Swimming Along the Waves of Detachment
In A Lamp in the Darkness: Illuminating the Path Through Difficult Times, Jack Kornfield, an American Buddhist teacher and author, writes:
Like a sandcastle, all is temporary.
Build it, tend it, enjoy it.
And when the time comes
let it go.
The lives we have so carefully crafted for ourselves are akin to a flimsy sandcastle that can be knocked down in an instant. Nevertheless, we must attend to our duties and build our lives, careers, families, and relationships in this world. We enjoy the fruits of them and suffer pain from them. But, most of all, we must be ready to detach and give them up at the blink of an eye.
Kornfield’s description of detachment is at the heart of Sant Mat’s teachings: to live in this world and not be of it. That is, we must be ready to let go of the life we have toiled for after we “build it, tend it, enjoy it.” But, how is it possible to live in this world and not quite be of it? How is it possible to toil to create a life, career and family and be ready to give it all up without even a moment’s notice?
To get a clearer picture on how to detach, let’s turn to Maharaj Charan Singh’s words on surrender in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III. He tells us:
We must accept the events of life. You cannot change the course of the events of life, but you can always adjust to them. Adjusting to the events of life will always make you happy and relaxed. If you swim against the waves, you will drown. If you swim along with the waves, you will get to the shore easily.
Hazur is describing the act of letting go as swimming “along with the waves” rather than against them. He’s emphasizing that if we go with the flow and keep fulfilling our duties one by one as they arise, we will never become over-involved or attached to outcomes.
Detachment is ultimately a form of acceptance. This acceptance of life’s events allows us to adjust our sails to the winds of this life. And eventually, our ability to adjust leads to a deep surrender to the Lord’s will. This process thus becomes the life cycle of detachment: without a deep-rooted acceptance for our circumstances, we can never fully acclimate to the ebbs and flows of this life or surrender at the feet of the Lord to ultimately escape the clutches of this world.
It is our willingness to surrender that eventually aids us in detaching from this creation and rising above the worldly plane to unite with the Lord. By utilizing these tools of accepting, adjusting, and surrendering, we can loosen our attachment to our loved ones while still fulfilling our karmic duty to them.
But how can the ultimate form of detachment from the creation finally occur? In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, Hazur explains:
Our main attention should be towards the Father.… Only attachment [to the Lord] will create detachment in us. When we are attached to something higher within, then automatically we are detached from this creation. Then we will mix with people as a matter of duty.
The idea that Hazur is relaying is that if we focus on the Father at all times through our simran and bhajan, our attention will pull away from this world on its own. Then, we will attend to our worldly obligations as we “swim along with the waves.” In other words, we will wade through the ups and the downs of this life fully aware that our effort in meditation trumps all aspects of this material plane.
With our eyes on salvation, we come to realize that detachment is a necessary and ongoing aspect in our lives as disciples. Even though we must “build it, tend it, enjoy it,” we must always be prepared to let all of our material attachments go without notice. As we begin to attach ourselves via simran and bhajan to our higher purpose – God-realization – we gradually accept our plight, adjust the sails of our expectation, and surrender our attachments to the material world.