What is detachment, and how do we become detached?
Detachment is often mistaken to mean we don’t care, or we don’t feel compassion, or we are lazy. This is not detachment! True detachment means we are not disturbed by external events, or material thoughts and emotions. And the reason why we are not disturbed is because of our deep connection and attachment to the Lord. As Lord Krsna says in the Gita: “Such a liberated person is not attracted to material sense pleasure but is always in trance, enjoying the pleasure within. In this way the self-realized person enjoys unlimited happiness, for he concentrates on the Supreme.” (BG 5.21)
Having inner detachment is powerful because if we are convinced of doing some action, we will pursue it whole-heartedly, but without being attached to the result. If we succeed, that is fine, and if we don't, we will either try again or move to something else. We are attached to doing our best and at the same time we let go of the result. Wonderful!
So how can we develop detachment and enjoy the pleasure within?
First and foremost, to develop detachment requires higher knowledge. In the Bhagavad Gita, we see Arjuna, the greatest warrior on the planet, crying on the battlefield due to attachment to his relatives. At that time, Lord Krsna said to him: “Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be. That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul.” (BG 2.12 and 2.17)
The Lord helps Arjuna to become detached from his grief by giving him higher knowledge, knowledge of the soul, and duty, and ultimately, devotion to God. After hearing the words of the Lord, Arjuna regained his inner strength, and became determined to fight! He became detached from his negative beliefs and emotions, and attached to serving Lord Krsna. This is why we must read the Gita. We too can develop detachment from matter and attachment to Krsna.
But, the hardest thing to be detached from are those that we love dearly. We have to practise the art of being attached and detached at the same time. Huh? How is that possible? From Gita (5.29), we hear that only those who understand that everything belongs to God can attain real peace. When we see everything as ours, and mine, then we become controlled by attachment. But when we see our parents as belonging to Krsna, our spouse, family, friends, our car, our house, even our own body, all belonging to Krsna, only then do we not get too attached.
Imagine you are driving someone else’s car, and you have an accident, and the car is badly damaged. How would you feel compared to if it was your own car? Yes, you feel bad, but it’s not the same hurt as if you had been driving your own car. Similarly, when we see everything as ours, we become uncontrollably attached. When someone close to us dies or leaves us, we blame God for taking them away, and we feel devastated. But when we realise that the person belongs to God, and that they were never ours in the first place, then only can we become peaceful.
And at some point, God will come asking for the body you’re wearing right now. Whoa! If you’ve developed detachment, it’s like taking off that coat that you were borrowing and giving it back to the owner. No problems. It’s Krsna’s anyway. But if we’re too attached, it creates unbearable suffering. We must learn to see even our own body as belonging to Krsna.
So, it’s OK to be attached to your loved ones, and be attached to doing your duty, but keep things in perspective: see everything as belonging to the Lord. For true detachment is to understand that nothing belongs to me, but I belong to Krsna. And the way we develop this spirit of detachment is to constantly hear and chant about the Lord in love.
“Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare”
Nitai Kirtan das
Excellent discussion Prabhuji!
Thanks for the lucid explanation...
Your eternal servant,