Devotees would often come to Sri Ramakrishna and unburden themselves saying that they are terribly attached to so many things and are unable to get rid of them. They would say that they are often unable to even realise that they were attached.
Sri Ramakrishna would explain the nature of attachment using a beautiful story. There was once a man who built a mud house on a hill with great effort. Even while building the hut, he was appreciating his labour mentally and getting slowly attached to the house.
By the time it was built, he was totally infatuated with his creation. A few days later a great storm came and the hut began to rock. The man became anxious to save his hut and prayed to the God of the winds to spare it.
However, this was of no avail. Then he prayed to Hanumana. The wind did not abate. Then he cried out that it was Rama’s hut and therefore should not be destroyed. But, the winds blew stronger. Then as the hut began to collapse, the man in order to save himself rushed out yelling “To hell with it, this is the devil’s hut”. In the story, the man while he was building the hut never thought of God or that the hut belongs to Him.
He was developing a terrible attachment to the hut built by him. Similarly, when the storm shook the hut of its foundations, he called out the names of various Gods and tried to dedicate the hut to them. But, if it was really so, he would not have asked the hut to be saved.
Thus, Sri Ramakrishna would say that attachment is extremely difficult to detect and people succumb to it quite unknowingly.
Only through Viveka (discrimination) and Vichara (enquiry) is it possible to stay clear of this obstacle in the path to spiritual progress.