It is possible for everybody to realize the highest goal of life, but why don’t you get it? I don’t deny that you are aspiring for it, I don’t challenge your aspirations, but why aren’t you getting it? Sri Krishna gives a direct answer to this question in the Bhagavad Gita. He says that one should try to learn to live like a lotus leaf in water. A lotus leaf is not affected or tainted by the dirt in the water. Live in the world like the lotus lives in water.
You live in the world; I am also in it. You are on the wheel of death; I am also on it. You eat, I also eat. You sleep at night, I also sleep. Then where is the difference? Somebody asked Lord Buddha the same question. His answer was, “Yes, I eat as you eat, I sleep as you sleep, I walk as you walk, I think as you think, I see as you see, I hear as you hear. But I an enlightened and you are ignorant, because you have not yet discovered the technique of remaining non-attached while living in the world.” If you put a piece of cloth in water, it will become wet, but if you put a piece of plastic in water, it will not become wet. Take the lotus leaf out of water and it will be completely dry. Can you find the technique?
In the Bhagavad Gita Sri Krishna tells Arjuna that there is nothing wrong with living in the world, fighting to acquire power, fighting for and against happiness and sorrow. This is the nature of the jivatma, the individual soul. You cannot make people relinquish passion, anger and greed. If you were to eliminate greed, the world would come to an end within twenty-four hours. All the activities and movements of the world are based on greed. No work is done without greed. It is greed that attracts people to the worldly path, the path of bhoga, enjoyment. How often do you exercise control? Therefore, Sri Krishna advised Arjuna to find a way of thinking and relating so that he could live in the world like the lotus leaf in water. According to Sri Krishna, the method is anasakti or non-attachment. Anasakti means not depending upon anything.
What is the trick, the modus operandi to develop non-attachment? How can you remain non-attached? Fifty or sixty years ago I was living in my guru’s ashram in Rishikesh. I was quite young then. I was given a room in which there was one wooden cot, one blanket, two dhotis, a few other small things and an iron bucket. I was able to manage with these few things. Life was going along easily. Food was available in the anna kshetrams and we would go there for our meals. We bathed in the Ganga and used the nearby open spaces for a toilet. There were no problems.
One day Swami Sivananda came to my room. He said, “Oh, your room is like that of a sannyasin!” I said, “Yes, we are sannyasins, indeed!” He just went away without saying anything. In the evening he sent four blankets, four mattresses, five glasses, tea leaves, milk powder, a kerosene stove, matches, etc. to my room. When I asked the person who had delivered these items why he had brought it all, he replied, “Guruji has sent them.” He went away, leaving everything in my room. A person who used to sleep on a blanket now had to sleep on four mattresses and four blankets.
The next day Swamiji asked me, “Did you receive the things I sent?” I said, “Swamiji, there are so many items. What am I supposed to do with them?” He answered, “You see, this is a place of pilgrimage. People come at midnight and stay in the ashram. If somebody falls ill, he will need hot water. Where will that helpless person go for hot water?” I said, “Swamiji, this is very bothersome.” Swamiji smiled and said, “Oh my son, it is a bother only as long as you do not know its purpose. It is a bother only as long as you do not establish the right relationship with these items. But if somebody is in need and you know that there is a stove and water in your room, you can give him hot water and medicine, aspirin, tea and coffee. If you start thinking that you can help others with these items, then your entire relationship will change!”
This is the meaning of non-attachment. When you do something for others, then every karma becomes a non-attached karma. Whether you are cleaning a bed or a toilet, you are doing it for others, not for yourself. Your land and property, everything you have, is for others, not for you. This is non-attachment, anasakti. With a sense of non-attachment you can fight, you can work as a revenue official or a court official, or do anything else – but it is all done for others.
Non-attachment means acting for others, not for oneself, or with a selfish motive. If you are selfish, you are attached to your self. Sri Krishna’s gospel of non-attachment was propounded to discover the Paramatma, the Supreme Self, hidden within oneself. Remember this today, on Holi. This is a day to make a good sankalpa.