If attachment is bad, then how do I live without all the things I need to live?
Is it necessary to renounce everything and go to a forest to get enlightened?
Firstly, you have to understand what attachment is. Many religions and many great souls have always mentioned that attachment is the cause of all miseries. Attachments creates greed and suffering. We see many renunciates who renounce everything and move to the forests or to the mountains. Thus, all we have known is that attachment is bad. Do not read this and try to follow detachment as a rule because it was mentioned in a holy book or by a holy person.
Observe all the great people who practice detachment. You will see that not all of them are totally nonmaterialistic. There are great gurus who move in cars and flights to reach their destination, there are great teachers who wear wrist watches. There have been masters who have had great fan following and disciples flocking around them all the time. So, sometimes many ponder if great people are attached to person or thing even though they preach otherwise. Now, this is not attachment. They use flights or cars to move and reach destination as a mode of transport. They use materialistic things very constructively and also make use of people, disciples and volunteers to organize their services. But also note that these are people who can live without any of these if the need be. There have been great masters who used various things in the material world to be in service of others. Sometimes, ardent disciples wish to see to their master’s comfort and would be offended if their master lacked in anything that they could readily offer. The master knows this and allows them to treat them to give respect to their devotion and love. But the same masters can be anytime living without anything. That is being unattached.
You don’t have to leave your family or possessions to be unattached. You mind has to actually be unattached to these things. When you live in this material world, you will certainly need material things or people to aid you in whatever you do. So, you can definitely use things and fulfill your responsibilities towards family and society. The real test to see whether you are unattached is to imagine for a moment that you have lost everything. Now, think if you are affected in any way. If you are, then you are attached. If you can’t fall asleep without your cozy bed you are attached. If your wife or child is not around and you miss them dearly you are attached. So attachment is not what you hold on to physically but is what you hold on to dearly in your mind. If that person or thing is no more available with you and you become miserable then you are in misery because of the attachment. So detach the idea of clinging and comfort.
Enlightenment is possible in the material world amidst relationships and material. You had chosen your parents and decided to be born in that certain place, among certain people so that you learn what you have come to learn and experience what you had to experience so that you grow. So understand that there is no need to escape into the forest to fulfill the idea of detachment. Even more miserable is a person who renounces everything physically and goes into isolation but is not able to detach anything from his mind. What a misery is that! He will even crave more for all that he has now “lost” or left behind. So, the root of attachment is in the mind. Attachment is the pleasure or comfort one gets when he or she is in contact with that person or thing. It’s the fulfillment of ones desires. It’s the need to satisfy one’s ego. So to be unattached these vices have to be uprooted from one’s deep being and once that is done, there will no longer be any craving for anything and thus there will not be any attachment. You will continue to use everything that you have and you will continue to live with everyone but you will not be bound by anything. This is true freedom from attachment.
Read the article on "How to be detached."