Bhakti Yoga Meditation
Home: Maya-The Material Energy: Theory of Attachment

Maya and the Theory of Attachment

The nature of maya is such that in spite of forming attachments and fulfilling our desires, we still aren't happy.

This material energy binds the soul in materiality. The soul is not free to go to God, although it is a part of God. The original form of this energy is the mind. This is referred to as the veil of maya. This is made even stronger by another form of bondage we create called mental attachment.

All the feelings you have, no matter if they are positive or negative, are due to attachment. This includes all your feelings -- happiness, joy, excitement, anticipation, ecstasy, anxiety, loss, sorrow, depression, misery, grief, and so on.

There is a specific sequence in which these feelings arise. Feelings are due to mental attachment, mental attachment is due to desire, and desire is based in understanding.

All mental attachment starts with understanding. What is that understanding? According to our self-interest, we analyze and determine that someone or something is either a source of happiness or sorrow to us. Here's the sequence:

  1. Understand something is good (or bad)
  2. Desire to possess (or reject) that object, relationship, person, situation
  3. Attach emotionally (either positively or negatively) through contact
  4. Feel emotion (eithre positive or negative) that corresponds to your understanding

The Bhagavad Gita explains that by meditating on material (mayic) sense objects and hoping they will make you happy, when you finally have contact with them, one of two things will happen. Either:

  1. You will become greedy
  2. You will get angry

Greed simply means 'a desire for more'. Every living being longs for perfect happiness -- a happiness that has no end or limits. Material happiness has a temporary nature. If we come into contact with something that gives us joy, that joy is limited and temporary. It is only natural that we would desire it again and again.

We become angry when we know something will make us happy but we don't have have access to it or for some reason we are blocked from having it.

In between greed and anger is ever-present anxiety. If we have something, we feel anxiety at the possibility of losing it. If we don't have something, we feel anxiety and wonder when the day will come when we will possess it.

The Gita says that mental attachment is the only reason that greed, anger and anxiety exist in the mind.

Happiness of the World
is Like a Dog's Bone

maya's illusive happiness Once a dog was chewing on a bone. The bone broke and some shards cut his gum and it started to bleed. The blood mixed with the taste of the bone in his mouth. While he was chewing, the dog thought, "This is the tastiest bone I have ever eaten!"

In actual fact, the dog was tasting his own blood and transferring the source of the enjoyment to the bone. The Upanishads say that the happiness of the world is like a dog's bone. How so?

Our thinking is like the blood of the dog. We add our thinking and understanding to what we perceive through our senses and give it a positive or negative value. We ourselves convince ourselves that something is necessary for our happiness. When we come into the association of what we pre-decided would make us happy, we feel happiness. Our feelings of happiness arise in the mind on the base of our own thinking.

This means that nothing is a source of happiness in maya. Likewise nothing is a source of sorrow. We think someone is a a source of happiness, but the source of happiness is our own mind. In their association, we feel joy, but that joy is based on our own thinking.

Otherwise, maya is just a lifeless energy. Maya is a neutral power. It is neither good nor bad, neither a source of happiness nor sorrow.

Imagine a wife receives a call that her husband had a heart attack. When she hears the news, she faints with grief. When her son hears the news, he starts crying hysterically. The man's best friend hears the news, and he also starts weeping, but not as much as the son. A hired cook in the house hears the news, and feels greatly troubled. He liked his boss, but he's also worried about what will happen to his job. He sheds no tears. The neighbors a few houses down hear the news, and keep drinking coffee and reading the paper. They feel neutral. Someone who owed the man $10,000 heard the news and felt elated.

The wife receives another call and is told the original information was wrong. Her husband is actually alive and well. Hearing this, she faints with joy. Her son starts shedding copious tears of happiness. His best friend also cries, but much less than the son. The hired cook smiles broadly - he is happy his boss was alright and he doesn't have to look for a job. The neighbors hear the news and politely comment how nice that is and continue watching television. When he hears the news, the debtor angrily curses his luck.

How could one person inspire so many different reactions? The strength of each person's response depends on the degree of their emotional attachment. The greater the attachment, the greater the joy and the greater the sorrow. No attachment? Then the response is neutrality, like the neighbors. Negative attachment? Then the response is positive at bad news, and negative at good news.

In other words, if our degree of self interest is served the most by someone, our emotional attachment is greatest to that person. If our self-interest is not served by someone at all, we feel neutral towards them. If our self-interest is harmed, we have animosity towards them.

All this comes about simply though our thinking and understanding. This is the formed attachment that we create in maya in our pursuit of happiness.

Your Nature is to Love

bucket and rag Imagine a dirty cloth. If we wish to clean it and we put it in a bucket of muddy water, the cloth will become more dirty. Solution? Wash it in clean water! Simple! If we wash the material mind in material attachment, the result will only increase the materiality of the mind. This creates a thicker layer of maya that is of our own doing.

Similarly, as mentioned in an earlier section, the mind has an adoptive quality. When heat is applied to wax, it melts. In that melted state, you can add anything to it. When it hardens, that becomes a permanent part of the wax.

melted heart Similarly, in the heat of emotion generated by our mental attachment, the mind "melts". In that state it adopts the material qualities of what it is attached to. These qualities permeate the mind and reside there. This "addition" adds layers of denseness to our material bondage.

Amazingly, the solution is not to stop forming attachment. We should continue to love, and increase that love thousands of times. We have a heart and we were born to love. The only thing we lack is the understanding of who and what and where to love.

If we love material beings or material objects, we will receive a material consequence. If we love divine beings (God or Saints), we will receive a divine consequence. Our quest is not to stop loving, but to place our affection where we can fulfill our ultimate aim for eternal, unending divine love.

The first step in changing our attachment is changing our understanding. Firmly understand your ultimate aim can't be fulfilled through any material situation. The ultimate happiness you seek is not part of maya. You will never find perfect happiness in the world, but you have every chance of finding perfect happiness in God.

In bhakti yoga meditation, we support our natural tendency to form attachment by guiding it to divine subjects. By redirecting our affectionate nature from maya, we still follow the natural flow of the mind. The same emotional investment we made in the material field, could have unending dividends if applied in the divine field.