More detachment

Not actual detachments, but I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I continue to read the Bhagavad Gita. I have just finished the portion where Krishna reveals himself in all his glory and immenseness to Arjuna, and then Arjuna asks him to be just Krishna again (my mind boggled at the description, so I can only imagine what Arjuna was feeling, seeing this all in person), and asks how to be a more perfect devotee. Krishna tells him to live in love, and then explains again how one can do that, finally instructing Arjuna to act with detachment, without anticipating an outcome, neither seeking pleasure or avoiding pain.

I can understand this somewhat, but my conscious mind always gets in the way. I think that at these times of confusion the Self speaks loudest, but the physical mind becomes frustrated because this knowledge is bigger than its capacity to reason, or at least it is when the physical mind is where mine is, tied to a physical form.

Everything in my life is physical and sensory, as far as my brain is concerned. It feels. It sees. It thinks. At times the Self guides it a little, and I am able to act on the feelings of others. I can anticipate the experiences of other people in the same situation, and acting selflessly becomes easier.

But then I get to thinking again (sense a theme here?) and I am reminded of a scene in Delhi 6, when Abhishek Bachchan’s character becomes upset at his grandmother, who has accepted the terrible violent situation around her as “the way things are,” and tells her that that’s just avoidance, and she needs to do something about it. She needs to act to change things.

Gandhi, beloved by millions, not only in India, acted to change things. So I wonder if there’s a difference between attachment and acceptance. Is it possible to see one’s role in a situation as an agent of change, and still act with detachment, or is acceptance of a situation as it is what is meant there? Can those of us who have not realized the Self fully be this detached in our lives, or are we stuck in the cycle of rebirth, forever creating new karma that we will have to reconcile later?

I like to think that there’s a steadfast determination that’s a third option, where you do what you must because it is what you must do, but you are not upset when things don’t work out the way you wanted. You’re not ecstatic when they do, because that feeling fades and you find yourself chasing it to the next experience, and the next, and soon you’re doing things so that you feel good, not because you must do them.

And while I can articulate that fairly easily, putting it into practice is not so easy.

About HappyGoth

By day, I'm a graphic designer. By night, I'm a knitter. I'm doing my part to keep Hotlanta stylish. I imagine that if you don't already understand the title of the blog, you're probably confused and perhaps slightly annoyed, but never fear - I do have a reason (and it's a good one). Having gone to hear Stephanie Pearl McPhee, and then having been inspired to blog about knitting, I found myself wondering what to call the blog. I recalled a conversation I had with Mouse and the Chicken Goddess about why it is a Bad Idea to anger knitters - this conversation was following SPM, aka the Yarn Harlot telling the assembled throng about Those Who Do Not Understand Knitting and Therefore Belittle It Much to the Chagrin of Others, or TWDNUKTBMCO, which is not the acronym she used but is the one I'm using because I forgot hers - that is, we are numerous and we all have very pointy sticks, easily transforming into an angry mob. Therefore, knitters = angry mob.
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5 Responses to More detachment

  1. Pramod Kushwaha says:

    “…Is it possible to see one’s role in a situation as an agent of change, and still act with detachment, or is acceptance of a situation as it is what is meant there?…”

    A very good question! I try to answer it below.
    The fact is that the soul or self (the original element) is incapable of any internal or external actions (karma)- this is the unachangeable TRUTH. The soul or self can wish or will any manner but no action is possible with the wishful thinking. The one who thinks himself/herself as an agent of change is under an illusion. The actual action is in nature and goes on irrespective of the will or desire of the individual. The soul or self has powers only to relate the actions to the self in a pleasant or non-pleasant manner. It is the making of these pleasant or non-pleasant relations of the self v/s actions that is the cause of ills. The relationship is purely imaginary and doesn’t exist because the sensation of pleasant or non-pleasant is impossible to the self. All this is very complex that is why the technique of KARMA YOGA is propounded with purpose of first making aware the individual to this original traits and properties that can’t be changed even by God! The second step is culture the individual into those properties with object ending the life-death cycle.
    KARMA YOGA is as under:-
    Only the dutiful actions are to be under taken by the individual that already under his/her routine.
    If any of the routine actions are forbidden by DHARMA (Drinking Liquour, Theft etc.), they are to be given up un-conditionally.
    The dutiful actions must be performed with the same zeal that is shown by the unwitty ordinary persons. But internally your-self must keep away from the pleasant or painful effects of the actions, constantly telling yourself that painful or the pleasant effects are ephemeral while your-self is eternal, the effects will die but you can’t die (infact it is impossible for you to die even if you wish). The same mental attitude to be cultured towards the result of actions – the pleasant or painful feeling because success or failure to be discarded. What is being advised is the giving up of the feelings and not the actions and their results. You can neither give up actions nor can you give up their results. Example – you can’t give food; you can’t give up taste when you eat food; but you can certainly give up constant thinking of taste. All this exercise is to realise yourself different from the actions, to convince you that you exist even if you don’t act, to convince you that actions are not indispensable to your existance. I other words you must adopt the style of your real self.

    • HappyGoth says:

      I will have to think about this for a while; you’ve given me a lot of things to ponder!

      One further question – so could you say that what’s best is to enjoy pleasant things for the time you experience them, and endure painful things, but don’t spend your time seeking out pleasant things or avoiding painful ones? That is, to live in the moment, without anticipating future successes/failures or dwelling on past successes/failures?

  2. Pramod Kushwaha says:

    Both the pleasant things and painful things must be treated as illusions, because they are illusions in real. A pleasant feeling is born and hence is bound to die, so is the paiful feeling. Thus the feelings are ephemeral. But you are eternal, you can’t cease to exist even if you wish. The seemingly ceasure of existance during sleep or death is also illusionary! The ephermeral feelings may persist for as long as possible but will disappear and since you are not the doer you can’t wish away the feelings as per your will. So just wait or much better ignore the feelings they are bound to die, they only seem to kill you but they can’t, rather the feelings get killed. The whole world may vanish but you can’t; the self is eternal. Thus treat the feelings as poor objects that will die rather than creating relationship by wishing that the feelings don’t die. It is truth that the feeling can’t become immortal and that the self can’t become mortal. So mould your style according to the truth. A good style is not to get elated when a good feeling is born or a bad feeling dies. Similarly avoid distress when good feeling is going or bad feeling is comming!

  3. aham says:

    Interesting post, need to say a few things of what i understood from it, first nowhere in Bhagavad Gita has Krishna said we should detach ourselves from actions,infact the whole Bhagavad Gita exists because Arjuna was detaching himself from his actions/duty to fight injustice and help establish Dharma, and in Gita Krishna tells Arjuna to do his duty, so the detachment that is spoken is Gita is only related to the outcome of one’s action. Secondly what is said in Gita is very hard to follow,but if we follow it just for 5% we will happier than we are, also total detachment is not possible and doesnt fit the times that we are in today.

    P.S: I havent read Gita completely but just bits and pieces,hopefully I will read it soon(preferably in Sanskrit)

    • HappyGoth says:


      This actually helps me make sense of things. It also helps remind me that I’m overthinking this a bit. I think I’d gotten so involved in the later parts of the Gita that I forgot about the earlier parts. I needed the reminder!

      Meanwhile, I’ve been asking Krishna for understanding, so that as I read perhaps some of the deeper wisdom percolates into my brain. We’ll see how it goes… Perhaps I will re-read it later and see if a second reading (and some time to think in between) helps any.

      I think that detaching one’s self from the outcome of action is relevant advice to the over-stressed individual, since a lot of that stress comes out of worrying about outcomes. If you let go of a dependence on results, life becomes much more tranquil. I will endeavor to remember this.

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