Saturday, July 27, 2019

Is it Possible to Act without Attachment?

Article in Kannada & English by: K.S. Rajagopalan

An old and a young monk were sitting on the banks of a river engrossed in their daily ascetic practices. Right in front of their eyes, a young lady slipped and fell into the river. She screamed for help as she did not know swimming. The holy men heard her scream. The older among them refrained from helping her, since touching a woman was against the code of conduct for a monk. The young ascetic however jumped into the water, rescued her, carried her on his shoulders, set her down in a secure place, and continued his practices undisturbed. The old monk, witnessing all these, was very much annoyed. He, however, controlled himself and submitted to silence. Three days passed with no exchange of communication between the two monks. Finally, the old monk could not control himself anymore. “You should not have carried her”, he yelled at the young monk. In reply, he just stared at the old monk and calmly said in a soft tone: “who is carrying her still? I have already set her down from my shoulders three days ago”. The old monk instantly realised: It was he who was carrying the lady mentally for the past three days.

It is not an easy task to comprehend the inner workings of the minds of great men by looking at their outward behaviour, as they appear to be engaged in mundane activities just like any other individual. Though they appear to be one among others, they may be unattached to worldly affairs. For example, an untrained swimmer and an expert one may look the same when they enter the water, but the former may drown while the latter can easily get out of the water.

Sriranga mahaguru used to elucidate the attitude that one should possess while dealing with life situations, by quoting the phraseपद्मपत्रमिवाम्भसा — one should be unattached, “akin to drops of water on the leaf of a lotus”. There is an oily substance on lotus leaves which does not allow water to stick to it. Such a substance is known by the Sanskrit word ‘sneha’, which also means ‘friendship’. Persons who have developed ‘Sneha’ with God can remain unattached to their worldly affairs though they appear fully involved.

In the Indian tradition, which emphatically declares that realising God (=Supreme self) is the ultimate goal of life, it is customary to begin every single deed by remembering Him. Here too, the underlying idea is that remembering God helps us to perform our actions without attachment, as a matter of practice. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna advises Arjuna, who had to wage a war against Kauravas for the noble cause of justice (dharma), to fight while always remembering Him. (तस्मात्सर्वेषु कालेषु मामनुस्मर युध्य च |)

In dealing with life, we must of course perform all our necessary work with dedication. But let us cultivate ‘Sneha’ with the Lord, which frees us from attachment even while we perform our mundane tasks.

Note: The Kannada version of this article can be viewed at AYVM blogs