This is part 1 of a 3-part series. Here I try to answer the question “What is Detachment?” In the next article I’ll describe what a genuinely Scientific Temperament is. You’ll be surprised to know that many non-scientists in all walks of life have this temperament, and that not all professional scientists necessarily do! In the third part, I’ll describe Maya in a way that only true scientists can appreciate (whether or not you’re a professional scientist).
What Detachment is Not
Detachment is not about giving up material possessions and ordinary pleasures. One can easily do that for all the wrong reasons.
Yes, let me say that again. It’s easy to give up material possessions and mortal pleasures for all the wrong reasons.
It is not about seeking out that cave in the Himalayas. You’ll never find the right cave that way.
You don’t go to a cave to become detached. You go to a cave because you’re already detached! Because your detachment leads you to it… naturally. It’s the predictable destination of a life that seeks out the finest in everything and will not settle for less when more could be had.
If and when you retreat to a cave, it won’t be because you want to seek the truth, but because you seek the truth… Because you are fed up with the vacuousness of everything else.
Seeking is profoundly different from wanting to seek. Only seeking is genuine. Wanting to seek is always disingenuous.
You can enjoy all the finest that life has to offer and yet be detached. After all, what are mortal pleasures but a way to make the waiting more bearable? Why vilify and shun them for the wrong reasons?
Now that we’ve looked at what detachment is NOT let’s look at what it IS.
What Detachment Is
Real detachment is about giving up your dearly held incorrect beliefs and notions… About not having an agenda and seeking the truth earnestly.
Giving up an idea that makes you feel special is incomparably harder than giving up your new Porsche.
Detachment is about not being vested in a particular viewpoint for any reason other than knowing it to be true. It is about abandoning a view that doesn’t check out as easily as you toss a worn out sock.
You can be a complete and utter pleasure seeker, not even bound by the norms of society, guided by only the principle that any pleasure that doesn’t cause suffering in other beings is a good pleasure, and yet be completely detached. Then you are closer to finding out the true nature of reality.
When you are detached, you don’t do things because they make you feel good about yourself. You do them only because they make you feel good.
Feeling good is very different from feeling good about yourself. Detachment is knowing the difference and preferring the former.
When you’re detached, you don’t shortchange yourself. You don’t compromise on the quality of your life for social or normative reasons.
Your life is descriptive, not prescriptive.
You don’t cling to ideas just because you have to. You don’t believe something just because it’s expected of you, or because it’s inscribed on your temple walls. Or because it’s written in your scriptures. Or because a prophet said so, the pope said so, or your holy person or guru said so. Or even worse, because a deluded follower or admirer of some holy person said so.
You would only believe it because it had passed your own careful scrutiny. You are confident enough in your quest to say “I love the Buddha, but fuck him because his truth isn’t my truth.” In fact, that’s what would really make his day.
A child is looking for a candy factory. A man appeases her with a single lollipop and tells her to give up her search. Should the child go away?
Detached people don’t make compromises. They don’t settle. For anything less than the best. Why live less when you can live more? Why be finite when you can be infinite?
That’s all it takes!
Giving up the false leaves us with no option but to find the truth.
And the truth is not out there. It’s in here.
Let go of all external oughts foisted on you that don’t pass your own critical examination. You’re too bright for that.
You want to dance the dance of infinity. So get off the finite stage. It’s too small for you.
Don’t be someone for someone else.
Be true to yourself. Be honest in admitting what you really want. To the one person who’s often the last you’ll tell – Yourself.
That’s detachment. When you look at it that way, you’ll see that detachment is not about giving up mortal pleasures. It is about giving up ON mortal pleasures… eventually.
स होवाच याज्ञवल्क्यो
न वा अरे सर्वस्य कामाय सर्वं प्रियं भवति |
आत्मनस्तु कामाय सर्वं प्रियं भवति ||