Long time back, I was reading this book called, ‘Living with the Himalayan Masters’ by Swami Rama and there was a thought that caught my attention. The author says that attachment can never be love. Love and non-attachment are both one and the same. Is there an element of truth in this statement?
Most of us think that the opposite is true. We equate love with attachment. It seems very straight forward: if you are working on a project and you are passionate about it, you will give your 100 percent to it. You will make sure that you do everything you can to make the project work and if doesn’t work, you go crazy. You are attached to it and that is a proof that you care about the project. That’s a good thing, right?
But maybe at some point, you have to be detached from the entire thing. Let’s say that you are a sportsperson and your body is getting slower and slower. You are just not able to contribute to your team. You are so attached to the game and playing sports that you are just unable to let go. You keep playing. You are giving your 100 percent but your body has passed its prime. Your team is getting affected. You know that there are talented youngsters out there who are playing better but you just don’t want to retire. Can you call this love? If you truly love the sport that you are playing, you will realize that the sport will be better if you stop playing. That doesn’t mean you break all ties. You can still coach or do something else to make the game better but you have to understand that your so-called ‘love’ for the game is actually ruining it.
This applies to every area of life. Some people think that being possessive is love. It’s okay to be possessive to some extent but when you start messing with other people’s freedom, you are not loving them. At the end of the day, you can only give suggestion to a grown-up adult. You cannot control that person and call it love. Maybe your daughter wants to be an investment banker but you want her to be an artist. Are you going to stop her from following her dreams? If your happiness is completely dependent on your daughter’s career choice, then are you really loving her or are you merely treating her as a means to an end (your happiness) ? Do you only love people when they do what you tell them to? If that’s the case then you are confusing fear with love. Attachment arises out of fear. You had an amazing experience and you are afraid of losing that awesome feeling. So, you cling to the thing that gave you that experience so that you can get the same feeling again and again and again. But as we all know, even the greatest experience in the world is temporary. No matter what we do, we cannot hold onto anything.
One might say that non-attachment is cold. But this confusion occurs because we confuse non-attachment with indifference. Indifference is actually the opposite of non-attachment. Indifference is usually a result of extreme attachment. In my personal experience, I became indifferent when my expectations from life got shattered again and again. Non-attachment, on the other hand is not against expectations. You have expectations but you are not too attached to them. Non-attachment is knowing that even if all your expectations are fulfilled, you will still suffer.
One might also say that non-attachment is selfish. I would say that attachment is selfish. If your family member wants to go to another country to study, it is of course very normal to feel pain. Your family member will be happy when she knows that you care so much about her. But if you are too attached, you might make it very difficult for your family member to pursue her dreams. You think that you are loving the person when you ask her to stay with you despite knowing that the decision to go abroad is very important for her. But you are actually trying to avoid pain. When you are attached, you think that the pain and pleasure are being created by the other person.
Love other people. Give your 100 percent. But be aware of the ‘love’ that comes out of fear.