Divine Qualities (Part 33)

Freedom from Attachment to Family

Non-attachment to one's children, spouse, and family is extolled as a sign of Knowledge in the Bhagavad Gita, 13.9. By this teaching the Gita inspires house-holders with the possibility of attaining spiritual knowledge, provided they free themselves from attachment to family.

The cause of bondage

As the true Self we are pure Consciousness, devoid of all material attributes. This Self is known as Sat-chit-ananda, or Existence-Knowledge-Bliss absolute. The Chandogya Upanishad (7.23.1) teaches that true bliss is within: "The Infinite is bliss. There is no bliss in anything finite. Only the Infinite is bliss. One must desire to understand the Infinite." The true nature of the Self is described by the Bhagavad Gita (13.31-2) as follows: "Having no beginning and possessing no gunas (attributes), this supreme and imperishable Self neither acts nor is stained by action even while dwelling in the body. As the ether that pervades all things is not stained because of its subtlety, even so the Self dwelling in the body everywhere is not stained." Unaware of this truth, we remain bound to our body and mind and seek happiness and fulfillment from finite things: spouse, children, home, and the rest. If we accept Self-realization as the goal of our life, we must remember that attachment to the body rules out any spiritual progress. Sri Shankara says in the Vivekachudamani (84): "He who seeks to realize the Self by feeding the cravings of the body is trying to cross a river by catching hold of a crocodile, mistaking it for a log."

Bondage is due to maya, says Vedanta. Sri Ramakrishna describes the effects of maya: "On account of God's maya the unreal appears as real, and the real as unreal. The world is unreal. This moment it exists and the next it disappears. But on account of His maya it seems to be real. It is only through His maya that the ego seems to be the doer. Furthermore, on account of this maya a man regards his wife and children, his brother and sister, his father and mother, his house and property, as his very own." Our attachment to spouse and children impedes our spiritual progress and drags us down to the world. Sri Ramakrishna told his admirer Keshab Chandra Sen, a Brahmo Samaj leader of the time: "You see, Keshab, you are householders. How can you reach the Ocean of Satchidananda all at once? You are like a mongoose with a brick tied to its tail. When something frightens it, it runs up the wall and sits in a niche. But how can it stay there any length of time? The brick pulls it down and it falls to the floor with a thud. You may practise a little meditation, but the weight of wife and children will pull you down. You may dive into the river of devotion, but you must come up again."

Need for spiritual disciplines

Sri Ramakrishna inspired his householder disciples with the possibility of God-realization, but said they needed to practice spiritual disciplines, grow in devotion to God, and free themselves from attachment to the world. M., the author of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna and a devoted householder disciple of the Master, asked him: "Is it possible to see God?" Sri Ramakrishna replied: "Yes, certainly. Living in solitude now and then, repeating God's name and singing His glories, and discriminating between the Real and the unreal-these are the means to employ to see Him."

Further, when M. asked, "How may we fix our minds on God?," Sri Ramakrishna said: "Repeat God's name and sing His glories, and keep holy company; and now and then visit God's devotees and holy men. The mind cannot dwell on God if it is immersed day and night in worldliness, in worldly duties and responsibilities; it is most necessary to go into solitude now and then and think of God. To fix the mind on God is very difficult, in the beginning, unless one practises meditation in solitude."

Part 34

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