Detachment is not a choice. It is a necessity.
The other day Vaani and I watched a play titled ‘I Am An Actor, Your Honor’. It is produced by renowned actor Suhasini Maniratnam, and directed by three directors – KK, Priya and Suhasini. The play is a tribute by Suhasini to her father Charuhasan and features popular theatre actor Y Gee Mahendra in Charuhasan’s role and YGM’s daughter Madhuvanthi Arun in Suhasini’s role. Scripted as a series of candid conversations, between father and daughter, on all matters relating to Life and death, the play, though a trifle long and winding in parts, is thought-provoking. It certainly made me pause and reflect.
It portrayed Charuhasan honestly – as the atheist, secular, rational, non-materialistic, free thinker that he really is. I particularly liked the part where he asks Suhasini to read out his will. It declares that he owns no material assets like property or cars or gold; and directs that after his demise his body should be given for medical research and his personal belongings are to be given away to the needy. His will also stipulates that no religious ceremonies or rituals need to follow his demise and that if his body is not found to be fit for medical research, it may be unceremoniously cremated at an electric crematorium. This is rational thought, practicality, secularism, spirituality and detachment in action. The only other man I know who has thought through his Life – and death – with as much clarity is my good friend Ejji – read the announcement on his proposed obituary here.
I have often wondered about the futility of wanting to accumulate, amass and cling on to material assets. I have often though about the futility of being attached to people and relationships. Yes, we need material stuff to get past our lifetime – a roof over our head, some basic furniture, a mode of transport (Uber has obviated that requirement too), food for sustaining us biologically, a couple of devices – like a mobile phone and computer – to make Life simpler. Yes, we need some source of income or a means of paying our utility bills month on month. Yes, we need to have a companion, a family that we can love and that can, and will, hopefully, love us back. But although this is a list of bare necessities, I don’t think we cannot survive without any or some of them. The truth is we sure can. But sadly we kid ourselves to imagine that we can’t. It is this imagination that brings suffering in our lives.
Even I used to think this way – that we can’t live without clinging on to material assets and that we can’t be unemotional about our relationships – until I realized that when my number is called, and I have to go, I can take nothing, and no one, with me. That’s when I began to see the value in practicing detachment. That’s when I saw how much time we are wasting in this temporary human experience by being attached to all that is one day not going to be ours or be with us anyway.
To be sure, I am still learning to be detached. And I guess no one ever gets to the stage of being totally detached – for it is a continuous, evolutionary, process. But from being on this journey of learning to be detached for some years now, I have understood that it is not at all difficult. I employ a two-step test with anything that makes me feel as if I am clinging on to it – be it a relationship or be it a material object. I simply ask: Is this person or thing going to matter to me after I am gone? Can/will I matter to this person or thing after I am gone? Whenever the answer is ‘no’ to both questions, I simply stop clinging on – I let go! And instantaneously I experience freedom, bliss! Occasionally, I may get ‘yes’ as an answer to the second question, and in such cases, I go back to asking myself the first question and, lo and behold, I am all fired up now to let go. I seize that momentum and I let go – and I become free! So, my little secret is not that I am detached all the time. But that my awareness of the futility of attachment prevails on me and reasons with me. It helps me to restore my detachment equilibrium every time attachment surfaces to torment me or hold me to ransom.
Being detached is not at all difficult. Ah, yes, it is a lot of work though! But you won’t mind the workload when you realize that detachment holds the key to your inner peace. Which is, when you understand that this entire human experience is ephemeral, you too will un-cling both at a material and at an emotional level, and live fully, freely and happily!