The Art of Letting Go

The Art of Letting Go

A Monk's Tale and the Path to Inner Joy - By Urmila Pandey

Reading time: 3 minutes

The other day, a friend asked me, ‘How do I let go?’

A successful professional committed to her work, recently she has had to reduce her working hours to care for her husband who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

‘Another person has taken over my role as the lead and has changed the work practices I had set up so thoughtfully. It bothers me. Not only my attachment to my work but also other things I have been clutching all my life. How do I let go?’ She asked.

It reminded me of a story I heard from a monk.

A monkey had a great time living off bananas from a farm. The farmer would store the bananas in a jar and the moment his back was turned the mischievous monkey would sneak his hand in the jar and run off with a banana.

Having had enough of his antics, the farmer decided to teach the monkey a lesson. He did leave the bananas outside but this time, in a narrow-neck jar. Eyeing the banana in glee, the monkey jumped from the tree and thrust his hand into the jar.

Waiting for this moment, the farmer rushed towards him with a stick.  The monkey was frantically trying to pull the banana out but in vain for the narrow opening was enough only for his hand, not the banana.

The only way the monkey could escape being clobbered by the farmer was to let go of the banana and run for his life. But such was his craving that he did not let go of the banana. As a result, he could not escape the thrashing.

In a way, we humans are like that monkey for we continue to hold on to this world despite receiving a sound battering in return. Such is the deep insecurity of the human mind that it cannot live without grasping.

We want to hold on to all that we think is the source of our happiness. It could be relationships, money or objects. Or name, fame, status, appreciation, recognition, awards, power etc. And even youth, as is evident by the flourishing cosmetic surgery industry. But the impartial hand of time spares no one.

The very nature of this world is temporal. Seasons change, our bodies change, events in our lives change. Our thoughts and emotions too, are constantly changing. Our choices change. What appealed to us as children comes nowhere close to what we like as adults. Likes change into dislikes and vice versa.

We see this ever-changing world of phenomena, we experience the pain of trying to hold on to things and beings in vain for they invariably slip away like the sand from clenched fists. And yet, we don’t let go.

The only way of letting go is to understand why we hold on to things in the first place. We grasp at that which we believe is the source of our happiness. I don’t want to let go of that which gives me pleasure.

We all want to be happy at all times. And we think that this happiness comes from outside. From people, relationships, events, objects, names, fame, youth, wealth etc. Thus we keep grasping the world.

It is very natural to seek lasting happiness, meaningfulness, fulfilment and contentment. The problem is that we are looking in the wrong place. We have made the error of believing that joy comes from outside.

Whether it is the delicious ice cream, the breathtaking sunset, the romantic holiday or the company of a dear friend – the joy experienced comes from within. Our own joy gets reflected in our minds.

But if the joy comes from within, why don’t we experience it all the time?

We can understand through the analogy of a reflection. The reflection of a full moon can be seen clearly in a lake provided the water is still. You may have seen the stunningly clear reflection of the blue skies and trees surrounding the still waters of a clear lake.

Similarly, when the thought waves subside in our minds, the joy of our real Self gets reflected in the still mind. When your eyes see a beautiful sunset, when your teeth bite into the much-desired cake, when you hold the hands of a loved one – your mind stops thinking for that moment. And the inner joy spills into the silent mind.

But erroneously, we attribute the joy to the outside object. Thus we grasp at that object or person, we clutch at the world thinking that is where our happiness comes from.

The enlightened masters say that once we correct this error, once we realise the truth, once we connect with our own inner being, we tap into the source of eternal bliss. Then, there is no longer any need to hold on to anything, person or event.

Self-realisation frees us. By knowing that you are the eternal, ever-blissful, absolute existence, the very need to hold on to the world disappears. Let go of the ephemeral world and find your real Self. Then you will soar in the sky of never-ending joy and contentment.

For teachings and guidance on such topics, the reader can visit and avail the teachings of a modern-day enlightened master.


Urmila Pandey

Practising medical doctor in the UK with a keen interest in philosophy