The topic of today is an important topic, a philosophical topic. It is the topic of detachment. Those who study Vedanta in the TTC, you know that it is part of the practice of Vedanta to learn to detach so that your mind and heart are not so involved in everything that is temporary. You remain yourself.
The word detachment is called vairagya in Sanskrit. It is an important skill to be able to learn so that you do not lose yourself. The drama is when you get involved in life and you lose yourself. Like when you drive the car on the road and you forget and are unable to direct the car. You don’t know anymore where you go and you lose your mastership of the car.
Vairagya or detachment is a faculty to learn through practice. You need to practice, practice, practice. Some people are better than others. Some people are very passionate so they cannot detach. Detachment or dispassion is the same thing. You need to step back to be able to see the bigger picture and not be too involved. Your mind and emotions get involved and you lose yourself. You need to learn how to do this, to step back, to detach.
Detachment as opposed to attachment
In order for you to step back, you are afraid, which is why you attach. Why are we so attached? Because we are afraid. We are afraid that if we detach we will let go of that holding and then we will fall into the nothingness. Then we would lose ourselves. That’s a problem. That is why in order for you to learn to detach you must be very anchored and you have to remember your true nature which is Satchitananda Atman. The moment you remember yourself, you remember that if you are attached you lose yourself, but if you are detached you remember yourself.
Especially for those who have a passionate nature with lots of emotion, it is easier for you to feel alive when you are attached. It is more difficult for you to be detached because you feel that you are not alive. It is not true that you are not alive but you have to learn to feel a different kind of feeling, which is a feeling of peace, of inner joy. It is not a feeling of emotional excitement or emotional fulfillment. It is higher, more refined, the quality of detachment. Detachment does not mean that you are not loving. It just means that you are loving in a more profound manner.
Self as Satchitananda
Now you need to remember the self as Satchitananada. Sat means always existing. You in reality are always existing – not coming, not going, not changing, not being born, not dying. That means beyond this life in this body you have an existence, something that is always there: your spirit, your soul. You need to remember the truth that is untouched and is always there behind the whole drama – when you remember, you are not afraid. People are afraid of dying and afraid things will change. You have to practice to withdraw so you can remember the self that is not changing.
Gold is the essential nature of different ornaments: the ring, the bracelet, the crown is made of gold. It has different shape, form, name, and usage, but gold is the most important thing. You need to be detached from the name, form, and usage to see the essential nature of that thing is gold. You need to be detached from your name and form, your occupation or your relationship so that you remember your essential nature, your true self, is spirit. When you are able to detach you remember your spirit.
You need to develop a spiritual approach to life. You live your life from a larger perspective. We need to know the purpose of our life and who we are. You know the purpose of your life is to realize more and more your immortal spirit. Who we are is the Atman, is the Self. Then you can really detach because you know that you detach, but you find everything, you are not losing anything.
In the beginning, you have to go through the fear of detachment. You don not want to detach even though when you attach you have a lot of trouble, a lot of problems. Because you prefer to be attached you are not able to detach. You prefer to continue that same habit of attachment.
Ocean of Samsara
When you are not detached then you identify also with actions, what you do. You are attached to action and what you do. You get involved in everything and everything is a big drama. You are immersed in the battle of life. Life becomes very real: you battle and struggle and you lose your own true self in the battle of life. Some people are so involved, fearful, angry, and desperate and sometimes they kill themselves. They kill their instrument of realization, which is the body. This does not solve the problem. According to Vedanta philosophy, you have to live life, but with detachment. This is the teaching of karma yoga.
If you are immersed in life sometimes you win and sometimes you lose; something good happens – you are happy; sometimes you’re in a difficult situation – it’s a big drama. You are all the time losing yourself in up and down, up and down. We call this the ocean of samsara. Ocean of samsara means that whole ocean with so many waves and you are drowning in it. Up and down. Sometimes you can breathe and sometimes you are down, sometimes you can breathe and sometimes you are down. Like right now the whole world is in the pandemic and everyone is very anxious.
Detachment from what is changing
(add image from Swami Sitas Vairagya satsang slide with same header – woman in front of mirror)
You have to learn this faculty called detachment. Detachment from what is changing – like this lady looking in the mirror seeing that she has this white hair. Everything is changing. Your body is changing. Your appearance is changing. What is changing is not called truth.
In Vietnamese there is a word, Vô thường, which means impermanence. In the Buddhist teaching a very important teaching is what is permanent and what is impermanent. You learn to develop that faculty to know that something is impermanent, which means that the nature of it is not to exist forever. Then you need to detach from it.
The nature of the body is when you are born you have a certain number of years to live and a certain number of breaths and then it is finished. It is not forever. The Self is truth existing forever. Consciousness exists forever. The Truth exists forever. Everything else is changing. Everything else is asat – meaning not true.
The name, you can work and build up a name, some people are very famous – and they die. Nobody remembers them. Circumstances of life are changing: sometimes we live with people, sometimes we live alone and things are changing. Sometimes you go to work. Now you are not going to work, you are at home. Things are never the same so better that you live in the present as much as you can and you do not worry about the past or the future all the time. Locations change. Emotions change. Emotion is always changing.
Detachment from that which is external
We also attached from that which is external. You have to learn that which is internal and that which is external. Internal is your consciousness, your feeling, your awareness, your idea that “I know”, “I am” – that is internal. Anything else is external. You detach from the external because the external is made of your senses and your senses are not really representing the truth.
The internal, your feeling inside, this is what you need to be more aware and more developed. As you have your feeling inside, your awareness, your consciousness, your sense of “I know”, you need to feel secure in that. Our eyes are all the time looking for something external and we grasp for the external, we attach to the external.
When you learn to meditate, you find that consciousness, you see. When you learn to meditate, you close your eyes, you close your senses, you do not remember anything, you are in that space. When you open your eyes, you live in this world and you are a little bit more detached. That is why meditation is a very good tool to train you in detachment. The more that you are able to meditate the more strong you become because you are more secure in yourself instead of losing yourself in the external.
Everyone needs to meditate every day. The more that you are able to do the better. If you want to be strong, you need to be withdrawing in the meditation then you start to realize there is something there that is strong, that is unchanged. You also can help yourself with renunciation. Instead of desiring and grasping for one thing, you say “No” I do not need it. I am fine. You live a simple life.
Purification means you do asana and pranayama. Purify your energy. Purify your nadis, your energy. Purify your mind so that you do not have certain thoughts. Automatically it is easier for you to go inward because you are not blocked. When your mind is blocked by impurities, by wrong habit of thinking, then you cannot go inside. When the mind is blocked, it is always projecting some external distortion. When your mind is pure, you can go more inside, deeper. You will become more contented, more peaceful. You do not project, constantly projecting different distorted ideas about life.
Happiness Is Within
The knowledge that comes from detachment is a spiritual knowledge not an interactional knowledge. The answer lies within. If you feel worry, concern, you do not know what will happen, then you look inside. The answer lies within.
Sometimes you ask yourself the question, “When will this pandemic finish? When do I not have to wear a mask anymore? When can I travel like before? When can I meet with family and friends?” That means you have to sit in restlessness. You attach this present situation and you do not feel comfortable with it. Then you ask yourself all the different questions.
Then you need to remember that the answer lies within. You see what that means. At that time you detach from the external you go in the meditation, you go inward. When you go inward, you feel fine. You do not need to meet with anybody, you do not need to travel anywhere, you do not need to eat anything fancy, you do not need to go to coffee shop, and you do not need to do any kind of activity. Even your livelihood you become detached from also because you know that it will be provided somehow because you are more creative and you are not panicking. The answer lies within.
It is not as if you are running away from your responsibility and you do not care, but this is a philosophical answer to the difficulties of life. You need to find fulfillment and say that you already have what you are looking for. You look for always something outside, but it never really fulfills you so you look for peace. If you are going to detach you look for peace and peace will be there and you feel content, you feel ok. Stop looking at the wrong place.
Sometimes you meditate, you do yoga and you feel like it is pointless, that it does not do anything that there is no result, but that is wrong thinking. When you do yoga and meditation the main thing is you become more detached. You might not be aware of it, but life is different because you are not running after the external. When your mind is active, then it starts to say, “Oh yoga and meditation doesn’t give me what I want”, but that is a mistake of thinking. When you practice yoga and meditation, you are more content. You are fulfilled. You do not need anything and that is a great feeling.
Illusion of the Senses
A woman looks for the needle she dropped in the house outside because there is light outside. We always look for our happiness in the world of the senses, but it is an illusion. It does not last long and it can change. You need to develop this sense of contentment, of peace, from within.
In the ashram in Vietnam there is a beautiful place that you can sit and look at the sunrise and you feel very happy from inside because it is not so much the sun that you look at, but the phenomenon of the sun rising. You are witnessing the miracle of life, the miracle of god and that is how you become happy.
Illusion of the Mind
There is another story, a person walking in the desert found a tree, but they look away and there is always water: we call it a mirage. It is an illusion. That person decides to leave the shade to go look for the water saying to himself, “I will come back to my shade if I don’t find water”.
The same in life – we all the time have that illusion in our mind, this different desire in our mind. If I am going to get this promotion then I will be happy. If I am going to buy this car then I will be happy. If I am going to get married then I will be happy. If I am going to get divorced, I will be happy. If I am going to travel, I will be happy. Always the “if” for you to be happy, but it is an illusion because you will never be happy because there is an “if” there.
You need to stand in one place and look within. The person needs to stand under the tree and dig underneath and water is there. You need to be fulfilled now, be happy, contented now.
There is only one self – there is no other
The Vedanta philosophy teaches you the illusion of relationship. There’s only one Self. There is no other, what that means is there is the Self that is reflecting in other people around you. Always one. One is all. There is that one Self that is in all.
When you have relationships, oftentimes there is the problem of attachment in relationship. You need to remember, you need to see the Self in others. The Self included yourself. If you forget yourself and you only see the other then that is attachment happening. If you remember yourself, and you remember the Self in others than you are fine.
All knowledge is within, so try to be calm. Have the conviction that the Self is there. Calm your mind down. Have self-confidence.
Find your sattva nature by the practice of the five points: asana, pranayama, relaxation, positive thinking, and meditation. Then you are calm. When you are calm then you can see yourself. Be quiet. Those who are in lockdown it is a very good opportunity to do this. Be quiet. Be silent.
Do not worry. Try to convert your negative emotions. If you have negative emotions or any kind of emotion, the mind is wavy. When the mid is wavy then you lose yourself. You get involved so you lose yourself.
If you think, “I am this then I will not know that” – what does that mean? It means that the mind is always in duality. It gets involved in this and it gets separated from that.
Think, “I am you then I know you”. It is better that you do not compare yourself with other people from the external point of view as that will bring the attraction, repulsion, disturbance in the mind. If you think, “I am that person” then you feel more compassionate or you feel that you are that person. You can be that person itself. You know the person. Then you do not have conflict with people and you are more at peace.
Detachment is not easy because that is the nature of your life. When you are born you are attached. You try to detach and you get attached again, you try to detach and you get attached again.
This is the story of a tiger walking in the forest of leaves and the leaves just fell so they have some sap. The leaves get stuck to his feet so he sits down in order to remove the leaves from his feet. Because he sat down the leaves get attached to his butt. He wants to remove the leaves from his butt so he lies down. Now the leaves attach to his back. He wants to remove the leaves from his back and he rolls around and the leaves get attached to his belly. The leaves are all over. He want to be detached and now they are all over him. This is a nice story I hope you remember. The story of us.
Attachment brings suffering
Oftentimes, we want to be detached, but then we get attached more. You want to be detached – let’s say free from your work. You find two jobs in order for you to make more money in order to retire from work. And you get attached more.
If you want to detach from your relationship and then you get attached to beer and alcohol or to sleeping pills because you have difficulty. Then you want to be detached from the drugs and alcohol. Then you get attached to the cigarettes. Then if you don’t want to get attached to the cigarettes you get attached to food. You get detached from this person and you get attached to another person immediately. Constantly like this, our lives like that. Attach, detach, attach, detach.
Sometimes you feel yourself so attached, like in prison. You cannot do anything. Always you think of the boss, you think of your family, you think of your household, you think of your life like a prison. You feel like you are a slave to everything. You cry and you blame. Attachment brings suffering. At that time you have to sit down again and meditate. Don’t move. It is like the more that you move the more you try to find solutions to your problem the more you sink. Like quicksand, you can sink the more you move. Calm down. Relax.
Detachment from suffering
Remember your Ananda nature. Remember unconditional love. Happiness is also absolute, unconditional. Remember that your mistake is that you are looking for the happiness externally. You need to remember that you are happy by nature.
By withdrawing yourself and by being content you recognize this contentment within, but by using your mind you always experience pain and pleasure. Detach from the mind and the emotions.
Your true nature is Satchitananda. The mind cannot reflect that true nature. The mind is conditioned. It looks outside. It depends on the senses. It is imperfect. It is full of desires. It is swinging between likes and dislikes, governed by the ego sense, competitive, ambitious, and passionate. The mind includes the personality, emotion, desire. It changes constantly. If you attach to your personality, to your mind, to your way of seeing things then you will not have peace because you are looking outside of yourself. What you need is to look through the mind disregarding what the mind projects and clearing out the mind.
4 ways of detachment
There are four ways of detachment: karma yoga detachment, bhakti yoga detachment, raja yoga detachment, and jnana yoga detachment. Whatever way, it is ok. Each person is different. The truth is one. The paths are many.
Karma yoga – detachment in selfless service
In karma yoga do the best you can, but let go of the result. Detach from the result. Offer your efforts unconditionally.
Bhakti yoga, yoga of devotion – detachment in emotion
In the yoga of devotion, you detach from whatever you feel and think and you completely attach to the divine. You trust and have faith in the divine will and then you detach. You relax. You practice humility. You surrender.
Right now, you don’t know when Covid will finish. You have to surrender. You have to accept. We do not know when. It is the will of God. Relax.
Attachment to the highest truth brings detachment from everything else. You attach to find the truth. From everything else you detach. Remember our nature is very emotional. We identify different emotions. When you learn devotion, you attach to God or to the Divine or to Mother Nature and you detach from everything else.
Raja yoga – detachment in meditation
In meditation you also detach, but also detach from thoughts and distractions. You concentrate on the highest ideal by the name of the mantra. You focus on the mantra and you detach from everything else. You roll your japa mala beads.
Meditation is uninterrupted flow of consciousness. When you are completely detached then that bliss of the Self is there all the time. In the beginning, you need to detach by concentration.
You need to detach from past and future. Don’t think of the past. Don’t think of the future. The past is gone. You cannot make a better past. Let it go. Detach from your own story of the past. The future is not there, only a projection of your mind. Do not worry. Do not be attached to an imaginary future. Do not worry. Live in the present. The present is eternal. When the mind is concentrated it is easier for it to be in the present.
Jnana yoga – detachment from the unreal
The unreal is anything that is changing. Here is a baby monkey. The baby monkey is clinging to the mother monkey. Attachment to the truth here, and detach from everything else. It is the path of wisdom. You know what is transient, what is permanent, what is not permanent. You attach to the permanent. You remember the Self that is permanent and from everything else, you detach. You ask yourself the question, “Who am I?” and you say “Neti, neti”. You detach from the not self, the not real, the not permanent.
You can also be detached from name and fame. This is an Olympic champion with his gold medal. Nothing lasts forever. Name and fame are illusory. Detach from name, fame, and ego. Do what is right. Let go of criticism and praises. Bear insult, bear injury – highest yoga. You need to go inward and detach from name and fame.
Detach from sensual desires. Desire comes from Rajas, from the sense of lack. Desires are insatiable. If you eat one ice cream, you want more, you want more, but then you have a stomachache. One desire will fan another desire.
You can switch it to the desire for liberation. Calm the mind by detachment from desire. Realize the complete, the already fulfilled self. You do not need anything.
Detach from losses. Ultimately, loss is the loss of the body. However, you can also lose your relationships. Nothing in reality belong to us. The persons around us, we attach to them, but they belong to the universe. From our point of view you say, “It’s mine. My relationship”. In the bigger picture, it is the universe. We are custodians; we are caretakers of our relationship. We have the karma yoga attitude. Love is forever. You might lose a loved one, but love remains. Love is forever. We might lose objects and possessions, but more will be there. We are taken care of, don’t worry. It is a difficult topic, detachment from losses.
Detachment is the way out of samsara
Samsara is the ocean of suffering, never ending, the wheel of life and birth and life and death. Eventually detachment helps you get to moksha, liberation. Attachment is the reason why you are born. It is the root cause of all karma. Detachment is the way of exit out of the cycle of suffering, the cycle of birth and death. The ultimate detachment is moksha, freedom from the cycle of reincarnation and karma.
Start with day-to-day detachment. It is a big topic so think about this. It is not like you can do it right away. Every day you have to practice the detachment and you replace it with the truth about yourself. You detach, you have difficulty, but if you can remember the Self, remember that everything is there for you, that you are everything, then it is easier for you to detach.
Hari Om Tat Sat.