When I was young I was taken to China. They sometimes took me to shops. There were very nice toys and other interesting things. This is nice, that is great, everything is fascinating, but of course you cannot buy everything.
If you give in to your desire completely it can lead to stealing, because you cannot afford to buy everything. Of course some people steal out of need, but it also happens because of too much desire.
Now, when we think about these things and say; “look at that, so nice, so desirable,” is it really that? Of course, there are nice things. But basically what is desirable and undesirable has very much to do with our own mind.
It is an idea that we create. If everyone says; “this is very desirable, this is very good,” then collectively everyone agrees that it is desirable, and good. So desire for certain things is something that we create, something that our society creates.
It is also important to be aware the thing that seems desirable, in another way, can be undesirable. There are things which attract our mind totally, that cause us to be completely captivated, and that becomes attachment. When we are overpowered by attachment we lose our freedom.
It has also to do with the way we see, how we think. It is not the object that makes us like that, but how we react to the object that makes us lose our freedom. Our mind, overpowered by attraction or too much desire, over values the quality of the object.
For example, a diamond; these days there are many fake diamonds made so well that they look like the real thing. So if I take the fake diamond to be a real diamond, I think it really is a real diamond. I view the thing I am attracted to as a hundred percent good, but actually it is not like that. The way it is, and the way my mind sees it, are different.
Now you could say that your loving kindness, your compassion for beings is also something desirable. Is that not attachment? But I do not want to give up on these beings because I have compassion for them. From that point of view it is similar. My mind does not want to give up on sentient beings.
But now the difference is, when you are attracted to something, then the way your mind works is to think; “I like it, I want it.” You have so much desire that you cannot control yourself. You have lost your freedom to choose.
But when we have compassion and love for sentient beings, it is a little bit different. Here the question is, why do you love sentient beings, why do you have compassion? You have many genuine reasons why you do not want to let go of them, why you do not want to forsake them, such as; “they have been very kind to me in many different ways.”
Because of certain genuine reasons you love people and have compassion for them. It is a choice that you make. It is a free choice. You have the freedom to like these people. You do not want to give up on them. Not giving up because of loving kindness is very different from the clinging of attachment.
With attachment there is a very strong holding on tight, a strong feeling that you cannot let go. But with compassion and loving kindness it is not like that. It is a much more open and free, a very warm feeling.
Most of you are householders, so you all have to face the challenge of attachment. When we say that attachment is something negative, it doesn’t mean that every kind of desire or attachment is something bad, that everything you are attached to has to be given up. Sometimes people think; “I should not be attached to things, so I have to give up everything, give up everybody.” That is wrong. That is not what we are saying. We are saying that we have to base our relationships and attachments on things for the right reasons. It happens that you get fully into something and then you can’t get out of it. This brings problems and suffering and pain. That is not what we want.
Sometimes you get involved with a relationship without understanding the correct way to behave, then it is very difficult to get out of it. This creates a lot of problems for both sides. If you look deeply, I think then you can understand, and you can make good relationships harmoniously without any problem.
There is a story that I remember. It is said there was once a couple, not doing very well together. They were not even talking to each other. One day, the man wrote a note to his wife saying; “please wake me up at 8 o‘clock.” Then he went to sleep, and of course he overslept. It was already ten when he woke up. He found another note next to his note, and it said; “you must wake up now. It is already 9.30.”
It does not mean we should avoid relationships, but relationships should not become a source of suffering. They can be a source of great happiness. The way we comprehend things makes all the difference.