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Attachment, Death and Suffering

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  • Attachment, Death and Suffering


    I have wanted to write about this for some time, but was too overwhelmed to think clearly.

    In short, my beloved and faithful companion (dog) died on Monday... It was just the two of us, living alone, mostly in solitude. She was a very intelligent German Shepherd, and was my friend and companion.

    I've been working so long and hard on detachment, not self, not mine, unconditional love, no expectations etc...

    Anyway - it all flew out of the window - I was so attached. Her illness was so short. Cancer diagnosed just before Xmas, metastasized, aggressive, unrelenting. I thought we had lost her on 2 occasions. She had surgery the day before Xmas eve, and a 2 kg tumour was removed together with her spleen, and another tumour taken off her shoulder. Her recovery was not easy, and I thought we had lost her again when the wound became infected.

    The worst thing I'm dealing with is the fact that I agreed to euthanase her. After her surgery, (2 days after) she grew another tumour on her neck. 5 days later another one on her thigh, and a few days later a small one behind her ear. The vets all said it was likely that they were all through her organs as well, just like the huge one on her spleen.

    She had spent 3.5 weeks going up and down. Up for a couple of days and then laid low. Medication 3x per day.

    Seeing her so very sick, and in pain, and helpless, did of course cause me suffering. I suffered watching her suffer, with nothing that I could do to ease her struggle, apart from medication to make the passage to death easier.

    I was involved with 4 vets, and they all recommended euthanasia. So I struggled with this in regards to the first precept. I asked and read all I could find on the subject. Dhamma talks and sutta studies. I analysed my motives and intention - no ill will, nothing to gain for me, no chance of survival for the dog, the desire to ease her suffering and to give her a 'good death'. In fact doing this caused me more suffering. Finally as the final test, I was/am willing to accept whatever Karma came to me from this act (mercy). I still feel bad. Though I'm finding it difficult to identify what feels bad and why... I was preparing myself for her eventual death from the moment I brought her home at 8 weeks of age. There are many dangers out here, and the snakes are a major cause of death for dogs. I knew that every moment was precious and that, like all things, our time together was impermanent.

    Ajahn Brahm talked about the need to stop ruminating about decisions once they are done. I made this decision over a period of weeks, and was clear in my own mind and heart that it was the right thing. AB also said that our memories can shape remembrances immediately.. and this is what I am facing right now. My mundane mind is questioning this and trying to fill me with guilt... I find I am quite susceptible to this. And because I loved her so much my decisions and actions were so important.... Everything was made a bit harder because on the day of her death, she was actually feeling better, one of her up days so my mind has latched on to that inserting the idea that perhaps she would have got better... that I made a mistake.. I know it is my misbehaving mind but it is a source of distress.

    Any advice how to manage this in a skilful way?

    Further I am feeling some guilt at the relief I feel underneath it all. Retrospectively, I see how attached and tethered I was to her. So much so that I don't think I'll get another dog. The silence and space now, emphasises how much of an influence she exerted on every single aspect of my life.

    In short I am struggling. I thought I had accepted impermanence and made peace with it... but now it is like impermanence is such an injustice lol... The suffering is still horrible even though I knew it would come.

    Right now I could do with some good dhamma advice from friends.

    Many thanks for listening/reading.



  • #2
    Oh dear Mara. Form is not self. Feelings are not self. Perception is not self. Mental formations are not self. Consciousness is not self.
    Watch the arising and passing of all these in your mind. From this experience you may attain great insight.
    Whatever happens is your good friend.


    • #3
      Take care Mara.....

      Since I am yet to go through something like that, I don't have any personal experience...
      But from the Sutta's we can see Ven Ananda, who at that time was also a stream winner felt when the time came...
      To depart from those that we care about / for, is, dukka...

      Then venerable Ānanda, after entering the living place, and leaning against the door-lintel, stood there crying: “The Teacher will attain Final Emancipation while I am still a Trainee with much to do, he who has compassion for me!”

      Then the Gracious One addressed the monks, saying: “Where, monks, is Ānanda?”

      “This venerable Ānanda, reverend Sir, after entering the living place, and leaning against the door-lintel, stands there crying: ‘The Teacher will attain Final Emancipation while I am still a Trainee with much to do, he who has compassion for me!’”

      Then the Gracious One addressed a certain monk, saying: “Go, monk, and in my name address Ānanda, saying: ‘The Teacher, friend Ānanda, is calling you.’”

      “Very well, reverend Sir, and after replying to the Gracious One, he approached venerable Ānanda, and after approaching he said this to venerable Ānanda: “The Teacher, friend Ānanda, is calling you.”

      “Very well, friend,” said venerable Ānanda, and after replying to that monk, he approached the Gracious One, and after approaching and worshipping the Gracious One, he sat down on one side. While sitting on one side the Gracious One said this to venerable Ānanda:

      “Enough, Ānanda, don’t grieve, don’t lament, were you not warned by me when I declared: ‘There is alteration in, separation from, and changeability in all that is dear and appealing.’ How can it be otherwise, Ānanda, for that which is obtained, born, become, conditioned, subject to dissolution? It is not possible to say this: ‘The Realised One’s body should not dissolve’.

      For a long time, Ānanda, you dwelt near to the Realised One with beneficial, pleasant, trustworthy, and limitlessly friendly bodily actions, with beneficial, pleasant, trustworthy, and limitlessly friendly speech actions, with beneficial, pleasant, trustworthy, and limitlessly friendly mental actions, you have done meritorious deeds, Ānanda, you should devote yourself to quickly striving to be one who is pollutant-free!”


      • #4
        Dearest Mara,

        I am so very sorry to hear this. I, too, lost a good companion of several years this past Monday. I found my little buddy, Peep, on the bottom of her cage, in the corner with her chin resting high. She was a gorgeous little grey budgie who has been with me since she was a chick 8 years ago. I am guessing she fell from her perch during the night and broke her neck.

        I was a bit stunned when I uncovered her, calm, equanimous. I remember thinking dully that I ought to be sad because I loved her very very much. I have a soft spot for birds. So, I got sad. I allowed myself to be intensely sad for about an hour. I washed my face and went to work. I've decided that any further sadness would only be vanity, thinking that my love for her should be mirrored by my mourning. Yes, just a bird. I've had all the same realizations regarding my mother's death a year and a half ago. Most of the tears and wailing were ungenuine, forced and thought to be tribute to my mother. I couldn't let her die and be happy for her release from a long affliction with COPD. It just wouldn't be right to feel relieved for her liberty.

        Long story short; feel whatever it is you feel. Let it happen. When it is done, let it be done. 1 hour, 1 year, 1 lifetime. So long as it is true and genuine. My heart goes to you.


        • #5
          PS Please don't torture yourself with guilt about anything. Feeling guilty for feeling guilty is no way to spend any time. With kindfulness, metta...


          • #6
            Thank-you, Marcia Lots of opportunity for learning here!

            Mahisha, that is a beautiful sutta. It means a lot to me, thank you

            and Jerrod, thanks so much for your kind words. I'm so sorry you lost peep and I'm glad that your attachment is so well moderated. Thanks for the 'kick up the bum' (Australian slang for giving a push when it is needed) re the stupidity of guilt. Also for the honesty in your reactions to your mothers death. I did find moments of contrived grief, and the expectations of others, though mostly I think for me it was attachment to habit. My dogs nickname was 'my shadow'. she was never more than 3 meters away from me (9 feet). Every single thing I did 24 hours every day was accompanied by 'my shadow' - so the ache is the constant feeling of something missing. An important lesson about conditions that breed dependence and attachment and not necessarily conducive to stillness. Now that she is gone - I once again have silence...

            This too shall pass There is much to reflect on

            Thank you my Dhamma friends - thank-you !


            • #7
              You are welcome Mara

              Take care, Mahisha



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