Let’s see here how Patanjali defines detachment in the Yoga Sutras, in sutra 1.15.
Here’s an excerpt from my book, “Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras Revolution: How Timeless Yoga Wisdom Can Revolutionize Our Lives Today” (http://a.co/d/3xdQvky).
1.15 Detachment is the mental power to resist hankering after sense objects, perceived or described.
I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a great bhakti-yogi Sridhar Maharaja, disciple of the legendary master Swami Prabhupada. He was a renunciate and had just come from Rio de Janeiro, famous for its beaches full of beautiful women wearing tiny bikinis, and I was fortunate enough to be hosting him in my house in Brasília, Brazil. I was just starting my spiritual life, and along with my curiosity, I was quite clueless and lacked good etiquette. So, I asked him how he felt seeing all those women and if that didn’t disturb him. He laughed and answered, “I have red blood in my veins.” He went on to explain that though their beauty and attraction registered in his mind, there was no hankering for sex. The sense object was registered, but no desire for action ensued. You don’t become blind, I now understand; you just become wiser. You know better.
Real detachment comes not from isolating yourself from sense objects, by locking yourself away in an ashram or cave. It comes not from hating sense objects, as you can see in immature male renunciates who despise women. Real detachment comes from understanding the pros and cons of any sensory experience, and understanding that the cons always outweigh the pros. It’s not artificial repression; it’s a calm realization of things to come and of the true cost of going out of your dharma in the name of sensory pleasure. Supporting this mentality is the constantly experienced and real pleasure of satisfying your true nature.
I’ve learned that there are basically two things that really satisfy the true you: service and connection.
I often remind myself of Saint Mother Teresa’s saying: “The fruit of prayer is love, and the fruit of love is service.” Service is love in action. Love has no meaning if it’s not conducive to doing something for the loved one.
Everything you do can be done in the spirit of love. Every action can be an expression of your desire to serve someone else and serve yourself in the sense of preserving your physical and mental well-being. The details of what this service implies is revealed by your dharma.
When you treat people as people, not objects or machines to satisfy your needs, you experience the feeling of connection. Even the smallest exchanges, like saying good morning to someone in an elevator, are opportunities to connect and experience that soul-to-soul link—deeper and more meaningful relationships even more so.
Swami Prabhupada summed it up nicely when he said that people want someone to love and something to do.
As you learn to live life experiencing the deep pleasure and satisfaction of serving and connecting, the attraction to get pleasure from the outside, through sensory enjoyment, diminishes proportionally. You soon come to the point of being satisfied with the pleasure that comes naturally in the execution of your dharma. You become fulfilled with the simple yet profound act of living truly. This is detachment.
Look what they’re saying about my new book, Yoga Sutras Revolution: “The Yoga Sutras by Giridhari Das is perhaps the most entertaining and easy to read version of this classic text, among the dozens I’ve seen. Even the book’s layout and illustrations make the journey painless, like watching some really good movies on a long flight. The profound core message of the Yoga Sutras is indeed timeless, as relevant and needed today as ever. And Giridhari Das has shown, to quote Mary Poppins, that a little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down.” – Hridayananda Das Goswami Acharyadeva, renowned spiritual master and PhD in Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University