Do you “agree” or “not disagree”? The end result may be the same but the approaches for the two choices are totally different!
We exist as part of the universe and as influenced by the laws of nature. Do you agree or not disagree? Think about this question and your answer for a moment. Reflect upon it. Then proceed to read further.
Life is a process of “Total Self-control and un-attached active engagement”. It is the essence of Bhagawath Geetha. In this manner of living duality such as like/dislike, friend/enemy, love/hate, etc. cease to exist. Is this way of life – of non-attachment – possible? Or is it only conceptual?
We engage in many activities without even being aware of them. As one practices and becomes proficient in any activity, it appears to become involuntary. Non-attachment is a reflection of the level of perfection achieved with respect to that activity.
Enlightened person remains self-restrained, with a firm sense of purpose with his/her mind and reasoning dedicated to non-attachment. Such a person is friendly and compassionate to all and hates none. Free from self-driven needs and their effects such enlightened person remains equal in composure in happiness and sorrow. B.G. 12. 13,14
The non-attached person is neither disturbed nor disturbs his/her environment or the world. He/she remains free from joy, anger, fear or worry B.G. 12.15
We are afraid to lose the little of what we have. The “little” may be a reality or a perception in the mind. When there is abundance we are ready to give up and share. Non-attachment is a measure of our mindset about the abundance of anything: Abundance of love, caring, generosity, truth, accommodation of others, etc.
Non-attachment brings with it a freedom from fear of any kind. Since we are not afraid we are free to speak the truth, ask the most innocent questions and probe any subject to its ultimate details, to unearth the laws of nature at work.
Attachment is a measure of intimacy with respect to any activity. Non-attachment evolves when the intimacy is reduced. When I look at the shoes as a means to the end, my attachment to the shoes is minimal. I can get in and out of my shoes with the same ease as an ascetic can enter and leave any home, town or country where he is invited as a guest! But I might have difficulty departing the company of loved ones since my attachment is far more intense than that of an ascetic!
Non-attachment evolves when our goal or purpose expands. Caring for one’s needs or caring for the family by themselves does not suggest absence of non-attachment. But relentless emphasis on narrow objectives and personal or self-driven needs is a sure sign of attachment.
We understand from the above, the shades and details of “non-attachment” largely through reflection and analysis. As a result one can say “I agree”. In that frame of mind non-attachment becomes or exists as a natural aspect of life.
When we say “I do not disagree”, then Non-attachment remains a concept limited to mere intellectual exercise. As long as it is conceptual there is a natural anxiety: How does one realize the existence of non-attachment and observe or relate to it in practice, beyond mere intellectual exercise? That is the essence of Spirituality in Practice.
Consider your state of mind when you were in school – from kindergarten onwards. Remember all the numbers, rules, formulae, theorems and laws of mathematics that you learned. At that time you merely accepted them as the truth. These are examples of the eternal truth, the laws of nature. They remain unattached to time, person or event. You merely decided to “not disagree”! Over a period of time and through many examples we instinctively relate to these truths, their meaning, purpose and use.
In the course of life many of us do not grow beyond our immediate self-driven needs and concerns. We use the rules of mathematics but may never explore the truths or the laws of nature at work. Non-attachment remains merely a concept heard of or learned from scriptures.
Whenever non-attachment is not instinctive and implicit in my thought process I see a division between myself as a person (individual) distinct from the universe of which I am part of. Can this duality be eliminated? Can I see the indivisible and expansive nature of “I” as an integrated part of the universe (Thath Thwam Asi)? We have a burning desire to answer these questions and experience this reality. Yet, non-attachment (our natural state) can remain like the glow of the amber in the burning coal covered by a layer of ash. The coal, the heat and the energy all exist. We merely do not perceive them sometimes. We merely “not disagree”!
Meditation, yoga, retreat, rituals like prayer services are all means for learning the principle of “non-attachment” through practice. We see such practice oriented approach in religions to appreciate and embrace non-attachment. Practices of self-denial is common in Buddhist and Jain traditions. Strict pathway ordained in Hindu tradition is listed at the end of this essay.
It is said that when one negates everything that creates attachment through the principle that it is “not something” or “not relevant” or “not connected” to me (Na Iti, Na Iti Bhavam) one ultimately becomes in union with Brahman (state of non-attachment) – Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (700 BC)
When the pleasures of material objects leave us, our mind becomes stricken with grief. On the other hand, if they are voluntarily forsaken, it produces infinite peace and tranquility of mind – Vairagya Shatakam
Volunteering for social causes, care for the needy are examples of activities that promote our understanding of non-attachment. In non-religious settings business meetings and strategy sessions are used where a group of professionals are called away from their daily place of work to focus their attention on larger common goals. Highest level of in-depth study of the laws of nature at work in any field is rewarded with “Doctor of Philosophy”! Through such practices the outer layer of ash – the duality that I am distinct from the rest – is removed.
“Non-attachment” is the reality. Every religion and scripture teaches this fundamental truth in their own unique ways. Each of us is a living example of non-attachment at play – described as the hand of God, divinity, laws of nature, etc. – along with everyone and everything in the universe. I as an individual exist different from others in my mind, conditioned by my thoughts from the moment of birth. We evolve and grow in our comfort with “not disagree” through faith, belief, sustained effort and practice. We transcend from “not disagree” to “agree” through reflection and understanding.
Note: The steps prescribed for evolution in non-attachment in Hindu tradition are as follows:
- Understanding or discrimination between attachment and detachment (Vivekam),
- Commitment for non-attachment (Vairagyam), Indifference to all worldly objects and desires.
- the stair of six steps (Shama Dhamadi Shatgam) –
- Forgiveness or Tolerance (Shama),
- Exercise of self-control (Dhama),
- Patience (Thithiksha),
- Relinquish or separation (Uparathi),
- Commitment (Sraddha),
- Peace (Samadhanam) – and
- Liberation (Mumukshatva).