Sword of Discrimination

What is the best way to sever our attachment to material things?

First, we need a good sharp sword, a sword of discrimination, one that cuts through appearance to expose the real. We begin by making a point of noticing how quickly we became dissatisfied with material things and how soon our sensory pleasures also fade into discontent. With persistent awareness we sharpen and hone this sword. Before long, we find that we seldom have to use it. We’ve cut down all old desires and new ones don’t dare to bother us.

Han Shan Deqing

We are endlessly attached to things. We are also so often disappointed. The things we cling to don’t last and also often don’t even meet our expectations. We spend so much time wishing for things that we don’t have…and the truth is that sometimes when we get everything we want, we still aren’t fulfilled.

So, we are attached to material things.

What do we do?

The “sword of discrimination” is a common metaphor in Buddhism. There’s a bodhisattva called Manjushri who is said to represent wisdom and he wields a flaming sword that cuts through ignorance. We can sort of understand this metaphor when we think of the way we might say someone has a sharp focus.

That’s what we’re talking about here. Focus, mindfulness, awareness. We want to train our minds so that our awareness is sharp like a good sword, not dull like a bad one. If our minds are sharp, then we can cut through our ignorance and emotional baggage, we can cut away the things that don’t serve us. Cut away your delusions so you can be in the world as what you really are.

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 Daniel Scharpenburg is a meditation instructor and dharma teacher in Kansas City. He regularly gives teachings through the Open Heart Project, the largest virtual mindfulness community in the world.
Find out more about Daniel on his website and connect with him on Facebook.
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