Detachment

"If we are attached, we are frustrated; but if we are detached, we are fulfilled. If we can feel that it is God who is operating in us and through us, as well as in and through the world, then we can be truly free.
— Sri Chinmoy"

The more Light we get from within, the swifter comes our progress and achievement. Each achievement sparks an iota of detachment. But total detachment is something we do not get until practically the end of our journey, after a long period of spiritual practice. Nobody can say he started his spiritual journey with detachment. One can never get detachment all at once. For years, even for quite a few incarnations, one has to concentrate, meditate and do selfless service; then only one can achieve detachment. Detachment is something extremely difficult to achieve, but it is something which we all have to have.

In a family, each member has a responsibility towards the other members. Physical, moral and other kinds of obligations we have as long as we live. The mother has to care for the son because the mother brought the son into the world. The son has to care for the mother because the son feels an obligation, to some extent, to fulfil or please the mother. But often the mother does not truly care for the son, or the son for the mother. When affection or true understanding is missing among family members, immediately we can know that it is lack of concern, not detachment. Lack of concern everybody knows we see it in our day-to-day life. Lack of concern is often mistaken for detachment. But detachment is something far superior to lack of concern. Detachment, not lack of concern, is what a spiritual seeker needs.

Detachment does not mean that we will have no concern for others. Detachment means that we will perform our duties as well as possible, but not care for the results. In detachment we do the right thing in the right way and at the right moment. Everything is done precisely because the Inner Pilot has commanded it. Then, if we go still deeper, we feel that the Inner Pilot is everything. He is the Doer, He is the Action itself and He is the Enjoyer.

Suppose one is an athlete, a runner who has been practising for a long time. Finally he runs in the Olympics and he comes in last. He will say to himself, "I have practised for so many years. How is it that I have stood last?" But now he must be detached. From what? From the fruits of his actions. A runner has to practise with all hope that he will be the winner. He has to get up early in the morning, take various kinds of exercise and do everything else that is necessary to improve his performance. But the result of his actions he has to place at the Feet of God, who is the only Doer.

The supreme philosophy is, "God is the Doer and the Enjoyer," and this is absolutely true. But here on earth, on the physical plane, we definitely have to do what we feel is best. We have to work and do the needful. In every way we have to do our duty as well as we can in order to reach our goal. Sometimes we try to see the result of our work with our mental eye, and our mental eye shows us that the result will be defeat. If we know that the result will not please us, then we find it extremely difficult to work well and with enthusiasm. If success is all that we care for, then naturally we will be discouraged. But at this point we are making a mistake; we do not know the true meaning of detachment. We have to act with hope, enthusiasm and determination, and whatever happens is not our business. When the action is over, it does not remain in our hands. When the result is out, we will be totally detached whether we stand first or last. If we stand first, we will be happy. Again, if we stand last, we will also be happy because we have surrendered the result of our action to God.

Real joy comes if we can feel the moment we begin working that the work itself is the result. Then we don't have to wait for twenty minutes or two months or two years for the result. What we want is the satisfaction that will come only after a few months or a few years, when we reap the fruits of our action. But if we are wise enough, we enter into the work and see that the work itself is joy. First of all, we have to know that out of millions of people on earth, it is we who have been chosen to do this particular job. Then, the moment we start working, we have to feel that the very work gives us what we want. If we want to get satisfaction, joy and fulfilment from any kind of work, then we have to feel the moment we enter into it that the work itself, not the future result, is all joy.

How can we be detached in our work? There are two ways. One way is to feel that nothing remains permanently on earth. No matter how great one is in the human world, nothing remains forever — nothing. Name and fame will all be buried. We can claim nothing as our very own, not even ourselves. Today I use the terms "I, my, mine". But tomorrow this "I" goes away to some other world. What is the use of attaching myself to someone or something which I now call mine if I cannot take it with me after sixty or seventy years? It is simply foolish!

The same thing is true about attachment to others. Although I know that I am attaching myself to someone whom I cannot claim as my own, I say that that person is mine. I cannot show him, I cannot prove it to him. How can I show my heart? I cannot show my inner feelings. If it is a good feeling, I try to offer it. If it is a bad feeling, I try to cover it. Often, if we are doing good work, we are eager to show it. If we are doing bad work, we are reluctant to show it. But whether the work is good or bad, whether we have good feelings or bad feelings, the object of our attachment does not last. We finally come to realise that nothing we call our own can last permanently. This is one way to be detached.

Another way to achieve detachment is to know that apart from the finite light there is a higher Light, an infinite Light. This Light gives us true joy. Knowing this, how can we be attached to the people and things that are constantly tempting us? The more we detach ourselves from these temptations of the finite, the more we are attaching ourselves to the Infinite. In this divine attachment is our real satisfaction. If we really care for the spiritual life, then our business is to focus all our attention only on the Supreme. If we are deeply attached to the Supreme, to the inner life, then naturally we remain detached from other people and things, from the world which is not aspiring. What we call our attachment to the Supreme will be seen as Wisdom-Light in the future, because in Him only, and not anywhere else, can we grow. In Him only, and not anywhere else, are we fulfilled.

Some Indian seekers who follow the path of devotion go to the length of saying that devotion is nothing but attachment to God. As human desire is attachment to a human being, so spiritual devotion is a form of attachment to God. We cannot be attached to two things or two persons at the same time. When we go deep within, we see that we can be attached only to one person or one thing. Attachment and devotion are like concentration. We cannot properly concentrate on two fingers at once. We see two fingers, but we focus our attention either on one or on the other. Similarly, when we really offer to the Supreme our purest attachment, which is devotion, it can only go to Him. And inside Him the rest of humanity can be found. In the beginning we have an ordinary family with a few members. But there comes a time when we have to expand our family. Humanity itself becomes our family. The more we grow within, the larger becomes our family. And it is always inside the Supreme that humanity stays.

We can identify with another person's sufferings and feelings and still remain detached if we enter into that person with our soul's Light. Our soul's Light always expands. It does not bind and, at the same time, it cannot be bound. With our soul's Light we can identify ourselves with anybody on earth and not be affected. If we enter into the person with our inner soul's Light, which is all freedom and perfection and if we spread this inner Light in the sufferer, at that time he gets the best help from us. Afterwards, we can fly away like a bird without being touched by the person or being attached to him.

The Boat of the Supreme is carrying us to the Golden Shore. The Boat is in the water, but it is not of the water. The Boat is right now in the sea of ignorance, but it is not affected. It is carrying us to the Golden Shore, where there is no ignorance, no doubt, no bondage — where all is perfection and plenitude. In our human life also, we have to feel that if we have the soul's Light within us, we can stay inside anybody. He may be the most imperfect person or the worst sufferer. Yet, although we are helping him most sincerely and effectively, we will not be attached to him or pulled down by him. So first we have to discover our inner Light, our soul's Light. Then only will we be truly qualified to help others without being attached to them or to their suffering. Then only can we be of truest and purest help to suffering humanity.