ATTACHMENT AND NON-ATTACHMENT
We must learn how to live our lives to facilitate the process of liberation. We should always accept life as a challenge and not be disappointed by anything, for life is simply a vehicle for us. Sooner or later, we will find God or Truth within ourselves. We will realize that we do not exist an individual entities. It is only our ignorance that makes us think that we exist apart from the whole. We need to replace manhood by Godhood, and for this we must become real human beings. We need to realize that we are ancient travelers in this world and that our purpose is to attain perfection.
In the West, there is a widespread fear of losing the ego or personality. Through meditation we find that we can expand the ego, not lose it. We must become large-hearted. We must take in more and more of our fellow beings and the rest of the world rather than identify with the individual, isolated self. We must think of ourselves as travelers temporarily passing through life in this world. We must realize that we are only using this body, these experiences, these material objects temporarily on loan. They are not ours. We are borrowing them. Sooner or later, we will leave them behind. There is nothing to fear; our purpose is not to possess these things but to use them in order to transcend them. This is the truth which goes beyond the law. It is in this sense that Jesus' Sermon on the Mount goes beyond Moses' law for those disciples who are ready. We must learn that our actions are not our personal possessions. We need not be attached to them.
It is of utmost importance to understand the principle of detachment in order to become free from the fruits of our actions. Detachment, or better, non-attachment, does not mean non-enjoyment. Normally, when we perform an action, we are not free from the fruits of that action. For example, when we pray we usually ask for something. This is known as "man-centered" prayer in which demands are made. Even though we are praying, this is not a liberating act, for we are attached to the fruits of our prayer. There is another kind of prayer called "God-centered" which is for the purpose of enlightenment. Examples are "Lord, help me in enlightening myself," or "Help me to attain freedom." However, even in these cases, to consider God outside of ourselves does not help us. It is more important to think that God is within us, so that we see ourselves as an instrument, a son, a servant of the Beloved, of God. In this way, we may approach a prayer as an act of non-attachment.
You may always choose the relationship with God which best suits you. If He is your friend, then you may accept His guidance. If you recognize Him as your guide, then you may know yourself as His instrument. You must have confidence that God is within you. Friends make you lonely because they lead you to seek help from the external world. In order to achieve understanding and self-knowledge through non-attachment, you need meditation. Meditation enables you to perfect yourself all alone. All alone means "all in one." It does not mean lonely. People make you lonely. Only your friend within can help you. Fulfillment comes only from within. Other peopl can give you help but not fulfillment. There is no point demanding love either. By giving love you will receive love in return, but still no one can satisfy you. You alone can satisfy yourself, through the Supreme I. Through meditation, you can allow your I to meet the Supreme I.
It is the rope of karma which binds us and prevents us from realizing this. There are two paths to achieve liberation from this bondage. They are:
On the first path, we say, "I don't want any pleasure which is not practical in helping me achieve my goal. Thus, I choose to lead a monastic life." This is the path for very few. It is a razor's edge. On the second path, we learn to live in the world but to do our actions properly. It is this second path we are going to study, the method of non-attachment.
Normally, we are slaves of our duties. We become attached to our activities and their consequences and thereby plunge further into bondage. If you do something purely out of a sense of duty, then you will understand nothing and make no progress. If you fulfill a desire for your husband or wife out of duty toward him or her, then you will be attached either through resentment or guilt or annoyance or some kind of disturbing emotion. If your duties and actions are not "oiled" with love, you are creating greater bondage for yourself. If you perform your actions out of love, then you are doing them selflessly. This is very easy to understand, for if I do something selflessly for you, then you, not I, will receive the fruits of my action. Learn to do your actions for humanity and to let humanity reap the fruits. This is the way to become free through non-attachment.
Tyagi is the Sanskrit term for one who renounces the fruits of his actions, not the actions themselves. In this world, you must do you actions, but you must do them selflessly and skillfully. Non-attachment does not mean not to love, and it also does not mean indifference and aloofness. Rather, it means to act with love. You should not disturb your life and your mind with attached selfish acts. Life is too short for that. As it is, we spend most of our lives eating, sleeping, talking, and going to the bathroom. We must learn to take life lightly but also to do our duty seriously with love, skill, and selflessness.
It is not the action itself which binds us but the fruits of that action. Action, like a policeman, arrests but does not punish us - the fruits of our actions punish us. Desire is motivated by the fruits of your actions. Do not try to preserve and protect the fruits of your actions by coveting them. All qualities, such as jealousy, hatred, and pride come to you in this way.
We should not seek satisfaction in life, but rather samtosha or contentment. It is the inability to achieve satisfaction in life which finally motivates us to seek liberation. We are, in fact, passing through a phase of dutiful actions to be performed in this life. We cannot live without doing these actions, but by doing them selflessly, skillfully, and lovingly, we can avoid becoming attached to them. This does not mean indifference, for that is mere escapism. We seek escape from our problems when we cannot cope with them. Non-attachment means doing our actions in equilibrium and tranquility, especially when we are offered the fruits of these actions. This is the real trial, for we bind ourselves either when we receive the fruits of our actions or when we are denied them. Through non-attachment, we learn that the true enjoyment of the fruits of our actions comes only when we offer them to God or to humanity. The Upanishads teach that actions which are helpful in the path of liberation should never be renounced.
Understanding the meaning of life. Eating, sleeping, and other natural functions, without an understanding of the purpose of life, makes an animal of man. To be a human being, one needs to know the purpose of life. That purpose is liberation, and liberation can be achieved through non-attachment actions. Any obstacle in life can also become a means to liberation. Whatever gives you pain can also give you liberating knowledge. It is not the objects of the world but our attitude towards them which gives us pleasure of pain. The sanskrit word, dvandvas means "pairs of inseparable opposites." It matters little whether we derive pleasure or pain from an experience; both are equally binding and both are present in varying amounts in all our experiences. In life, we must learn to transform all things which give us pleasure and pain; we must learn to use them to help us in our spiritual progress, not to become disturbed by either.
In order to transform these disturbances we need patience. Unfortunately in the West, patience is sorely lacking. Patience can transform any obstacle into a vehicle. The same breeze which disturbs and puts out a small flame can also turn that small flame into a forest fire.
Nishkamakarma in Sanskrit means "selfless, skillful, desireless love." It is through nishkamakarma that we can transform obstacles and become free from the rope of karma. It is by not fleeing from our actions that we can achieve this. We may seek a monastic life only after we have perfected our self-analysis. We must study ourselves, using our own faculties of discrimination and wisdom. We must learn the reasons for our dissatisfaction with the present known circumstances and for our fear of future unknown circumstances. We must not seek to escape or avoid our actions and duties in this life. When we perform acts for others we are in fact worshipping God in a concrete sense. It is God, not man, who comes first in karma.
Nor should we seek transcendence too quickly. We must first learn how to do our actions before we go beyond them. It is through non-attached actions that we prepare ourselves for knowledge and truth in the form of grace. Kripa is the sanskrit word for kindness or a kind act coming from above; but kripa comes for what you have done. It does not come for nothing and free of charge. John received the revelation because of what he had achieved through his long practice of meditation. He was not simply chosen at random. After you have done your work skillfully, grace will come to you. Grace is not an exception to the law; it follows the law. If you find the heat of the sun is oppressive, you might wish for a miracle of shade; but it will not be forthcoming. If, however, you work diligently and patiently you may nurse a tree until is it large enough to provide the desired shade. The shade may seem like a miracle to others, but you know that it followed only after proper preparation. It is the way with grace. By following the law skillfully you can eventually become free from the bonds of law. All of this comes through non-attachment which means love, not indifference. By following the path of non-attachment life becomes a song, a poem, a play. For this we need patience and courage.
Let us take our example from the sages. A sage it like a tree laden with fruit. If you throw a stone at it, it gives you fruit. No matter what you do to a sage, his response will give you sustenance and will help you. On the other hand, you must guard against a bad man, because he can harm you. When a sage becomes angry with you it is out of love, and his anger will be seen as a vehicle for your progress. Learn to welcome the disturbances which seem to come to you as obstacles. Learn to transform them with patience and courage. Then all of the experiences of your life will seem to you as the responses of a sage who is providing vehicles for your progress.
What is really necessary for examining the trials of life and attaining freedom? A sixteenth-century sage by the name Tulsidasa noted four points to examine in time of need: religion, friendship, patience, and courage. When an obstacle seems to overcome you, see which of these four will really come to your aid. Your religion or beliefs will fail you, your friends will not be at hand, but your patience and your own courage can come to your aid. They are your best friends.
If your desires are not met, consider that there might be a good reason for it. Be patient. Have the courage to rely on yourself and to practice non-attachment. Have the courage to doubt your own doubts before doubting others, to recognize these doubts as the negative parts of your own mind. Act skillfully with love, patience, and courage, and recall that love harbors no expectations from others. Doing something selflessly for others is true love. To do your duty with love is to be like the lotus that remains unsoiled by the mud in which it grows. Learn to live in this world yet be above it. Learn that everything in this world is meany for you to use but never possess.
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