(Because of the Divine Teaching) My five cognitive senses have ceased
their wandering for the sense objects. Now together, in control,
they are established in the Higher Consciousness. Since my ten
senses have become detached from passions, they have become
obedient. Since then I have become an immaculate Yogi (sggs 208).

Detachment or Bairaag (also spelt Vairaag or Vairagya) is the quality of shunning worldly attractions. The more one suffers, the more one learns to be detached from them. Only by cultivating this quality can one hope to seek the path to Mukti (liberation) from bondage. But, as time and again indicated in the SGGS (Sri Guru Granth Sahib), the irony of human existence is such that worldly attractions, in spite of their fleeting and unstable nature, far outweigh the sufferings people undergo and consequently many continue to long for sense- gratification and material gains rather than strive towards Mukti from the worldly bondage.

A spiritually ignorant person is not necessarily an illiterate or uneducated. Being immersed in various attachments by clinging to body-consciousness, cravings, passions, pleasure seeking, evil ways, fears, worries, doubts of the future and regrets of the past, and so on, the majority of us are spiritually ignorant. Overtaken by the deluded consciousness, we take the fleeting world and its gross objects to be real. Also, we take ourselves to be the limited body and its egotistical experiences (lust, anger greed, attachment, pride and their numerous variations such as jealousy, stubborn mindedness, enmity, unrighteousness etc.); and we think the ultimate goal of life is to eat, drink, and be merry! Being thus deep-rooted in sin, we do not see the need for taking on spirituality in our lives. In such delight of materialistic mentality (Manmukhtaa), we get carried away by worldly acclaim — we measures our achievement by the amount of money, property, material possessions, power, name, fame, titles, lifestyle, position and social status. A Spiritual Being (the Gurmukh) on the other hand measures his achievement by the amount of detachment he has from money, property, material possessions, power, fame, etc., as well as the degree of absorption he has in the Mool with (Source, Origin, Jot....). We can clearly see how attachment holds one's mind down and creates his Mayaic personality.

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਦੁਖੀਆ ਸਭੁ ਸੰਸਾਰ ॥: Nanak dukheeaa sabh sansaar: O Nanak, the whole world is suffering (sggs 954).
  • ਮੋਹ ਮਿਥਨ ਦੁਰੰਤ ਆਸਾ ਬਾਸਨਾ ਬਿਕਾਰ ॥: Moh mithan durant aasaa baasanaa bikaar: Emotional attachment is false, desire is filthy, and longing is corrupt (sggs 508).
  • ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਿ ਸਭੋ ਜਗੁ ਸੋਇਆ ਇਹੁ ਭਰਮੁ ਕਹਹੁ ਕਿਉ ਜਾਈ ॥: Maya mohi sabho jagu soiaa ihu bharamu kahahu kiyu jaaee: In emotional attachment to Maya, the whole world is asleep. Tell me, how can this doubt be dispelled? (sggs 205).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖੁ ਮੋਹਿ ਵਿਆਪਿਆ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਉਦਾਸੀ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: Manmukh mohi viaapiaa bairaagu udaasee na hoi: The materialists (Manmukhs) are engrossed in emotional attachment; they are not balanced and detached (sggs 29).
  • ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹੁ ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ਗੁਬਾਰੁ ॥: Maya mohu agiaan gubaar: Attachment to Maya (worldliness or illusion) leads to the darkness of ignorance (sggs 1262).
  • ਰਸੁ ਸੁਇਨਾ ਰਸੁ ਰੁਪਾ ਕਾਮਣਿ ਰਸੁ ਪਰਮਲ ਕੀ ਵਾਸੁ ॥ ਰਸੁ ਘੋੜੇ ਰਸੁ ਸੇਜਾ ਮੰਦਰ ਰਸੁ ਮੀਠਾ ਰਸੁ ਮਾਸੁ ॥ ਏਤੇ ਰਸ ਸਰੀਰ ਕੇ ਕੈ ਘਟਿ ਨਾਮ ਨਿਵਾਸੁ ॥੨॥: Ras suinaa ras rupaa kaaman ras parmal kee vaas. Ras ghore ras sejaa mandar ras meethaa ras maas. eto ras sareer ke kai ghat Naam nivaas ||2||: Pleasures of gold and silver, women (i.e., lust), the sandalwood fragrance, horses (pleasure of riding them, owning them, etc.), soft bed, palaces (houses, ਮਹਲ-ਮਾੜੀਆਂ ਦੀ ਲਾਲਸਾ, etc.), sweet (delicious) treats and eating meat — such pleasures of the human body are so numerous; how can the Naam, the Name of the Lord, find its dwelling in the heart ||2|| (sggs 15)?

The Supreme Reality is Truth, Existence, Knowledge, Pure Consciousness, Infinite, Bliss (Anand). Spiritual Wisdom, also called Divine Knowledge (Aatam-Giaan or Brahm-Giaan), is an experience wherein the triad of subject-object-knowledge, which characterizes man's all objective knowledge, disappears; only the Pure Consciousness remains over. How can we reach that state of non-attachment from our current state of utter ignorance? Where to begin the Spiritual journey?

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਤਰਵਰ ਰੂਪੀ ਰਾਮੁ ਹੈ ਫਲ ਰੂਪੀ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ॥ ਛਾਇਆ ਰੂਪੀ ਸਾਧੁ ਹੈ ਜਿਨਿ ਤਜਿਆ ਬਾਦੁ ਬਿਬਾਦੁ ॥੨੨੮॥: Kabeer taravar roopee Raam hai fal roopee bairaag. Chhaaiaa roopee saadh hai jini tajiaa baad bibaad ||228||: O Kabeer! (This world, burning in the fire of Bikaars - lust, anger, greed, attachment, etc. - the Name of) the Lord is the tree, and detachment (from Bikaars, the worldly objects, etc.) is the fruit. The Holy person (the Gurmukh), who has abandoned useless arguments, is the shade of this tree. ||228|| (sggs 1376).
  • ਸਚਿ ਰਤੇ ਸਦਾ ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰਿ ਮਿਲਾਵਣਿਆ ॥੪॥: Sach rate sadaa bairaagee houmai maar milaavaniaa ||4||: Those who are attuned to the Truth (ਸਦਾ-ਥਿਰ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਦੇ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ-ਰੰਗ ਵਿਚ), remain detached forever. Subduing their egotism, they are united with (the Truth). ||4|| (sggs 117).
  • ਦੁਬਿਧਾ ਵਿਚਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਵੀ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਦੂਜੀ ਰਾਈ ॥: Dubidhaa vichi bairaagu na hovee jabb lagu doojee raaee: There cannot be detachment in delusion, as long as there is even a particle of duality (sggs 634).

According to the Gurbani, the first step in attaining Spiritual Wisdom is detachment from the craving of the worldly pleasure or sensuousness. Hence, the criteria that determines one's Spiritual growth is not one's education, caste, class, creed, skin-color, nationality, religion, gender, age, social status, outer appearance, religious robes, titles, etc. One of the measuring rods of our Spiritual growth is our degree of detachment from the worldly objects of the senses.

  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੈਰਾਗ ਨ ਛੂਟਸਿ ਮਾਇਆ ॥੧॥: Bin bairaag na shootas maya ||1||: Without detachment, Maya cannot be gotten rid of (cannot be liberated from Maya, etc.). ||1|| (sggs 329).
  • ਮਮਤਾ ਕੀ ਮਲੁ ਉਤਰੈ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਹਛਾ ਹੋਇ ॥: Mamataa kee malu utarai ih manu hashaa hoi: When the filth of attachment and possessiveness departs, the mind becomes pure (sggs 558).
  • Therefore, he who knows this, having become, peaceful, controlled, detached, patient and concentrated, sees the Aataman in himself and sees all in the Aataman. Evil does not consume him, but he consumes all evil. Free from evil, free from passion, free from doubt, he becomes the knower of God (Veda, Brihadaaranyaka Upnishad).
  • Behold this world, which is like a decorated royal chariot. Here fools flounder, but the wise have no attachment to it ....From attachment springs grief, from attachment springs fear (Buddha).
  • Attachment causes bondage and endless sorrows....Abanadon attachment, O Raam, and be a liberated sage (Yoga Vashishta).
  • And I will say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" (Bible, Luke 12:19-20).

Therefore, detachment is the key to Spiritual Unfoldment. Our preoccupation, however, is always concerned with undue worldly pursuits and sensory pleasures. Not happy and content with our lot in life, we seek more and more sensory gratification without paying much attention for developing interest in the pursuit of Spiritual Wisdom. Unless one develops dispassion for undue attachment to material pleasures and material comforts, his dependence on them will impel him to more and more reactionary action (causative Karma) and thereby fueling his desires and fears in the process. If we desire Mukti (liberation) from suffering (Dukha), we are urged by the Gurbani to learn to live with minimum comforts required for sustaining one's life in the world.

  • ਹਉਮੈ ਕਰੈ ਨਿਹਕਰਮੀ ਨ ਹੋਵੈ ॥: Haumai kare nihakarmee na hovai: Those who act in ego do not go beyond Karma (sggs 128).
  • ਕਰਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਤੂੰ ਛੋਡਿ ਪਾਖੰਡੁ ਸੋ ਸਹੁ ਸਭੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਜਾਣਏ ॥: Kar bairaag toon shodd paakhand so sahu sabh kish jaanaye: So become detached, and renounce hypocrisy; Your Divine Beloved knows everything (sggs 440).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਵੈ ਬਿਗਸੈ ਹਰਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਅਨੰਦੁ ॥: Gurmukh karam kamaavai bigasai har bairaag anand: By becoming Spiritual beings (Gurmukhs) do good deeds and blossom forth within; balanced and detached in the Lord, they are in bliss (sggs 29).
  • ਮੈ ਮਨਿ ਤਨਿ ਪ੍ਰੇਮੁ ਮਹਾ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ॥: Mai mani tani prem mahaa bairaag: My mind and body are filled with divine love, and great detachment (sggs 366).

It's unlikely to suddenly reach the state of complete detachment for the worldly objects from the state of utter attachment. Mind needs to be prepared, which takes time. Accordingly, detachment must start at home; for to reach far one must start from the near. Therefore, to cultivate dispassion and thus cross over the ocean of Sansaar or illusory nature of the entire world-appearance, we must begin by developing non-attachment for those near and dear to us, as well as the life styles we have cultivated for us. With practice, day by day, selfish attachments will weaken and dispassion will become stronger and ultimately conquer the mind. As indicated in the Gurbani, once the mind is conquered, the Sansaar or Jagat stands conquered. The restless mind can be brought under control by constant practice and exercise of dispassion.

  • ਮਨਿ ਜੀਤੈ ਜਗੁ ਜੀਤੁ ॥: Mann jeetai jagg jeet: If you conquer the mind, you conquer the material world (sggs 6).
  • ਮਨੁ ਮਰੈ ਧਾਤੁ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਮਨ ਮੂਏ ਕੈਸੇ ਹਰਿ ਪਾਇ ॥: Mann marai dhaat mar jaae. Bin mann mooe kaise hari paai: When the mind is conquered, its turbulent wanderings are stopped. Without annihilating (conquering) the mind, how can God be found? (sggs 665).
  • ਮਨਿ ਬਿਰਾਗੈਗੀ ॥ ਖੋਜਤੀ ਦਰਸਾਰ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Man bairagegee. Khojatee darasaar ||1||Rahaaou||: Seeking the Lord's Vision (ਦਰਸਨ), my mind has become detached ||1||Pause|| (sggs 1230).

Due to subtle thinking arises the non-attachment, leading to subtlety of mind. Subtle mind is the Pure Mind (Aatamaa, Mool...). It's easier for the relatively subtle mind to become conscious of its own perversions, weaknesses, crookedness, falsehood, bad conduct, evil inclinations, wrong ideas, misguided feelings, prejudices, and so on. Knowing such faults, the seeker than makes consciousness effort to eradicate them from within, and engages in spiritual journey without regrets about leaving behind the old ways or doubts about the future.

Attachment clouds our sense of discrimination (Bibek Budhi), reflection on the Gurbani (Shabad-Vichaar). Detachment makes us introspective and discriminative (Viveka Budhi or discerning intellect), leading to virtues, righteous or truthful conduct. The reflective mind enables one to discriminate between the eternal (permanent) and the ephemeral (impermanent). This subtle sense of discrimination helps one to know the difference between Sat Asat (truth and falsehood). Thus, the highest form of detachment is the one born of pure discrimination. A person of such pure discrimination knows that the Absolute Reality alone is eternal (Sat) and that everything else in this material world being in the framework of time and space is temporary (Asat). This state of detachment results in subtlety of the mind and intuitive or effortless wisdom (Sahaj).

  • ਸੋ ਧਨਵੰਤਾ ਜਿਸੁ ਬੁਧਿ ਬਿਬੇਕ ॥: So dhanvanta jis budh bibek: He alone is wealthy who possesses discriminating intellect (sggs 1150).
  • ਬੂਝੈ ਬੂਝਨਹਾਰੁ ਬਿਬੇਕ ॥ : Bujai bujjanhar bibek: Only one with discriminating intellect understands it (sggs 285).
  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਲੋਭ ਹਲਕੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਭਾਰੀ ਬਿਨੁ ਬਿਬੇਕ ਭਰਮਾਇ ॥੧॥: Antar lobh halak dukh bhareei bin bibek bharmaai ||1||: (The man with Haume attaches to Maya) the great ailment of the rabid disease of greed is within him. Without Bibek (discriminating intellect), he wanders around (like a rabid dog) ||1|| (sggs 1132).
  • ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲਿ ਬੁਧਿ ਬਿਬੇਕ ॥੩॥: Sadh sangat mil budh bibek ||3||: Joining the Saadhsangat, the discriminating intellect is attained ||3|| (sggs 377).
  • ਦੁਲਭ ਜਨਮੁ ਪੁੰਨ ਫਲ ਪਾਇਓ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਜਾਤ ਅਬਿਬੇਕੈ ॥: Dulabh janam punn phal paaio birathaa jaat abibekai: This precious human birth is obtained as a reward for (past) good actions, but without discriminating intellect, it is wasted in vain (sggs 658).
  • ਬਿਬੇਕ ਬੁਧੀ ਸੁਖਿ ਰੈਣਿ ਵਿਹਾਣੀ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਨਾਮਿ ਪ੍ਰਗਾਸਾ ॥: Bibek budhi sukh rain vihani gurmat nam pargas: Through the discriminating intellect, the life night passes in Peace and by the Guru's instructions, through the Name (one is) enlightened (ਅੰਦਰ ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਦਾ ਪ੍ਰਗਾਸ ਹੋਂਣਾ) (sggs 772).
  • ਬੰਦੇ ਖੋਜੁ ਦਿਲ ਹਰ ਰੋਜ ਨਾ ਫਿਰੁ ਪਰੇਸਾਨੀ ਮਾਹਿ ॥: Bande khoj dil har roj phir paresaanee maahi: O human being, search your own heart every day, and do not wander around in confusion (sggs 727).
  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਬਿਬੇਕੁ ਸਦਾ ਆਪੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੇ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੀ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਵਣਿਆ ॥: Antari bibek sadaa appu veechaare gur sabadee gun gaavaniaa: Those who have discriminating minds, continually examine their own Self. Through the Divine Word (Gur-Shabad), they sing God's Glorious Praises (sggs 128).

We can conclude from the foregoing discussion that true detachment as the constant companion is the prerequisite to Spiritual or Divine Life (the Gurmukh); hence essential in realizing one's True Nature as Joti-Svaroopa (Mool...). In other words, both Mool-realization and cessation of craving for enjoyment of sense objects should proceed hand in hand, simultaneously. Any dispassion born of a circumstantial cause, frustration in life or an outer disgust will not last, thus useless. Therefore, that alone is valid religion, that alone is good company, that alone is genuine scriptures, and that alone is time well spent that awaken in our Heart the true detachment and also Divine Knowledge.

  • ਮੋਹਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਭਇਓ ॥: Mohi bairaag bhaio: I have become detached (sggs 870).
  • ਬੂਝਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਕਰੇ ਜੇ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਜਨਮ ਮਰਣ ਫਿਰਿ ਸੋਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: Boojh bairaagu kare je koi. janam maran fir sog na hoi: Only if someone becomes detached through understanding, he will not have to suffer in birth and death again (sggs 1145).
  • ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਅਰਾਧੀਐ ਨਾਮਿ ਰੰਗਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ॥: Gur kai Shabadi araadheeai Naami rangi Bairaggu (sggs 1425).
  • ਕਰਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਫਿਰਉ ਤਨਿ ਨਗਰੀ ਮਨ ਕੀ ਕਿੰਗੁਰੀ ਬਜਾਈ ॥: Kari bairaagu firau tani nagaree mann kee kinguree bajaaee: (O Yogi) Become detached, and wander through the city of your own body; play the harp of your mind (sggs 970).

Simply put: detachment is "Being in the world, but not of it." In other words, it is having a mind open to everything, but attached to nothing. Hence, detachment is an attitude or perspective — letting go of the past and the future, and living in the "here" and "now". Therefore, to be detached does not mean running away from life, family, society or one's duty and responsibility. It also does not mean being less sensitive or loving to one's family. One neither neglects his family, nor society, nor duty or responsibility to them; but rather he loves and serves the Divine in them and expands that love and selfless service to all other beings without any sense of bondage. After cultivating true detachment and Divine Knowledge, even if one lives amidst the worldly activity, he will be unattached from it and thus untainted by it, just as the lotus flower is not tainted by the slimy scum it grows in or the eyes of the fish which remain unaffected by the salty sea-water. Thus, detachment makes us more sensitive, more caring, more warmer and friendly, more wholesome, more human, more closer to people, and greater love and compassion flow for them through actinic understanding and effortless wisdom.

  • ਜਿਉ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਕਮਲੁ ਅਲਿਪਤੋ ਵਰਤੈ ਤਿਉ ਵਿਚੇ ਗਿਰਹ ਉਦਾਸੁ ॥: Jiyu jal mahi kamal alipte vartai tiyu viche girah udaas: As the lotus flower floats unaffected in the water, so does one must remain detached in his own household (sggs 949).
  • ਹਸੰਦਿਆ ਖੇਲੰਦਿਆ ਪੈਨੰਦਿਆ ਖਾਵੰਦਿਆ ਵਿਚੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ॥: Hasandiaa khelandiaa painandiaa khaavandiaa viche hovai makat: While laughing, playing, dressing and eating, become liberated (sggs 522).
  • ਪੁਤ੍ਰ ਕਲਤ੍ਰ ਵਿਚੇ ਗਤਿ ਪਾਈ ॥: Emancipation (ਉੱਚੀ ਆਤਮਕ ਅਵਸਥਾ) is obtained in the midst of children and spouses (i.e., in the midst of family). (sggs 661).
  • ਸਹਜਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਸਹਜੇ ਹੀ ਹਸਨਾ ॥: Sahaj bairaag sahajae hee hasanaa: In peace and poise remain detached; in peace and poise laugh (sggs 236).

When there is the total detachment from the restless mind (false ego-sense or Haume), there is no time and space. This is said to be the Ultimate Truth. If the mind is fixed on Truth and continues so, the senses will obey it. In this state of dispassion there is the absence of thoughts of inner and outer objects, and one thoroughly revels in one's Mool with (Source, Origin, Jot....). Since this is the highest achievement, the gorbani urges us to yearn for the delight in affectionate detachment from the body and mind and uplift ourselves to higher strata of the good virtues — performance of actions without attachment. In short, full absorption in the essence of the Divine Name — Shabad-Surti or Unconditioned Consciousness — is the ultimate detachment.

  • ਗਿਰਹ ਕੁਟੰਬ ਮਹਿ ਸਹਜਿ ਸਮਾਧੀ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮਿ ਰਤੇ ਸੇ ਸਚੇ ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ॥੧॥: Girah kutanb mahi sahaj sumaadhee. Nanak naam rate se sache bairaagee ||1||: (Those who are attuned to the Divine Naam or Gur-Shabad: Aatam Giaan Divine Knowledge...) remain in Sahaj Samaadhi, (while living) in their household and family. O Nanak, those are truly detached who are attuned to the Divine Name ||1|| (sggs 1246).
  • ਦਸ ਬੈਰਾਗਨਿ ਆਗਿਆਕਾਰੀ ਤਬ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਜੋਗੀ ਥੀਏ ॥: Das bairaagan aagiaakaaree tabb niramal jogee theeeye: Since my ten senses have become detached from passions, they have become obedient. Since then I have become an immaculate Yogi (sggs 208).
  • ਮਨਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਭਇਆ ਦਰਸਨੁ ਦੇਖਣੈ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ ॥: Man bairaag bhaiya darsan dekhne ka chao: My mind has become detached from worldly desires and has longing to behold Lord's sight (sggs 50).
  • ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਬੁਝੈ ਹਰਿ ਕੈ ਨਾਮਿ ॥: Trishnaa bujhai Hari ke Naam: (Maya's) thirst (desire) is quenched with God's Name (sggs 682).
  • ਮੇਰੈ ਮਨਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਭਇਆ ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ਮਿਲਿ ਗੁਰ ਦਰਸਨਿ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਏ ॥: Merai mani bairaag bhaiaa bairaagee mili gur darasan sukh paaye: My mind has become detached; obtaining the Blessed Vision of the Detached Divine, it has found Eteranl Happiness (sggs 572).
  • ਨਾਮਿ ਰਤੇ ਸਦਾ ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ॥: Naam ratte sadaa bairaagee: Those who are attuned to the Divine Name, remain detached forever (sggs 230).

— T. Singh