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He is Attached yet Unattached (Contradictions)


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An important thing to keep in mind, as Nanak stresses time and again, is that God has not stood apart or removed Himself from His creation after creating it, nor is He in any way opposed to it, nor has He forgotten it. God's work of creation goes on every minute, eternally. Actually, creation is God's way of being. He creates and creates and creates, and He is always interested in whatever He creates. This is very significant. We tell the seeker not to be attached to anything in order to attain God, but God Himself is not unattached or uninvolved. If He were so, the process of creation would stop; everything would come to a halt. Now what is this? As soon as you become one with God a new kind of involvement arises, a new interest, where there is no difference between attachment and nonattachment, where there is neither desire nor desirelessness, where there is neither enchantment nor otherwise. All differences fall away.

God creates with full interest and desire, yet He is desireless, uninvolved. How will you be able to understand this paradox? Nanak says it is as difficult as 'chewing on iron'. God creates, so His interest is natural, His involvement is natural; but it is not a blind involvement as we have with our desires.

In His involvement there is no possessiveness, no ownership. He creates you and frees you, and lets you loose. This is why you can wander, commit sin, do evil. He does not bind you in chains to keep you away from evil. He has His relationship with you, all right, but He does not stand in the way of your freedom. It is not that He is against you, yet you are completely independent. This is rather complex. When a mother is attached to her son, this attachment kills his freedom, for she is always saying: Don't go here, don't go there. Don't do this, don't do that, and a thousand other don'ts. She smothers him with her love, but kills him nevertheless. She doesn't give him enough independence to allow him to stand on his own two feet or gain some experience of life; in this manner she cripples the child. He will never become mature as long as he is under his mother's protection; even when she dies, her hold over her son will continue as before and he will find it difficult, if not impossible, to love another woman. He knows only one love, his mother. Anyone else would be sinful. The mother was interested in the child, but it was blind infatuation.

A relationship with open eyes protects you, and at the same time does not destroy your freedom. It sometimes obstructs with a view to making you worthy of going ahead. It makes you strong. It supports you today and withdraws the support little by little so that you may be able to stand on your own tomorrow. It does not lend the support in order to make a cripple of you. Then there is another kind of mother: if she is told that her attachment to her child is harmful, she draws back completely and removes all restraint from the child. Now total nonrestraint is not the same as giving freedom to your child. If it is a boy he may go to prostitutes, take drugs, gamble, steal, murder. The mother has given him full freedom to do as he pleases; she has become indifferent to her child. First she cared so much, but her caring was blind; now there is negligence and indifference, which is equally blind. The balance lies between the two.

This balance is the characteristic of God. It is His very nature. His attitude towards His creation is: He protects you so that you may be independent, and gives you independence so that one day you may be able to surrender. These are two apparent contradictions. He gives you the opportunity to go far away, for if you do not go far how will you come close? He gives you license to wander, for if you do not wander how will you gain experience? He gives you a chance to fall, for if you do not fall how will you learn to protect yourself? And yet He protects you and follows you. His eye watches everywhere; His shadow is everywhere; He envelops you from all sides. No matter how far from Him you go, still He is beside you, so close that whenever you need Him you have only to turn and there He is -- available to you that very moment.

There is the well known couplet: "In the mirror of my heart is the picture of my beloved. I have only to bend a little to get a glimpse of Him."

No matter how far you go, He is always behind you, following you. He causes you no interference, no matter what path you tread. He does not even stop you from going wrong, if that's where you are heading. He allows you to be wrong if you so wish, and in His tender love He does not remove His energy from you, but waits. He awaits your pleasure. He hopes that one day you will return and when you do -- ah, what joy, what ecstasy he feels!



This is certainly so, for there all contradictions are laid to rest, and become one. I have studied the lives of many people and find that we can move towards any extreme and do all kinds of things, but all extremes can be very dangerous.

I know a very possessive husband who follows his wife not just as a shadow, but like a ghost. When he is in the office he is always worried; perhaps his wife is laughing with someone and having a good time. He would leave his work and pay surprise visits home just to check on her. He cannot bear her talking and laughing with others without him. He firmly believes in the descriptions of the wife given by Kalidas, the famous Indian poet. In one of his best known poems he describes a wife so pining away from a fifteen-day absence from her beloved, that she 'wilts away and becomes like a skeleton' and then she describes it all in messages sent to him with the clouds. This constant siege from all sides has filled the wife with boredom and subtle hatred. Theirs had been a marriage of love. They had been very much in love. I could see that, and I knew them for a long time. But when the husbands love became so excessive, his hands no longer formed a garland around her neck, but became a noose. It is not diamonds and gold alone that bind; such love could also be fatal. The wife's love began to diminish and she began dreaming of being freed from her husband. The more independent she tried to become, the more restrictions he created for her. I explained to the husband that this was madness, that he was killing his wife's love for him with his own hands. Love also wants freedom and a chance to breath. Love needs a little distance, a little aloneness, some time to oneself. I advised him, "Don't be after her so much or you will kill her love for you. Then you will have only yourself to blame."

After a great deal of discussion the husband began to see some sense in it, but then he began to disregard her completely. Now even if he saw her in bed with another man, it would make no difference to him.

He says he has given up his possessiveness. He says, "Now I have nothing to do with her. She can do what she pleases. I am in no way connected with her now." The only type of connection he knows is a noose.

This is a natural human trait. If full freedom is given as in the West, it tends to become total indifference, or we set up such a complete subjugation that it can strangle. This is what is happening in the East.

To say anything about God is as good as 'chewing on iron', so difficult is it. He is both: He gives you full freedom, but His love is not an iota less on account of this. He leaves you free, which is the only genuine love.. There is no conflict between His love and the freedom He gives you; He does not stop you even if your feet go astray, but waits patiently for you to return. When you retrace your steps and the prodigal comes home -- oh the joy, the celebration!

Nanak says: He worries about you and thinks of you. He rejoices in you. He does not stand apart, unaffected; His nonattachment is filled with a deep essential affection. He is far and yet He is near. He has left you to do as you please, and yet His eye is always on you. He has never, never left you. He always stands besides you. Your sorrow and anguish touch Him; your joy and happiness fill Him with cheer. You are not a stranger in this universe; it is your house. You are not alone in this world.

God is always with you. This assurance and comfort has deep meaning for the devotee; otherwise there is nothing. If you put aside the thought of God, the world stands untouched, unconcerned beside you; it does not bother what you do or what you do not do, whether you live or whether you die. Let the storm take you; there is no one to care. But for the devotee there is great assurance and solace in the feeling that 'someone is waiting for me'. When you return home you will not find it empty; when you return inwards to your own nature you will find God awaiting you. Not only will you find Him waiting, but you will be enchanted by all the arrangements for the celebration He has made in your house.

A story that Jesus told time and again is well worth understanding. A rich man had two sons. One boy turned into a vagabond. When he came of age he demanded his half share, which he took and left for the city, for the village offered no means of spending his money: there were no gambling houses, no taverns, no prostitutes. He lost every penny he had in these pursuits and become a roadside beggar. The father was keeping track of him. When he heard of his son's destitution, he was very unhappy. He knew that it was useless to try to bring him back by force, for that might take him farther away. He could only wait, hoping that when his son began to see things in their right perspective he would return on his own.

The elder son remained at home. He worked hard and had doubled the remaining inheritance. He plowed the fields and tended the vineyards, working from morning to night.

Then one day it occurred to the beggar son: "I shall die this way. I still have a home. My father is alive and I can count on his love. He gave me an opportunity to learn for myself what is right and what is wrong, so I am sure his compassion will not fail me now and he will take me back to his heart. I have full confidence in him." One day he sent word to his father that he was coming home. The father arranged a grand reception. He had lambs butchered and the best of everything prepared, for his son was coming home. He decorated the whole village with flowers and invited everybody in the village. The elder brother was in the fields. Someone went to him and said, "It is so injust! You have served your father faithfully your whole life and have doubled and trebled his assets. You have never gone against his wishes, yet he never arranged such a grand reception in your honor. Now your brother who squandered his inheritance on wine, women and song is returning, and look at what your father is doing for him. It is rank injustice."

The elder brother also felt it was unfair. He returned home saddened and downhearted. He saw the lamps and the flowers set out in his brother's honor and could bear it no longer.

He went to his father and said, "I have served you and obeyed you my whole life, but you have never prepared a feast in my honor. Today this prodigal son of yours returns home and look how much you have done to receive him. I can't believe my eyes." The father replied, "Son, you have always been near me. You never went astray, so there was no need to welcome you. You are always with me and welcome every moment. You are so close to my heart, but this boy who went astray, who wandered and ruined himself, and for whom I spent so many anxious, sleepless nights, he is returning and needs to be welcomed. You gave me no cause for worry; instead I have always been happy and pleased with you, so there is no need to express excessive happiness in your case."

When the prodigal returns a magnificent reception is called for. Jesus would say: Good people, holy men and saints, are like the elder brother; those who have gone stray, sinned, committed crimes, are like the younger brother. Jesus made this a wonderful beginning for his spiritual teachings and because of this, the Jews turned against him. For the Jews believe that he who sins is punished by God; whereas Jesus has said He will welcome him when he returns for He loves him. Do as much wrong as you please, you cannot remove yourself from His heart. You may show your back to Him but He will wait. He is the Father of all.

We have a very deep connection with existence, and existence feels pleased -- so the Hindus have known from time immemorial. That is why it is said that when a person attains buddhahood flowers bloom out of season. Flowers open when Buddha passes by, whatever the season, for existence is filled with bliss at that moment.

This is what Nanak is saying, that He is so filled with joy and dances in ecstasy whenever the prodigal returns. This is the union of freedom and love. Do what you will, you cannot displease Him. His love for you is much deeper than anything you might do. But His attachment is not like yours. He doesn't chain you by the neck. God is not a prison; God is love and freedom. It is difficult to explain, for they appear so contrary, for when you love a person you take away his freedom, and when you give freedom you say goodbye to love.

Where affection and nonaffection both are, where desire and desirelessness both are, where all contradictions unite, there is the great confluence.


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