Detached Attachment

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What’s the difference between relating with our loved ones and outsiders?

I was travelling in a train.  Normally, during such journeys if I don’t find anyone sitting around to befriend, I would start reading some book or listening to some music.  But, if I find someone around, I would volunteer to talk to them.  In that trip, I picked up a conversation with a group of people – consisting of members of a family and their friends – who were travelling to attend a marriage.

Within an hour of our first acquaintance, we were exchanging everything between us as we would do in a close family.  Food, jokes, ideas, opinions, suggestions, appreciation, criticism  and even certain serious personal issues were shared.  After reaching our common destination, when we were about to part, we confirmed to be in touch with each other in future.  I have had similar experiences on several occasions and I’ve really enjoyed and adored such moments.

As I stepped out of the railway station, I saw a drunken man yelling at his wife, using the filthiest vocabulary, pulling her by her hair and beating her.  While his son was shouting back at him, the pitiable looking wife was pathetically trying to persuade her husband to come home and also putting frantic efforts to calm her son only to be scolded also by him in exchange.  Oh, what a contrast!

I stood there as one among the helpless crowd, unable to decide if or not to intervene in the fight between family members.  But then, within the next few minutes the hostile family moved away and the crowd too dispersed.

Since I did not carry any heavy luggage, I decided to walk the distance of about one and a half kilometers from the station to my residence.

My mind kept reviewing the incident with my intellect playing the dual role of both Arjuna the man with ceaseless questions and Krishna with holistic answers.

How could a person be so cruel, and behave so shamelessly with his wife in public, what mental trauma that frail lady must have been undergoing, what shame and embarrassment must have the son experienced?  The questions were endless.

I slowly shifted the person on the centre stage.  I rewound my memory to mentally visualize if at any time I had ever behaved in a similar manner with my people – if not in public, at least in private, within the four walls of our house.

I was shocked to discover an ugly truth.

Not once, but on several occasions I have been a little rude, angry, shown faces, frowned at my wife for various silly reasons – for giving coffee with inadequate sugar or heat, for not readying the children in time for school, for disturbing me through phone and reminding me to pay the utility bills or insurance premium, for asking me to change the channel in the television while I was viewing something, and so many such flimsy situations.

Not just with my wife, I have behaved in similar manner with my parents, children, brothers and sisters too.  How shameless!

In the train I was so comfortable with that newly gained circle of friends, getting the praise and honour of being the most enthusiastic, friendly, sociable guy.  But in the influential area called family I am not always that.  There are times when the animalistic behaviour hidden inside outgrows or overpowers the humane side that I am supposed to possess and I start behaving in the most unbefitting manners.

My thoughts did not stop…

In the office I am very friendly with all.  My staff members feel free and very comfortable with me.  Of course, at times I have to be a bit stern with them.  Even during such times, I would put in efforts to be polite.  Later I would volunteer to go to them and say ‘sorry’ from the bottom of my heart and it would soothe them, in case they were upset with me, and we would feel friendly again.

So true about human nature!  This is what being probably felt, not just by me but by many.  In an outside environment we are very friendly with others.  When we play with the neighbour’s or relative’s child we look the most affectionate, loving and caring.  The same is not the case with our own children.  We play a good Samaritan role while advising others, who seek counselling from us for the troubled situations that they face and many times our advice bear fruit too.  But when it comes to our own, we miserably fail and feel left in a helpless situation and seek help from others.  In other words we replace ourselves with the ugly drunkard witnessed outside the railway station.  Why?

It’s only because we take things for granted with our own people so much so that we care less for them; we don’t bother much about their feelings, we miss out on many subtle feelings of our near and dear ones.

Every seer, sage or saint has always practiced the law of detached attachment and its corollary – attached detachment – and that’s why they have been able to see themselves in others and others in them.

That’s how a Jesus Christ was able to love everyone with the same poise, a Buddha was able to be compassionate with everyone alike, a Mahatma Gandhi was able to use his weapon of ahimsa (non-violence) even with the British who tried every violent attempt to deter him from his stand, a Mother Teresa could extend her motherly affection to one and all.

So True!  If only we learnt the subtle art of detached attachment or its reverse – of seeing the whole world as only an extension of what we call our own and at the same time look at our own people as we would see in the world outside, we would always feel at ease, we would always remain in harmony with everyone around us.

We could create a heaven in our house and also the world outside, build a relationship called universal brotherhood, and create a single family called humanity (propounded in our ancient culture as vasudhaiva kutumbakam).

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