Finding Affectionate Detachment


Bodhinatha describes the various kinds of negative attachment and methods by which to free ourselves from attachments to negative experiences in the past. Moving from negative attachment to "unaffectionate detachment" to "affectionate detachment."

Unedited Transcript:

Good Morning, Welcome. Sivakumaran from Mauritius, welcome. Vanakkam.

Today is our change of ritau, moving into the Moksha Ritau. The Flag Raising Ceremony after we end here in the temple. If our flag raising supplies are not ready, get them ready. Hopefully they are ready.

This morning I just have a few thoughts prepared on 'Affectionate Detachment'.Thinking it about this morning,I came up with a three-fold concept, in two stages leading up to the stage of affectionate detachment. First one is called 'unaffectionate attachment'. Unaffectionate attachment! Second one is called 'unaffectionate detachment.'Then, the third one is called 'affectionate detachment'.

So what does 'unaffectionate attachment' refer to? Well, it refers to a state of mind that we sometimes end up in as young adults and older adults. We don't start out that way as children certainly. But it is a state of mind where we are filled with things like resentment, misunderstandings, bad memories of our growing up, or grudges.Quite often, this is children toward parents or younger children toward older children in the family.We are just filled with them. We are constantly thinking about the past,what happened when we were twelve years old and what happened when we were twenty years old. We are obviously attached.

There is a wonderful movie we saw sometime in the last few months, a Shirley McClain movie where she was the mother and Meryl Streep was the daughter. They reached a scene where the daughter started rattling off, " Well, when I was ten years old, you did this to me and then on my twelfth birthday that happened. When I was fifteen you did this. When I was twenty I brought a boy home and that happened to him. When I was twenty-two this happened." That was just a really classic example of what we are talking about here, unaffectionate attachment. Did the daughter like the mother? No, no. Very hard feelings. There wasn't any affection, it was unaffection. Was there attachment? Yes, there was this strong, clinging to the past.

This is what Gurudeva means in this context of attachment. Our mind is in the past. We are not in the present. We are still reacting to the past in a very strong way.

Of course, this can happen and if it does happen then we need to undo it. Right? We need to clear the subconscious mind of these kinds of negative attachments or as I am calling them unaffectionate attachments. There is certainly no love in these attachments. There is hard feelings, dislike. Even hatred can exist in these kinds of negative feelings about what happened to us when we were growing up, from our parents or older brothers or sisters.When we are grown up, weeven add to it. I remember talking to someone, it was a while ago, but they were adding to it with the resentments about the partners in their business treating them unfairly. Their mind was totally absorbed in, "Well, the partner did this to me four years ago,two years ago the other partner did that and last month this happened." Were they in the present? No, they were totally in the past

So, if we find our mind dwelling a lot in the past about these kinds of things, we need to clear them out. We need to get rid of them, which is the beauty of Gurudeva' teachings. We not only have the theory but he gives us certain practices which we can do. Very concrete practices so we can change the subconscious mind, change our nature. Nothing theoretical about it.

Of course as we all know, we have spent a lot of time with the Maha Vasana Daha Tantra, in recent years. That is the basic clearing of the subconscious mind. Writing down what happened to us, each year of our life and then keeping up with that, writing it down.Writing letters to people that we hold resentments against and burning them up.Clearing out the subconscious mind helps get rid of a lot of those feelings, those unaffectionate attachments to what happened to us in the past.

For really difficult situations, Gurudeva has even given additional prayaschitta, such as 'the flower prayaschitta'. Putting a flower in front of a picture of a parent, who you really don't like, who you really resent for how they treated you in raising you, you really resent for beating you when you were young. There is the flower prayaschitta and a whole practice that goes along with that.Just writing it down may not get rid of it. It created such a deep impression in the mind, a negative samskara in the mind, that more than writing it down is needed. You have to actually do something physical. So, Gurudeva has given advise such as the flower prayaschitta, which is very, very effective.

What happens when we do those kinds of practices like Maha Vasana Daha Tantra and the flower prayaschitta? We arrive at the second term here, unaffectionate detachment. We still don't like the person but at least we are not thinking about them all the time. We have gotten detached. We have no fondness, no love, but we are not thinking about the past. We have understood the situation.

Like in this movie with Shirley McClain,the mother said, "I did the best I could in raising you."The daughter accepted that finally, realizing that the mother was not perfect and she should not expect a perfect childhood. That is an unrealistic expectation. They came to an understanding, which created a release of the attachment. But still, it didn't build up affection. They had a cold situation without any attachments. So that is unaffectionate detachment.

Of course, that is not the goal either. The goal is affectionate detachment.Gurudeva used to tell a story which shows what affectionate detachment is not, very nicely. It involves Paramahansa Yogananda.One of Paramahansa Yogananda's devotee gave him this beautiful shawl, really exquisite shawl, gold thread design through it. Very expensive, this beautiful shawl.Paramahansa Yogananda thanked the devotee.They were walking around together and he put the shawl on. Before he knew it the shawl kind of slipped off and was dragging in the mud. Of course the devotee was horrified. "Oh ... my beautiful shawl! It is going in the mud!"It kept getting lower and lower and pretty soon, it just fell off all together.Swami kept walking along and the devotee was still back thinking of the shawl and wasn't thinking about Yogananda at all. Because the gift had not been given with detachment. The gift was given, which was wonderful but there was attachment to the gift, right? All the devotee could think about was the shawl and what was happening to the shawl.It was his shawl,it was getting dirty and then it was getting ignored. Whereas, if he had given it in the right spirit, then whatever Swami did with it, would not matter, because it was no longer his shawl. He gave it and became detached >from it.

Gurudeva gives us a nice statement about how to cultivate affectionate detachment - "The best way to keep the actinic force flowing through the physical body is practicing the art of giving. Doing little things for others, you have not been asked to do." That is not hard, right? Doing little things for others, you have not been asked to do.

Well it sounds so simple, you know, why bother doing it?You may think, "Okay, I can do that.Why bother doing it, because I can do it?"

Do it because it produces results. It actually gets us from unaffectionate detachment to affectionate detachment. It builds up love and good feeling towards those to whom we had hard feelings in the past. Just this simple practice over time. Of course, it does not change everything in one action.You give something that was not anticipated and a thank you and everything happens, it does not cause a total transformation just because it happened once. But repeated over and over again, just little gifts, doing things for others that they don't anticipate, changes the nature of the feelings between people.It changes that something unaffectionate to affectionate. It creates more love, more of a feeling of kindness and warmth toward one another than we had before. So of course this is an important practice in an ongoing sense because there is always the opportunity for hard feelings to develop in life, you know.

It is not like - Okay everything is perfect. I started out,unaffectionately attached, did my Maha Vasana Daha Tantra, did my flower prayaschitta. I became unaffectionately detached. I gave, I did this for this person, I did that for that person and built up a certain sense of warmth and friendship and everything is okay. I am affectionately detached. I can move on.

No, it does not work that way. It is something we have to work at, the rest of our life because we are interacting with people the rest of our life. So it is just part of interacting with people in a way that hard feelings don't develop, resentments don't develop. We don't start clinging to the past remembering what happened two years ago and not letting it go. No.

We cultivate affectionate detachment through this simple practice of doing things for others. Giving in ways that were not anticipated and therefore hard feelings don't develop. We keep things flowing smoothly and keep nice feelings between people we interact with regularly, family members, friends and even people at work. If we interact with them regularly andfeel a need for this kind of practice then we can even do it there.

So that leads to a nice affection between people but Gurudeva even takes it further. He says, "It eventually leads to greater actinic understanding."What does that mean? It means, not only do we have good kind feelings about others but we understand their nature better. Part of the reason we don't get along with some people is that we just don't understand them, whenever we think that everyone is like us. A natural assumption, everyone is like me. But you may not meet anyone that is like you, your whole lifetime. People are quite different and the basis for misunderstanding and hard feelings is not understanding one another clearly. Not recognizing those differences, the insensitivities people have, different needs different people have, different limitations people have.

When we are really deep into affectionate detachment, not only do we have a kindly feeling for others, but we also understand them in an intuitive way, which is what Gurudeva means by actinic understanding. It is not an intellectual analysis that is done. It is just an intuitive sense of who that person is.Because we understand that person better, we get along with them better.

All of that is contained in the wonderful idea of affectionate detachment.For the monks, I thought I would take the principle one step further.One of the big differences between monastic life and family life is that in family life you have friends. You have people that you like better than others, people you spend more time with than others. These are my friends, right? Friendship and having friends in family life,we don't think twice about it. Those are my friends, those are the people I spend my time with on days off.People I feel close to, they are my friends.Other people are not my friends. It is not that we don't like people who aren't our friends. But, we like people who are our friends better, right? That is why we call them friends.

Whereas, in monastic life we don't have any friends. The monk has to treat everyone alike. So it istaking affectionate detachment even a step further because we are detached in the sense that we don't even form friendships in the first place.

A simple way of thinking about it is to be like the sun and how it shines light. Okay, the sun is up in the sky. Does it shine light more on one person than another because that person is the sun's friend? Of course not, the sun shines light equally on everything. It doesn't distinguish. It is just there radiating light.

The monk needs to be like that.Instead of radiating light, he is radiating love and kindness towards everyone he meets, equally. In the monastery, he doesn't like one person more than the other. He radiates love and kindness equally to all. In people, he meets in the monastery and in town, he is the same way. He just radiates the same amount of love and kindness to everyone he meets. That is the monastic path.

Gurudeva was wonderful at that, a master of that!That is why so many people feel touched by him, because he didn't distinguish. If he was in a restaurant and a waiter came up, you know that waiter got just as much love and kindness from Gurudeva as the Mayor would or the President of this or that. Gurudeva did not distinguish according to social levels or income or background or ethnic group or anything. No, every person that Gurudeva met, he treated the same. Shined love and kindness on them just as much as anyone else.Therefore, when we had gatherings on the island of people who were touched by Gurudeva, everyone comes, the whole social structure comes.You won't find that in most places. This is very unusual and it shows Gurudeva's monastic quality of not limiting, not choosing some people over others.Just radiating his love and kindness equally on all people that he encountered.

So, those are the three stages of getting up to affectionate detachment - unaffectionate attachment, unaffectionate detachment and affectionate detachment. It comes in two stages.The first is just having more love and kindness in our feelings towards others.Then, actually understanding them more clearly, understanding the nature of our family and friends in an intuitive way and therefore loving them more and being able to get along with them better because we understand who they are from the inside out.

Aum Namah Sivaya! Let the monks go first here and start our parade in a few minutes.