Detachment is not hard-heartedness, but clear-headedness
Some people ask: “When the Gita (13.10) asked Arjuna to become detached from family members such as sons, why did he become so distraught after Abhimanyu’s death? Did he forget the Gita?”
No, not at all.
It is we who have forgotten the purpose of detachment and the purpose of the Gita itself.
The Gita’s purpose is to inspire us to offer all our love to Krishna. For offering our heart thus, we need a clear head to see objectively how our heart is presently misdirected and how it can be redirected. Detachment enables us to have such clear-headed perception and to thereafter practice bhakti-yoga wholeheartedly without being distracted by our material attachments to relatives.
But bhakti-yoga is so inclusive that it enables us to offer our love to Krishna not just directly but also indirectly through this world. By seeing our relatives in relationship with Krishna, as his parts entrusted to our care, we can devotionalize our material relationships. When we act responsibly and sensitively in such Krishna-centered relationships, we go closer to Krishna and help our loved ones move closer to him too.
Arjuna had such a relationship with Abhimanyu. If he had been apathetic on the death of his son, who had gallantly served Krishna, he would have been hard-hearted – not just towards his devotee-son, but also towards the Lord with whom his son shared a bond of love.
Such hard-heartedness is unhealthy for devotion, desensitizing one to emotions in relationship with Krishna.
Arjuna demonstrated his detachment not by becoming stone hard-hearted at the death of Abhimanyu, but by his clear-headed continuation, indeed intensification, of his service to Krishna.
By learning from Krishna’s words and Arjuna’s example, we can stay clear-headed without becoming hard-hearted. Practicing bhakti-yoga thus, we can gradually enter and help others enter Krishna’s world of love.
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