for it. This kind of feeling is valued because it gives meaning and purpose to our lives and relieves for a while the drag of petty concerns.

But it also robs us of discernment and we need to refine this type of love carefully with wisdom to avoid becoming a victim or a pawn of skilful manipulators. In a conflict, if we are convinced we are good, right, pure and the other side is evil, wrong, impure, we have lost our way. People who are utterly convinced they are right are already on the wrong track. Thinking in terms of us vs. them, white vs. black, good vs. evil, is like a disease that has caused untold suffering in the world.

Empathy, the antidote to this childish way of looking at things, does not, as is sometimes thought, cripple action but makes it more intelligent. Demonizing others, or simply refusing to cede them their humanity, leads to cruel, intemperate actions that eventually rebound on the perpetrators. Self-righteousness is a form of intoxication.

Seeking to understand people and situations leads to measured responses. When someone tries to persuade us to hate or look down on those with viewpoints different from our own, that person is not being a “good friend” (kalyanamitta). He or she is acting as a “bad friend” (papamitta), one who leads us in unwholesome directions.

Once we adopt a way of thinking or philosophy, we should check its rightness with the power of Dhamma. Does it, for example, seem as reasonable when our mind has been calmed through meditation as it does when our mind is inflamed?

This reflection by Ajahn Jayasaro is from the booklet, On Love, (pdf) pp. 4-5.