Yesterday I broke a mug by accident while washing it. The handle touched against a tap and click it detached from the body of the mug. Sad thing really. I’d taken to the mug and mostly always used that one. It was a Queens Coronation memorial mug. Pleasing shape and well yes, a tiny bit kitsch and enjoyed in a tongue in cheek kinda way. All the better for the smile. And all former cherished mugs, and their inevitable deaths, ran through my mind as I retrieved the severed part. Now, determined to keep on using it though in the end the lack of handle will mean I won’t.
Years ago in the kitchen at Shasta, and I remember it like yesterday, I said cheerily to one of our European monks Home is where your mug is. Acknowledging the mug culture within the monastery. At community tea we would all collect our respective mugs, fill with a hot beverage and sip and talk and enjoy. (note: I was in the US and they say beverage. I never use the term normally) Anyway the monk, puzzled, asked What is this mug-is? Well he might ask! Mug-is is as close as one gets to home while living communally. At least true in the early years of monastic training.
Attachments and the cutting of attachments is a much misunderstood teaching in Buddhism. As is the sister or twin of attachment, craving. Pali Tanha – which translates as thirst. If I really thought my home, being comfort and security, resided in my current pet mug I’d be in serious trouble spiritually. And yet, and yet the passing away of the Queen mug is not nothing. There is loss. There is feeling just as when anything or anybody we are attached to, goes away. Effectively dies. So what are we actually saying when we talk about cutting attachments, or that maddening phrase let go! Well, here is good article from BuddhaNet Three Kinds of Desire (thirsting) which certainly sheds light on the breadth of the term tanha. And in the closing paragraph of the above mentioned article comes this:
But we need not continue to suffer. We are not just hopeless victims of desire. We can allow desire to be the way it is and so begin to let go of it. Desire has power over us and deludes us only as long as we grasp it, believe in it and react to it.
This is a subject well worth looking into some more and in the mean time I’ll fill up my metal thermal mug with a hot drink! What on earth I’ll do with myself when that goes west/gets lost I don’t know. It has traveled with me, world wide, for well over a year.