What is the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the word “modernity”? I think of development and technology, especially my cell phone. It’s a device most of us hold close to our hearts. The phone has gone from being just a form of communication to an entertainment gadget. All young children seem to be begging their parents for one. According to one study, 84% of teens say they like that cell phones make it easy to talk to people. Additionally, the study states that 69% of teens say their cell phone is used as a form of entertainment and 47% say their social life would end without their cell phone. The same study shows that 57% say their life has improved by using their cell phone. In the many scripture of Hinduism we often come across the term “detachment.” It is the teaching that all human suffering arises due to the attachment we experience: attachment to other people and material objects.
The ultimate goal in Hinduismis to overcome our attachments so that we are no longer drawn into the physical world of desires and suffering: into the world of maya, or illusion. When the object of our attachment dies or breaks, we feel pain and grief. The stronger our attachment is, the more deeply we experience suffering. Hinduism teaches that in order to reach purity and enlightenment, we must renounce our attachments and remove our desires. Most of the dedicated sanyasis accomplish this by travelling to far off forests and completely shutting themselves off from the rest of the world.
The beauty of Hinduism is that Hindus can pick and choose different concepts that resonate with themselves and mold it into their own. Detachment is usually presented in the form of asceticism. I disagree with this approach. The effort should be to fully understand the consequences of being attached. Poverty is not the only gateway to spiritual purity. Asceticism usually is taken to mean retiring to the forest and seeking communion with the divine. This is certainly a helpful method to overcoming attachment, but it is not practical for the millions who live in the world of samsara. Hinduism has therefore different methods for different types of people who seek detachment. For the millions of us who live in the physical world, when the scriptures say, “be detached”, it means to “have a detached attitude”. It is the attitude that matters, not the physical act of renunciation. Karma yoga, the name of this method, recognizes that the real evil is not in having physical possessions themselves, but in the attachment to them.
A study suggests some people can become emotionally attached to their cell phones. “That panicked feeling we get when we lose our car keys is the same when we misplace our cell phones,” said a University of Texas marketing professor. “The cell phone’s no longer just a cell phone; it’s become the way we communicate and a part of our life,” said Dr. Esther. It’s become an addiction; people are attached to this small square piece of technology and our entire world seem to revolve around it. After the boom of the cell phone, a stream of advertisements was released warning teenagers not to text and drive and to “unplug” before driving. People continue to text and drive though since they can’t seem to get away from their cell phones during that thirty-minute trip to work or to the grocery store. When people have driving accidents because of cell phone use, the blame is usually put on the object. “Phones are distracting”, “cell phones can kill while driving”. There are many different advertisements out there that blame the object for causing the various problems. However, knowing the view of detachment in Hinduism as discussed above, one should have the mental ability to detach themselves from material objects. It is this mental ability that prevents the thought of having to use a certain object out of your mind.
After this is achieved, you have obtained the Hindu goal of being detached.
Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, April 29-May 30, 2010 Tracking Survey