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Concept of non-attachment in spirituality

Updated on March 30, 2013

Our desires are associated with nurturing of “I” and “Mine”. They begin with the thoughts related to “I”, the identity and “Mine”, the extension of “I” in terms of people and possessions. Our desires give rise to anxiety and fears. There is always a perceived threat to the following Ps—people, power, prestige, pennies, pay, position or possessions. In order to protect them from the perceived threat, we develop attachment to them. The attachment to them gives rise to pain, miseries and unhappiness.

The concept of non-attachment forms one of the fundamentals of spirituality. This concept can make us free from all worries and fears if it is understood and practiced properly in life but, in fact, it is not so well understood by many.

The true meaning of non-attachment is not being attached to the outcomes of our actions. There is no desire for a favorable outcome or fear of an unfavorable outcome but on the other hand there is full participation in the performance of the act. This is also termed detachment.

For example, when a student appears for an important examination, he expects to get a favorable result and is in a constant fear what will be the result of the examination. The fear is also present even before the examination starts. The fear consumes up his energy and as result he cannot concentrate on the examination. Therefore, he may not be able to perform to the best of his capacity in the examination because of fear.

Now, it is in his hands to change the outcome of the examination, if he doesn’t fear it. By simply changing his attitude that he will have no fear of the result of the examination, he can change the result in his favor. With the positive attitude, he will have no fear and thus will be able to concentrate more on the examination with a better outcome. By changing his attitude, he becomes non-attached to its outcome. He can change his attitude positively to change positively the outcome of his acts. This precept can be applied to all the important acts in life.

If, on account of fear of failure in the examination, he doesn’t undertake it, this will amount to non-performance of the act. This will not let him achieve his aim. This is called indifference to the particular act.

Similarly, for example, the father of an individual has to undergo an important surgery, he becomes worried about his father because of being unsure of the outcome of the surgery, in spite of best of assurances from the surgeon. His worry sends the negative energy to the other members of the family, who also start worrying about it. This makes his father worried too. Therefore, worry and fear of the outcome drain out their collective energy. They feel tired and cannot perform other acts properly too. His father weakens his general immunity due to worry and fear. By simply changing his attitude positively about the outcome of the surgery, he can make other members more confident about it by radiating positive energy to them. His father too will become more positive and confident. This will positively influence the outcome of the surgery. The positive change of attitude is non-attachment to the outcome of the surgery. If he doesn’t care about the surgery of his father and doesn’t help him, this will amount to indifference.

Here is another example of attachment in a relationship. The mother is normally very much attached to her son. If her son is hurt or is in pain, she also goes into pain. If her son is happy, she also becomes happy. Normally, a relationship is based on expectations. If the mother faces a bad situation, she expects her son to come to her rescue as she used to do for her son. If he doesn’t, she feels hurt and becomes unhappy. So the attachment in a relationship makes both partners unhappy, if their expectations are not met. If the mother loves her son without the expectation of any thing from him, she will not feel hurt but will be able to understand him better. She will understand why he has not come to her help in a bad situation. An attitude of not expecting any thing in return in a relationship but giving full contribution to it is the attitude of non-attachment. The attitude of non-attachment in a relationship nurtures it and makes it healthy.

How to apply the concept of non-attachment in life?

It can be done mentioned as below-

  • Create a positive energy- Whenever we perform an act with the attitude that we will do a particular act to the best of our capability in any circumstances, this will create a positive energy while doing the act. Repeating the affirmation as long as the act is going on will keep us charged with positiveness. We will not worry about the outcome of the act, which will be better.
  • Dedicate the outcome to the Almighty- In spirituality, we learn to totally surrender to the Almighty. This also implies that we should dedicate the outcome of our actions to His wish. This will free us from fear and worry of the outcome of actions, which will definitely be far better.
  • Letting go- We can also develop the attitude of letting go of the attachment to the outcome of the acts. Thus, we will also be able to let go our fears and worries associated with them and, therefore, the outcome of the acts will definitely be better.
  • Meditation- A regular practice of meditation fills up one with positive energy, which is always reflected in acts performed by him or her. During meditation, we can dedicate the outcome of the acts to Him. Once we have handed over the charge of the outcome, we will be able to perform the acts better without any fear or worry.

The significance of performing obligatory actions without attachment is explained in the following verses of the Bhagwat Gita.

The verse 19 of chapter 3 says—

Therefore, constantly perform your obligatory duty without attachment; for by doing duty without attachment man verily obtains the Supreme.

The verse 18 of chapter 4 says—

He who sees inaction in action and action in inaction, he is wise among men; he is a yogi and accomplisher of everything.

Further, the verse 20 of the same chapter says—

Having abandoned attachment to fruits of actions, ever content depending on nothing, though engaged in karma, verily he does not do anything.


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