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Gita Lesson - 0202: Nature of Attachment

Bhagavad Gita
Unit - 02
Lesson - 0202: Nature of Attachment
By Raja Subramaniyan

Attachment describes the connection between an individual and an external object. ('Object' includes people, things, possessions, positions, power, fame etc). Most people are attached to something or other in life, whether they are aware of their attachment or not.

Example: It is important that I have a cup of coffee in the morning.

This is an attachment. The degree of attachment varies among people but everyone is attached to something or someone. When the degree of attachment is at the highest level, it is felt that the purpose of one's life is to devote to the welfare of the object or person to which one is attached.

Example: A mother is attached to her newborn baby and she is willing to give her life for the sake of the welfare of the baby.

Attachment is different from love. Attachment is born out of dependence and it comes with expectation. Love does not make one dependent and one will not have any expectation. Therefore, it is possible to love someone deeply without developing any attachment. It is also possible to develop attachment without any love or affection.

Example: She is very much attached to her boyfriend. If she learns that he is seeing someone else, she develops hatred and distances herself from him. Even when there is no more love, the attachment does not vanish. She still misses him.

As a corollary to the above, it is possible to love deeply someone without developing any attachment.

Example: A mother loves her son very dearly. When he wants to go abroad for his higher studies, she does not object to his proposal.

Ignorance is the source of attachment and this aspect will be dealt in detail in the subsequent lessons.

Two factors develop and sustain attachment. They are 'physical association' and 'mental association'.

Example: If I drink coffee more frequently, I get more attachment to it. This is due to physical association.

Example: The more she thinks of him, more attachment she develops. This is due to mental association.

Normally, physical association precedes mental association.

When we meet someone for the first time, we do not have many thoughts about that person in our mind. There is no attachment. As we get to move closely with that person (frequent meetings, sharing of opinions and views etc) more thoughts about that person are accumulated in the mind. The degree of attachment is directly proportional to the quantum of thoughts.

In this case, the physical association has lead to mental association. It is also possible that we learn about an object without coming into physical contact with it. Advertisement in television and magazines kindle our thoughts (mental association) and make us crave for obtaining the object (physical association).

Physical and mental associations are interdependent and support mutual growth. Frequent physical association brings more thoughts into the mind. More thoughts in the mind compel one to spend more time in physical association.

Thus, attachment increases at a fast rate and soon reaches a stage of 'I cannot live without you'.

In general, we are not aware of the degree of our attachment to a person or object. Only when we meet an obstacle to the physical association with the object of our attachment, we realize its existence.

Anger or fear indicates the degree of our attachment. If someone is preventing us from physical association, we will get anger or fear. If that someone is inferior to us, we become angry. Else, fear takes over.

Example: After office hours, I come home and watch a TV serial. When this is done repeatedly for about two weeks, I develop attachment to the serial and it becomes my favorite serial. I leave the office in time so that I do not miss the program.

If my subordinates do not finish their work in time, I become angry. I shout at them to hurry up lest I might miss my program.

If my superior asks me to come to his cabin, I develop a fear that I may be delayed.

Until we experience fear or anger, we do not realize that we are attached.

Arjuna is leading the army in the battlefield and he asks Lord Krishna to take him to a place where he can see his 'enemies' clearly. However when Lord Krishna stops the chariot, he does not see enemies. He sees friends, relatives and close associates. This is the result of attachment.

Although he knew that he was going to fight with Bhisma and Dhrona even before arriving at the battlefield, he was not aware of his attachment. When it is time to act, he realizes that he is attached to them so deeply that he cannot think of killing them.

This is depicted in the 26th verse.

Chapter 1: Cause of Suffering & Delusion [Verse: 26]

1.26 There Arjuna could see, within the midst of the armies of both parties, his fathers, grandfathers, teachers, maternal uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, friends, and also his father-in-law and well-wishers - all present there.

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