You create stress for yourself because you do not know how to perform your duties, though you have imposed them on yourself. The only way is to learn to love your duties. If you only love the objects of joy, and you think that your partner is an object like your home, your furniture, and other things in life, you can never be happy. Human beings are not objects. Human beings are higher than objects. Learn to love those persons for whom you perform your duties and take all the objects of the world as means. Never be attached to the means, for means are only means. You love the means because they help you. But if the same means become obstacles for you, they are no longer helpful. In the path of the world, the path of enlightenment through action, learn how to perform your duties with love and without being attached to the objects of the world. The objects of the world are only means. They do not belong to you. They are only for you to use. Learn to enjoy them as means and do not get attached to them or claim ownership on them. This sense of “mine” and “thine” creates serious problems for you. When you do your duties with love there will be no stress and you will be free.

So my first point is, you cannot stop doing your actions. Secondly, all the fruits of your actions should be given to others. Thirdly, learn to grease your duty with love. There is a formula. Skillful action done selflessly becomes a means, a sort of worship. Those who do skillful action selflessly and lovingly are free from the bondage of karma.

When you do your actions, perform them as a duty, lovingly, skillfully, and without any attachment. You can learn to live peacefully in this world, attaining your goal of life in this lifetime, in a few years’ time, in a few months’ time, in a few days’ time, even in a second’s time, if you understand the philosophy of vairagya or nonattachment. To be nonattached you do not have to leave the world or impose many “don’ts.” You do not have to follow any rigid discipline. Discipline should not be rigid or create tension or stress. Disciplining yourself means guiding all the powers and resources that you have toward your goal. Discipline is something unique that helps you to keep your powers from being dissipated. You should understand discipline before you follow it. Do not make too many big rules for yourself. That will only weaken your willpower. Do not decide that you are going to do something and then not complete the task. Once you decide to do something you have to do it. No one should stop you. You are killing your conscience and your willpower all the time by deciding, I am going to do this, I am going to do this, I am going to do this, but never accomplishing anything. Every day you make a resolution and you never accomplish anything because you do not strengthen your will, you do not have determination, you do not coordinate and apply all the resources you have. You do not work with mind, action, and speech together. That is the reason for your failure.

If you really want to live happily in the world, you have to practice vairagya. Gathering the twigs of success in the external world and having all the worldly means of comfort can become a problem for one who does not know the philosophy of nonattachment. St. Bernard said, “Learn to use the things of the world, but love God alone.” He understood the philosophy of nonattachment. You mistakenly take this to mean that the whole world is meant for you to use. With this idea you cheat others and think that you are successful. If you think that the whole world is meant for you to use, why do you not think that you are also meant to be used by the world? You should compromise. Neither should you use the world nor should you allow anyone to use you. It is very important to learn the philosophy of nonattachment.

You are committing two mistakes—possessing something that does not belong to you, and being attached to that; or even just using it and being attached. When something is not yours, what right do you have to be attached to it? This unauthorized possession makes you small. There is one thing that you should remember: I am so grateful to You, oh Lord, for all the things of the world. You have given me the best of things. I have the right to use them and I should make them a means, but I have no right to possess them because they are not mine. I cannot create even a blade of grass. How can I say anything is mine? All the things of the world are meant for me, and I can use them as means, but I will not possess them nor will I be attached.

Why do you create attachments? If you do not have a child of your own, you are not satisfied. You do not think, God has given me this opportunity. Since I do not have a child I will devote my time to the Lord. Instead, you want to adopt somebody else’s child and create more attachment for yourself.

Reprinted from Samadhi the Highest State of Wsidom by Swami Rama