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Desire and Attachment

I had an interesting exchange with a student last week. He was asking about desire:

I’m really curious how we can, in this modern world, purify things so simply down to renunciation of all desires and attachments to attain true freedom.  Didn’t I see you zip away after class in a plum colored convertible?

Here’s my response:

Eradicating desire is so difficult, perhaps only truly an option for the most realized of souls here on earth. To my mind, the trick is rather to avoid attachment. By “attachment” I mean over-identification with what is not the true self. That does not mean you cannot or should not enjoy the pleasures of life. One can love one’s family and fulfill our obligations as householders without feeling that a parent’s or child’s every action reflects upon us. Same thing goes with objects. So one can enjoy the little plum convertibles of life without feeling that they are part of one’s identity.

We love our family members and do our duty by them while we are with them, and we realize that all things are transitory, including our own lives. Do what’s right, then let go of the result, says the Bhagavad Gita. That, to me, is freedom.

These are ideas that have brought some serenity to my life, but we all have many lifetimes to go before we escape the wheel. Best wishes in your own search for freedom.

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