In the last article “Are All Desires & Attachments Bad?”, we discussed that desire and attachment are not inherently wrong and desiring happiness from God instead of from the world will only happen when we have accepted that true happiness is in God, not in the world. However, common query that confronts a lot of people is – If we believe that there is no happiness in the world, will we not become apathetic, unmotivated, or depressed? If we are not attached to our family, will we not become uncaring or insensitive and be inattentive to our family duties? If we are not attached to our work, will we not become lazy and unproductive? In other words, without attachment how will we do our duty properly? How will we care for our children? How will we be able to work? Clearing this doubt is crucial for a person who wishes to practise karm yog. Let us discuss both scenarios- do we perform our duty better when attachment to the world is our motivation or, we do better when our mind is attached to God (and not to world)?
Attachment Does Not Give Us A Stable Base To Perform Our Duties
Let us first address the question of motivation. Is it attachment that makes us take care of our family? Is it attachment that motivates us to perform our duty? For most people, the answer is yes. However, let us recall that attachment is based on our desire for happiness (explained in the previous article “Are All Desires & Attachments Bad?); thus attachment is inherently selfish. We desire happiness from a person or thing, and that is why we become attached to them. If we are not attached to someone or something, then we lack the motivation to act on their behalf: in other words, we do not care. This is why we will mourn for years if our child dies, but we will only shed tears out of formality when our neighbor’s child dies. There are 1,000s of tragedies every day in this world, there are children starving all over the globe, and yet we do not mourn them, and we are not compelled to save them. My point is that most of us perform our duties because of our attachments, and not out of a sense of duty or goodness. Then can it really be said that we are doing our duty? Or are we just pursuing our self-interest, which happens to align with our duty? If this is the case, then ask yourself what will happen if our self-interest shifts, causing our attachment to a person or thing to reduce: then we will care less for them, and be less motivated to perform our duty towards them.
Now I’m sure you can see the problems inherent in merely performing duty out of attachment. Our motivation to perform the duty will fluctuate along with our feelings of attachment. This does not give us a stable and even-minded base from which to perform our duties. There are even more problems when attachment is our motivation which can lead to the downfall of a soul – elaborated in our next post. We will review if we perform duty better when our mind is free from worldly attachment and is fixed on God in our future post “Performing Duty With Mind In God – Desirable”.