Detachment Is Spiritual Freedom

detachment nothing should own youToday is Sunday, February 23, 2014.

The most common definition of detachment is aloofness or lack of concern for others, but in the area of spirituality, detachment is a positive quality.  It is not a lack of concern, but a lack of prejudice or partiality.  It is acceptance of the way the world actually is, rather than holding the whole world accountable for our self-centered expectations.  Detachment is the freedom to get along without the approval of others.

Today’s quote says, “Detachment is not that you should own nothing, but that nothing should own you.”  Some people seem to think that if they simply give up material things in life that they will somehow be more spiritual.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Rather, if we live our lives so that nothing in our physical lives should control us.

For example, to a certain extent, we’re all controlled by money or the concept of money.  If you think you are not controlled by it, then why do you go to work every day?  Even people who enjoy their jobs and would do it for free if they could ultimately appreciate getting a paycheck.  But most of us are not so controlled by money that we will do something illegal, immoral, or personally degrading to get it, and most of us are no so controlled by it that if we are on the losing end of an investment, we aren’t going to go out and kill ourselves.

There are other things in life that it’s a good idea to be detached from: food, alcoholic beverages, drugs, and sex.  Sure, we need food to live, but it doesn’t have to be any particular food.  As well, we should be detached enough from food that we don’t need to resort to eating too much of any one thing for comfort.  Sex is another thing that the body craves at times, but it’s possible to live without it, if necessary.  Not for the species as a whole, mind  you, but individuals have gotten along without it.  Most of us are detached from liquor, but those who cannot seem to function in life without it, and whose every act in every day consists of obtaining, having and using alcohol are totally controlled by it.   Basically, when your actions are determined by your need for a thing, you are not detached from it.

It’s not just physical things that we must be detached from.  We must be detached emotionally, as well, from approval, corroboration, praise, admiration, and popularity.  We must also be detached mentally and emotionally from our fears, from our opinions, from our need to be right, and from our need to assert power over other human beings to get what we want.

When we are truly detached, we can do what we feel is right without worrying about what other people will say, since we no longer have the need for approval. We can express our opinion without caring whether others agree with us or not.  We can accept and adapt to unexpected outcomes of situations without being stuck in any particular pattern.  We can give assistance to others without the need for anyone to appreciate our help or express gratitude for it.  We can give unconditional love to people without expectation of return.  This is true spiritual freedom.  🙂

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Detachment Is Spiritual Freedom

  1. Sam

    It depends how “nothing” is defined. The capitalistic/consumer-minded propaganda wants you to keep owning things, so those locked into this mindset will resist and naturally twist Buddhist, Zen, Native American or other precepts around in order to make owning not the issue, because giving up things we own is “hard” and that is the attachment issue. All prophecy from many cultures say the same thing. We are in the age of kali yuga (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kali_Yuga). We just deny all prophecy, warnings, the manifestations of our cultural belief systems and want to resist.

    The real issue is that the western world loves and is very attached to its various forms of addiction and excess. Culture teaches us simplicity is failure and that we have to strive and strive for “success” or to “shine” instead of feeling we are enough. There is a never-enoughness energy that is manifesting everywhere, and a preoccupation with lifeless things which the natural manifestation is life begins to disappear (seen less valuable as all the things and money we own) and this lack starts to manifest environmentally and other ways as a reflection of our needing more and more and more. But the excess we keep creating reveals it DOES have a destructive effect (because everything is a mirror). So, as without so within, our environment is trying to speak to us about the nature of attachment.

    Also, notice that while there is a law of attraction, there is also a law of balance. Wherever a person creates “excess” there is often depletion that occurs at the same time (of resources, energy – ie burnout etc, because energy needs to be expended or resources used or life destroyed – trees etc, to create excess of products etc). This is likely why Buddha taught the middle path. The middle path will heal the world, the environment, help prevent wars (less fighting over oil etc).

    Not that I’m perfect. I still feel owned by culture and the need for money and to be creative etc. I acknowledge that this may not be the truly enlightened way. If I were truly “detached,” I would walk away from the world and have few needs and own few things as many of the spiritual masters have taught.

  2. It’s possible to own all sorts of things, but not be particularly attached to them. There is nothing wrong with owning things. It’s feeling that things you own define who you are that is the problem. It’s not walking away from things that demonstrates detachment, but the WILLINGNESS to walk away at any time.

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