How can you experience joy in life and love passionately if you are practicing non-attachment? The best way to enjoy life, if you really want to enjoy life, is not to have any attachment to anything.  Attachment never brings you permanent joy. It may begin with a little pleasure, but it ends up with more pain. Attachment can never, never, never bring you joy. The one who knows how to enjoy the world, is the one who is not attached to anything. But, if you want to learn the lessons, then get attached to something. Enjoy the pleasure in the beginning, and then face the pain later on. That’s how you learn to not to be attached. That’s the best way to learn.

And don’t think that a person who lives in the spirit of non‑attachment, doesn’t enjoy anything, or that he or she simply sits like a sleepy person, doing nothing. In fact, when you don’t have any attachment, you can function even better. A karma yogi can do a better job than a karmi. Why? Because a karmi does something looking for the return. While working, he or she will always be watching the time. With attachment, you cannot function wholeheartedly. You are just doing business. You are thinking of your reward first, and the work afterward. But with non‑attachment, you don’t worry about such things. The best result for anything you do, is your own joy of doing it; not the reward that you get, the pay you get, or the return you will see. The real joy is, I have done my job beautifully, happily. Nobody and nothing can give you that reward. You have to get it yourself.

From a certain perspective, those who are practicing non‑attachment are the people with a lot of attachment. What is that attachment? They are attached to their peace of mind. They will never do anything to disturb their peace. Though it looks like selflessness, it’s a sort of selfishness when you think, I don’t want to lose my peace. But, there’s nothing wrong in that kind of selfishness. Why is that? Because by being selfish, and becoming peaceful, everyone and everything will be benefited by your life. So, it’s all right to be a little selfish in that way and non‑attachment is also like that.

Real love, and attachment are very, very different. They look the same but they are poles apart. There is no selfishness behind love. You just love for the joy of loving. You don’t look for anything in return. You don’t even look for the love to return to you. You don’t look at the girl and say, “Honey, I love you,” and then continue looking at her face, waiting for her to say, “Darling, I love you too.” That’s business, not love. That is attachment. You are loving somebody to get love; you are attached to your result: I did this, I must get that.

Pure love is just one way traffic. It knows only to give. It doesn’t look anything in return. And it is that kind of love you see in the entire nature. You don’t have to go and read books. Look at anything in nature; they all know only giving. A blade of grass gives. A rosebush gives. A banana tree gives. A mango tree gives. A cow gives. A goat gives. A fish gives. They don’t wait to grab something from you, no. They are all living to give—even inanimate things. A stone gives. Fallen leaves give nutrition to the root. A candle gives light while dying itself; it melts, losing its life, but in that process, it gives light. It doesn’t look for anything in return. The rain, sun, and moon all give. Fresh air gives. You inhale, burn it, kill it, and finally push it out as carbon dioxide.

And that is the very reason why all these scriptures—the Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Torah, Dhammapada—are all written only for human beings. Nothing else in nature needs that lesson. It is the human beings who have to be reminded to live a sacrificial life, a dedicated life.

Attachment to the result of your action, or the fruit of your action is what you call the forbidden fruit. In the Bible, the very first, beautiful advice that was given to the first man by God, was this: Please do not eat the fruit. Don’t be attached to the fruits of your actions. Anything that you do with an expectation, even wanting a mere thank you, will keep you bound. If you expect a thank you and don’t receive it you may call the person a barbarian, uncultured. But who is the real uncultured one? Looking for the result of your action makes you a barbarian, uncultured. And that is what you call attachment. I did this and I want something in return. I must get it! Even a smile, a pat on the shoulder, a thank you, some kind of acknowledgment. How often we ruin our lives just for this acknowledgment. I have been working in my department for the past three months. This guy never even came to me and said, ‘Yes, you are doing a fine job.’ What am I doing here?

If somebody has to come and say, “Beautiful, you are doing a great job,” then you are a servant, a slave. The greatest joy is when you do things and when you love people simply for the joy of doing, of giving. And only a person who is not attached to anything can experience that joy.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda