I think teaching students that Patanjali’s kleshas of raga and dvesha or attachment and aversion are the equivalent to “like” and “dislike” does a huge disservice to student comprehension and aiding the development of emotional intelligence and clarity of mind. If you tell students that having likes and dislikes are afflictions of the mind, well…where else do they go from there?! In the next breath, teachers say that we must cultivate positive aspirations/preferences! What a confusion when you just told students having any preferences was a mechanism of affliction and therefore deepening one’s ignorance!
Then come a swarm of commentaries telling students it is okay to be “attached” to your Yoga practice or your guru because it is the “highest” attachment. I think this an incredibly risky teaching. Sure, I think “liking” your practice is grand. But attached to it? Well that is another matter. There is a 99.9% chance students are already attached to their practice to some degree when they begin, along with a load of other things in their lives. And since Yoga and other wisdom traditions constantly point to attachment as being a primary source of suffering, telling students it is “okay” and “helpful” to me, is a bit outrageous. Why add fire to fire? Attachment/clinging causes a fortification of the ego/i-ness and spreads the mental and emotional toxins of greed, anger, violence, jealously, insulation, etc. Not the byproducts we are looking for in our practice.
If we want our “spiritual” practice to reap the benefits we feel are lacking in other areas of our lives, then we have to deeply examine our relationship to our own practice along with everything else. Clearly coming to terms with how we are relating to phenomena is a practice of developing intimacy with how our minds are operating. For example: are we clinging to our spiritual practice for self-fortification? Or are we using it to learn to love, serve, and let go of this self we think we are right now? Are we using it as a tool to explore, understand, train, nurture, expand, with a radical acceptance of it being a temporary fixture that dies when our bodies do? Or are we treating it like an outfit in our closet to wear over our insecurities?
We currently experience ourselves as dynamic beings dependent upon action! So right now, for better or worse, action is part of the deal. So the question is how do we use action, preference, choice to our benefit yogically? So, I do not think attachment/aversion is as simple as having a preferences. Preferences and aspirations do not necessarily cause suffering or negative tendencies. I think clinging does. I view attachment and aversion as a deeper motivation that has the POTENTIAL to inform likes and dislikes. This is why I teach and characterize attachment as an instrument of fear and just another word for clinging or grasping. Attachment is not love. Attachment is not aspiration. Understanding that distinction in our lives is the difference between barely surviving and thriving. Knowing, feeling, living the difference is what allows us to be in our lives and not cling to our lives (and everything we encounter). Developing discrimination on this matter is, I feel, absolutely essential to developing wisdom and compassion and “spiritual” maturity.