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Dependent Origination: Grasping and Clinging

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Teacher: Rodney Smith
Date: 2013-08-27
Venue: Seattle Insight Meditation Center



When the energy of self-formation moves through desire to clinging, there is a dramatic change in intensity. The grasping feels like a compelling need of the organism. We may feel that we must have this experience in order for life to be worthwhile, and we are usually willing to do whatever is needed to obtain it. The energy is very tightly bound to the sense of survival. The Buddha grouped the areas of clinging in four broad categories: (1) pleasurable experiences, (2) views and opinions, (3) rites and rituals, and (4) belief in self. When we see the ferocity of our need to procure and defend our right for pleasure, our personal and political opinions,  the indoctrinated beliefs in our religious views and practices, and the obstinate way we defend our self-image, we begin to understand the entrenched positions our egoic state stands upon.


When an experience moves from wanting to clinging, the mind dramatically increases its tone and focus. Wanting (desire) feels like a compelling alternative to the present while clinging feels more like a survival issue. “I need this to live,” we think.  What pleasurable experiences (a warm shower), views and opinions (life should be fair), rites and rituals (mantra, prayer, homage to God), and belief in self (I should be able to control this situation) do you rely upon that seem essential for the world to work properly and for you to survive as you know yourself? Take the example that life should be fair and everyone should try to help others. When this is ignored, emotionally it feels like something fundamental is being breached.  We shout, “This should not be happening!” but it is and that is reality. Does reality need your righteousness to work properly?  Work to be conscious of the grasping energy and ask yourself from time to time, “Does life need my opinions to work effectively?”


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