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Attachment and commitment, in human relationships || Acharya Prashant (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
9 min
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Question (Q): Acharya Ji, what’s the thing between attachment and commitment, especially in terms of human relationships? Since we know that attachment to another person has to be seen as hindrance to freedom, what about commitment?

Acharya Prashant (AP): To commit oneself to something, is to hold that thing valuable. It is to hold that thing so valuable that it is worth committing, sacrificing, laying down the self to. You always commit a smaller thing in value of something, in service of something bigger, no? So, that is commitment.

To want something so intensely, to value something so greatly, that the thing becomes more important than even the one valuing the thing - that is to be committed.

Even in attachment one is committed. To what?

In attachment, the little self is committed to its own petty wants, desires, insecurities. Therefore, attachment and the accompany commitment are a fallacy of evaluation. The little self, the ego is valuing security higher than its welfare and Peace.

What does one say in attachment? One says, "That is the thing that appears Peace-giving to me, that is the thing I am conditioned and habituated to, that is the thing I have become dependent upon. And so, I don’t want to leave that thing."

What is being accorded value in the process of attachment? Habits, tendencies, dependencies, fear, and a continuous sense of incompleteness and insecurity. That is what is paramount in the process of attachment. So one is giving a high value, but to the wrong thing. One is still committed – but to a false god.

And really the word 'commitment' has value, only if the one who is committing commits himself, herself so deeply that there is no possibility of a retreat or withdrawal.

In case of attachment that is not possible. Sooner than later it becomes obvious that one is investing herself at the wrong place. It becomes obvious that in spite of all the habit, and emotion, and bondages, the object of attachment is actually in no position to provide the fulfilment one is looking for. Therefore, one has to retreat, and painfully so. Attachment at some point will necessarily lead to disillusionment. Therefore, the commitment aspect in attachment remains fragile, doomed to break. It is not a commitment that you can really keep for long. 

The ones we are usually attached to are just like us. They exist in the same dimension as us, they belong to the same plane as we do.

Commitment is possible only to something Immense, only to something far bigger than yourself. Commitment is possible only to something that is so Infinite, that it simply absorbs the whole of you. And therefore, commitment is such a virtuous and relieving thing - it relieves you of yourself. Once you are committed to something, you are gone, finished; the thing takes total possession of you.

But for the thing to take total possession of you, it must be…?

Questioner: Immense.

AP: Immense.

On the contrary, if you are committing yourself to something or somebody that is just like you, how will that thing take total possession of you? How will the little take total possession of the little? There can be at best a superficial proximity, there can be no dissolution. That’s what attachment is; superficial proximity. Love is another matter altogether.

In Love, one is courageous beyond the need for self-preservation and security. One is committed to something very real, very beautiful, very overwhelming. One says, "It’s so charming and so valuable that one must obtain it even at the cost of one’s life." That’s Love. In attachment, you use the other to remain what you are.

Attachment is an exercise in self-preservation, whereas Love is the urge towards self-dissolution. Attachment and Love are not merely different; you could even say that they are opposites. Where there is attachment there can be no Love, and where there is Love, there is Freedom, and hence no attachment. In Love you are committed to the Immense; in attachment you are committed to your own littleness. 

Questioner: Can I ask a follow-up question? Is there a way to move from attachment towards Love?

AP: Yes.

The way from attachment towards Love is the way from habit towards welfare.

Because of suffering or Grace—or whatever name you might want to give the reason to—you come to see that attachment is not helping you; it is only worsening things. It is ending up achieving the opposite of what it is promising.

Attachment promises nearness and intimacy, but begets separation, violence, insecurity. One wants to deny that, one wants to continue in the way of habit, but sooner than later the fact becomes undeniable; it stares one in the face. You will have to admit it. And then one is pushed to take some other way for the sake of her own welfare. 

As human beings it is our nature to be alright, contended, peaceful; to not to be kicked around, to not to needlessly suffer - to know, to realize, to see life with Clarity. And when we see that that is not happening, then we are impelled from within to try out some other route. The only other route is Love, because all the nonsensical routes are anyway necessary accompaniments of attachment.

If you are somebody who has been attached, then it is not merely attachment that you have experienced; the entire gamut of accompanying experiences too would be quite familiar to you by now. And what are those accompanying experiences? Nervousness, fear, jealousy. Can there be attachment without jealousy? Can there be attachment without repetition? Can there be attachment without loneliness? So that entire family of neurotic emotions would be well known to you. You have been there, done that, known it all. 

So, once you decide to take the route away from attachment, it can now no more be the route of, let’s say, violence. Why? Because violence is something that you have already experienced and tried in the way of attachment. Attachment comes with all these things. Attachment necessarily comes with violence, fear, greed, delusion, boredom, loneliness, suspicion; they all go together.

And since they all go together, therefore when you decide to quit one of them, the central one of them, you are actually quitting each one of them. And when you’re quitting each one of them, then the only route left is the route of Love – because everything comes along with attachment, except that one thing called 'Love'.

So, when you quit attachment, there is nothing else left to try; only Love is left to try. One tries Love then. One necessarily tries Love; there is choicelessness. All other options are exhausted already. 

Question 2: Namaskar Acharya Ji. Just a follow-up question to the first few questions. Had some idea about attachments and Love. But how to get rid of attachment?

AP: No. We said there is just one way, the way of your insistence which leads to a lot of suffering. Because you have insisted that you would go down the way of attachment, there is no way you are going to drop your insistence, except when you see the consequences of it. And the consequences all point at just one thing - suffering.

But even after suffering, if you are able to go beyond attachment, it’s still a miracle. Therefore, suffering alone does not suffice. One says one requires Grace as well, because so many people suffer and keep suffering.

The ego chooses to keep suffering rather than learn and dissolve. 

You are attached for a reason, aren’t you? Only Love is unreasonable; attachment is very-very reasonable. Only Love comes from nowhere; attachment comes from very-very specific places. So you have your reasons, strong reasons for getting attached. Examine those reasons.

Whenever man reasons, man reasons for the sake of his profit and betterment. Ask yourself, "How are you being profited by attachment?" Ask. You are attached to something-somebody for your own sake, for the sake of your own betterment, for the sake of getting something, obviously. That’s how attachment proceeds.

One sticks to this (pointing at a mug kept on the table) because one feels that this is able to provide one with something, right? Now, honestly, dispassionately, ruthlessly question yourself: "Is this thing really giving me that what you want from it? Is it really able to live up to the expectations I have of it?"

And if you can honestly ask this question, it will become easier for you to drop attachment. Attachment defeats its own purpose. Now how can you continue with it?

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