Today I hosted a Spiritual Discussion on impermanence and attachment. Through the discussion and conversation, I think we found a potential way of limiting attachment in our day to day lives- something that’s practical, simple, achievable, probably already used by many people, and effective.
Real quick- based on our discussion, we came to a definition of impermanence as changing states (pretty obvious ik). For example: relationships with parents are impermanent because they change in nature over time, from childhood to adulthood, people treat their parents differently and vice versa. Then, we said that attachment was an affliction or longing for one of these impermanent states. Ex: Being attached to a car in its new state versus when its unusable. People can be attached to many temporary states- wealth, success, love, fame, products, relationships, personal features, and so on.
From the discussion, we came across a way to limit attachment. Our idea was to think of all possible scenarios in the next time step (next day/month/year or more)- all contingent scenarios, especially the worst ones, that could occur after the temporary state. For example: imagine you’re the owner of a business, and business is booming. One option is to be attached to that temporary state of success. Another option however is to think of all possible scenarios in the next time step that could occur: recession, fraud, employee backlash, product malfunction, lawsuit, etc. Without even taking steps to prevent the future states, you’ve recognized the possibility of impermanence.
This exercise mentally divorces the person from an attachment to the current state because they’ve already shifted their mindset to the future state, possibly even spread out over dozens of future states. In doing so, there’s been preparation for the inevitable impermanence. However, it’s still possible to live and act in the present and keep that relationship to the current state, but the attachment to it is reduced because it no longer becomes reality- reality is split over many different states in this mindset. There’s no longer attachment to that one state because it has cognitively ceased to occur, and there’s not an attachment to the future states because they have yet to occur.
My goal over the next few weeks is to try this way of thinking on different things I’m attached to: my friends, relationships, family, home, school, products, clothes, etc. One thing that helps is writing down these future scenarios related to the object of attachment. For example: If I was very attached to my laptop, I’d write the possible scenarios from worst to best: there’s a world in the future where someone could steal it or I lose it or I drop it and destroy it. Or, its hardware simply deteriorates and it stops working and all my files become inaccessible…. something like that.
Let me know your thoughts on this little experiment!
Reasoned and Applied by Sohum Daftary | Engineering and Wharton Class of 2019