The basis of the mind, which you call the ego, has a tendency to want everything. I want this, I have to gain or own it; I want to do this or that. Wanting to possess is the nature of the ego. That’s why the little “i” always has a “mine” in it. You become really happy if you can say, “Oh, this is mine, this is also mine.” That’s why you have lots of things around you and you even take pride in showing your collections. “See, I collected this and I bought that somewhere else.” That is the ego. It wants to have everything for itself and to be able to say “all this is mine.” And because of that nature, and the nearness of the possession or the attitude, the mind takes the color or the form of the possession. Originally, the ego itself is as clear or as pure as a crystal. But because of that feeling that it should have everything, attachment arises.

Imagine a pure crystal. If you bring a red rose close to it, immediately you see the crystal assuming the red color. Place a violet flower close to the crystal and the crystal appears violet, because of its nearness. The ego, by itself, is crystal clear; there is nothing wrong in that ego. But because of its associations, because of its attachment, when it goes near a little money, it becomes rich. When it goes and sits on a throne it becomes a king. When it stays inside a hut it becomes poor. When it attaches to a body, it becomes a man or a woman. When it has a nice beautiful body it says, “I am beautiful.” This is all because of its association with the object or idea. The ego identifies itself with everything that it has around it, everything that it calls, “mine.”

That’s why I always say that mines are dangerous things. Don’t put any mines around you, because, at any time, they can explode. Not only do we throw mines in war, but we do so even in our daily lives. We have them all around us and they are all ready to explode at any time. That’s why, all of a sudden you do sometimes explode! Very often people complain, “Oh, I’m out of my mind.” And it’s all because of our ”mines.”

One of the slokas from the Bhagavad Gita says that a yogi, a saint, or a or a person who is retaining his or her peace, is the one who is free from the “I,” “me,’ and “mine.” That “mine”, is a very important thing to take away, to detach yourself from. Without any attachment, the ego is harmless. But when it sees something, and it becomes associated with that, it becomes harmful. If you take away the “mine,” the I or ego will not get affected by anything.

But even if you don’t want to take the “mines” away, then at least take away the fuse! Each mine has a fuse, no? There’s a sort of cord. There are people who go out to diffuse the mines in the field. In the same way, there are people who could help you diffuse your mines. You call them Gurus. You can still have some of the mines, but the Guru will diffuse them and then give them back into your hands. How do they do it? They say, “Give it to me. Offer it to me.” And if you believe in them, and say, “Okay take it, they slowly diffuse it and say, “Now you can keep it as belonging to me. It’s no longer yours. But now I am giving it back to you for your use, in serving others.” So there is no longer any attachment and thus it will not be able to disturb your ego. That is how you can keep the mind from losing its peace.

There is nothing wrong in having everything, if the motive is pure—if you are having things to use for the benefit of others, not for your personal benefit. If there is a selfish motive behind your actions, if you want to have and use it for your comfort, then you will be affected by it. One day, when you no longer have it, you become unhappy. That is what you call personal attachment. Many people misunderstand the term “detachment.” It doesn’t mean that you become indifferent or ignore anything, become irresponsible, or that you run away from things. It’s neither irresponsibility, nor indifference, nor escapism. Keep things around you if they come, but just don’t run after them. Even for the sake of helping others, don’t run after things. If you think, I want to help others so I must have this, then that will disturb your mind.

Wanting to serve others is also a kind of attachment. But, if an opportunity is given, do it. Keep the motto of the Scouts: “Be prepared.” That’s all. Be prepared to serve. That’s what you call detachment. If you become anxious to serve, then, if you don’t have an opportunity you feel sad—Oh, I don’t have an opportunity to serve anybody. Naturally, if you serve more people and there are people around you to receive your service, you might become proud. People may praise you, but that is a kind of attachment again. If it comes, let it come. Let there be nothing whatsoever of any kind of personal motive. Remember the subtle points behind all this. Don’t expect things, but if they come, enjoy them and don’t deny them.

I never say to deny and run away. Just don’t like or dislike anything because of your own personal gain. When you are detached, you can be even more happy and joyous, no doubt. Because the moment you run after something, you build up a tension. And you build up a fear also of losing it. First you are worried, Will I get it? Then once you have it, Will I lose it? And then comes the trouble. But, if it comes to you, fine. You can say, “Please, take your seat.” After a while, when it is ready to go, you can say, “Fine, here’s the door; here’s the way to go out.” You just open the door and let it go. That’s why my yogic formula is, take it easy. If somebody praises you, take it easy. If somebody blames you, take it easy. That means, keep a serene mind, always.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda