Lord Krishna has been bringing up non-attachment since chapter two. Now we are hearing about how to get unattached, but the solution is almost as enigmatic as the problem.
“In this world, one is bound by action, except for actions for the purpose of sacrifice. Free of attachment, act for this purpose, Arjuna.” — Verse 9
Attachment – bond, fetter
What is attached to what?
The above verse appears to suggest that you are attached to things and that you shouldn’t be. It reads like that. It feels like that. But it is not you that is attached.
What gets attached to things is one or more of your senses. That is what needs to become “free of attachment”. You cannot become free of attachments until the senses themselves become separated from the things they attach to, their ‘objects’. This happens automatically when the sense organs become separated from the sense faculties* in meditation (pratyahara).
You appear to be attached to things
due to identification with the
body and senses.
* Sense faculties - your powers of perception; your ability to see, hear, etc.
Non-attachment comes in stages and over time through the consistent practice of meditation. At first, it shows up as you finding your meditation practice more desirable than other things, i.e., objects of sense (everything ‘out there’ qualifies for this label). Then one day in your meditation, you have your first direct experience and become completely enamored of your practice—you had a taste of true non-attachment when your sense faculties became separated from their physical organs, and you had a profound experience. Now you are hooked, and you want more.
In later stages of Yoga, other kinds of ‘attachments’ reveal themselves, but no worries, they will be dealt with in due course in the same way. One example is khechari mudra, where the tongue begins to try to rise up into the pharynx and can’t because it is ‘attached’. The point is, it is not you that is attached. It never has been.
You will remember that I said earlier that my own perspective is surrender, which is not well-known. It is traditional in that it has a lineage of masters a mile long, but the practice itself will not be known or understood by someone outside of it. So the solution is going to be different than would be the case with a more widely known form of yoga sadhana. Not being of such a path, I do not feel qualified to speak on this subject from that perspective, but can give you an idea of the solution to non-attachment according to my own path.
Enlightenment is said by some to have been reached when there is no ego, no ‘me’. But as long as there is a form, there is some degree of ego*, and as long as there is a mind, there is an ego, for it is the very core of the mind. I tend to think of the ‘me’ as a simple misidentification, and that the way to undo this is through realization of non-doership, which separates you from nature (that stuff ‘out there’) and is true non-attachment, and the highest enlightenment.
The realization of non-doership happens when you realize that you don’t do anything and never have. This is not limited to realizing that it’s the Real You that does nothing, but that even the you that you think you are does nothing. It just looks like it does. All action is just nature doing her thing. When you get this you’re done with karma. You are not compelled to come back here to this world again. This is why non-attachment is necessary for achieving moksha, liberation.
* Ego - Sanskrit, ahamkara - 'I do'.
Surrender is not the same thing as the innocence of childhood but it looks a lot like it, and by thinking about it this way, you’ll get an idea of what I mean by ‘surrender’. The only real difference between innocence and surrender is that you are conscious of surrendering in meditation because you have chosen it, you have something specific to surrender, and you have surrendered it to something specific: God, or whatever your word is for that. Whereas a child is just doing what comes naturally. What they both have in common is this natural spontaneity.
Lest you be like a little child you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Because what we really are is currently occupied with being imperfect humans, this surrender is limited to the meditation room. If we could master all five of the yamas and all five of the niyamas here in this world, we could let this restriction go, but I do not recommend that you assume yourself to have reached this exalted state. However, if you have, I bow at your holy feet.
Direct perception is a direct experience, but direct experience is not necessarily direct perception.
Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You really are),