As a new month approaches, pondering on a perennial question becomes stronger...
Can one really let go?
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Giving up of objects or possessions is meaningless if we can’t let go of the attachment to what those objects or possessions represent. Perhaps we suffer because we are attached to not merely an object itself but to the feeling of gratification that we get from possessing that object. If we can get rid of this desire to feel in possession - which perhaps amounts to same thing as being in-charge of things, circumstances, people around us - then we can begin to reduce our suffering.
Possession does not have to be of any tangible object, it can be of an idea, opinion, belief or thought. If we can get rid of this “need” to hold on to our ideas and opinions, we can begin to practice inner renunciation.
Sri Aurobindo once said -“Attachment is egoism in love”. When we say we love our parents, children, spouse, house, books, art, furniture, stuff, etc. do we really love them because of who or what they are or because they are “ours”? If we love them because they are ours, then in actuality we are in love with ourselves! And that is egoism pure and simple. These people and objects are in a way extension of our ego-selves to which we are attached. And because of this attachment to our egos we feel a sense of desire (for caring, loving, protecting) towards those which serve as extensions to our egos. So in a way it is a desire within us that actually gets fulfilled when we take care of someone or when we protect them. We have to let go of this sense of ‘egoism in love’, that is how we can begin to love truly and deeply with no attachment. It is only when we can get rid of this need to fulfill our desire ‘to love’, ‘to help’, ‘to take care’ we may really begin to learn how to selflessly serve and care for others.
It is the ego that is satisfied when we have convinced others of our viewpoint; it is our ego that is aggrandized when we feel we have done something to help another person. The idea that we are able to help someone by offering advice or by “being there” for them in their difficult time is nothing but egoism at work. When we can get rid of this egoistic feeling that we are helping someone or that the other person needs OUR help and support to come out of their difficult situation, we may begin to practice inner renunciation.
Can we let go of the desire that our actions must lead to a certain outcome? Sometimes there may be no outcome from an action; at least to our little minds it may seem that there has been no visible outcome. Yet we must act. If we can act in that detached way with no consideration to whether there will be any outcome and whether that outcome will be as per our will and preference, we can begin to practice inner renunciation.
Can we really do this? How can we really do this, in a way that is lasting and not just occurring as a once-in-a-while phenomenon in a fleeting moment of desireless-ness and selfless-ness? That’s the million dollar question, as they say. Answer to this like all other real questions in life perhaps lies within. But it is also true that we can let go of other attachments only when we attach to something higher, something Divine - within us, all around us.
Orchid, Spiritual Significance by the Mother: Attachment to the Divine
Photo by Suhas Mehra