February 11, 2011


Attachment and solitude as paradoxes of pain

"Buddhism and psychoanalysis have a great deal of overlap," said Robert Paul, during a Feb. 7 lecture on the role of solitude in Eastern religion and Western psychology.

Paul is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Studies, associate professor of psychiatry and a psychoanalyst.

Paul used the life story of the medieval Tibetan yogi and poet Milarepa to illustrate the painful paradox of attachment and its opposite, solitude.

Milarepa suffers much grief and loss early in his life. His beloved mother uses him as a tool for vengeance before she, too, dies.

 After a long struggle, Milarepa finds both happiness and a greater sense of connectedness by living as a hermit.

"A history of traumatic loss underpins the doctrine of non-attachment," Paul said.

He added that Milarepa's story mirrors that of a child who is angered by the betrayal and abandonment of others, before growing up and taking responsibility for his feelings.

"Eventually, you realize that trying to get back at people doesn't make you feel better; it makes you feel worse."

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