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Article XCVII: Goals and Nonattachment

"Therefore the essential truth is realisation. Know that to be the goal. Each distinct creed is but a way to the Truth. The test of progress is the amount of renunciation that one has attained." Swami Vivekananda (The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume VII, Conversations and Dialogues, From the Diary of a Disciple, XVII:211)

Enlightenment is the ultimate goal in Vedanta. Enlightenment is realization of the Divine within -- eternal and infinite peace and bliss -- Satchitananda (existence-consciousness- bliss). One is often faced with so many other goals in life, and it may be easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal of enlightenment. Indeed enlightenment as a goal may initially seem intimidating, but it represents nothing more than a realization of one's true nature, which is Divine. "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience." (Ram Dass) Also, every step toward enlightenment allows for experience of more peace and bliss in everyday life.

One may aspire for enlightenment in all actions and in all goals, and those aspirations can be achieved without attachment. The concept of renunciation is most often perceived as a retreat from society with relinquishment of all material wealth. Certainly, that path of a sanyasi may involve a retreat to the forest with renouncement of all material wealth, but that is only a single path, among infinitely many paths to enlightenment. Also, that path may only be appropriate for specific individuals at certain times in life. If one is attached to material wealth, retreating to the forest and craving material wealth may not be much better that living in the midst of material wealth with strong attachment. One's path varies depending on one's tendencies (vasana), qualities (guna), and impressions from past action (samskara).

Renouncement need not be literal retreat to the mountains, but can be renouncement of attachment, which binds one to the duality of happiness and sadness. By doing action without attachment and for the sake of dharma, one follows the path to enlightenment with duty and righteousness. Nonattachment frees us from dependence on material objects or particular situations for happiness. Instead, nonattachment allows for bliss from within, independent of material entities and specific circumstances. If one's goals are not aligned with dharma and the Divine, one may diverge from the path to enlightenment or even move in the opposite direction of that path. However, by orienting one's goals with dharma and the path to enlightenment, those goals become subgoals, which lead to the ultimate goal of enlightenment.

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