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Published:November 3rd, 2009 09:24 EST
On being inordinately attached

On being inordinately attached

By Ignatius Fernandez

                       "Where your treasure is, there also is your heart."   Matthew 6:21

As always, Jesus politely gets to the truth, using just a few words. Rephrased bluntly, He cautions us that attachments make us slaves. This slavery is described well by Albert Schweitzer: "If you have something you can`t do without, you don`t own it; it owns you." In the Bhagwat Gita, the Holy Book of the Hindus, Krishna refers to the wisdom of being detached: "the wise act without attachment." He means that the unwise are inordinately attached. Dr. Desmond Biddulph, one-time Vice President of the Budhist Society, explains the idea in different words: "The need to look up to something greater than ourselves is imprinted in all of us. When we no longer gaze up in wonder, we start searching elsewhere, and this is when our difficulties begin. Within the heart of all of us is a special space, prepared for the spirit. When the spirit is undervalued, neglected and forgotten, other things come to take its place. Thus begin our wanderings, constantly chasing after pleasure and security, in flight from discomfort and fear, never at home, never at peace." Isn`t it obvious, from the teachings of different religions, that the more of heaven in our lives, the less of earth there will be?

In his thought-provoking book, "You`ll see it when you believe it", Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, lists the attachments that get the better of us: 1) Money 2) Possessions 3) Some persons 4) Our opinions 5) Our past 6) Our bodies. Based on our perceptions, we are enslaved by these attachments. For one it is money; for another it is his mistress. Anais Nin gives us a reason for such behaviour: "We don`t see things as they are; we see them as we are." With distorted perceptions, we find exaggerated importance in our attachments. Money becomes an obsession, because that is how important it becomes. And an undesirable relationship takes centre-stage. But as life draws to a close we realize, with despair, that the only things we really lost were the things we tried to keep.

1) MONEY   Steven Good (52), Head of one of the largest Estate Auction Houses in the USA, shot himself dead. He was one of the high profile casualties of the economic crisis. Adolf Merchle (74), German Billionaire, threw himself under a train after he lost large sums of money. Money defined their lives. When they lost it, they found no purpose in living. Commenting on people who are attached to wealth, Bob Scheinfeld, in his book, "The 11th. Element", wrote: "I know people with very little money and a few possessions who are incredibly happy, lead a fulfilled life and are serene. I also know people with hundreds of millions, who are miserable. It is not money that creates reality. It is what`s inside us that does it." To strengthen our case, we have a remarkable insight on riches, from Alexander the Great. When he conquered a city and all the loot was in the valley before him, a soldier said to him: "Sire, what more can you ask for?" In a pensive mood, Alexander replied: "But it doesn`t last."

2) POSSESSIONS   "The best things in life aren`t things," wrote Art Buchwald. When we look at what we want and compare it with what we have, we will be unhappy. But when we think of what we really deserve, considering our shortcomings, we will thank God for what we have. In this context, Oscar Wilde`s cryptic comment should be given some thought: "In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what we want, and the other is getting it.. It is time we were less loud in our claims: "My big house."  "My big car."  "My big investments."  And so on.

3) PERSONS   How often do we not put some people even ahead of God? To some, the boss is a demigod; to others a child becomes the reason to live. When that child dies or leaves home, life becomes meaningless. To some others, the death of a spouse is the end of the road. Strong bonds are good; but, excessive attachment destroys. Neither do we have the space to grow, nor do we give the other person space to grow.

4) OPINIONS   David Rock, in his book, "Quiet Leadership", states that our ideas and opinions are like our children - the best. It is this obduracy that leads to a breakdown in some relationships. With each one not willing to compromise, the discussion is deadlocked; what is left is simmering discontent. Opinions are not beliefs or convictions. For example, there can be no debate on honesty, but opinions can differ on political ideology, skills of people, music, literature, and so on. To confuse an opinion with a conviction is nothing short of ignorance, in the grab of certainty.

5) PAST   Polishing old brass is a favorite occupation for those who live in the past. `When I was in the Army---`, `When I was Headmistress---`, `When I was a Corporate Consultant---` and similar statements are made by people who refuse to let go of the past; for them it is sustenance. No doubt, the past has its purpose-- to provide lessons. Besides that, it is dead. To hanker after the past is a weakness ,to be discouraged.

6) BODIES   In Singapore, I know of an old woman who visits the Beauty Palour every day. Not that she is a film star or a social bigwig; she is in love with her body. Such people will be traumatized with age and will find the thought of death hateful. Some of us pamper our bodies with exotic herbal treatment and expensive body-care products. To keep our bodies in good health and good shape is an important duty; but, to overdo such attention is shifting the focus from essentials. Those of us who spend hours before the mirror, need to be weaned off the habit in order to concentrate on the to-do list before us.

Could there be a better way to end this article than to quote Meister Eckart: "He who would be serene and pure, needs but one thing, detachment."?