Attachment to Detachment: Q&A with Amma

13 Jan 2017, Amritapuri Ashram Beach Meditation

Amma gathered with the devotees on the beach for meditation. The gentle rumbling of waves and cool, onshore breeze quieted everyone’s mind. After sometime spent in contemplation, someone raised their hand with a question for Amma:

“Amma, you ask us to live a life of love and compassion, but you also ask us to practice detachment. I don’t know how to practice detachment without also giving up love. How can we practice detachment and also live a life of love and compassion at the same time?”

Spirituality is loving yourself and accepting what comes

Amma answered: “Spirituality is loving yourself and accepting what comes. Detachment is the attitude of acceptance, knowing the nature of the world and people. Accept the sugar as sugar and the salt as salt, the cow as cow and the elephant as elephant. Don’t try to see the cow as elephant and the elephant as cow. Though sugar and salt look the same, you put salt instead of sugar in the chai and then complain about the taste. The mistake is our own, we mistook salt for sugar. See each at their own level, and accept them as they are.”

“For instance, someone may be known to tell tall tales. When you know this about the person, you do not get caught up in their stories despite the fact that others might get carried away by the stories, believing them to be true. Knowing that this is person to be an exaggerator, knowing them as they are, you do not get carried away like others.”

“You may think very highly of someone, but after some period of interaction your opinion might wane. Also, you may think someone is useless at first, but, after spending some time with them, realize how great they are. In both these cases you made someone great and you made someone good for nothing, both are your creation, that is why you need to see everything for what it is. Understand the nature of objects and people, and then live accordingly.”

Expect nothing in return when giving

“Expectation is our creation, so is sorrow. Spirituality is a practical approach to life. Right attachment is detachment. Right detachment is attachment. Seeing others as yourself, that is what detachment is.”

In order to explain the point Amma narrated an anecdote.

“Perhaps, when you were going through school, a friend of yours needed money for books, food, clothing, and the like. Many years later you run into some financial difficulty. Your friend, the one who you helped in school, is now rich and has a good job. You may think to go to him for help, remembering that you had helped him and thinking that he will certainly repay the favour now, but, when you meet with him, you find out that he is not willing to help you.

“Like this, we should not expect anything in return when we give. If we must expect, then we should learn to expect both good and bad. We plant a seed, it may sprout, it may not sprout, it may bear fruit, it may not bear fruit–anything may happen. If you put money in the stock market, you may expect to make money, but you may lose money. Both may happen. We should cultivate an attitude to accept both of these potentials. That is what detachment is. That is what understanding the nature of the world is, accepting both possibilities and moving forward. Live a life without any dependence. We have been growing up with a dependence from our childhood onwards, and it is not easy to change that. The real attachment is what detachment is.”

Amma then began to expand on this thought.

Expectation and Detachment

“Detachment is a state where you see others as yourself. When you see others as yourself, that is the real detachment. That state is what detachment is. What we have now is just expectation. You love the cow for the sake of its milk. When it stops providing milk, you send it to the butcher. Wife and husband get married expecting love from the other. They are like two beggars begging from each other with nothing to give. When they don’t get love, they get angry, fight, and divorce. We are begging from each other, but the love we desire is there within. Without knowing that it is within, we are seeking it outside.”
Amma then told a story of a grandmother who lost her diamond ring. She was searching on the road, and, after searching for some time, some passerbys came to help. They asked her where exactly she had lost the ring. She said, “I lost it in my house.” The passerbys replied, “So why are you searching out here?” She said, “Because there is no light in my house, and here there is light.” Amma concluded the story by saying, “Similarly, we are seeking joy and love outside.”

Right Attachment

“In a changing world, understanding its nature, being in centered in one’s self, we should love others. That is the right attachment. Today’s friend may become tomorrow’s foe and today’s foe may become tomorrow’s friend, because our mind is constantly changing. In this changing world, there is one changeless thing upon which all the changes are taking place, and that is the self, the Atman. Wake up to that state. The human birth is to realize the self (changeless substratum).”

All Are One

“Everything is one Atman. There are a hundred reflections of the sun in a hundred pots of water, but, in reality, there is only one sun. The tree is Brahman and the seed is also Brahman, but the seed has not yet become the tree. The tree is ready to give shade, and food, and shelter–one is able to help others where the seed is not. We have to grow into that state where we can help others. True, both the seed and tree are Brahman, yet only the tree has grown to its full potential (giving shade, food, shelter, etc.), whereas the seed, though being Brahman as well, only retains the potential of blossoming into a tree. The potential is there within, but we have not realized it.”

Guru is Right Weather

“For the seed to grow, there must be a conducive atmosphere. An apple tree will not grow in a tropical area or desert. Dates will not grow in the Himalayas. The premature baby needs an incubator. Like that, we need a conducive atmosphere for development, which is the Guru’s presence. The Guru’s presence is like an ideal climate is for a plant. The Guru has the experience of reality. Be in their presence and get the guidance. The Guru is the one who has experienced the absolute. By being associated with the Guru we can get in touch with their knowledge in no time. When you have a Guru it is like traveling in an express bus. You can reach your destination faster.”

Compassion in Action

“When we poke our eye with the finger, the same finger that injured the eye, consoles it, because we know both to be part of ourselves, to be one. We have to awaken to that state of oneness. Other’s sorrow is your sorrow, other’s joy is your joy.”

“We shouldn’t cry for the blind person, but hold their hand and help them cross the road. Instead of feeling pity for the hungry, we should feed them or show them where we they can find food. Think about what you can do for society. The real attachment is detachment. In that state, you’re not angry with anybody, you’re not expecting anything from anyone. The mind is the one that is creating sukha and dhukha. If you know the nature of the mind, the work is done.”

– Sakshi