Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 09 Aug 2019

     

Permanent Detachment From The World

Shri Phani asked: You have told us that sage Vasiṣṭha has recommended that ordinary people should avoid the association of worldly bonds since detachment from the worldly bonds is impossible while being in their association. So, I am trying to practice that. What is Your opinion about it?

Swami replied: O Learned and Devoted Servants of God! Apart from sage Vasiṣṭha’s recommendation mentioned by you, I have also told you that the Veda says the opposite. It says that staying far from the worldly bonds increases one’s attachment to the worldly bonds, while staying in the association of the worldly bonds, the person develops negligence and detachment from them (Parokṣapriyā iva hi...). So, these two statements told by Me appear to be mutually contradictory. Actually, both statements are correct since each of them is applicable at different time-periods in the life of a person. Initially, the worldly bonds attract the person due to which the person develops attachment towards them. It means that the family members of the person such as life-partner and child attract the person, producing attachment in the person. The cause of the attachment is from the side of the worldly bonds. After some time, the person develops negligence and detachment towards the same worldly bonds. So, the cause of the detachment is from the side of the person. Both the attachment and the detachment are not from the same side. Hence, there is no mutual contradiction.

Perhaps you might argue that a person’s worldly bonds (family) cannot be solely responsible for developing attachment in the mind of the person. The person’s own contribution in developing the initial attachment towards the worldly bonds cannot be denied. So, you might say that it is contradictory for the same person to develop both attachment and detachment towards the worldly bonds. But the crucial point here is that the person does not simultaneously develop attachment as well as detachment towards the worldly bonds. The attachment is developed in the early part of the person’s life and the detachment is developed in the later part of life. Since the attachment and detachment towards the same family exist in two different stages of the person’s life, there is no mutual contradiction. Time separates the attachment and the detachment. The person, who was initially attached to the family, after some period of close association, develops negligence and detachment from the family. It is a natural tendency of a person to develop negligence and detachment from anything or anyone with which the person is closely associated.

Based on the above discussion of these two mutually contradictory concepts, permanent detachment from worldly bonds becomes impossible. The first concept says that being associated with the worldly bonds, one can never attain detachment while the second one says that staying away from the worldly bonds increases the attraction towards the bonds. Let us say that you follow the first concept of avoiding the association of worldly bonds by going away into the forest. In that case, the second concept will attack you and you will be attracted towards the worldly bonds from whom you are separated! Then, following the second concept, if you go towards the worldly bonds, expecting that being in their association, you will develop negligence towards them, the first concept will attack you again. You will not be able to attain detachment staying in their association. It is as if you are being kicked back and forth like a football between two players! There seems to be no way out!

The Wrong Approach to Detachment

So, what is the solution? Before arriving at the solution, let us first understand the problem. The reason for your getting kicked back and forth between these two concepts is your wrong approach in trying to solve the problem. If you approach the problem correctly, this game of football will automatically disappear. What is wrong with your current approach? Your mistake is that you are trying to attain attachment to God by first achieving detachment from worldly bonds. But, permanent detachment from worldly bonds is impossible unless you are first attached to God. Even if you achieve detachment from worldly bonds but if you stop there itself, what is the use of that detachment? Do you think that God will be immensely pleased with you for your detachment from worldly bonds? No! No! No! God will say “Why should I be pleased with your detachment from worldly bonds? In what way I am linked with your detachment from worldly bonds? If you have fasted and achieved detachment from food, why should I be pleased with you for it? In what way I am linked with your detachment from food? Perhaps, you might have fasted due to an indigestion problem. If you say that you have fasted for My sake, it would, actually, be a horrible joke! If you had given Me food, I would have been pleased with you. If you had fasted because you had offered Me all the food you had, leaving nothing for yourself, I would have been even more impressed with you. Such fasting would have proved your extraordinary love for Me. If you had fasted, even though there was enough food available, because you were totally immersed in My service, it would have impressed Me the most.

Instead, what have you done? You have eaten the entire food yourself while praising Me through poems and songs saying that I am eternal and free of hunger! Yes, indeed I am eternal and free of hunger. What you say is true. But I have come to you through the medium of a human body. This human medium feels hunger just like your human medium. You prayed for seeing Me and talking to Me. Answering your prayer, I have come to you. Is it not your responsibility to give at least a little food to Me? Could you not even give Me some of the food from last night that you have put in the refrigerator?

Now, you might say that you had prayed that I should come in My original form and not in this mediated form! You might further say that the concept of mediation of God itself is false and that the concept of human mediation is especially false. If I point out that the original form of God is unimaginable, you will say that you will worship Me only in the form of representative models like statues and images which never get hungry! If I say that those representative models cannot clarify your doubts, you will say that you have no doubts at all! Then, I will say that I have not come for your sake but have come for the sake of those, who will feed Me at least some food. They might feed Me with the food that they have stored for the future. In case they do not have enough food to store, they may, at least, feed Me with a very small part of the food that they are eating. Finally, I tell you this one way: Give Me that extra food, which you are going to throw away after you have finished eating. Do not give Me anything from the food that you are eating and do not give Me anything from the food that you have saved for the future. This means that you can give Me guru dakṣiṇā from the portion of your wealth that goes waste in any case. It will serve the double purpose of obtaining wealth from waste and pleasing God! I am trying all the possible ways to help you by guiding you in the right direction.

You may say that I should preach to you without taking even a trace of guru dakṣiṇā. Fine. I have no objection to it from My side. I am not in need of your guru dakṣiṇā at all. I am only trying to find out whether you have even a trace of hunger for the food of true knowledge or not. If you are not prepared to even part with a little of your wasted food, it means that you do not have even a trace of hunger for knowledge. It means that you will not show even a trace of attentiveness towards Me. In that case, prostrating to your sacred lotus feet, I shall finally leave you. When it is crystal clear that you do not have even a trace of hunger, it means that I have approached the wrong person by mistake. For this mistake, I am prostrating at your feet!

Alright! Let Me even accept that you are not willing to part with even a bit of the food that you waste, because you enjoy wasting food. Why do you not serve Me instead by propagating this spiritual knowledge in the world. Parting with your food is the sacrifice of your wealth, which is karma phala tyāga. Service is karma saṁnyāsa. Offering both to God is essential for a householder. But for a saint, karma saṁnyāsa alone is sufficient since the saint himself begs for his own food! Both karma phala tyāga and karma saṁnyāsa constitute karma yoga and karma yoga is the inevitable practical proof of the genuineness of your theoretical knowledge and theoretical devotion. The meaning of the proof is knowing whether or not you have real hunger for what you are asking. Sage Vasiṣṭha asked Rāma to pay guru dakṣiṇā to him first; before even hearing spiritual knowledge from him (Dhanamārjaya...Yoga Vāsiṣṭham). For the same reason, Shirdi Sai Baba used to ask everybody for guru dakṣiṇā.

The Right Approach to Detachment

Now, let us return to your original problem of attaining permanent detachment from worldly bonds. We have seen that trying to achieve this detachment, either by associating with the bonds or going away from them, is the wrong approach and that it inevitably leads to failure. Then what is the correct approach? The correct approach is to develop attachment to God. The detachment from worldly bonds is an automatic and inevitable consequence of the attachment to God. This is the real solution. Merely trying for the detachment from worldly bonds without the attachment to God, is utter stupidity. Such meaningless detachment from worldly bonds is also an insult to God since you are rejecting this beautiful world created by Him! Have you not been insulting God in this way? Please think patiently. The detachment from the world should happen effortlessly as a natural consequence of the attachment to God. Such detachment from the world is not wrong because the Creator is far greater than His creation. But if you simply reject creation without any attachment to the Creator, it is certainly an insult to the Creator. Perhaps, you are rejecting the worldly bonds because you are feeling depressed for some worldly reason. Or perhaps, you are rejecting the worldly bonds to become a false saint so that you need not earn your living and can live on the free food donated by others! Hence, the Gita says that by mere detachment from the world, actual detachment from the world (naiṣkarmyam) cannot be achieved. This is because, soon after you choose this false and forced detachment from the world, you will be hit by a wave of tremendous attachment to the world (Na karmaṇāmanārambhāt naiṣkarmyaṁ...). What the Gita is saying is that the actual goal is the attachment to God and that goal will never be achieved by mere detachment (saṁnyāsa) from the world (Nacha saṁnyasanādeva, siddhiṁ...). Your problem is solved effortlessly when you approach it correctly, which is by developing attachment to God. Then, you need not worry at all about detaching from the world. Once you are attached to God, you will spontaneously be detached from the world, whether you are associated with the worldly bonds or not (Saṅgaratovā saṅgavihīnaḥ...—Śaṅkara).

However, in the initial stage, some effort to attain a little detachment from the worldly bonds is essential. This little detachment makes some peaceful time available for you. In that time, you can make the initial effort for developing attachment to God by listening to spiritual knowledge, doing prayers and so on. The peaceful atmosphere, away from the worldly bonds, is helpful in this stage. After some time, due to the second concept described earlier, you will certainly be attracted to the worldly bonds again. You will withdraw from that peaceful divine atmosphere and return to the old worldly bonds. If you are lucky to go to the peaceful atmosphere along with the family members with whom you are bonded, this problem can be avoided for a longer time. But the problem cannot be avoided since several other worldly bonds such as your property, career and so on also exist and they will drag you to them. When the devotee perfectly achieves the goal, which is developing a permanent attachment to God, the devotee is said to be a fulfilled devotee (siddha). A beginner should not imitate him in the initial stage of his or her spiritual effort (sādhanā). Sage Gautama mentions this point in his sūtras (Avaradaurbalyāt).

Two friends were travelling to Vārānasī to worship God Śiva. On the way, one of them was attracted to a prostitute and stayed back with her. The other friend continued to Vārānasī and upon reaching started worshipping God Śiva every day. The friend, who stayed back with the prostitute, would always be thinking about his friend in Vārāṇasī. He felt jealous of his friend, who was worshipping God Śiva while he was trapped in worldly pleasures. Ironically, the friend in Vārānasī also felt jealous of his friend, who was enjoying with the prostitute. He could not help thinking of enjoying with the prostitute even while he was worshipping God Śiva! Both friends were facing the effect of the second concept given in the Veda, which is that a person always neglects what is readily available and yearns for what is far and unavailable. Both yearned for what they did not have. The jealousy of the first friend intensified his yearning to worship God Śiva while the jealousy of the friend in Vārāṇasī, intensified his yearning to enjoy with the prostitute. In both cases, their respective jealousies intensified their yearning for what they did not have, as per the concept told in the Veda. For the first friend, his jealousy drove him in the right direction, whereas for the second friend, his jealousy drove him in the wrong direction. This shows that any quality like jealousy has both good and bad sides. The surprising outcome was that, due to the intensified devotion of the friend, who stayed back with the prostitute, he was granted a place in the abode of God Śiva. The friend in Vārānasī, owing to his intensified desire for the prostitute, was sent to a terrible hell!

The concepts of both sage Vasiṣṭha and the Veda are important and true. Sage Vasiṣṭha is correct in saying that dettachment from the world is not possible while remaining in the close association of the world. The Veda is also correct in saying that separation leads to yearning and attachment while close association leads to negligence. The spiritual aspirant should always take the concept that is applicable to him or her depending on the specific situation and time. The other concept, which is not relevant in that situation and time, can be kept aside. But the aspirant must continuously keep testing oneself practically to determine which concept is relevant in that situation. The only cure for an allergy is avoiding item that causes the allergy in that specific season.

Sage Vasiṣṭha stands firm in his advice, which is applicable if you are attached to worldly bonds. Attachment to worldly bonds is unavoidable if you are born on this earth. Most people are not like sage Ṛṣyaśṛṅga, who lived in complete isolation in the forest and had no contact with women and worldly life. If you had been brought up like Ṛṣyaśṛṅga, the second concept would also have become irrelevant for you. If there was no opportunity for you to form any worldly bonds, there is no question of the attachment to the worldly bonds increasing as a result of separation. But all of us are not Ṛṣyaśṛṅgas. We already have worldly bonds. Permanent detachment from them is going to be impossible if we try to merely detach from the bonds. Hence, it is better to attack this complicated problem by taking the right approach, which is developing attachment to God through knowledge and devotion. I think, God Datta has answered your question in an excellent way!

Keywords: Vashistha Parokshapriyaa Dhanamaarjaya Nakarmanaamanaarambhaat, Naishkarmyam Nacha samnyasanaadeva siddhim Sangaratovaa sangavihiinah Shankara Shiva Siddha Saadhana, Gautama Avaradaurbalyaat Samnyasa Karmasamnyaasa Karmaphalatyaaga phalatyaaga Karma Yogavaashishtam Gurudakshina Dakshina Vashistham Varanaasi Banaras Rushyashrungas Rushyashrunga