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Enlightenment–Thinking About Attachment


C.R. writes…

Enlightenment: the action or state of attaining or having attained spiritual knowledge or insight, so says the dictionary.

Non-Attachment Enlightenment

The concept of enlightenment today sometimes reflects the view that an awareness which frees a person from the cycle of rebirth, enlightenment is largely about non-attachment.

Attachment is prison, meditation and nothingness are the key to enlightenment.

Non-attachment is the highest state of being and total enlightenment.

Letting go is the way to go.

Practice enlightened mindfulness, not attachment.

And the famous: If you love something, let it go. If it returns, it’s yours; if it doesn’t, it wasn’t. If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.

Some have adopted the view of enlightenment identified as the state of non-attachment. For the most extreme, it is a knee-jerk position to view non-attachment as good, and attachment as poisonous, or at least an utterly lowly way of being, at best.

You can’t be enlightened if you are attached. Or can you?


Volunteerism and actively engaging with and working with others in need or not, can bring a different kind of enlightenment.

The attachment kind of enlightenment is closer to a the Biblical view, which is doing good for and with others.

Attachment-Enlightenment (in America), includes helping your neighbors, think 18th century American and today’s Amish barn-raisings, a variety of various neighborhood watches in small communities all across the country, Orthodox-Jewish free lending Gemachs, charities, and community-based volunteer rescue teams and ambulances, and so on.

Attachment-Enlightenment might also refer to helping those who are disadvantaged, different, or farther from home. Building houses for the homeless, giving food to the hungry, and teaching people to become (more) self-sufficient. Volunteering your special talents and skills, such as the plastic surgeons of Operation Smile who volunteer to help children with cleft lips or palates.

Achievement-Attachment Enlightenment

There’s a kind of enlightenment that lives with intense attachment to development of self (and doesn’t always or even usually exclude helping others.) It’s based on classic European liberalism and American ,which birthed the American republic and the dream of freedom to pursue happiness for each individual.

This evolved from the European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasizing reason and individualism rather than blindly following tradition and which led to, in part, the founding of America. (Descartes, Locke, Newton, Kant, Goethe, Voltaire, Rousseau, Adam Smith, and so on.)

Attached and Non-Attached Enlightenment

Is there a path to enlightenment that combines attachment and non-attachment? That is, being fully engaged in life while at the same time not letting fulfilled or unfulfilled expectations define your emotional response to life.

I think there could be.

It would require thoughtful maturity without the nihilism of some kinds of enlightenment.

It would express love for others without the denial of individuality.

It would seek occasional bliss, but not at the expense of others.

It would value each human being as an expression of Creation, yet understand that although we should and must help each other, each person has to begin somewhere, and often that is with self.

It would meditate, pray, even drink green tea, but learn how to diffuse anger and vanquish hate.




Enlightenment–Thinking About Attachment

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2015). Enlightenment–Thinking About Attachment. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Oct 2015
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