Sunday, August 16, 2009

50) Attachments

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

As always, Jesus politely gets to the truth using a few words. Rephrased bluntly, He cautions us that attachments make us slaves. This slavery is well described by Albert Schweitzer: "If you have something you can't do without, you don't own it; it owns you". In the Bhagwat Gita, Krishna refers to the wisdom of being detached: "the Wise act without attachment". Dr. Desmond Biddulph, one-time Vice President of the Buddhist Society, explains this idea: "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 clear, 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 such attachments. For one it is money; for another it is his mistress. Children are not excluded. For one it is the TV; for another it is the bad company she keeps. She would rather leave home than be kept from those she call 'friends'. Anais Nin gives us the reason for such behavior: "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.

Steven Good(52), Head of one of the largest Estate Auction Houses in 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 their lives. Commenting on people who are attached to wealth, Bob Scheinfeld, in his book, 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, all the loot was in a 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".
Do we and our children understand his meaning?

"The best things in life, aren't things." 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 must 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 taught our children to tone down expressions like: 'my big house', 'my big car', 'my big toy' and so on.

How often do we not put some people even ahead of God? To some the boss is a demigod;
to others a child is the centre of life, and when that child dies or leaves home for good, 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 space to grow.

Our ideas and opinions are very much like our children; ours are the best. It is this obduracy that brings about a break down in relationships. With each one not willing to compromise, the discussion is dead-locked and what is left is simmering
discontent. Opinions are not beliefs or convictions. E.g.,there can be no debate on honesty, but opinions can differ on political ideology, skills of actors or skills of authors, and the like. To confuse an opinion with a belief, is nothing short of ignorance in the garb of certainty. Children should be counseled against heated arguments on movie stars they idolize or sports celebrities they want to emulate.

Polishing old brass is favorite occupation for those who live in the past. 'When I was in USA--', 'When I was a General--', 'When I was Headmistress--" and so on, are
statements often made by such people. The past has its purpose - to provide lessons.
Besides that, the past is dead. To hanker after the past is a weakness that should be discouraged, even in children.

In Singapore, there is an old woman who visits the Beauty Palour everyday. Not that she is movie star or a social bigwig, but that she is 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 a duty. But to overdo such attention, is shifting focus from the essentials. Children who spend long hours before a mirror should be weaned way from the habit and be reminded of other tasks on their to-do list.

Fittingly, we shall end this post with the words of Meister Eckart: "He who would be serene and pure needs but one thing, detachment".

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