Let it go!
Modern man has mastered the art of acquisition but is less proficient at the other half of the equation, which is to learn to let go, says Suma Varughese
So much of our misery comes out of loss and fear of loss. The moment we fall in love and are assured of the other’s love, the clock starts ticking and our mind starts working: What if the other should cease to love me? We buy the vehicle of our dreams, and in the midst of our euphoria butts in a most unwelcome thought: What if something should happen to it? At a deeper level, the moment a couple gets a child, fear of anything happening to the little one embeds itself in their consciousness lifelong. As I write this, the weather in Mumbai is delightfully cool and rainy, but every now and then, my mind quails at the impending October heat that will leave me a sodden perspiring mess. And so it goes.
In today’s times, we have mastered the art of acquisition. There is seemingly no limit to our desire for power, fame, wealth, and possessions. Sadly, the one thing we don’t factor in is that we live in an impermanent world. Everything arises to pass away. So we cannot count on anything lasting, not even our lives. Therefore, in order to retain our peace of mind, we must learn the other half of the equation, which is to let go.
In this shifting, changing world, every day may bring us an occasion to let go. After sipping tea from your very favourite mug, you set it down on the kitchen platform with a thud, and before your very eyes, the cup cracks. Or you drop a spoonful of rice and dal on your best shirt by mistake, and you now have an indelible haldi (turmeric) stain. Or the beautiful blue and white porcelain dinner plate from a set your mother left you when she passed on slips out of your hand and crash-lands on the ground, breaking your heart into smithereens as well. Your children are leaving home to study in another town or, perhaps, another country. A cherished role is coming to an end. And you must learn to let it go. Or you find your first strand of grey hair. Alas, youth is pirouetting away, and you must let it go. A beloved friend or relative dies, and that relationship must, in time, be grieved and released.
Many spiritual traditions have rituals designed to help us recognise the wisdom of letting go and to stay attuned to the cycles of time that take away some things and bring in others. In the Hindu tradition, the four stages of human existence (ashramas) are studenthood (Brahmacharya), householdership (Grihastha), retirement (Vanaprastha), and, finally, renunciation (Sanyas). As the householder moves into his 50s or 60s, he and his wife divide their property among their children and take off into the forest. How wise to let go of the roles one plays in life and prepare for the final exit.
Even the annual visitations of deities like Ganesh or Durga that end in visarjan, or water burial, is a lesson in accepting impermanence. Buddhist monks regularly create the most exquisite mandalas out of powder, only to wipe them away. That too is to help them to let go.
Letting go frees us of attachment and, eventually, of the ego which identifies itself with roles, possessions, and relationships. The more we let go, the more essential we become spiritually, until the day dawns when the Divine wills that we wing it, free of all attachments. Aah, liberation!
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