Thursday, November 15, 2012

Staying Detached

Sita and Rama“This lady knows the resolve of Rama and the intelligent Lakshmana, so she is not very agitated, like Mother Ganga at the onset of the rainy season.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.4)

rāmasya vyavasāyajñā lakṣmaṇasya ca dhīmataḥ |
na atyartham kṣubhyate devī gangā iva jalada āgame ||

“How do I stay detached? I know that I shouldn’t worry so much about what goes on at work, but I can’t help it. When I’m playing a game, I get very angry if I start to lose. In the end it doesn’t matter if I lose, but I’d like to be able to remain cool under pressure. I’d like to stay detached from the outcome, as Shri Krishna recommends in the Bhagavad-gita.”

The Bhagavad-gita is one of the most famous texts in the world, and since it presents spirituality as a science, it transcends the bounds of religion. It is a philosophical work which relies upon an underlying sentiment to hold everything together. Without that proper sentiment, the philosophy will not work as applied, sort of like trying to use nuts and bolts to build a house without having a foundation. When that underlying sentiment is present, however, even some of the more difficult philosophical points become very easy to implement, without conscious attention even. We get an example of this from the behavior of Sita Devi in the Ashoka grove in Lanka.

“Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty; for by working without attachment, one attains the Supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.19)

Shri Krishna, who is Bhagavan, or the Supreme Lord who is full of opulences, recommends that we stay detached from the outcome to events. “Do your duty and don’t worry so much about the fruits. Follow obligation for the sake of obligation, to stay virtuous.” This begs the question as to what exactly our duty is. If while reading the Gita I am a professional athlete, is it my duty to win? So does this mean that I should use the Gita to help boost my performance? Krishna will be my coach? Is that the purpose to His teachings?

The true meaning of the detachment mentioned is a firm faith in the ability of Krishna to deliver all good things. To have faith in Krishna, or God, means to know His qualities and one’s relationship to Him. Krishna is the name for God which means all-attractive. So in this sense connection to Him doesn’t have to be dull. It doesn’t have to be forced, either. Go to the Lord because He is attractive. Follow devotion to Him because He is the reservoir of pleasure, like a treasure house of good qualities.

Devotion to Krishna is also ideal because of the qualities of the individual. There is an inherent relationship between the individual and the Supreme Absolute Truth that is described in the philosophy of achintya-bhedabheda-tattva. There is simultaneous oneness and difference between us and God. Also, that combination is beyond the thinking of the mind; it is achintya. No need to tax your brain trying to figure it out. Just accept that you are the same as Krishna in quality but vastly inferior in the quantitative measurement of that quality. We are meant to serve and He is meant to accept our service.

The ideal service is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, and those who follow it automatically get the detachment to the outcome of events that Krishna recommends. Otherwise, such detachment will be very difficult to achieve, and even when it exists it won’t lead to the highest benefit. On the other hand, within bhakti-yoga the detachment will exist even in situations where you likely wouldn’t think to see it. Such was the case with Sita when she separated from her husband Rama.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman sees Sita from afar. As a Vanara, he is capable of climbing trees, so he is perched on one while surveying the situation in this grove. Thus far he has searched all of Lanka for Rama’s missing wife but to no avail. Finally, in this grove he knows that he has spotted her. She is sighing repeatedly and is surrounded by female ogres ordered to harass her. He feels tremendous pity seeing her, but at the same time he knows that she is not overly agitated.

The comparison is made to Ganga Devi, who is more commonly known as the Ganges River. She is not agitated at the onset of the rainy season, though she knows that her water levels will rise rapidly. This season comes every year, so the level of the river is slated to rise and fall at set intervals. Sita is also not overly agitated, and the reason is that she knows Rama’s resolve and the intelligent Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother. Rama is the same Krishna but in a different form, an avatara to act out a wonderful real life play known as the Ramayana. Sita is Rama’s eternal consort, so she is intimately familiar with the Lord’s qualities.

Sita DeviTypically, someone in Sita’s situation would have no reason to remain calm. Wouldn’t you be scared if you were taken away somewhere and no one knew where you were? Wouldn’t you be worried about never seeing your beloved again? But Sita knew that Rama is resolute, that He doesn’t give up easily. As God, Rama can do anything, but He chooses to remain with the devotees, to serve their interests. Their interests always relate to serving Him, so why wouldn’t Rama reciprocate?

Lakshmana is the number one servant of God, so his intelligence is flawless as well. Relying on these two individuals, Sita could find some comfort in an otherwise difficult situation. Following Sita’s behavior, the devotee stuck in a material land that is conducive to forgetfulness of God can stay firm to the path of devotion by relying upon the resolve of the Supreme Lord and the intelligence of the spiritual master. Hanuman himself relied on this combination and it gave him success in a mission that was extremely difficult.

In Closing:

To be so concerned I know is not good,

Lessons from Bhagavad-gita understood.


Always worried about tomorrow and now,

Stay detached from outcomes how?


Just look at Rama’s wife’s resolve,

To learn how this problem to solve.


Ganga Devi not agitated by monsoon’s wave,

And so Sita knew that Rama would come to save.


That intelligence in Lakshmana and Rama resolute,

Known to Hanuman, an observer most astute.