Question: What’s the difference between detachment, indifference and social service?
Answer: The real concern of yoga is to attain a state of equality, that’s the fundamental objective. Once I asked the mother a question: ‘What is the criterion by which you can judge that you have progressed in yoga, how you measure your progress in yoga? Mother said: ‘The extent to which you remain equal in all kinds of circumstances gives you the measurement of your progress.’ So you might say that equality is itself a definition of yoga. Yoga is nothing but a state of equality, samatvam. This is what the Gita itself says that the very definition of yoga is ‘samatvam yoga uchayate.’ Yoga itself is nothing but a sense of equality, a state of equality and really speaking the highest equality can come only in the supermind. When you reach the supramental level, you really become absolutely equal, till that time we all are in gradations of equality. In these gradations detachment is one of the methods, not the method, but one of the methods because it is clear that so long as you are attached, you have preference for it. You have bias in favour of it, you like to possess it, you like to enjoy it therefore, even the arguments mentally will go in favour of the attached object. There will be the rationalization in regard to the object of attachment; even the mind will not be pure mind that is why it is said that detachment is one of the methods. It is called anasakti, aasakti is attachment, anasakti is detachment therefore, some people use the word anasakti as the entire teaching of the Gita. Anasatki yoga as it is called. The whole of the Gita is nothing but anasakti yoga. In this movement of detachment, there are many levels. One very low level is the hardness of indifference. I am using the two words deliberately. Hardness of indifference, in order to detach yourself from the object of attachment, sometimes, you become hard towards that object instead of being soft all the time because that is the mark of attachment. While detaching yourself, not knowing how to detach yourself properly, you become hard towards that object. Which is a wrong thing but this happens in the process sometimes, not that it happens always. You become hard towards that object and then whatever happens to that object and whatever happens to me in regard to that object thereafter, I begin to develop what is called indifference. Because of that hardness of outlook, or attitude towards the object I become indifferent. That is to say, whatever happens to me or whatever happens to that object of attachment, I say to myself, it matters nothing. I remain what I am, – equal, does not please me, does not displease me. In some human natures hardness and indifference are associated with each other. Even some hard temperaments you will see they are quite indifferent and they might be even proud that they are having samatwam, some kind of equality, but this is a perverted indifference. Detachment does not mean hardness but very often one becomes hard and through hardness one develops indifference.
Indifference is a state where it makes no difference to you, irrespective of what happens to yourself or to the object of your attachment, that’s the meaning of indifference. When you find that it makes no difference irrespective of what happens to you and to the object of attachment and this indifference sometimes is brought about by developing hardness. Sometimes, it develops by ‘titiksha’, by endurance. You do not become hard to the object of your attachment but you detach yourself to some extent by which you try to remain equal whatever happens to your object of attachment and yourself. My child passes metric examination and I feel very, very happy. My neighbor’s child also passes metric examination, I am quite indifferent to it, doesn’t make any difference to my consciousness because I am attached to my child. If I cultivate this kind of detachment and I say to myself although this is my child, I love him very much and normally my state of consciousness must be very exulted when my child passes the examination, I try to quiet down my exultation. I don’t allow the ripples of my exultation to bubble up. This is also a state of endurance; you endure your exultation and not expressing exultation. Something that is pleasant and you do not allow the pleasantness to enter into your experience by a psychological adjustment to the situation; it can come only by endurance. You endure the pleasant experience and by enduring, you neutralize the pleasantness. You bear the pleasantness instead of becoming excited, throwing big parties and so on. You just bear the happiness, contain it in yourself, don’t burst out, − is endurance.
Similarly if it gives you pain when the child fails in examination that pain may give you some kind of discomfort to say the least or great sorrow, or great suffering, great depression, disappointment, frustration and you don’t allow it to overpower you that is also endurance. You endure the suffering without allowing your emotions to rise or even if they arise, to make them weaker and weaker so that they don’t overpower you. This method of endurance is called stoic method, in the method of stoicism you endure. If I am given the honour in the country the whole nation is going to watch me on television and the exultation that I may normally have, but by a stoic method I just don’t feel that exultation, or even if it comes I hold it out, as it were by an effort. You should not be overpowered, I hold it out.
But endurance is not something permanent. You can endure something out by a great effort but the effort does not continue all the time. So stoic detachment or stoic indifference that arises, detachment is the method.