The doctrine of detachment
Prof. AVR Rao advises us to live in the world with a sense of non-attachment as taught by the Bhagavad Gita as well as other spiritual disciplines
Being human beings, it is natural for all of us to seek and have the feeling of belonging. This can broadly take two ways—connection and attachment. Both of these arise from our desire and need to belong. This desire is universal regardless of the status or position of an individual. If you see people who have attachment issues and prefer loneliness, it is not because they don’t like belonging but because they have poor self-confidence, low self-esteem, or unrealistic desires for a romantic relationship. Some people choose to remain emotionally
disconnected from anyone or anything, maybe because of their past trauma, abuse, or negative encounter. They cannot be open, frank, and honest with anyone, be it a spouse or friend.
We live in cities where people are detached and distracted, and most of them feel isolated, neglected, and alone. Routinely, we pass them on the street and form ideas about their condition but do not recognize their internal pain and suffering. One of the main causes of this loneliness is a lack of meaningful connections.
Connection and attachment
Human connection may be understood as the association between two individuals with a high quality of interaction between them. It is something that we may feel when someone speaks to our heart regardless of whether it is a stranger, a familiar person, or even a fictional character. Quite often, we can experience this at the very first encounter. When we feel we belong to one another, our lives are stronger, richer, more joyful, meaningful, and fulfilling.
Connection is easier when we share a sense of common ground, interests, pursuits, and values with others who truly care about us. To reap the positive benefits of connection, we need to strive to find people amongst our well-wishers, who can best meet our taste for communication and affection, and also be that person for others. Connection gives you power; attachment sucks the life out of you.
With regard to personal relationships, attachment is an emotional bond while connection is strictly a business conduit. While connection involves no emotions and is maintained to reap a gain, attachment involves bonding and continues even if there is a loss. Examples of connection and attachment are a business transaction and a filial or conjugal relationship respectively.
Strong attachment involves holding on to people or things dearly, as if you cannot live without them or as if your very happiness and existence depend on them. Attachment to your parents, your wife, your husband, and your best friend is commonplace. It takes longer to begin and end. It is a feeling that you develop with years of presence. At first, we develop little attachments to each other, then as time, opportunity, and trust develop, we allow attachments to sink deeper into each other’s souls. Normally, attachments have mutual benefits.
Attachment comes in various shapes and shades, namely, in three categories: Physical attachment includes an attachment to one’s body, wealth, people, food, pets, and professions. Mental attachment includes emotions, one’s identity and family, religion, status, and power. Spiritual attachment includes God, spiritual leader, beliefs, tradition, culture, and spiritual practices. Since this is a combination of negative and positive features, one has to use the utmost care in balancing, moderating, and using them appropriately or even abandoning some of them.
Loving without attachment
Some people are so afraid of loneliness that they develop attachments in the wrong places to wrong habits and people. They do not try to understand the beauty of another alternative, which is solitude. Well-practised solitude brings assured happiness and contentment, and shields us from the ill effects of loneliness.
It is ideal to develop attachment without expectations because attachments result in breaking the soul if expectations are not met. It is possible to be fully committed to someone or something, without being attached to them. You can avoid being dependent on someone or something without being deeply and emotionally connected. If we want to be in a happy, supportive, loving, and meaningful relationship, it would be much better to love without attachment, not allowing the loved one to control you.
Vicious cycle of attachment
There is a danger in attachment. When we desire objects of the senses, it results in an attachment to them. Lust arises and leads to
anger. Anger leads to delusion, which causes confusion, and it ultimately leads to loss of discrimination. Lack of discrimination makes us lose the ability to choose wisely, resulting in wrong actions and a load of karma, resulting in the continuation of the cycle of births and deaths. The Bhagavad Gita beautifully explains this process and has been widely commented upon. Buddhism and many other religious teachings resonate with this view.
Detachment or non-attachment is a solution. It means not to become enslaved to anything but live like a lotus leaf in the waters of life, without being touched or polluted by it. It is living free from the encumbrances of life and the attractions and distractions it has to offer. This has to be achieved not passively by running away from them but actively by developing self-awareness and equanimity.
Attachment is therefore a fundamental problem, which can be resolved only by cultivating non-attachment through the practice of various disciplines. Here are some suggestions to live a detached life despite living with worldly distractions:
• Abstain from your attachment to your body and bodily cravings like food, clothes, ornaments, and cosmetics.
• Gradually give up attachments to possessions like wealth, positions, status, groups, relatives, and friends.
• Start small, with petty things and habits, and gradually scale up.
• Start with temporary discontinuance from cravings and habits, such as fasting once a week.
• Skip one or two get-togethers or recreational programs once in a way.
• Start observing your thoughts and actions relating to your craving for recognition, influence, dominance, and power. Look for the real motives behind them.
• Change your habits to maintain and enforce perfection and discipline. Stop being a fault finder with others or even with yourself.
• Reduce your material possessions. Start by giving away things which you never use and which simply occupy your storage space.
The only recommended attachment is attachment to our Creator, God. This equips us to give up our attachment to material desires and live happily. A steadfast attachment to God and detachment from all else is the only panacea for all our trials and tribulations in life. The Bhagavad Gita is a treatise on the various assured methods of attaining a state of attachment to God and detachment from all worldly activities. We need not look elsewhere.
Prof AVR Rao is a former company executive who has worked with various multi-national companies for over four decades. He holds double masters degree in philosophy and business economics respectively, and is also a teacher and freelance writer.
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