"Dear ones who endear themselves cause suffering and pain."

Buddha says according to "Life of the Buddha according the Pali Canon":

Dear ones who endear themselves cause suffering and pain.

I understand this to be an application of the sammā-diṭṭhi portion of the 8-fold noble path. However, this statement, left as it is, is simply false. "Dear ones" cause both suffering and joy in equal measure according to my direct experience. We delight in the accomplishments of our loved ones, and suffer with them when they have a setback.

One must work very hard to make this statement true. Complicating matters is that householders have to work with their own intuition that detachment from other human beings, including one's own family, is simply wrong.

I believe that this belief is caused by a misunderstanding of the word "endearment". It means "attachment" here. Attachment in Buddhism is defined by its negative aspects. Attachment itself is a delusion, and the less attached you are to someone the more you can truly love them.

In other words, delusion prevents right action. Attachment (endearment) is a kind of delusion that generates craving and clinging. Craving and clinging harm both the craver and the cravee.

Buddhism is at once simple and subtle, and linguistic problems like these are abundant. When someone new to Buddhism reads something like the above quote, it turns them off to the teaching. What does Buddhism want us to become, uncaring robots that think nothing of others and who go around in poverty, perhaps even abandoning our own families?

The hard truth is that arahants (fully enlightened ones) cannot help but renounce the householders life. Gotema Buddha really did abandon his family (although it must be said that he left them living in luxury with his own family). This sort of extreme behavior, I think, was unique to the Buddha because of his obsession with solving the problem of human suffering, and, if you believe it, because he had to spiritually bootstrap himself into this sort of wisdom. While certainly one must eventually take great risks, one must have the supreme confidence of one doing the Right Thing.

There are limits on how much of the Buddha's life we can accept as a positive example. I am a different person living in a different time and place, of course the particulars of my path are bound to be different!

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