Obsession, Desire, Romance And Their Meaning In Buddhism

smiling monk contemplates desireLord Buddha once said:

“Grasping at things can only yield one of two results: Either the thing you are grasping at disappears, or you yourself disappear. It is only a matter of which occurs first”

This is certainly something that I would consider well worth pondering, especially now when we are living in a consumer culture that seems obsessed with a burning desire for more and more possessions and achievements. Not to mention our sex obsessed society’s seemingly unquenchable desire for more and more empty, vapid sexual conquests.

But what does this quote really mean? It’s something that scholars and philosophers have been thinking about for centuries now… So I thought – why not share my thoughts on the meaning of this clearly very meaningful quote.

Obviously, the idea is that obsessing over things, people etc… is not a good idea, as it will inevitably lead to great suffering. When we cling to things in an anxious way this is setting us up for disaster. Let’s look at clinging in the context of a romantic relationship. When a man and a woman first meet, they may feel a completely natural sexual desire for each other. As a result of these natural, and healthy feelings they may choose to start spending time together, dating and so forth, no problem there.

The problem occurs when one of the parties in the relationship becomes overly obsessed with the other, to the point where they are spending time anxiously worrying about the possibility that they may “lose” this relationship that they have started. Interestingly enough there is even a training program for men that teaches guys how to get women to obsess over them, so that they can attract the women and keep them around. Pretty shocking stuff I know. If you are interested you can read more about it in this Obsession Formula review that has been written about it.

Why is this type of obsession so unhealthy? A couple of reasons… First, there is the fact that you can push away the person who you are obsessing over. I think that we are probably all pretty familiar with the concept that “clingy” behavior is unattractive in the context of romantic relationships, or any social or business relationship for that matter.

So when the Lord Buddha says “the thing you are grasping at disappears” I think that this is what he is talking about – the fact that your obsessive way of being pushes the object of your obsession out of your life.

But what does the Lord Buddha mean when he says “…or you yourself disappear.” Basically, what I think that he means here is that by obsessing over something, you can lose yourself. You may have experienced something like this when you were younger. Perhaps you found a new romantic partner who became the focus of your entire live. Maybe it felt like the sun rose and set over her or him. You stopped hanging out with your other friends, and stopped enjoying your hobbies and the other parts of your life that gave your life meaning. Can you see what I am getting at here? Getting obsessed with a lover, a job, a goal, or anything else is really no way to go through life.

Sure, it’s fun to get “excited” about things in your life. Focusing our attention on the things and people in our lives that we enjoy most makes a lot of sense, but we need to be mindful that this “excited focus” doesn’t become an obsession. We can do that by periodically taking a step back, going into our heart caves, and getting a little bit of healthy, detached perspective.