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How Can Man Cease To Be Attracted To Worldly Objects?

How can the deluded soul of man cease to be attracted by worldly objects? How can the desire for the gratification of senses be banished? The way is by realizing that the pleasures they give us is impermanent, that indulgence in them invariably brings disgust, disease and suffering on its heels.

Says Mrs Annie Besant, ‘Argument would not do it, reasoning would not do it, but when men have had the experience, when men have gratified their taste to the full, when they have become gluttonous, presently they will find that they have made their bodies miserable, their lives one long suffering, that diseases result from the gratification they have experienced, that the gratification brings pain as a result; then they will no longer desire to gratify themselves in that way and the root of desire will be cut away. … You can only get rid of it by gradually realizing through experience the knowledge that the gratification of all desire which is not going upwards is a womb of pain and brings forth woe as a child. … Hence is pain, miscalled an evil, one of the greatest blessings bestowed upon man in order to turn him from the transitory and fix him upon the eternal; for only by pain can we possibly learn, only out of disgust with the world will arise those inward aspirations which shall at last be gratified in the vision of Truth Divine.’

If there be anything which we highly value or tenderly love, we must, following the advice of Epictetus, estimate at the same time its true nature. Is it wealth? Remember that it may be lost. Is it some possession? Remember that it may be destroyed. Is it wife or child? Remember that they may die. If our desires are fixed on any of the transient objects of this earth, if we run mad after such passing shadows, we are sure to be plunged deep in the gulf of disappointment. Yet it is by passing through the flaming furnace of this life that we can be purged of our desires. It is the way by which we can weaken our attachment to things of this world and transfer our desire from the transitory to the permanent that knows no change, no death.

But we are apt to be misunderstood when we talk of non-attachment to earthly objects, giving up of desires, etc. Do we mean that one should sit idle at his home or go to the woods and jungles to meditate on Parabrahman? Is this called renunciation? Does this make a sannyasin? Certainly not. Read the Gita. What is the central lesson which the divine Lord Sri Krishna teaches in it? It is not to cease from performing action but to do one’s duty without attachment and without desire for its fruits.

Source – Excerpts from Prabuddha Bharata Magazine December 1903 – article titled ‘The Way To Avoid Misery’.