Be In The World, But Not Of The World!

The Gurbani tells us: Be engaged in this world, but with a detached attitude and Akal (ਅਕਲ, ਬਿਬੇਕ-ਬੁੱਧੀ, keen understanding, Wisdom, discerning intelligence…). The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) draws a true picture of this world as follows:

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਕੈਸੀ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਸਾਲਕੁ ਮਿਤੁ ਨ ਰਹਿਓ ਕੋਈ ॥ ਭਾਈ ਬੰਧੀ ਹੇਤੁ ਚੁਕਾਇਆ ॥ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਦੀਨੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ ॥੫॥: O Nanak! What has happened to the world? There is no guide or friend. There is no love, even among brothers and relatives. For the sake of the world, people have lost Dharma. ||5|| (sggs 1410).
  • ਇਹੁ ਜਗਤੁ ਮਮਤਾ ਮੁਆ ਜੀਵਣ ਕੀ ਬਿਧਿ ਨਾਹਿ ॥: This world is dead (ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ) in attachment and possessiveness; no one knows the Way of life (sggs 508).

The attitude of detachment or Bairaag (also spelt Vairaag or Vairagya ) is the quality of shunning worldly attractions. Simply put: Detachment is being in this world, but not of it. In other words, it is having a mind open to everything, but attached to nothing. Thus, 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, one’s duty and responsibility, or being less sensitive or loving, etc. A truly detached one does not neglect any of this; but rather selflessly loves and serves the Divine in them and expands that love and service to all other beings without any sense of bondage or emotional attachment. After cultivating such detached attitude through the Divine Knowledge (Spiritual Wisdom or Aatam Giaan of the Gurbani…), the Gurbani tells us that even if one lives amidst the worldly activity (or Maya), he will be unattached from it and thus untainted by it, just as the lotus flower remains untainted by the slimy scum.

  • ਹਸੰਦਿਆ ਖੇਲੰਦਿਆ ਪੈਨੰਦਿਆ ਖਾਵੰਦਿਆ ਵਿਚੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ॥: While laughing, playing, dressing and eating, become liberated (sggs 522).
  • ਸਭ ਕੈ ਮਧਿ ਸਗਲ ਤੇ ਉਦਾਸ ॥: Remain in the midst of all, and yet detached from all (sggs 296).
  • 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).
  • ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਜਿਨਾ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਗੀ ਤਿਨੀ ਵਿਚੇ ਮਾਇਆ ਪਾਇਆ ॥: Says Nanak by the Gur-grace (Grace of the Gur-Giaan, Wisdom…), who are connected with one-pointed consciousness (singular mind, ਇਕ ਮਨ ਇਕ ਚਿੱਤ ਹੋਕੇ) they realize (Him) in the midst of Maya (sggs 921).
  • ਜਿਉ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਕਮਲੁ ਅਲਿਪਤੋ ਵਰਤੈ ਤਿਉ ਵਿਚੇ ਗਿਰਹ ਉਦਾਸੁ ॥: As the lotus flower floats unaffected in the water, so does one must remain detached in his own household (sggs 949).

The more one suffers in this world, the more one is likely to learn to be detached. Only by cultivating the attitude of detachment can one hope to seek the path to Mukti (liberation) from Maya, not after death but while alive.

  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੈਰਾਗ ਨ ਛੂਟਸਿ ਮਾਇਆ ॥੧॥: Without detachment, (hunger or love of) Maya cannot be gotten rid of. ||1|| (sggs 329).

In the fleeting delight of materialistic mentality (Manmukhtaa), however, the Manmukh in us gets 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 all these, as well as the degree of absorption he has in the Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot, Truth….).

  • ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਿ ਸਭੋ ਜਗੁ ਸੋਇਆ ਇਹੁ ਭਰਮੁ ਕਹਹੁ ਕਿਉ ਜਾਈ ॥: In attachment to Maya, all the world is asleep. Tell (me), how can this doubt be dispelled? (sggs 205).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖੁ ਮੋਹਿ ਵਿਆਪਿਆ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਉਦਾਸੀ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: The materialists (Manmukhs)are engrossed in emotional attachment; they are not balanced and detached(sggs 29).

Attachment clouds our sense of discrimination (Bibek Budhi) and our earnestly Reflecting on the Gurbani (Shabad-Vichaar). Detachment makes us introspective and discriminative (Bibek Budhi or discerning intellect), leading to Divine Virtues such as righteous or truthful conduct, etc. The reflective mind with the subtle sense of discrimination (Bibek Budhi) helps us to know the difference between Sat and Asat (truth and falsehood, eternal and temporary….).

  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਬਿਬੇਕੁ ਸਦਾ ਆਪੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੇ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੀ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਵਣਿਆ ॥੩॥: (By the Grace of the Gu-Giaan who stills his false ego-sense) awakens discerning intellect (Bibek-Budh, Giaan…) within and continually examines own-self (examines his spiritual life). Through the Gur-Shabad, he lives by the Virtues or Giaan. ||3|| (sggs 128).
  • ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਅਰਾਧੀਐ ਨਾਮਿ ਰੰਗਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ॥: Through the Gur-Shabad, adore the Naam (Wisdom, Virtues…); with such affection, detachment (wells up in the mind). (sggs 1425).
  • ਸਹਜਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਸਹਜੇ ਹੀ ਹਸਨਾ ॥: Sahaji bairaagu sahaje hee hasanaa (sggs 236).

As indicated by the Gurbani, once the mind is conquered, the Sansaar or Jagat stands conquered. Thus, the Gurbani indicates that the restless mind can be brought under control by constant practice of dispassion through the Shabad Vichaar.

  • ਮਨੁ ਜੀਤੇ ਜਗੁ ਜੀਤਿਆ ਜਾਂ ਤੇ ਬਿਖਿਆ ਤੇ ਹੋਇ ਉਦਾਸੁ ॥੨॥: Conquering the mind is (as if) the world is conquered, (because, only by conquering the mind, one can remain) detached from Maya. (sggs 1103).

When there is the total detachment from “Bikhiaa” (Maya…), the mind’s restlessness ceases to be, and then it thoroughly revels in its Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot, Truth….). In short, full absorption in the essence of the Divine Naam (Shabad-Surti, Spiritual Wisdom…) is the ultimate detachment.

  • ਗਿਰਹ ਕੁਟੰਬ ਮਹਿ ਸਹਜਿ ਸਮਾਧੀ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮਿ ਰਤੇ ਸੇ ਸਚੇ ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ॥੧॥: (Those who are attuned to the Divine Naam (Wisdom…) remain in Sahaj Samaadhi, (while living) in their household and family. O Nanak! Those are truly detached who are attuned to the Divine Naam ||1|| (sggs 1246). (sggs 1246).

If engaged in this world with the intelligence or Akal (ਅਕਲ) of the Gurmat (Wisdom, Upadesh or Way of the (SGGS), a detached attitude is sure to follow! Therefore, instead of imitating others ( “ਦੇਖਾ ਦੇਖੀ”) or acting in stubborn mindedness, the Gurbani asks us to utilize Akal (ਅਕਲ) while engaged in this world. The Gurbani indicates this to be the True Way; for other things lead to Satanic life.

  • ਅਕਲਿ ਏਹ ਨ ਆਖੀਐ ਅਕਲਿ ਗਵਾਈਐ ਬਾਦਿ ॥ ਅਕਲੀ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਸੇਵੀਐ ਅਕਲੀ ਪਾਈਐ ਮਾਨੁ ॥ ਅਕਲੀ ਪੜ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਕੈ ਬੁਝੀਐ ਅਕਲੀ ਕੀਚੈ ਦਾਨੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਆਖੈ ਰਾਹੁ ਏਹੁ ਹੋਰਿ ਗਲਾਂ ਸੈਤਾਨੁ ॥੧॥: The wisdom which is wasted in wranglings; this by no means, can be called wisdom … (sggs 1245).
  • ਦੇਖਾ ਦੇਖੀ ਸਭ ਕਰੇ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਬੂਝ ਨ ਪਾਇ ॥: The Manmukh (who has no understanding of the Gurmat…) does everything seeing (other people do, ਦੇਖਾ ਦੇਖੀ, ਨਕਲ, ਦਿਖਾਵਾ…), but he (himself) has no understanding (he does not understand the true way of living. (sggs 28).

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