The art of not caring is both the art of detachment and the art of compassion. Both are key elements in any spiritual practice and especially in the practice of bhakti yoga, or Krishna consciousness.
Any decent human being cares about a lot of things in the world. To care is to be conscious - when we see pain, exploitation, sadness, cheating, and all the other difficult life situations that people wrestle with. We should care. A good philosophy of life should have us feel for the suffering of others and try to help relieve that suffering. That’s the art of compassion.
The art of detachment, or not caring, is primarily directed to our selves, and in particular our false ego. A great spiritual teacher once said : “I have prayed for years for one good humiliation a day, and then I must watch my reaction to it.” It’s in the reaction that we can gauge our spiritual advancement. The false ego is all about me and how important I am. When that is confronted in some way by what others says, or what others do, or don’t do, it can totally trigger our false ego button. We feel entitled, defensive, bent out of shape, storm off in a huff, criticize, complain, and more.
The subtle but strong desires of the false ego for profit, fame, and adoration are extremely hard to shake off. It is what ties us to ‘the bodily concept of life’, a much used phrase in the bhakti literature. Note it says concept - that means that it’s just an idea, this false ego me, but the real me is the soul, the consciousness. Even still, after years of study and practice, the false ego can take over in a second - “I have given so much, I am spiritually advanced, I have been here from the beginning, I am ..., I am ..., I am .... I, I, I.
When we hear these loud voices in our head it’s the time to practice the art of not caring. We must turn those voices in another direction - understanding, laughter, letting go, gratitude -- the joy of catching the false ego in action, and the magic of detachment. The result will be happiness, relief, freedom from negative energy, and actually making tangible spiritual progress.
Our false ego is our problem. No one else owns it. It’s no one else’s fault. It’s ours to recognise, transform, and ultimately transcend. The key guide to doing this can be found in the following well known, but not often applied, verse:
Trinad api sunicena, taror api sahisnuna, amanina manadena, kirtaniya sada hari
One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly. Verse 3,
Humility is to genuinely realize that we are not all that important and to be ok with that. To be happy about that. Because that’s the actual reality. Humility is the “art of not caring” done in the right way. When we think of ourselves less in those false ego moments we can know we are on the right track in our bhakti practice.