Attachment makes the absent present
Attachment has the power to take our thoughts away from our surroundings to our dreams. It can make those to whom we are attached seem to be present even when they are absent.
This perception-transforming power of attachment is demonstrated at the start of the Gita. Therein, the arrogant prince Duryodhana assesses the comparative strengths of the assembled forces. After listing the prominent players on the Pandavas’ side (01.03–01.06), he refers to the leading lights on his side (01.07– 01.11). In the Gita (01.08), he mentions Karna, the renowned archer who had a lifelong animosity towards Arjuna.
Duryodhana’s reference to Karna is intriguing because Karna was not present on the battlefield. Just before the start of the war, Karna had walked out of the Kuru forces in a huff due to what he perceived as a putdown of his prowess by the Kuru commander Bhishma. Karna refused to re-enter as long as Bhishma remained in charge.
Why then did Duryodhana refer to Karna? Because Karna was very much present in his mind. By his deft political maneuvering and shows of friendship, Duryodhana had won Karna over to his evil ways, thereby obscuring and perverting that famed archer’s virtues. As Karna shared his antipathy towards the Pandavas, Duryodhana was very attached to Karna. No wonder he felt the absent archer to be present.
Such is the vision-changing capacity of attachment. We can tap this capacity positively through devotional service. The more we become attached to Krishna, the more we can feel his presence in our heart to help us in life’s battles. And because Krishna being God is factually omnipresent, attachment to him takes us not from reality to illusion, but from temporary material reality to eternal spiritual reality – the arena to which we everlastingly belong.
“There are personalities like you, Bhisma, Karna, Krpa, Asvatthama, Vikarna and the son of Somadatta called Bhurisrava, who are always victorious in battle.”