“What’s wrong if I am attached to my friends, family or the stock market”?
All of them are influenced by time. And if we are centred on somebody or something that is within the clutches of time, it’s only going to bring distress eventually. For instance let’s say you are attached to your wife. Would you remain together forever? As time passes, let’s assume your bonding only grows. But for how long, thirty, forty or fifty years? And then what? Time would surely separate you from each other. And then the pain rebounds with intense ferocity, and the desires stored in the heart lead us to another birth in this material world. Thus we invite more entanglement, and more suffering.
So are we suggesting, you don’t love your wife? No! Get attached to God, Krishna and see all your activities and relationships in connection to Krishna.
How does this translate into practical living? You can remember how everything material is subject to destruction, and there are miseries waiting to strike every moment. We also pray to Krishna to give us the strength to tolerate these setbacks, and to serve all our family and friends with love and compassion. Then eventually as inevitable time brings reversals, you are ready; since you didn’t nurse utopian ideas, your pain is less. Detachment is easier, and you have also ensured no more birth in this material world.
Unfortunately for many there is separation from their loved ones even before death. If we are not connected to the unchanging self and the Lord within our own hearts, all our happiness and distress would be determined by factors outside of ourselves. If the stock market gets bullish and if you are centred on it, you are happy. But the day the index plummets, you are miserable. The same with friends; if they love you, you are happy, and if they criticize you behind your back, you are devastated. There’s no end to our mood swings. However if we hold on to things that never change, then no matter what happens in this world, we may get affected momentarily, but we’ll easily negotiate the crisis and get back on track; we’d find deep contentment within. Also our services to others would go on uninterruptedly.
Srila Prabhupada writes a beautiful instruction in Chaitanya Charitamrita (Adi 7.1): “ A person in the conditioned stage of material existence is in an atmosphere of helplessness, but the conditioned soul, under the illusion of maya, or the external energy, thinks that he is completely protected by his country, society, friendship and love, not knowing that at the time of death none of these can save him. The laws of material nature are so strong that none of our material possessions can save us from the cruel hands of death. In the Bhagavad Gita (13.9) it is stated, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-dukha doshanudarshanam: one who is actually advancing must always consider the four principles of miserable life, namely, birth, death, old age and disease. One cannot be saved from all these miseries unless he takes shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord.”
Does being saved by the Lord mean I won’t die or face miseries? No! Surely I too would get old, diseased and get stripped of all that I hold dear in life. But the pain would be less if I have cultivated attachment to Krishna. That’s because remembrance of Krishna brings sweetness to our lives, and as our relationship with the Lord blossoms, our love and attachments of this world get spiritualized. Then all the people we love and all the activities we pursue in this world would only bring us closer to Krishna.