The Gurbani asks to strive for affectionate detachment (Bairaag-ਬੈਰਾਗ), and then practice it in daily life. What’s detachment?
Detachment (or non-attachment) implies a state of the mind that springs from one’s sense of discriminating intellect (Viveka Budh). This subtle sense of discrimination (Viveka Budh) helps one to know the difference between what is right and wrong; what is real and unreal; what is fleeting and permanent; what is Truth and falsehood; and so on.
Detachment (Bairaag-ਬੈਰਾਗ) is the opposite of emotional attachment (Moh-ਮੋਹ). In nutshell, attachment is created through unfulfilled desires, salted and peppered with fear. The Gurbani’s counsel is to burn the emotional attachment.
- ਪੰਕਜੁ ਮੋਹ ਪਗੁ ਨਹੀ ਚਾਲੈ ਹਮ ਦੇਖਾ ਤਹ ਡੂਬੀਅਲੇ ॥੧॥: ||1||: In the mud of emotional attachment, (their) feet cannot move. As we see, (many Jeeva stuck in this mire of attachment) are drowning there. ||1|| (sggs 12).
Simply put: Affectionate detachment is “Being in the world, but not of it.”
Violent detachment or renunciation is NOT recommended in the Gurbani — running away from life, abandoning one’s family and society, forsaking one’s duties and responsibilities, etc. If a person abandons his family and society to go sit on mountain-tops, live in caves, or wander around in jungles, etc., his slumbering mind attached to Maya will follow him wherever he goes!
- ਮਨੁ ਸੋਇਆ ਮਾਇਆ ਬਿਸਮਾਦਿ ॥: The mind is asleep, fascinated by Maya (sggs 182).
- ਪੂੰਅਰ ਤਾਪ ਗੇਰੀ ਕੇ ਬਸਤ੍ਰਾ ॥ ਅਪਦਾ ਕਾ ਮਾਰਿਆ ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਤੇ ਨਸਤਾ ॥ ਦੇਸੁ ਛੋਡਿ ਪਰਦੇਸਹਿ ਧਾਇਆ ॥ ਪੰਚ ਚੰਡਾਲ ਨਾਲੇ ਲੈ ਆਇਆ ॥੪॥: You worship fire (ਧੂਣੀਆਂ ਤਪਾਂਣਾਂ) and wear saffron colored robes. Smitten by calamity (distress, trouble…), you run away from your home. Leaving your country, you wander in foreign lands. (But your Mayaic mind) brings the five pariahs (i.e., Bikaar: lust, anger, greed, etc.) with it. ||4|| (sggs 1348).
Hence, detachment does not mean abandoning household life, being less sensitive or loving to one’s family, etc. Rather detachment makes us more sensitive, and loving without any sense of bondage. Because, when we have the ability to let go, we are warmer, more friendly, more wholesome, more human and close to our family and friends.
- ਗਿਆਨ ਵਿਹੂਣਾ ਗਾਵੈ ਗੀਤ ॥ ਭੁਖੇ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਘਰੇ ਮਸੀਤਿ ॥ ਮਖਟੂ ਹੋਇ ਕੈ ਕੰਨ ਪੜਾਏ ॥ ਫਕਰੁ ਕਰੇ ਹੋਰੁ ਜਾਤਿ ਗਵਾਏ ॥ ਗੁਰੁ ਪੀਰੁ ਸਦਾਏ ਮੰਗਣ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਤਾ ਕੈ ਮੂਲਿ ਨ ਲਗੀਐ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਘਾਲਿ ਖਾਇ ਕਿਛੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਣਹਿ ਸੇਇ ॥੧॥: The one who lacks wisdom sings religious songs (for the sake of earning bread). The hungry Mullah turns his home into a mosque (or he also goes to mosque for the sake of bread!). The lazy bum has his ears pierced to look like a Yogi. Someone else becomes a panhandler, and thus loses his self-respect. Someone calls himself a Guru, while he goes around begging for bread – don’t ever touch their feet (i.e., don’t follow their example in life, or don’t follow their lifestyle). Do (the honest) work, and then help the needy. O Nanak! Such people know the true Way of life. ||1|| (sggs 1245).
- ਜਤੀ ਸਦਾਵਹਿ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਨ ਜਾਣਹਿ ਛਡਿ ਬਹਹਿ ਘਰ ਬਾਰੁ ॥: (Some) call themselves “Jati” (who think have control on their senses, continent…), and abandon their homes (seeing others doing it), but they do not know the way of life. (sggs 469).
Affectionate detachment: being in the world but not of it!
The Gurbani recommends affectionate detachment. It is having a mind open to everything, but attached to nothing. Hence, detachment is an attitude or perspective. It is how we hold ourselves within that really matters. Thus, affectionate detachment is a power! According to the Gurbani, there is a great wisdom in cultivated affectionate detachment — let go of the past; let go of the future; and be right in the moment, here and now!
After cultivating true detachment and right Knowledge, even if one lives amidst the worldly activity, he will be detached 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.
- ਸਭ ਕੈ ਮਧਿ ਸਗਲ ਤੇ ਉਦਾਸ ॥: Remain in the midst of all, and yet detached from all (sggs 296).
- ਹਸੰਦਿਆ ਖੇਲੰਦਿਆ ਪੈਨੰਦਿਆ ਖਾਵੰਦਿਆ ਵਿਚੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ॥: 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).
Remaining detached (Bairaagee) within
Thus, the Gurbani teaches us to remain detached within: affectionately, while living amidst family and the worldly activity.
- ਅਨਦਿਨੁ ਭਗਤਿ ਕਰਹਿ ਦਿਨੁ ਰਾਤੀ ਘਰ ਹੀ ਮਹਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ॥: (Bhagat, Gurmukh…) daily perform Bhagti day and night, and remain detached within (in the midst of family, Maya…). (sggs 768).
Thus, in fact, affectionate detachment makes us more sensitive, more caring, more warmer and friendly, more wholesome, more human, more closer to family, people, and greater love and compassion flow for them through understanding and effortless Wisdom (Sahaj).
- ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮਿ ਰਤੇ ਸੇ ਸਚੇ ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ॥੧॥: O Nanak! Those are truly detached who are attuned to the Divine Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Shabad, Hukam…). ||1|| (sggs 1246).
- ਦਸ ਬੈਰਾਗਨਿ ਆਗਿਆਕਾਰੀ ਤਬ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਜੋਗੀ ਥੀਏ ॥: Since my ten senses have become detached from passions, they have become obedient. Since then I have become an immaculate Yogi (sggs 208).
Hence, a real spiritual person is not a killjoy. After developing a detached attitude through the Gurmat (Wisdom, Giaan, Upadesh or Way of the SGGS…), the Gurbani tells us that even if one lives amidst the worldly activity, he will be unattached from it and thus untainted by it, just as the lotus remains untainted by the slimy scum it grows in (“ਜੈਸੇ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਕਮਲੁ ਨਿਰਾਲਮੁ”).
Maya cannot be transcended without detachment
- ਬਿਨੁ ਬੈਰਾਗ ਨ ਛੂਟਸਿ ਮਾਇਆ ॥੧॥: Without detachment, (hunger or love of) Maya cannot be gotten rid of. ||1|| (sggs 329).
Jagat (material world) and its enchanting attractions overpower the Jeeva (individual beings) rather easily. Our attachment to the worldly possessions and objects (with a sense of belonging) feed our Haumai (false ego-sense).
- ਐਸਾ ਜੋਗੁ ਕਮਾਵਹੁ ਜੋਗੀ ॥ ਜਪ ਤਪ ਸੰਜਮੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਭੋਗੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ O Yogi! Practise such a Yoga. (That) living a household (family) life, become the Gurmukh (i.e., live life per the Wisdom of the Gurbani – ਗੁਰੁ ਦੇ ਗਿਆਨ ਦੇ ਨਾਲ ਜੀਵਨ ਜੀਉਂ); this is the Japa, Tapa, and Sanjam. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 970).
- ਸਚਿ ਰਤੇ ਸਦਾ ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰਿ ਮਿਲਾਵਣਿਆ ॥੪॥: Those who are attuned to the Truth, remain detached forever. Subduing their egotism, they are united with (the Truth). ||4|| (sggs 117).
The Gurbani draws our attention to the fact that mere spiritual knowledge is of no consequence and that the purpose of this knowledge or Virtues is to apply it to one’s daily life to attain a state of detachment.
- ਕਬੀਰ ਤਰਵਰ ਰੂਪੀ ਰਾਮੁ ਹੈ ਫਲ ਰੂਪੀ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ॥ ਛਾਇਆ ਰੂਪੀ ਸਾਧੁ ਹੈ ਜਿਨਿ ਤਜਿਆ ਬਾਦੁ ਬਿਬਾਦੁ ॥੨੨੮॥: O Kabeer! (This world, burning in the fire of Bikaars – lust, anger, greed, attachment, etc. – the Naam) 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).
Although, detachment is the key to Spiritual Unfoldment, however, our Mayaic mind’s preoccupation, however, is always concerned with undue worldly pursuits and sensory pleasures. Unless one develops dispassion for undue emotional attachment to material pleasures and material comforts, his dependence on them will impel him to more and more reactionary thoughts and actions and, thereby, fueling his anxiety, frustration, desires and fear in the process.
- ਕਰਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਤੂੰ ਛੋਡਿ ਪਾਖੰਡੁ ਸੋ ਸਹੁ ਸਭੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਜਾਣਏ ॥: (O mind!) Become detached, and renounce hypocrisy (of your superficial Bairaag or Pakhand); the Divine knows everything (from within you). (sggs 440).
- ਦੁਬਿਧਾ ਵਿਚਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਵੀ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਦੂਜੀ ਰਾਈ ॥: There cannot be detachment in delusion, as long as there is even a particle of duality (sggs 634).
Is mind united with the Guru?
SGGS tells us that the Giaan (Wisdom, Knowledge, Virtues) is the Guru in the Sikhi. Baabaa Kabeer says know you are connected to your Guru if your mind’s illness (of Bikaar) of the worldly attachment is effaced.
- ਕਬੀਰ ਗੁਰੁ ਲਾਗਾ ਤਬ ਜਾਨੀਐ ਮਿਟੈ ਮੋਹੁ ਤਨ ਤਾਪ ॥: O Kabir! One is known to have been united with the Guru (i.e., Giaan or Wisdom, Virtues…), if your mind’s affliction or illness of worldly attachment is eradicated. (sggs 1374).
The Wisdom of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Gurmat) provides us with a proper attitude or perspective of affectionate detachment, leading to liberation while alive, here and now (Jeevan Mukti-living dead). Hence, the Gurbani never gets tired of reminding us that mere talk (“ਗਲੀ’) or mere ritualistic reading or mere seeing of the SGGS will not do the trick!
- 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).
- ਨਾਨਕ ਘਰਿ ਬੈਠਿਆ ਜੋਗੁ ਪਾਈਐ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਉਪਦੇਸਿ ॥: O Nanak, Yoga (Union) is obtained even while sitting in your own home, by following the Satgur’s Teachings (Giaan or Wisdom). (sggs 1421).