There are many approaches with the help of which the process of detachment can be explained. But the one I really like is offered by Hinduism, and that is the system of tamas, rajas and sattva.
I really like to explain detachment through this system of gunas (“qualities”) because it’s the clearest one.
The person cannot jump to detachment from the state of negativity. That is not possible naturally.
If a person who’s depressed, and thus in the lowest stage of “tamas”, through the use of drugs achieves detachment, it’s not a valid one and does more harm than good.
As Jesus said:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.”
— John 10:1
You can only achieve true detachment, true transcendence of the world when you go through these three gunas in order, which is tamas –> rajas –> sattva. And sometimes you are already born in the second or third guna, and thus don’t have to go through the first as you did so in past lives.
But the most usual way is for the person to go through all the three stages in one life, like it was the case with me.
Up till my teenage years I was in a tama guna because I was unhappy and sometimes depressed. This is because at that time my father lived in our flat, and he was an alcoholic and an emotional terrorist.
When he moved out, I discovered meditation and this helped to revive my spirit. I became much more positive and active and found many teachers who helped me to achieve financial independence. This was the rajasic period of my life, full of energy, ambition, and a drive for financial gain.
When I achieved financial independence and found myself living my dream (working on my laptop on a beach in South India), the next question inevitably followed: “What’s next?” This marked the true beginning of my spiritual search, and led me to the last sattva guna stage.
During the sattvic period of my life, kundalini nurtured me and made me mature. I became compassionate and loving. My motivation changed from earning money to being a good human and helping others. Those days were marked by high positivity and being in awe with the beauty of this world.
After this, the transcendence followed. I started seeing everything in this world as a sort of play. People play roles, but they are so asleep that they don’t even know it and think that those roles are the reality. I see their happiness, sadness, struggle and achievements from a detached perspective. I too can be involved in human affairs, but I don’t consider that to be the true reality, but as things to be done whilst this earthly role is played.
So to my neighbors, for example, I appear as one of them. I can discuss with them earthly matters and seem to be involved in that. But I’m not. It’s a role I have to play in this life, as long as the body lives. But I certainly don’t consider those affairs important, or even having any substance.
This is the transcendence of the world. You aren’t attached to either bad or good. You just see everything as an illusion, as a play. For those still identified with their bodies this stage might seem sad or empty. But that’s certainly not true. It’s the middle way of Jesus and Buddhism – you’re neutral – on that straight and narrow way that few find.
When you’re centered, you feel at peace to the degree that nothing matters anymore. This is the ultimate happiness, but it’s nothing to do with the happiness of this world as it’s beyond the three mentioned gunas.
It’s the state that cannot truly be explained to people who still think earthly activities as having some substance. It must be experienced to be understood!
All in all, the transcendence of the world can only be achieved by going through the three stages of tama, raja and sattva in order. That’s the only valid way to detach from the world. Skipping one state would make you unnaturally detached, which can happen if a person uses drugs to quicken one’s awakening.
This would constitute an unnatural world transcendence, when a soul that’s not ready becomes aware of the fact that it’s separate from the body, for example. This results in insanity and other evils, as the person is not yet mature enough to face such facts.
Thus, the only true way to transcend this world is a natural one – going through the stages of mental evolution until one becomes totally pure (“sattvic”) and then finally this enables him to transcend the world as it’s the next natural step.