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Chapter 18: Non-attachment Is Not Aversion

Questioner: Krishna says that by giving up desiring and attachment, which he calls niskamta and anasakti respectively, one is released from bondage and he attains to the supreme. But it is so difficult for ordinary men and women to be free of desiring and attachment. Please explain the significance of desirelessness and non attachment and ways to achieve them.

In the first place try to understand the meaning of the word anasakti or non attachment. It is unfortunately one of the most misunderstood words. Non attachment is generally taken to mean aversion, but it is not aversion. Aversion is a kind of attachment - the opposite of attachment. Someone is attached to sex and someone else is attached to its opposite - brahmacharya or celibacy. Someone is attached to wealth; he is running after wealth, and someone else is attached to renunciation of wealth; he is running away from wealth. One person is obsessed with the idea of looking handsome; another person is obsessed with the idea of looking ugly. But those who are averse to sex, money or good looks appear to be non-attached because their attachments are negative.

Attachment has two faces, positive and negative. You can fancy a thing so much that you madly run after it, you cling to it - this is positive attachment. And you can be so much repelled by a thing that you want to escape it, to run away from it; then it is negative attachment. Negative attachment is as much attachment as positive attachment.

Non attachment is altogether different; it is freedom from both the positive and the negative kinds of attachment. Non attachment means one is neither attached to something nor averse to it. Non attachment is transcendence of both attachment and aversion.

In the world of spiritualism there are many words like non attachment, which have been badly distorted and misconstrued. Veetrag is one such word which means transcendence of attachment, but it has become synonymous with aversion. When someone goes beyond both attachment and aversion, he achieves the state of veetrag or transcendence. This word veetrag belongs to the tradition of Mahavira, while anasakti belongs to the tradition of Krishna, and they are synonymous. But there is a difference in the approach of the two.

While Mahavira attains to the state of veetrag by renouncing both attachment and aversion, Krishna attains to the state of anasakti by accepting both positive and negative attachments. And these are the only possible ways. While their ends remain the same, their means are different. While Mahavira insists on renunciation of attachment, Krishna emphasizes its acceptance. So in a deeper sense veetrag is negative and anasakti is positive.

A non-attached mind, according to Krishna, is one who accepts everything unconditionally. The interesting thing is that if you accept something totally it does not leave a mark, a scar on your mind; your mind remains unscathed and undisturbed. But when you cling strongly to a thing it leaves a mark on your mind. And when you are strongly averse to something you detest and deny it, then also it leaves a mark on your mind.

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