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Thread: Letting go

  1. #1
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    Letting go

    One of the central tenets of Buddhism is 'Letting Go', I think this is an area where there can be much confusion and mis-understanding

    This is Gil Fronsdal's short take on it

    What do you think ?

  2. #2
    Forums Member daverupa's Avatar
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    Jan 2011
    I'm sometimes very frustrated with this text-centered medium of communication; it can become so difficult to understand what others mean just as a conversation gets into intricate & interesting areas. People will do whatever they do, take up whatever practice they stitch together, and these days I try to recognize whence my own unique point of view on these topics; it helps to remember that my approach(es) involve a very particular context (which, by the way, adds yet another layer of difficulty with respect to communicating subtle matters of practice).

    I think it's useful to primarily discuss a given motivation to practice, rather than one or another contemplative method, at first. The chosen goal(s) is what guides the effort, and being clear on this clarifies a lot of discussion; it's a more essential place to begin than I first thought, in fact.

    Now, defining the problem is in fact what the First Truth does; so, it's the obvious place to begin a discussion among Buddhists, but 'dukkha' and 'dukkhanirodha' can get different interpretations. Divergent methods immediately appear; people disagree about practice in subtle ways & not-so-subtle ways. Everyone takes the fabric they can, and stitches it together as best they can - but they're doing it for a reason, and this is more important to understand in each individual case.

    Here, I would wonder why "letting go" sits in one or another set of practices for someone; this is the sort of thing that's so much easier to talk about in person, you know...? ...but, the question for me revolves around why "letting go" - however understood - is seen as valuable. I wonder if people can put this into their own words... I'll be thinking on it...

  3. #3
    I didn't think the short Gil Fronsdal talk was all that helpful because there wasn't any wider Dharma context. Maybe it was an excerpt from something longer.

    Personally, I say to myself mentally "Let it go" if I notice that I'm engaging in obsessive thinking, (which often = attachment/clinging = "I want something to be different" = dukkha), or in meaningless mental chit-chat ( i.e. papanca ), and being aware of that brings me back to the here and now . I think what Ajahn Chah had to say in this response to a question from a monk about mindfulness is useful, but maybe not so easy in the early stages of practice:

    Q: I still have very many thoughts. My mind wanders a lot even though I am trying to be mindful.

    Answer: Don't worry about this. Try to keep your mind in the present. Whatever there is that arises in the mind, just watch it. Let go of it. Don't even wish to be rid of thoughts. Then the mind will reach its natural state. No discriminating between good and bad, hot and cold, fast and slow. No me and no you, no self at all. Just what there is. When you walk on alms-round, no need to do anything special. Simply walk and see what there is. No need to cling to isolation or seclusion.

    Wherever you are, know yourself by being natural and watching. If doubts arise, watch them come and go. It's very simple. Hold on to nothing. It is as though you are walking down a road. Periodically you will run into obstacles. When you meet defilements, just see them and just overcome them by letting go of them. don't think about the obstacles you have passed already. Don't worry about those you have not yet seen. Stick to the present. Don't be concerned about the length of the road or about the destination. Everything is changing. Whatever you pass, do not cling to it. Eventually the mind will reach its natural balance where practice is automatic. All things will come and go of themselves.

  4. #4
    I only had time to watch the first few minutes of this video of Ajahn Brahm talking about how to let go of difficulties in ones life in "Four Ways of Letting Go."

    He said: " At the very least for the compassion of your family and the people you work with, please try to train your mind to be able to let go, in order to be peaceful and happy.

    Perhaps if someone else has time to watch more of it, they could provide some feedback & their own opinions.

  5. #5
    Forums Member deepwaterdog's Avatar
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    May 2015
    Like, "just let go", I often say to myself, "leave it". Leave it in the past or leave it for the future to unfold, but other than this exact moment, "just leave it". It seems to work for me most of the time.

  6. #6
    Forums Member Gaedheal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka View Post
    I only had time to watch the first few minutes of this video of Ajahn Brahm talking about how to let go of difficulties in ones life in "Four Ways of Letting Go."

    He said: " At the very least for the compassion of your family and the people you work with, please try to train your mind to be able to let go, in order to be peaceful and happy.

    Perhaps if someone else has time to watch more of it, they could provide some feedback & their own opinions.

    Very good. Thank you.

  7. #7
    Today I came across this essay by Piya Tan about "Letting Go".

    Its 3 small pages and begins:

    Many people think that the Buddhist teaching of “letting go” is difficult to practise,simply because we must give up what we desire most. First, we need to understand what “letting go” really means. Here, “really” does not mean how I define it, but rather how we see it. (Here “we” actually means “you,” meaning that I try to imagine myself in your position, so that I can write a helpful reflection.)

    So, what is it that we find hard to let go of? Let’s begin with something mundane: unrequited love. Say, there’s someone we are in love with, but that person rejects us despite all our more-than-usual overtures and sacrifices. Or, perhaps, we have been loving someone, but then we broke up.

    When our love for someone is unrequited, it is painful for various reasons. The most common feeling is that we have failed to win over someone, or that the other person is being unfair to us. Breaking up is also painful because we have to move out of a comfort zone, and now we have to re-chart our life.

    One effective way of dealing with such a loss or sense of failure is to simply deal with it. But to do this, we must define and accept what is troubling us: anger, fear, loneliness? Perhaps, we can define that pain as “I feel that I’m a failure.”

    We can go one of two ways from here. The first is a method called “labelling.”” We resolve our frustration by labelling it, thus: “Feeling, feeling, feeling.” We say this in a calm manner, or whenever we feel like doing it. That’s all it really is, a feeling, “No big deal ... .” Make up a few sentences or phrases that we can work with.

    CONTINUED at the link:

  8. #8
    I'm reviving this topic to post more on the same subject from Ajahn Sumedho, on page 22 of his booklet "The Four Noble Truths".

    Letting Go

    If we contemplate desires and listen to them, we are actually no longer attaching to them; we are just allowing them to be the way they are. Then we come to the realisation that the origin of suffering, desire, can be laid aside and let go of.

    How do you let go of things? This means you leave them as they are; it does not mean you annihilate them or throw them away. It is more like setting down and letting them be. Through the practice of letting go we realise that there is the origin of suffering, which is the attachment to desire, and we realise that we should let go of these three kinds of desire. Then we realise that we have let go of these desires; there is no longer any attachment to them.

    When you find yourself attached, remember that ‘letting go’ is not ‘getting rid of’ or ‘throwing away’. If I’m holding onto this clock and you say, ‘Let go of it!’, that doesn’t mean ‘throw it out’. I might think that I have to throw it away because I’m attached to it, but that would just be the desire to get rid of it. We tend to think that getting rid of the object is a way of getting rid of attachment. But if I can contemplate attachment, this grasping of the clock, I realise that there is no point in getting rid of it – it’s a good clock; it keeps good time and is not heavy to carry around. The clock is not the problem. The problem is grasping the clock. So what do I do? Let it go, lay it aside – put it down gently without any kind of aversion. Then I can pick it up again, see what time it is and lay it aside when necessary.

    You can apply this insight into ‘letting go’ to the desire for sense pleasures. Maybe you want to have a lot of fun. How would you lay aside that desire without any aversion? Simply recognise the desire without judging it. You can contemplate wanting to get rid of it – because you feel guilty about having such a foolish desire – but just lay it aside. Then, when you see it as it is, recognising that it’s just desire, you are no longer attached to it. So the way is always working with the moments of daily life. When you are feeling depressed and negative, just the moment that you refuse to indulge in that feeling is an enlightenment experience. When you see that, you need not sink into the sea of depression and despair and wallow in it. You can actually stop by learning not to give things a second thought. You have to find this out through practice so that you will know for yourself how to let go of the origin of suffering.

    Can you let go of desire by wanting to let go of it? What is it that is really letting go in a given moment? You have to contemplate the experience of letting go and really examine and investigate until the insight comes. Keep with it until that insight comes: ‘Ah, letting go, yes, now I understand. Desire is being let go of.’ This does not mean that you are going to let go of desire forever but, at that one moment, you actually have let go and you have done it in full conscious awareness. There is an insight then.

    This is what we call insight knowledge. In Pàli, we call it ¤àõadassana or profound understanding. I had my first insight into letting go in my first year of meditation. I figured out intellectually that you had to let go of everything and then I thought: ‘How do you let go?’ It seemed impossible to let go of anything. I kept on contemplating: ‘How do you let go?’ Then I would say, ‘You let go by letting go.’ ‘Well then, let go!’ Then I would say: ‘But have I let go yet?’ and, ‘How do you let go?’ ‘Well just let go!’ I went on like that, getting more frustrated. But eventually it became obvious what was happening. If you try to analyse letting go in detail, you get caught up in making it very complicated. It was not something that you could figure out in words any more, but something you actually did. So I just let go for a moment, just like that.

    Now with personal problems and obsessions, to let go of them is just that much. It is not a matter of analysing and endlessly making more of a problem about them, but of practising that state of leaving things alone, letting go of them. At first, you let go but then you pick them up again because the habit of grasping is so strong. But at least you have the idea. Even when I had that insight into letting go, I let go for a moment but then I started grasping by thinking: ‘I can’t do it, I have so many bad habits!’ But don’t trust that kind of nagging, disparaging thing in yourself. It is totally untrustworthy.

    It is just a matter of practising letting go. The more you begin to see how to do it, then the more you are able to sustain the state of non-attachment.

    Any thoughts ?

  9. #9
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    Mar 2017
    There's a useful phrase when analysing literature called 'suspend my disbelief'. The theory is that many stories have elements that seem pretty unlikely- things happen which are outside our immediate range of experience, or which seem to be extremely doubtful to us, or are even in the realms of fantasy. How, then, does the writer suspend our disbelief that such things could happen? Obviously there are many techniques at the writers disposal, and when it is done well, our disbelief is suspended and we get on with enjoying the book, or film, or whatever.

    When reading non-fiction I try to do the reverse which is 'suspending my belief' for a while, particularly if I have some background knowledge already which I assume to be the 'real' facts of the matter. It's like playing devil's advocate in that I like to look at both sides of the matter in hand in a disinterested way, as if I had no prior knowledge and nothing of personal importance rested on the outcome. I like to ask 'what if' such views were correct. What would it mean for me and the world?

    I think that 'letting go' can be something like these processes, especially if we are looking inwards at out own beliefs and emotional responses. That the process of suspending our beliefs for a while allows us to come back and look at them in a new way, with a different kind of attachment which brings in disinterest rather than the uninterest that many assume non-attachment to entail. At least until you understand that you gain far more by letting go than you lose.

  10. #10
    Forums Member Olderon's Avatar
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    Concord, New Hampshire, U.S.A.
    Hi, Aloka.

    My favorite sutta in this regard, letting go, is The Angulimala Sutta, where Buddha points out to the serial killer / bandit that his assertions that if he truly wants to stop murdering, is stop. The only way to stop is to stop. It is not enough to say that he wants to stop. Even so, to promise that he will stop, but the only way to truly stop is to stop. Just so with letting go. The only way to let go is to "let go".

    Angulimala Sutta:

    With respect to your notion of leaving those things to which we are attached alone, untouched, unadjusted, by just not tampering with them, not fiddling nor bumping against them with limb or mind, it is the same. The situation is analogous to touching an aching tooth with your tongue. You don't want to hurt, be in pain, but for some reason you cannot resist touching the aching and sore tooth. The only way to avoid the pain is to resist touching it, and the pain will go away until you can see the dentist.

    Buddha also had this to say in that regard as it relates to mental equanimity:

    Here, monks, a disciple dwells pervading one direction with his heart filled with equanimity, likewise the second, the third and the fourth direction; so above, below and around; he dwells pervading the entire world everywhere and equally with his heart filled with equanimity, abundant, grown great, measureless, free from enmity and free from distress.
    — Digha Nikaya 13
    The Four Sublime States:

    It is with an unperturbed mind settled in equanimity that we can truly let go of all desire, judgement, and any ego driven compulsions to control or direct. Much like you proposed in your OP.

    Thanks for broaching the topic.

    Last edited by Olderon; 04 May 18 at 13:45.

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