Ask a Zen Teacher: Does Being Detached Mean Not Caring?



By Daniel Scharpenburg

This is  a regular column where I answer questions that are sent to me. As a spiritual teacher, I am often asked many questions and I’d love to have an opportunity to answer them all.

So, send me some questions. You can send them to:



Q: Does being detached mean not caring?

A: This is something that is often misunderstood when people study Buddhism.

In his teaching on the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha stated that attachment is the cause of our suffering.

This doesn’t mean that we should like or enjoy things. It means, rather, that the things we like shouldn’t dominate our lives. You can own plenty of things, but don’t let things own you.

So, we sometimes say we should cultivate detachment.

What does detachment mean?

It doesn’t mean we should be cold and uncaring. Emotions don’t disappear as we learn to let go. We can just learn to relate to them differently when we understand that they arise and pass, they are impermanent. And that means that a lot less can upset us.

We are all human and great spiritual teachers still have feelings.

But it’s important not to get too tied up in our emotional states if we can help it. It would be good to allow emotions to rise and dissolve in a natural way, to not feed them or fuel drama.

If we can maintain a sense of perspective, that can help us a great deal.

Photo: (source)

Editor: Dana Gornall



Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher in Kansas City. He regularly gives teachings through the Open Heart Project, the largest virtual mindfulness community in the world.

He was trained and certified as a meditation teacher at the Rime Buddhist Center, where he also spent four years teaching kids about Buddhism and meditation practice. He received additional training in the Zen tradition, both as a Monk in the Korean Zen tradition and as a lay teacher in the Caodong Chan tradition.

He has taken Bodhisattva Vows and the precepts of a lay zen teacher.

His work is dedicated to both sharing his own story and presenting a variety of Buddhist teachings in a way that shows how they are applicable to real life.

Find out more about Daniel on his blog and connect with him on Facebook, Youtube,andTwitter

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By | 2016-10-14T07:51:56+00:00 April 11th, 2015|Ask a Zen Teacher, blog, Buddhism, Featured|0 Comments

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