Every day Mother Ganges taught many lessons to Richard (now Radhanath Swami). One day Richard observed that although being in the swift current of the river, one is greatly affected but sitting on the bank, we can observe the flow with detachment. Similarly if we detach ourselves from the mind and the world, we too can observe life soberly and thus gain wisdom. One day he meditated on the millions of years of history that had been enacted on the banks of Ganges. From the age of Aryans to the medieval age of Mughals and to the Gandhi and Independence movement, and to the present times, Ganges had seen it all. She was patiently flowing towards the sea, unchanged by the vicissitudes caused by time. Truth too, Richard observed was unchanging, and flowed irrespective of what happens to this world.
Why is detachment needed? Radhanath Swami says a spirit of detachment helps us gain an aerial view towards our lives. As we are being tossed by the waves of different problems, we are unable to seek solutions on the spiritual front, more so when we are blinded by our own myopic view of life. Radhanath Swami therefore says we must cultivate philosophical knowledge in order to have a proper understanding by which we can proceed without being bewildered by the temptations of this world. “We must become detached; we must give up those things that are contrary to our spiritual development. No matter how much we like them; no matter how much pleasure they give us, we must be willing to give up.” Radhanath Swami connects detachment to humility. “In the path of bhakti, we must be willing to be a humble person. Humility is the culmination of all knowledge and detachment.”
Radhanath Swami through his own personal example has taught that detachment helps us seek intelligent and spiritual solutions. If we are attached then the material consciousness contaminates our intelligence; it is therefore imperative that we cultivate detachment. Then the obstacles on the path of spirituality won’t overwhelm us. Radhanath Swami gives the example of a boat on the sea. When a boat is on the sea there is water all around the boat, but the expert boatman doesn’t allow the water to enter the boat, for that would capsize the boat. Similarly this world is compared to an unlimited ocean of suffering and problems. We have to maneuver the boat of our life in this ocean and seek to cross over to the spiritual world. As we are struggling if we cultivate detachment, that will prevent the water of problems from entering the boat of our lives although we are plying our lives in the ocean of material world.
Radhanath Swami clarifies that simply detachment is not sufficient to advance in spiritual life. Detachment alone can make our heats hard; therefore we also need to simultaneously cultivate attachment to God through sincere practice of spirituality. “While there should be detachment from that which is not real, we should increase our attachment to that which is eternal”, says Radhanath Swami, “for real attachment to God is real detachment from material world.”