Attachment makes us care more for what others think about us than about others
Suppose a doctor needs to give an injection to a sick child. But the child starts crying and complaining about the doctor, “You are so cruel; instead of helping me, you are hurting me.” If the doctor cares too much about the child’s feelings and ends up not giving the injection, the child will be crying much more in future.
We often behave like that doctor when we are attached to someone. Though we think that we care a lot about them, actually, what we care about most is that they shouldn’t think bad about us. Of course, it’s natural that we don’t want to be thought about negatively by anyone, what to speak of those close to us. But we also need to consider their welfare – if their long-term good requires us to do something that temporarily displeases them, then the readiness to do that is the test of our love. And attachment looks like love but makes us fail in the vital test of love: to care for the future of our loved ones, not just their present feelings.
Such was Dhritarashtra’s failing in his relationship with his son, Duryodhana.
Dhritarashtra’s attachment is evident in the Bhagavad-gita’s first verse (01.01), wherein he sides with his sons and labels his nephews as others. Even though Duryodhana did horrendous wrongs, Dhritarashtra never censured or checked him. Dhritarashtra’s passivity fueled Duryodhana’s animosity, ultimately triggering the catastrophic Kurukshetra war that resulted in Duryodhana’s death. Thus, by caring too much about staying in his son’s good books, Dhritarashtra ended up losing his son. And he placed his son’s name as well as his own name among the bad guys in history’s books.
When we care for both others’ feelings and their future, then that balanced caring comprises genuine love.
Think it over:
- What is the vital test of love?
- How did Dhritarashtra’s attachment to Duryodhana hurt both of them?
- In your relationships, what can you do to rise from attachment to love?
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