Dr Swami Vivekananda Saraswati MBBS, DPM, ANZCP

Do you feel emotionally well? There are many people who do not. They are depressed, anxious, terrified, tense, all of those unfortunate and unpleasant emotional feelings. What's the difference between the way you are feeling at the moment, and the way they feel? The difference is that you are learning about yoga, which means that you are pursuing the spiritual path. When you get together with others on the same path, you help each other along the way. This is called satsang. We all have the same aim, and therefore just by being together we're helping each other.

The aim of life is the evolution of consciousness. The aim of life is net necessarily to accumulate a whole lot of possessions, although if you can do that in the right way, that's OK. The aim of life is not to find yourself a wife or a husband, and then completely own that person, although a loving relationship with someone can be a tremendous help on the spiritual path. The aim in life is not to gain the maximum of money, power, or self-esteem.

Emotional well-being is the first step along the spiritual highway. It can only be achieved through another yogic subject which you don't see mentioned anywhere else, and this is non-attachment. Attachment is a state of mind whereby, if you are separated from an object or a person, you cease to have emotional well-being. Yoga is very strong on this business of non-attachment, and it is extremely important. Yoga contains an absolute storehouse of techniques whereby any of us who get ourselves in an adverse state of anxiety, depression, tension, anger and soon, can switch it off and put ourselves back into equilibrium. What we need to be working on, as well as these techniques, is the way of not getting into this emotional disequilibrium. When we start living this life of non-attachment, we automatically start to evolve our consciousness. Adverse feelings and mental symptoms stop us from evolving our consciousness. The areas of life in which we have most of our attachment are the areas apart from our work : material possessions and money, the power trip or the ego trip, people around us, our loved ones. You will notice now that I'm getting into a territory that is more difficult to handle. Lots of people can detach themselves from their jobs. In fact lots of people are permanently detached from their jobs. However, attachments to other human beings, and especially those who are near and dear to us, are a little harder to let go of. Taking things even further, we could talk about attachment to our own bodies and minds; here we get into very difficult territory.

Attachment causing emotional imbalance is the main problem that a psychiatrist actually sees. Yoga is full of techniques whereby you can overcome depression and gain emotional equilibrium. If you are angry, you can calm down and if you are tense, you can relax. When you get into a situation of emotional well-being and equilibrium, then you can put things into perspective.

When we talk about attachment to the job, what we usually mean is attachment to the fruits of that job - the reward for the effort- instead of deriving benefit from simply doing the job. If you're attached to the fruits, you're not learning. If you are only involved in the job itself and evolving through it, then you are practising karma yoga. In your job and in my job, even in what may appear to be the most boring job, we will always learn something about ourselves if we work with the right attitude. The attributes of a karma yogi are to be non-attached to the fruits of one's work - the money and the power - to be aware of what's going on, and to do one's work as a service for other people.

The next point is material possessions. Some people have basically three loves : the wife, the kids, and the car, in whatever order happens to be the most important. When there is tremendous attachment for these material possessions, there are two dangers. First, the more love we give out to material objects, the less love we have left for human beings and service to human beings. We clutter our lives almost completely with all sorts of things. We are totally attached to them, so there isn't much love left over. Second, if we lose any of these objects we are emotionally attached to, we get into adverse emotional states. How to handle the situation? Keep the objects, but remove the attachment to them. We need them. We live in a world in which objects have to be used. We need our motor cars because our life just seems to revolve around doing things about fifty miles away. We need houses because it rains. We need these things, but we don't have to be attached to them.

Just about everybody in the community is still wallowing in a sea of attachment, and our whole society seems to be revolving around all the things we need. Do you know the word 'need'? You even need Uncle Sam, it's incredible! In fact, if all of us would take a good look around, over the next couple of weeks, at what we really need for survival, we wouldn't believe how little is really necessary. But we've been brainwashed, and we're brainwashing ourselves into thinking that we really need these things.

Attachment to other people is another dangerous situation. I'm not talking about whether we love our husbands, wives or children; that's love, not attachment. Attachment is that we're frightened of their going away, of the possibility that they may be interested in someone else. Some mothers and fathers are frightened that their children are going to grow up and leave them. Loving a child is realizing that one is not attached to him or her, and that the child is not attached to the parents. They're on loan. They will leave, and if we really love them we give them their independence. Children who are truly loved feel secure. Children who feel secure quickly become independent, and go their own way assured that they have been loved, and therefore they love themselves. They can handle situations.

Attachment of husbands to wives, and wives to husbands is the commonest of the lot. This is where the husband is so attached to his wife, so dependent on her, that if she stays out for more than five minutes past the designated time, he starts thinking all sorts of things, and when she comes in he attacks her for being late. They have an argument, and the distance between them increases. This increases his anxiety, and increases his attachment problem. The attachment leads often to detachment in the material sense. It is far better to love another person but not be attached to them. When we find true non-attachment it is amazing how the love increases, and has exactly the opposite effect. These are the paradoxes that are built into the spiritual life. You can allow the other person freedom and flexibility knowing that the love is still there. Consequently the level of consciousness rises, which increases the love, and it keeps on going. So non-attachment is related to, and leads to a situation where we renounce all of our attachments, and then, paradoxically, see them become closer to us. It's beautiful.