Chapter 18: Non-Attachment is not Aversion, Question 1



Energy Enhancement           Enlightened Texts            Krishna            Krishna: The Man and His Philosophy



Question 1


In the first place try to understand the meaning of the word anasakti or non-attachment. It is unfortunately one of the most misunderstood words. Non-attachment is generally taken to mean aversion, but it is not aversion. Aversion is a kind of attachment -- the opposite of attachment. Someone is attached to sex and someone else is attached to its opposite -- brahmacharya or celibacy. Someone is attached to wealth; he is running after wealth, and someone else is attached to renunciation of wealth; he is running away from wealth. One person is obsessed with the idea of looking handsome; another person is obsessed with the idea of looking ugly. But those who are averse to sex, money or good looks appear to be non-attached because their attachments are negative.

Attachment has two faces, positive and negative. You can fancy a thing so much that you madly run after it, you cling to it -- this is positive attachment. And you can be so much repelled by a thing that you want to escape it, to run away from it; then it is negative attachment. Negative attachment is as much attachment as positive attachment.

Non-attachment is altogether different; it is freedom from both the positive and the negative kinds of attachment. Non-attachment means one is neither attached to something nor averse to it. Non-attachment is transcendence of both attachment and aversion.

In the world of spiritualism there are many words like non-attachment, which have been badly distorted and misconstrued. Veetrag is one such word which means transcendence of attachment, but it has become synonymous with aversion. When someone goes beyond both attachment and aversion, he achieves the state of veetrag or transcendence. This word veetrag belongs to the tradition of Mahavira, while anasakti belongs to the tradition of Krishna, and they are synonymous. But there is a difference in the approach of the two.

While Mahavira attains to the state of veetrag by renouncing both attachment and aversion, Krishna attains to the state of anasakti by accepting both positive and negative attachments. And these are the only possible ways. While their ends remain the same, their means are different. While Mahavira insists on renunciation of attachment, Krishna emphasizes its acceptance. So in a deeper sense veetrag is negative and anasakti is positive.

A non-attached mind, according to Krishna, is one who accepts everything unconditionally. The interesting thing is that if you accept something totally it does not leave a mark, a scar on your mind; your mind remains unscathed and undisturbed. But when you cling strongly to a thing it leaves a mark on your mind. And when you are strongly averse to something you detest and deny it, then also it leaves a mark on your mind.

But when you neither cling to a thing nor run away from it, when you become receptive to everything -- good or bad, beautiful or ugly, pleasant or painful -- when you become like a mirror reflecting everything that comes before it, then your mind remains unscathed and unmarked. And such a mind is a non-attached mind; it is established in non-attachment.

You want to know how an ordinary person can achieve non-attachment. In fact, everyone is ordinary until he attains to non-attachment. So the question how an ordinary person can become non-attached does not arise. As long as one is attached or averse to something he remains an ordinary person. Extraordinariness comes with non-attachment, not before. It is not that ordinary people come to non-attachment in one way and extraordinary ones come to it in another way. Only one who has transcended both attachment and aversion is extraordinary. So the right question to ask is: How can one attain to non-attachment?

Before we go into the question of non-attach ment, let us understand the matter of attachment itself. How is it that one ceases to be non-attached and becomes attached to persons, things and ideas?

According to Krishna, non-attachment is embedded in the very nature of a human being, in his very being. Non-attachment is our basic nature, our original face. So the real question is how one deviates from his nature. We ,don't have to practice non attachment, we don't have to do something to come to it. We have only to know how we have gone astray from our nature. This is our basic question.

Someone came to me the other day and said, "I want to find God." I asked him when and how he had lost his God. His answer was that he had never lost him.

Then I asked him, "How can you search for a thing that you have not lost? Search implies that you lost something and now you are trying to recover it. Therefore," I said to him, "it is not a question of finding God. You would have to find God if you had really lost him. So first you have to know if you have lost him. And if you come to know on your own that you never lost him, the search is complete."

Non-attachment is our self-nature, we are born with it. So it is strange that in life, we all become victims of attachment and aversion. Non-attachment is our very nature. If attachment is our nature, we cannot manage to be averse to anything. If aversion was our nature, we could not fall prey to attachment. For example, a branch of a tree sways westward with the westerly wind and eastward with the easterly wind. How is it that the branch sways with the winds? Because it is neither in the east nor in the west; it is just in the middle.

Let us take another example: when we boil water it becomes hot, and when we cool it it becomes cold, because water in itself is neither hot nor cold. If water was intrinsically hot it could never become cold; it could never be heated if it was basically cold. Water's own nature transcends both hot and cold, so we can easily heat or cool it as we like.

If attachment is our self-nature, there is no way to be repelled by anything. But we are easily repelled. If clinging was our self-nature we could not give up anything, but we do give things up. In the same way if renunciation was our self-nature. we could not cling to a thing, but we cling like leeches. It simply means that neither attachment nor aversion is intrinsic to our self-nature. Therefore we move in both directions -- we now become attached and then averse to something. Because our innate nature transcends both these states of mind, we can move conveniently into them.

Let us take yet another example. We can open and shut our eyes whenever we like, because basically our eyes are neither open nor shut. If to be open was the very nature of the eyes, we could never close them. And if they were inherently closed we could never open them. Eyes can be both opened and closed at will because their self-nature transcends both states, they are beyond them. Opening and closing is external to them; really it happens because of the eyelids. In the same way our consciousness is essentially non-attached; it is only its eyelids, its coverings that get attached or repelled by something.

So the first thing to understand is that non attachment is our self-nature; we are born with it. It is our original face.

Secondly, we have to understand that it is only our self-nature that we can attain to; we can never attain to that which is alien to our self-nature. Really we can achieve only that which we already are at some deeper level of our beings. A seed grows into a flower because it is already a flower in its depth. A rock cannot grow into a flower, because never mind its depth, not even its surface has anything to do with a flower. If you sow a rock in the soil like a seed, it will ever remain a rock; it can never turn into a flower. On the surface both rock and seed look alike, but if you sow them together the seed will turn into a flower, while the rock will remain always the same. ,So we can say that a seed becomes a flower because it is inherently a flower.

It is one of the fundamental laws of life that we can become only that which we already are at the center of our being; what is hidden at the center becomes manifest at the circumference.

Therefore non-attachment is our self-nature -- not attachment or aversion. That is why sometimes we get attached to a thing and then are repelled by it.

And we can return to non-attachment because it is our essential nature: that is to say, the seed can grow into a flower.

It is not that non attachment is the nature of a few; it is everybody's nature. Wherever conscious ness is, it is always beyond attachment and rejection. Our highest intelligence transcends both clinging and aversion. It is a different matter that in its behavior, consciousness attaches itself to something or rejects something else. But that is its behavioral side; it is like the eyelids open and close whenever they have to.

If I am left exclusively with my consciousness, will I be attached or detached in that moment? I will be neither. Attachment and aversion invariably happen in relationship with others. If I say Mr. X is attached, you will immediately ask, "To whom?" or "To what?" How can one be attached without the other? In the same way, if I say that Mr. Y is averse, you will soon ask, "To what?" or "From what?" Because aversion too, is possible only in relation to someone or something. Both clinging and rejection reflect our relationships; they belong to our behavioral side. In ourselves we are neither.

It is very important to understand the behavioral side of self-nature. And since it is a question of behavior, I can be attached to a person today and can reject him tomorrow. Because it is behavioral, if I am averse to someone today I can be attached to him tomorrow. And the irony is that I can be both attached and averse to someone or something at the same time. It is quite possible I can be simultaneously attached to one aspect of his personality and averse to another. We are often in conflicting relationships with the same persons or things -- attached and averse together. But one thing is certain: attachment and aversion belong to our behavior, not our self-nature. Behavior means that one enters into some relationship -- with another person or thing or thought -- but the other is essential. Behavior is not possible without the other. It is impossible when you are alone.

Self-nature means that which is all alone. Aloneness is the intrinsic quality of self-nature. Self-nature is aloneness. If I am left utterly alone, away from men and things, from ideas and images; if I am in total aloneness, will I be attached or averse in that state? No, both attachment and aversion are utterly irrelevant to aloneness, because they are reflections of relationship. Once I am out of all relationships I am all alone -- unattached and untouched.

I am explaining it at length so that you rightly understand the meaning and significance of non-attachment, its context and associated words. And once you understand them rightly you will not have much difficulty in coming to non-attachment.

Both attachment and aversion are relation ships in which the other is needed, the other is essential. Without the other these words are meaningless. And because of this "other", both attachment and aversion turn into bondages, slavery. In both cases we are dependent on others. So a person of attachment is a slave, and a person of aversion is a slave of the opposite kind. Take away the vault of one who clings to wealth and he will die. Put a vault in the room of one who is averse to wealth and he will not be able to sleep.

Someone who is addicted to sex cannot live without a woman or a man. But put one who is an avowed celibate with a beautiful woman or a man, and he will be in a mess. Both types of people are in bondage, they are dependent on the other. It does not matter whether the other exists or not; he may be imaginary, but the other has become an inseperable part of their being. They cannot think of themselves without the other. The greedy cannot think of himself without money, and the renunciate cannot think of himself in association with money. But the other is present at the center of both.

If you understand this behavioral aspect of non-attachment, then you will know that changes in behavior don't make much difference. It often happens that a person of attachments reacts and turns his back on everything he clings to. Similarly a renunciate turns into a worldly man again and begins to run after money, position, and prestige. People of considerable success in the world come to me and say they are in a mess and want to get rid of it. Renunciates also come to me and say it seems they made a mistake by leaving the world. Who knows? There may be something really worthwhile which they are missing.

A monk is always thinking that the people of the world are having a good time, while really they are wasting their lives. And worldly people think they are missing some higher experiences of life the monks and recluses are having. In fact, only their situations are different. Psychologically the householder and the monk are both in the same boat. Psychologically they are heavily dependent on others, they are in shackles. And such people cannot know freedom, truth, bliss. Really the "other" is the bondage.

Usually a renunciate thinks that he has given up the other, but he is not aware that he is mistaken to think so. He is still bound with the other; he is now in another kind of relationship with the other, a relationship of escape. What he leaves behind pursues him. Although he is no longer running after it, he is afraid of it. Because he has escaped from it, he is worried lest it overcome him again. And where can you run away from the other.

The other is everywhere. The other is everywhere except one place, and that is your innermost being, the center of your being. If you leave your home, the ashram or the monastery will take its place. And you will be attached to it the way you were attached to your home. If you leave your wife or husband or children, then the master and the disciples will take their places and you will again be attached to them. You can leave a palace for a hut, but a hut is as much a house as a palace. You can give up costly clothes and take to a loincloth, but a loincloth is as binding as a king's robe is. Even if you go naked, you will become attached to your nudity.

The other is all over. In this world you cannot run away from the other, because the world is the other, and wherever you go the world will be with you. You cannot run away from the world. Wherever you go, the other will be there, so you cannot run away from the other. Of course, the other will take on new forms, but it will be there. By changing appearances you cannot change reality.

Except one space, the space of love, the other is everywhere. At the deepest core of love there is no other -- not because the other cannot enter there, but because at your deepest core even you disappear. At the deepest center of one's being even the self, the "I", disappears; so there is no way for the "other" to be there.

Now I tell you that as long as you are, you cannot escape the other. Earlier I said that as long as you are in the world you cannot escape the other, he is everywhere. Now I tell you the other side of the same truth: that as long as you exist, as "I", as ego, the other will be there. Even if you close your eyes and the world disappears, the other will not disappear. Now the other will exist behind your closed eyes, in your desires and longings, in your dreams and imaginations, but he will be there. As long as you are, the other is inescapably with you.

In fact, svabhava or self-nature is a state where the self, the "In, the ego, ceases to be. Self-nature is also one of those unlucky words that have been greatly misunderstood. By self-nature we generally mean the sense or feeling of the self. But where svabhava or self-nature begins, the self disappears. There is no relationship whatsoever between self-nature and self. Self-nature is that which was there when I was not in this world, and it will be there when I will be gone from here.

Whether I am here or I am not, self-nature is always in existence. That which is eternal is self-nature. Self-nature is that which is and will be even when I disappear, when my "I" disappears absolutely. The association of the word "self" with nature creates all the confusion, it gives rise to a feeling that it has something to do with the self.

Svabhava means: the nature, the primordial nature, the original face, the prakriti, that which is, even without me. When you are asleep there is no self, but self-nature is. In deep sleep, which in Sanskrit is called susupti, there is no self but self-nature is. When someone is Lying in a state of coma, there is no self, but self-nature is. There is this much difference between susupti and samadhi, deep sleep and superconsciousness: in susupti the self disappears because of unconsciousness, in samadhi it disappears because of wakefulness, awareness, enlightenment.

Therefore, as long as the world exists the other will exist; as long as I exist, the other will exist. But we can look at this phenomenon in a different way. As long as I am, all that I see is the world. The world is a subjective reality which I see from the lens of my self, my "I", and therefore it is the other. The world is the other. So if the "I" ceases, the other will cease too. Then there is no one who can be attached and no one with whom one can be attached; there is no one who can be averse and no one to whom one can be averse. Then I am nowhere and everywhere and in everything.

Anasakti or non-attachment is our innate nature. But how to come to it?

The greatest mistake one commits in this regard is that he embraces aversion as a means to come to non-attachment. Remember, attachment is not as harmful as aversion is, because the face of attachment is clear-cut and simple, it can easily be recognized. No one can mistake attachment for non-attachment. It is impossible. How can you say that clinging to money is non-attachment? But the face of aversion is very deceptive, it is masked. And that is why it poses the greatest danger for one who is trying to attain to non-attachment.

There is every possibility one can mistake aversion for non-attachment, and think that by rejecting men and things he has attained to non-attach ment. Aversion is a false coin, it can easily adopt the name of non-attachment. It is therefore essential to beware of aversion, which is no better than attachment. Aversion is attachment standing on its head, and to know this is to beware of it.

Secondly, as I said, wherever you go the other will be there, because the world is the other. I also said there is only one space where the other is not, and it is the center of one's being. So let us move in that direction, let us move into that space, which is entering into the innermost core of our being. Let us descend into that shrine of aloneness and solitude. There is no one in that solitude, not even you, it is a space of absolute silence. What does it mean? Does it mean that if I shut my eyes to the world I will enter the space of my aloneness and solitude?

Every day we close our eyes, but we are never alone. As soon as we close our eyes we begin to see the same images we had seen with open eyes. Thoughts and imaginations, dreams and daydreams surround us from all sides. The world is again with us. Although it is imaginary it is nonetheless the same world. We use our eyes like a movie camera; what we see with our eyes is imprinted on our mind's film, and we then watch it inside with closed eyes. All our thoughts and images are concerned with the other. And unless they are dropped, unless this inner world of thoughts and dreams goes, we cannot be free from the other, we cannot be alone.

This inner world of thoughts and dreams and images can be dropped, it is not that difficult. It is there because we want it to be there; it exists with our cooperation. And it will disappear the moment we withdraw our cooperation. It is because we relish and enjoy our world of thoughts and images -- we find it pleasurable -- that it is alive and flourishing. Not only our enjoyment of it, even our aversion to it helps to keep it going.

I repeat: not only our addiction to this world, even our aversion is equally responsible. Not only do we think of our friends and loved ones, we also think of our adversaries and enemies whom we hate. And it is ironic that those we hate haunt us much more than those we enjoy and love. But when we neither identify ourselves with something nor condemn it, when we are neither interested in remembering something nor in forgetting it, then the thing drops and disappears on its own; we don't have to do anything. It becomes irrelevant and meaningless, and so it removes itself from the screen of the mind.

If you watch the movie which is your mind like a spectator, a witness, without identifying with it, without condemning it, with total disinterest, then you will find the whole movie dropping away. Before long, it disappears. And by and by the witnessing consciousness alone remains, without any object before it. This objectless awareness is alone; it is alone ness. And one who attains to this aloneness attains to non-attachment. The very experiencing of this consciousness, empty and alone, is non-attachment.

The behavior of a man of non-attachment will be radically different from others, and this behavior is called anasakti yoga or the discipline of non-attachment. He accepts everything -- like a mirror -- without attachment or dislike. Now he knows for himself what self-nature is, what non-attachment is.

He knows that self-nature and non-attachment are inseparably together, and he also knows that attachment and aversion are just behavioral. Having known and understood it in depth, he is not going to behave the same as he had behaved before. His behavior with the outside world will be radically different, because for him the world has ceased to be what it was before. His consciousness has undergone a mutation. It is no more like the film of a camera; now it is like a mirror, and he will use it as a mirror.

A mirror reflects everything that appears before it, but unlike the camera it does not retain impressions when the object has moved away from it. A man of such consciousness will relate with people and things, but he will not enter into relationships involving attachment and aversion. He will mix in society, but his aloneness will remain inviolate and untouched. He will love, but his love will be like lines drawn on the surface of water. Even if he goes to fight, he will fight as though in a play which leaves no marks on the player after he is finished with it. His mirror of consciousness will reflect both love and war, but in itself it will remain unaffected by either. Whatever he will do, his consciousness will be still and steady like the center of the cyclone. His behavior will be just an acting. He will no more remain a doer; he will be an actor on the stage of life.

If Krishna is anything, he is an actor -- a superb actor at that. There has never been a greater and more skilled actor in the whole history of man-kind. He is incomparable even as an actor -- he who turned the whole world into a stage. While all other actors perform their skill on petty stages, Krishna uses the whole earth for his stage.

If a wooden stage can be used why not the whole earth? It does not make much difference; the world can be turned into a leela, a theatrical performance -- which it really is -- and we all can play our roles as actors and performers. An actor weeps and laughs, but tears and laughter don't bind him; he remains untouched by them. When he loves he does not love, when he fights he does not fight; he is never involved in his roles as worldly people are. He plays a friend and a foe without being involved in friendship and enmity.

The life of one who treats everything as play-acting becomes a triangle, a complete triangle. Ordinarily our life is only two points of this triangle, while the third is submerged in darkness. While the two points of attachment and aversion are functioning and visible, the angle of non-attachment is shrouded in darkness. A person of non-attachment brings this third side into light, and the triangle becomes com-plete. While he acts around the points of attachment and aversion, he remains centered at the third -- the point of non-attachment. In his behavior he appears to be attached or averse to people and things, but it is only appearance, acting, it is not real. In reality, he exists at the third point, and to be on this third point is called anasakti or non-attachment.

In fact, all the three points of the triangle exist in each of us but we are ordinarily aware of only two -- one of attachment and the other of aversion. The third point, that of non attachment, remains unknown to us. And the two points of attachment and aversion are like the frying pan and the fire: move from one to the other, do what you can, there is no escape from suffering, pain and misery. One comes to the third point of the triangle when after long suffering, he turns in and discovers his self-nature, his center, the center of the cyclone.

When all the darkness of the mind, of the unconscious is dispelled, the third point of the triangle becomes visible. And one who achieves this third point of non-attachment achieves Krishnahood or Buddhahood, of Jinahood or godliness, or whatever you want to call it. He achieves everything that is worth achieving. Once he knows that he can remain non-attached in every situation, he can afford to play the roles of attachment and dislike.

Someone has written a book called GAMES PEOPLE PLAY. In this long book he has described all the games that people play, but he has missed the very basic game of life. What is this basic game of life? To play the game of attachment and aversion and yet remain non-attached is the ultimate game. But because very few people have played this game, the author of the book missed it.

By turning inward one attains to non-attachment. And turning in is possible only if you become a witness -- a watcher on the hill. Begin witnessing from any point of life and you will reach your innermost depth. And the moment you arrive at your center, you are non attached, you are like a lotus in water. The lotus is born in water, lives in water and yet remains untouched by it.


Next: Chapter 18: Non-Attachment is not Aversion, Question 2


Energy Enhancement           Enlightened Texts            Krishna            Krishna: The Man and His Philosophy



Chapter 18






Search Search web