Love Without Attachment
Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.
Bible, Luke 12:49
This passage has baffled readers of the Bible for centuries. It is hard to understand why Jesus, who elsewhere spreads messages of peace, love and compassion, makes such an apparently divisive statement, striking at the heart of family life.
Perhaps if we interpret it in the light of Sant Mat its meaning may become clear. In matters of the family, the Masters say that we must do our duty by our children with love, but without attachment. And perhaps this is the key to this passage, since love without attachment is no easy option. It requires a warrior’s resolve to love within the context of our worldly lives and yet to keep our spiritual destination in view. If we do our best to love in this way, then we will remain free and our spiritual freedom will reflect on many aspects of family life, enabling us to be good parents, giving a positive Sant Mat influence to our relationships within our families, and making family life a part of our spiritual practice, a seva.
So, what does it mean to be a parent while adhering to the teachings of Sant Mat? Life with children, especially when they are young, is a non stop round of feeding, nappy-changing, clearing up mess and providing an engaging schedule of activities to nurture our little ones’ developing minds. It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotions – yours and theirs, and you are that essential person, always there to wipe away tears and provide cuddles and reassurance. You are their constant risk-assessor – looking around, ready to shout out in warning or to rush to the rescue if danger looms. And then, as they grow up, you have to learn to stand back and let them make their own mistakes so that they can become self-sufficient. Because you know that one day you won’t be there to help them and they will need to be able to stand on their own two feet.
Baba Ji, in the way that he deals with his satsangis, is the perfect example of a good parent. He is known for his mix of humour, tenderness and sternness in question and answer sessions. But, though he sometimes seems strict, he is always fair. He tirelessly and selflessly gives each of us exactly what we need. And if we are lucky enough, we know or feel that he loves us unconditionally. He is always there – whether we realize it or not – ready to pick us up when we fall, to brush off our knees and eventually lift us up and away from the cold, hard ground of this physical plane.
Like children, we are almost entirely self-centred, absorbed in our own little worlds. Most of us run around attending to our busy lives and we don’t heed the advice of the Master. This advice? Meditate, meditate, meditate.
When we have children, for all the reasons listed above, it is not easy to fit in a daily meditation practice. We know that there are twenty-four hours in every day and that we should be able to find the two and a half hours required of us as satsangis. But two and a half hours may still seem like a tall order. We may have to get up early – whenever our children wake up – and prepare for the day. Perhaps we also work outside the home. So then, by the evening, we are just too tired to focus and we fall asleep whilst trying. But, if we really examine our day, can we not find a little time? Perhaps we could go to bed an hour earlier instead of watching TV or surfing the Internet. This would allow us to wake up earlier and do our meditation before the family wakes up. Or could we split our meditation and do half in the evening and half in the morning?
Of course, the answer really lies in our motivation. If we consider meditation to be important enough, we will prioritize and make time for it. Attending satsang regularly and doing seva can help move meditation to the forefront of our minds. We can also see our family life as seva and we can learn from it. Childcare requires a lot of patience, focus and selflessness. The more we meditate, the more these qualities will develop naturally. And if we approach family life with these ideals in mind, the more harmonious it will be. Cultivating this attitude will help us to deal with the physical and mental strains of this difficult work and enjoy moment to moment the joy that children bring. As Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol II:
If you meditate, you build an atmosphere around you, an atmosphere of bliss, happiness and contentment. And then you can pass through all these ups and downs of the world without losing your balance. But if that atmosphere of meditation is not with you, then naturally you get confused.
As satsangi parents we also have to decide how far Sant Mat ideas and lifestyle will influence the guidance we give our children. Returning to the original quote and the idea of losing our attachment to our children, the Masters’ advice seems to be that we should not force our children to be like ourselves, but let them find their own path. For example, let us consider vegetarianism. If both parents are vegetarian it seems an obvious choice to bring children up as vegetarian. But, what if they decide to eat meat of their own accord? Hazur says:
If the atmosphere is of vegetarianism in the house, they’ll automatically be influenced. But since they’re going to school, they also have their own associations and friends who influence them…. You can explain to them, but you can’t force them.
This is also relevant when considering bringing up our children with a spiritual background. How should we approach this? Should we try to encourage them to follow Sant Mat? Hazur says:
We should give children general knowledge about religion, about spirituality to make them receptive, to open their minds to alternatives to traditional beliefs.
In addition, he says,
I think we should, in this modern age at least, make them feel that they are making their independent choice to follow Sant Mat. We should guide them, explain to them, be good examples to them and let them grow to make their own decisions when they reach maturity.
So, relinquishing attachment to our children and family members doesn’t mean we cease to love them, rather we love them more effectively and purely. This will be part of a natural process as a result of meditation. Loving our children without attachment means that we will see more clearly what is best for them. We will let them come to their own beliefs, and we won’t hold on to them when they need to fly the nest and when we eventually die and leave them.
As Kahlil Gibran describes so beautifully in The Prophet:
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies,
so he loves also the bow that is stable.
Mind needs vigilance of a higher order than is given by parents in bringing up their children. It is a very wayward child. So long as it is not trained, it is our worst enemy; but when trained, it is the most faithful companion.
Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems