Recently I was asked this question: How does one best practice both detachment and active compassion? Like with one's friends and children? How do you know when to give guidance or advice and when to let them go, to make their own mistakes?
All human souls in this world are bound by the fetters of attachment. Your strongest emotional bonds are with the ones who have come closest to your heart in your relationships and those with whom you have lived for a longer time. Physical distance at times only enhances the pang of separation.
For example, parents are naturally attached to their children and most of the time they are either prayerful or worried about their children and their future. No mother or father can rise above this whether they live close to the child or at a distance. Parents always have the most unconditional love for their children. But it is sometimes hard to differentiate between unhealthy attachment and unconditional love.
Do you know what attachment is? Do you know what love is?
Attachment is unconsciousness. The ego acts like an octopus, clinging to anything it believes is needed for its survival and pleasure. Attachment is the manifestation of the ego, your false self, as it tries to confine life to its own concepts and desires. When you love someone with conditions and expectations, your love is limited, rooted in attachment, which is the root of all miseries. Love is not meant to bring miseries; it is meant to expand our life to infinite joy.
Ego gives birth to attachment. Attachment gives birth to clinging, which inevitably gives birth to pain and suffering. Love is the naturalness of your Spirit, eternally within you, living in the flow of Universe. Ego obstructs that flow with its created attachments.
Ego is the separator. It divides and separates us from the other. This is the root ignorance, our sense of separation. As a result we are separated from our own Being, our true Self, our family and friends, and also the rest of the Universe.
It is only when the realization dawns that ego is causing all the fears and frustrations that you also come to know that it is your attachments to various persons and what you think is best for them that causes lots of your frustrations. All pains in life are due to deep attachment, which again is born out of the ignorance of the true nature of love.
Love, at its essence, transforms the egoist instinct of attachment into a detached state of spiritual flowering.
Love, love, only love can open the gates to the world of divine light where lies the release of the mind from all its entanglements and attachments. The more your mind levitates toward the Higher Truth of Light and Love, the more you get detached as a natural consequence of this elevated wisdom.
Detachment is not something that you do heartlessly to achieve some Utopian object but it is the simple manifestation of your love for the Higher reality. When you love the Higher, the lower leaves you.
The path is through meditation, contemplation, actions without attachments to the results and finally unconditional surrender to the Doer of all doings. The path is Love, pure love for the whole universe.
Detachment is not indifference. Detachment is a state of mind where you transcend the need of your ego to put conditions on what you think others should believe, feel and do. You do your best for others with love, but with the sense of detachment, surrendering the results to the divine.
Compassion is not an act of doing. When your heart feels the pains of others, the sufferance of the others as if it's happening to you or to your most near and dear, the love that flows and the actions that follow translate your deepest feelings into an active contribution toward changing that situation. Hence this love that flows could be called active compassion because as a result you naturally do what needs to be done to help others, knowing that it is not you, the doer, but the divine working through you.
Before we are ready to guide or help our family and friends from a truly loving, detached state of mind, we need to collect ourselves; we need to find our own center first. We need to find our own self in a state of integrity. Most often what we find in society is people trying to advise others but making very little impact. It is because the person, who is advising, trying to guide the other, is himself in a state of chaos inside and not centered.
To help others we need to first help ourselves.
Regular practice of meditation, impartial self-analysis, and continual vigilance over one's own mind, mindfulness, and surrender to the ultimate will of the divine are the practice that needs to be practiced first. This brings about the inner divine spark which has its own pure energy that is the essence which makes the difference in the lives of others.
You will see that as you become more and more spiritually centered, you are able to understand what to say or do, when to say it or do it, and how to say it or do it, to anyone, regarding any situation, that the other faces. Your guidance will no longer be treated as an imposition or unwanted advice but as a loving gift from your open heart.
Thus it always boils down to the single point that we need to uplift ourselves before we are ready to help our loved one, to help others. And when you are ready, you help without helping, you are compassionate without being compassionate, you love without loving, and you do without doing because you are moving from attachment to detachment with Love.