The opposite of attachment is not detachment. The opposite of attachment is non-attachment. Let me explain to you the difference between detachment and non-attachment. In detachment, you become detached from the world or your environment. That could be a form of escapism. When many people become dropouts or failures in life or cannot stand the problems of life, then they seclude themselves, they become recluses or hermits. Many of the sadhus or so-called yogis you find in India are dropouts. I have met hundreds of them. They are dropouts, so they detached themselves from the world. But the idea is to have non-attachment, where you are in the world and yet not attached to the world. You are in the world, yet not of the world. That is non-attachment. That means you partake of everything, wear clothes, live in houses, have wives and husbands and families, and live normally. And yet you can still stand apart and observe the play. For is this whole world not a stage, as Shakespeare would say?

That is non-attachment, where you are watching the play of the world and sitting in the audience watching the whole world go by. Yet you are partaking of it without being attached to it. That is non-attachment. What happens with attachment is that you become so emotionally involved that you will feel all the pains and the sorrows. But if you are non-attached, although the pains and the sorrows come, you can stand apart and become the witness, and when you become the witness, the emphasis is more on the big “I” instead of the small “I.”

With attachment, the small “I” is activated; with non-attachment, the big “I” is activated and becomes the witness or the observer of all that the small “I” is doing. So, the big “I,” or the authentic, actual Self of man, starts permeating the small self of man. The whole secret of life is non-attachment. It does not mean being aloof or detached. It does not mean you leave your wives and children or husbands; the whole day, you sit on some hill or Himalayan cave or sit up in the Andes. That is not what it means.

I am a teacher for householders, not for the monks. The monks can carry on with their monkey business. I am a householder, a teacher for householders.


Non-attachment is also a form of renunciation, which does not mean that you have renounced the world, but you have renounced the attachment to the world and live in a state of non-attachment where nothing can touch you. By having non-attachment, you rise above, go beyond the polarities, and go beyond the law of opposites. Because in attachment, the law of opposites functions. If you feel intensely happy today, know that you will feel intensely unhappy next week, too. Be sure to know that. Every pleasure has pain as a constituent within itself, and every pain contains within itself pleasure. In non-attachment, you do not experience pain or pleasure. You experience joy. That is something different than pleasure.

You eat a big, beautiful dinner, it gives you pleasure. You go to see an excellent show, it gives you pleasure. It does not provide you with joy because pain and pleasure are inflicted upon you, and it requires support from external things while joy wells up from inside. You might go for a lovely dinner, dance and show and feel so happy. You go out with your boyfriend or husband, girlfriend or wife; a couple of hours are spent. Ah! I am happy, so lovely. Yet you come home, and just a little thing, especially after having a few glasses of champagne, just a little thing might set off a fire. You quarrel. Half an hour ago, so much pleasure, and now, just because of that lovely time, as you call it, you are having pain. Do you see how they are so associated with each other? But when you rise above pain and pleasure, there is absolute joy and bliss; then you are functioning from a different level altogether.

Pain and pleasure are in the realms of the five senses: hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, and feeling, but joy comes from within. It is welling up from the Kingdom of Heaven within, from the core of one’s personality called the Heart. Joy comes from there, and that “joyousness” is what we are after. When a person is attached to any material thing, a relative, or a person, one must realise that attachment has no value whatsoever because everything is transient. All these pains and pleasures are transient; they all pass away very soon. But joy is an eternal quality; it is good through eternity.


There was a well-known rabbi who lived in a small village in Israel. One man was passing through that village and heard that this well-known rabbi lived there. So, he thought, “Let me go and visit this rabbi.” So, he went to this rabbi’s home. It was a poor, modest home, and he went inside, and the rabbi said, “Welcome, come inside, sit down,” and offered him a glass of water. Poor man, and his whole house was bare. He sat on the floor with no furniture, nothing. So, this visitor says, “Rabbi, I was just passing here, so I dropped in to see you.” And after they chatted, chatted, this fellow asked the rabbi, “Why is your house so bare?” So, the rabbi replies, “Oh, I am also just passing here.”

We are all just passing here. So, while we pass here, we realise that we form attachments that we think will be eternal. I have three children. The one is married; he is twenty-five. The other one is just becoming a pharmacist; he is twenty-two and a boy of thirteen. And I can assure you one thing: I love them very much; I love them very much as I love everyone else because everyone else’s children are my children too. If something untoward should happen to any of them, it will shock me at first, but it will pass away in five minutes because I know the value of this just passing through. I will remember now and then, yes, nice boy, good boy, but I will not let it affect me because I am non-attached.

The Bhagavad Gita says there is no mother, father, brother, or sister. This means that in reality, there is only one spirit, and that one spirit permeates every one of us, and that spirit is eternal and immortal. It is the ocean, and we are just waves on the sea. They rise and subside, rise and subside, and subside into the sea. They are not apart from the ocean, and while you are watching the sea and a wave subsides, are you going to cry your whole life through because a wave has subsided? It is illogical. If you should cry or be pained your whole life through because of a husband passing away or a wife or a son passing away, what is it going to help? The time had come. The child, wife, or husband has learned a particular lesson in this life; therefore, they were born into this life, and the lesson has been learned. Off you go! You do not tarry.


Everything in this universe is in motion all the time. Nothing is standing still. We think we are  sitting still on this Earth, but this little planet is hurtling through space at thousands of miles per hour. Everything is in motion. Even while I am sitting here, billions of cells in my body are constantly in motion. Everything is in motion, and anything in motion must pass along.

We really know how to love if we develop that sense of non-attachment! If you love with attachment, then it is not love, but it is a need. Some need whatsoever, even for ego preservation. Real love only comes when you love for the sake of love, and even if the object passes away, the love remains. But if it is a love of attachment, you do not want the object to disappear. The object remains there, causing you misery, yet you know full well that the moment is gone.


So, what do we do? Why do we suffer so much? Because we do not live for the moment. We either live in the past or we live in the future. Study your mind. Study the thought processes. What do you think about? Just observe it sometimes. You are either thinking of the past: oh, Auntie Mary said this that day and so forth. Oh, it was such a beautiful party last week and Jane was wearing such a stupid dress. Something like that, past, past, rechurning, rechurning of things that are gone and forgotten. Uncle John said a bad word, and yet it is gone already. Uncle John has forgotten he ever said that. But you are still living it.

There is a Zen story; perhaps some of you know it. These two Zen masters were going on a pilgrimage and had to cross a river. At the riverside was a young maiden who wanted to cross as well. These masters are not supposed to touch a woman. But the one Zen master picked up this girl and carried her across the river. Gallant! He took her across the river, and then after doing that, these two Zen masters carried on their journey. An hour, two hours, three hours had passed and so the one said to the one that picked up the young lady, “You know, you have done something wrong, you have picked up that woman. You touched her.” So, the other one said, “I dropped her there, and she was dropped, but you are still carrying her.”

My father passed away thirty-five years ago. Now and then, I think of him; I do. I offer a prayer, but I do not carry him around with me. He is a soul, an entity on his own. I have no right to possess. I do not take my father around with me.

That is living in the past. Then people live in the future. They are thinking of tomorrow, next week, and the following week. When I get old, will my children look after me? What securities must I provide? It is good to plan, it is good. But if it is taken to the extreme, it becomes sour; it is not sweet anymore. Why worry today? Why worry now about what will happen tomorrow, next week or two weeks? So, you are not living now, today you are living tomorrow. Look at the impossibility! It is just illogical! How can you live tomorrow today? Live this moment now and enjoy it. Enjoy this very moment now.


So, we should not live in the past and not live in the future, and this is brought about by attachment. But if you are non-attached to the past, you do not live in the past; if you are non-attached to the future, then you do not live in the future. Then you live now. This is the moment; eternity in an hour, as Blake said. We can say “eternity in a moment.” For we linearly measure things because of this limited mind. The mind is so limited. Therefore, we linearly measure everything. But speaking, it is just a flash, a flicker of an eyelid.

All these benefits are gained by non-attachment, not by attachment. When we gain these realisations, it should not be mental gymnastics, assumptions, or thoughts going through the mind, intellect, or rationalisations. It is like food; it must be assimilated. When you eat the food, okay, good; when you digest it, good, fine; but then it assimilates in every drop of your blood. That is what realisation is about: where you live, which was previously thought about. You live it. Then you have realised. As more and more realisations dawn and awareness expands through spiritual practices, you can assimilate more. Then, the ultimate is self-realisation, and when you realise yourself, you have realised God, and you have realised Divinity. All this starts from non-attachment.


Non-attachment does not mean you do not love, be aloof, or be away from things; no, no, enjoy, enjoy the joy. That is life. This is the fun of life. Yes, yes, yes. Life, love and laughter.
Everything laughs; why should we not laugh? Everything lives; why should we not live? Why should we exist like the living dead? We have to be vibrant! Dynamic! As everything is filled with a dynamic quality! Yes, yes. Yes. Spiritual practices, meditation, reading good books instead of all those thrillers, boy meets girl, and all that. Good books help to make one think, company of holy people, good people, optimistic people, then it rubs off, as the saying goes. Your mind also tunes that way. If you are forever in the company of very pessimistic people, you become pessimists yourself. Be in the company of optimistic people; you become an optimist; be in the company of joyous people, and you, too, become joyous. Because everyone is radiating something, emanating from themselves. If you are a person filled with hatred, you emanate hatred. If you are a person filled with love, you emanate love. Why do you love me? Because my love for you is contagious and makes you love me.

… Gururaj Ananda Yogi: Satsang US 1980 – 24