Chapter 3: The Search for Nirvana
These sutras of Shankara’s are not meant to help you understand detachment, they are meant to explain to you the uselessness of attachment. If attachment becomes meaningless it is enough; if attachment is over, it is enough. The disappearance of attachment is detachment - nothing else is needed except this. But the reverse always happens. After reading these sutras many people, innumerable people, have caught hold of detachment without giving up attachment. Attachment continued, but now in the guise of detachment. First you were standing on your feet, now you are standing on your head - but nothing changes by standing on your head, things remain just as they were. But when attachment stands on its head it becomes detachment - ordinary people’s detachment, the so-called sannyasin’s detachment. But when attachment disappears, then the detachment of Mahavira, Buddha and Shankara is born.
Mulla Nasruddin was suffering from a mental disease. When-ever his telephone rang he would get scared that it was his landlord ringing about the rent, or that it may be his boss, sacking him from his job - thousands of anxieties. Because of these imaginary fears he couldn’t even lift the telephone. So I told him to consult a psychiatrist. He took the treatment for two or three months.
One day, when I went to his house, I saw him speaking on the phone and he was not shaking. He was not feeling scared at all! So I asked him, “The treatment seems to have done you good. Now you are not scared anymore?”
Mulla replied, “Well, the treatment has helped me more than was necessary.”
I asked, “What do you mean by ‘more than was necessary’?”
He said, “You know, I have become very brave now. I pick up the phone and start talking even when it doesn’t ring. Earlier I used to be scared of the ringing of the phone. But just now the phone didn’t ring, so I picked it up and I started scolding the landlord. He got so scared that he kept absolutely quiet on the other end of the phone - I couldn’t even hear his breathing.”
This is the irony of human life! It is easy to go from one extreme to the other.
There is a Hindi proverb that a person whose mouth was burned while drinking hot milk is afraid even to drink cooled buttermilk, having first blown it cold. In the same way, a person who is scared of the world is scared of the divine also. One who is burned by the world is afraid of drinking the divine.
One has to be detached from the world - but not out of any fear. If you give up anything out of fear it will not really be given up, it will chase you, it will follow you. If you are scared of anything, it will scare you more. If you run away from anything, it will follow you because the fear is inside you. Where will you run away to? From whom will you run away? If the world were outside you could run away, but wherever you go you will find the world.. Even in a cave in the Himalayas it will be the same “you” who will be living there, the same “you” who lives here. So the real question is not of changing the place or the way of living, the real question is to change the inner state of the mind. At present the state of your mind is too bent to one side. So don’t bend it too much to the other side: the extreme is the disease. One who becomes balanced in the middle is free, that is why Buddha has called his path majjhim nikai, the middle path. One who stays in the center reaches. A person who is in the middle, who doesn’t lean to this side or to that side, has reached.