There was an old sage who was walking through the mountains with his young disciple. The disciple was always talking about the family he had left behind to become a recluse. The sage would often tell him that it was not proper for a recluse to remember his family ties. Either he should go back to them and give up asceticism or he should forget them altogether. But the disciple could do neither. He yearned for spirituality so he didn’t want to go back. At the same time his thoughts continued to go back to the delicious food his mother cooked and to the childish pranks he once played with his little sister. Despite the efforts and lectures made by the sage, the boy was somewhat hanging midway.
They continued to walk. Dusk fell and the duo sat down to rest. The sage fell asleep, so the boy too lay down to take a nap. After a while the boy was rudely awakened by the voice of his guru shouting, “Help me, this tree is not leaving me. It won’t let go. Help! Help! ” The boy was startled to see the sage hugging the trunk of an old tree stump. The sage shouted again, “Help me! The tree is not leaving me.”
The boy tried to pry away the fingers of the sage from the dried up tree trunk, but the grip of the sage was far too strong. After having tried desperately, the boy said, “Sir, why don’t you let go of the tree trunk. You are holding on to it so tightly. It is not doing anything to hold you. You are refusing to let go.”
Immediately the sage left the tree and said to the boy, “Likewise, you too are holding on fast to the world, to the memories of your family. No amount of effort from my side can help you to detach yourself.”
Detachment from unnecessary ties, just ties you down unnecessarily. All of us don’t have to renounce the world. We just have to do our duty; yet remain unattached. The world does not cling to us; it is we who cling on. We refuse to let go. The world shall be the same even if we are not there. It always has been. Let us not dwell upon how important we are to the world, but upon how unimportant the world is to us. We have to understand that attachment is like a handcuff we have clamped upon ourselves. But where is the key? It is with us. We need to use the key to unlock the handcuff and set ourselves free.