Part IX — Ireland

Attachment and detachment69

Attachment and detachment. Detachment and attachment. From the body we get the message of attachment. From the soul we get the message of detachment. The body is limited; hence the body wants to bind us and limit us. It wants to bind and limit our outer capacity and our inner potentiality. The soul, in its potentiality and capacity, is limitless and endless. Therefore, the soul wants to free us from the meshes of ignorance and liberate us from bondage-night.

What is attachment? Attachment is the dance of our outer pleasure. What is detachment? Detachment is the song of our inner joy. Attachment ends in the prison-cell of frustration and destruction. Detachment fulfils itself in the palace of Divinity and Immortality.

I am a fool if I consciously live in the physical. I am a greater fool if I constantly admire and adore my physical body. I am the greatest fool if I live only to satisfy the needs of my physical existence.

I am a wise person if I know that there is something called the soul. I am a wiser person if I care to see and feel my soul. I am the wisest person if I live in my soul and for my soul constantly and soulfully, unreservedly and unconditionally.

When we are attached to the body, we in no time become impulsive. When we are attached to the vital, we very soon become explosive. When we are attached to the physical mind, we ultimately become destructive.

But when we are in the body, detached, we consciously feel our aspiring consciousness. When we are in the vital, detached, we expand and widen our aspiring consciousness. When we are in the mind, detached, we fulfil supremely our unlimited consciousness here on earth.

Many people, unfortunately, mistakenly feel that attachment and devotedness are one and the same thing. But attachment means that we are in the finite and attached to the finite. Devotedness means that we devote ourselves to the Infinite and are liberated by the Infinite.

Here in Ireland, nearly a hundred years ago, a young aspirant named Margaret Noble left for India to become a famous disciple of Swami Vivekananda. This great Yogi had come to the West in 1893 to participate in the “Parliament of Religions” at the great World’s Fair in Chicago. His spiritual stature was immediately recognised, and he became famous overnight.

When he went to England from the United States, Margaret Noble attended his talks and became his dearest disciple. He called her Nivedita, “one who is totally dedicated to the Supreme Cause.”

Indian people are all admiration for what Nivedita did for India. She helped Indian women in infinite measure. She helped to awaken their slumbering consciousness so that they could envision themselves as divine instruments and grow into the perfect embodiments of aspiration, dedication and illumination for their Mother India. We Indians are filled with divine pride when we utter the name of Nivedita.

Her father was a clergyman, a great seeker and lover of God. On his deathbed, he said to his wife, “Do not stand in Margaret’s way. If she wants to go to India, let her go.” Margaret’s mother had been very upset by her daughter’s desire to leave Ireland for distant India, but at her husband’s last request, she did help Margaret and inspired her. Nivedita went to India and became India’s veritable pride. Hers was the heart that knew no despair. Just before she passed behind the curtain of eternity, she uttered under her breath, “The frail boat is sinking, but I shall yet see the sunrise.”

I wish to offer my humble talk to the hallowed memory of Sister Nivedita, Margaret Noble of Ireland.

Detachment is misunderstood. We feel that if someone is detached, he is indifferent. Spiritual seekers also make the same mistake in thinking that when we want to be detached from someone, we must show him utter indifference, to the point of total neglect. This is not true. When we are indifferent to someone, we do nothing for him. We have nothing to do with his joy or sorrow, his achievement or failure. But when we are truly detached, we work for him devotedly and selflessly and offer the results of our actions at the Feet of the Lord Supreme, our Inner Pilot.

It does not matter if the result is success or failure. If we are not at all attached to the results, we get an immediate expansion of consciousness. If we do not care for the fruit of our action, the Supreme rewards us in the Supreme’s own Way.

Lord Krishna said, “Thou hast the right to act, but not to the fruits of action.” The Upanishads declare, “Action cleaves not to a man.”

If we work devotedly and selflessly, action does not bind us. There will be no difficulty in working for God’s sake if we work without caring about the result. This is true detachment; this is spiritual detachment. When we can renounce the unlit, unaspiring action, we can enter into the divine action which is our real life; and in this there is always perfection and fulfilment.

When we pay all attention to the material world and neglect the inner world, we starve the soul in us. The soul has to be brought to the fore. If we think we can get infinite wealth from the material world, then we are totally mistaken.

Yagnayvalkya, the great Indian sage, had a wife whose name was Maitreyi. Yagnayvalkya wanted to spend the evening of his life in meditation and contemplation, so he decided to give away his earthly possessions. He asked Maitreyi if she wanted his riches. She asked, “Will your riches give me immortal life? Of what use to me are the things that cannot make me immortal?”

We need the material world, undoubtedly, but we cannot give all our energy to it. We feed our body three times a day. Unfortunately, we do not have time to feed our soul even once a day. We, the seekers of the infinite Truth, feed the body so that we can become the perfect instrument of the soul.

The soul has Divinity, Eternity, Immortality. The soul wants to offer its world to the body. If the body becomes receptive, it will receive all that the soul has to offer. The body itself will echo and re-echo in the life of aspiration and dedication. It will march along as the most humble servitor of the soul. Its existence will be the existence of glory and divinity, divine service and supreme fulfilment.

We fulfil the Supreme on earth. He treasures us in His Heart’s Heaven.

OEH 73. University of Dublin; Dublin, Ireland, Graduates' Memorial Building, Trinity College, 1 December 1970.