We raise our children and think that we put years of sacrifice, effort and delay our gratifications to make them what we think they should be. Then one day they find themselves. Suddenly, the parents who were the main characters of the film become supporting actors and eventually get delegated to a cameo appearance.
To our chagrin, some new characters who were completely unknown a few years ago take over the main roles –– boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, etc.
As I prepare myself to experience these changes, I am reminded of the huge pipelines that carry water over great distances. While the water is in the pipe, the pipe protects the water from contamination. The pipe gives the water its shape. The pipe thinks that the water belongs to it. The moment the water leaves the pipe it becomes true to its own nature and fate. The pipe no longer controls the water. All that is left behind is the dampness, which in our case are memories.
Two trains travel in one direction for a segment of their journey. For a time being, their speeds are the same, and the passengers in both trains feel that there is no motion. This is the time we spend together as a family. Eventually, the tracks diverge.
Detachment is very difficult to practice. It was extremely difficult for me to drop my first born to college. I dread the time when my daughters will get married.
We are also attached to our successes and more attached to our failures. It is somewhat easier to let go of our successes. We get used to them. We cling to our failures desperately. Failures are in careers, businesses, and the worse ones are in relationships. Instead of letting go, we cover them with a shroud of newer attachments. The zombies of past attachment surface at the most inopportune times in our thoughts. The attachment to financial success and fame sometimes forces people to continuously maintain a defensive shield around them, and every interpersonal interaction is looked upon as a possible exploitative situation.
I once met a somewhat famous Indian comedy actor who had immigrated to the UK and was working temporarily in a grocery store in London. I was told by his friend that he found this situation very liberating rather than humiliating.
It is embarrassing to remember when I was considering reordering new business cards which would mention the recent honorary degree I received in my field of practice, when my original cards are still sitting unused, given that my field of medicine does not involve much in-person interaction with patients.
Detachment does not mean abandoning your duties. Many self-proclaimed “detached” aspiring Hindu renunciates (future monks) have been sent back by their Gurus to fulfill their roles and duties which they had abandoned. Running away from your duties is cowardice. Being detached while fulfilling your role in the material world is the sign of spiritual awakening. First step is to become aware of your attachment in specific situations. Then, try to think as a neutral observer and separate your preconceived notions from hard facts. Afterwards, imagine the attachment-inducing object as a butterfly fluttering its wings emerging out of the cocoon. Smile and let it fly. If this fails, try again next time. One day we will all be free.
Dr. Pattekar is a radiologist. He serves as National Director of Service Activities for Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, USA. He also serves on the Board of Volunteers of the Hindu Temple of Central IL, Peoria.