Tag Archives: non-attachment

More About Vairagya (Non-Attachment)

To continue where the last article (Abhyasa & Vairagya – the Two Pillars) left off…

*To review – Patanjali’s definition of non-attachment (vairagya) Sutra 1.15 – drista anushravika vishaya vitrishnasya vashikara sanjna vairagyam – “When the mind is free from the desire even for objects seen, heard or described in a tradition (or in scriptures), it acquires a state desirelessness which is called non-attachment (vairagya).”

This word “drishta” (seen) in Sutra 1.15 (above) is also meant to include the attraction that we feel through all of our five senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste). Whenever we have a pleasurable experience using these senses, we tend to develop a strong attachment for those objects, along with a strong desire to experience the same pleasure repeatedly. Then, when that pleasure isn’t available or for some reason or other we’re denied access, we become very unhappy, stressed out or even completely miserable and pain and suffering are the result.

In this sutra, “vishaya” represents the material objects which produce attraction and the attachment that follows. Desires and cravings may basically be classified in two ways. The first type result from our direct perception through the five senses. “Drishta’ (seen) refers to this kind. The second type are those that many orthodox Hindus expect to gain after being reincarnated, including the desire to go to heaven after death. But, according to most Hindu scriptures, this heaven is only a temporary abode and it is necessary to return to a human birth after spending karmically pre-determined time in heaven. In order to achieve Moksha (final liberation), even these desires must be transcended. Vairagya doesn’t mean the dropping of desires because of sickness or old age or some other dysfunction. Old men often lose their sex drive (for the time-being), but this is not vairagya. Vairagya implies a conscious, deliberate elimination of all desires which would lead to attachment. Contrary to popular beliefs, true vairagya cannot be attained by cutting yourself off from object (of the material world) and living in a cave. Real, true vairagya occurs as a direct result of conscious, spiritual evolution, which leads to the dawning of “viveka” (discrimination). Therefore, the consciousness of someone who has attained this degree of mastery over their senses has been termed as “vashikara samjna.”

It is extremely helpful to keep the concept of vairagya in your mind even while doing your own asana practice. For example, perhaps you are not quite able to touch your toes in Uttanasana (the standing forward-bending pose). But you don’t give up and one of the objectives of your asana practice may be to touch your toes in the near future so you set a goal of doing just that in one month’s time. When you are attached to the outcome, you will likely be severely disappointed and/or disheartened if you still aren’t able to touch your toes in the allotted time. Alternatively, if you are not attached to any specific outcome, you will continue to practice, free of any sort of judgment that would give rise to these negative feelings and you’ll then stand a much better chance of achieving your goal in a timely manner.

This concept of non-attachment has been dealt with in great depth in most of the Eastern religions. In one of the most often quoted shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita (2.47), Lord Krishna tells Ajuna: “You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.” All too often our actions (or non-actions) are motivated by some desired (or expected) outcome. Non-attachment doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t set any goals in our life, it simply means that we are not attached to the desired (expected) result of our actions. We only have full control over the actions that we engage, not over the outcome of these actions. Realizing this is where the value of non-attachment becomes apparent, we now can accept the results of our actions without any emotional turmoil. This attitude of non-attachment will help us greatly in our efforts to remain calm and peaceful in even when presented with life’s most difficult situations.

Of related interest, click on: The Wisdom of Patanjali

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Abhyasa & Vairagya – the Two Pillars

Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras, gives us this definition of Yoga:

Yoga Sutra 1.2 – Yogash-chitta-vritti-nirodhah – “Yoga is the mastery (or control) of the modifications (fluctuations) of the mind-field.” For practical purposes, this sutra can be translated as; “yoga is the ability to remain calm in all situations in life”. When considering “all situations in life”, it implies that no matter how critical or desperate any situation may appear, yoga teaches us to learn how to stay calm and peaceful in spite of the disturbances (thoughts – both gross and subtle) occurring in the mind. A calm mind is a prerequisite to handling even the most difficult situations in life, effectively and efficiently. The opposite is also true; if we allow the mind to get unsettled, then any decision we make (or action that we take) will likely be ineffective, in fact, it may even be self-defeating and bring about negative results. In (sutras 1.12-1.16), Patanjali talks about the “two pillars of yoga practice” that will help us achieve that state of mental calmness that we are seeking; abhyasa (practice) and vairagya (non-attachment).

Sutra 1.12 – abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah – “These mental modifications (fluctuations of thought patterns) are restrained (stilled, quieted) through practice and non-attachment.”

Patanjali’s definition of practice (abhyasa) Sutra 1.14 – sah tu dirgha kala nairantaira satkara asevitah dridha bhumih – “Practice becomes firmly grounded when done for a long time, without a break (or interruption), and with sincere devotion.”

Note the three qualifications for “practice”:

  1. 1. Long time – long time could imply this entire life-time, but in a more practical sense, and because the purpose of yoga practice is to control the modifications of the mind, regularity is the key.
  2. 2. Without interruption: For example, if you plan to practice 2-3 hours per day when your current lifestyle may not permit that on a consistent basis you will probably have an intermittent practice and the regularity will be broken. It would be much better to pick an amount of time (and time of day) when you can maintain your regular practice religiously and without interruption. A shorter practice done on a regular basis is much more beneficial than to wait for a day or so when you can dedicate hours to continuous practice.
  3. 3. With sincere devotion: You need to be fully committed to the practice in order to fully appreciate the benefits that it will bring. Swamiji says: “As you choose your proper level of practice, and decide to do that daily, the attitude will come more easily. It is like having a little flame of desire in the heart for the fruits of meditation, and then slowly starting to experience those benefits. That little flame starts to grow slowly and consistently into a burning desire to guide your life in the direction of spiritual realization.”

Patanjali’s definition of non-attachment (vairagya) Sutra 1.15 – drista anushravika vishaya vitrishnasya vashikara sanjna vairagyam – “When the mind is free from the desire even for objects seen, heard or described in a tradition (or in scriptures), it acquires a state desirelessness which is called non-attachment (vairagya).”

The Sanskrit word Vairagya is derived from the word Raga which is defined as the attraction (or desire) which arises due to pleasure associated with any object. Therefore Vairagya would mean the absence of any attraction towards (or desire for) objects which give pleasure. Vairagya also may include repulsion or dislike (dvesha) which arises as a result of distaste (or loathing) for any object. Both raga and dvesha are powerful disturbing forces which create the modifications in the mind-field, so it is extremely important for the practicing student or yogi to understand the significance of non-attachment as it is nearly impossible to achieve chitta-vritti-nirodha unless one can eliminate (or at least remain unaffected by) raga and dvesha. So, even to achieve a state of vairagya, continuous practice (abhyasa) is needed.

There is much more to be said about non-attachment (vairagya), but that will be discussed further in a future blog article.

Of related interest, click on: The Wisdom of Patanjali

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 5: Practice & Non-Attachment, cont.)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – Chapter 1: (Practice & Non-Attachment; Sutras 1.15 – 16)

Yoga Sutra (1.15)drista anushravika vishaya vitrishnasya vashikara sanjna vairagyam. Drista means seen or perceived. Anushravika means revealed, heard (from others). Vishaya is objects, subjects or entities. Vitrishnasya is of one who is free from desire or craving. Vashikara means supreme, mastery or total control. Sanjna means awareness, consciousness or knowing. Vairagyam is non-attachment, indifference, dispassion or neutrality.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 5: Practice & Non-Attachment, cont.)

Translated this means…When the mind loses desire even for objects seen or described in a tradition or in scriptures, it acquires a state of utter (vashikara) desirelessness that is called non-attachment (vairagya). Or in other words: dispassion (or non-attachment) results from a balance in (or mastery of) the consciousness, and when the desire for all things that we see or have heard of is extinguished.

This non-attachment is not suppression nor detachment as these are both pretentious and a case of “doing” something. This non-attachment is instead a “non-doing” sort of thing. It means that your attention does not hold (or grab onto) any impression that appears in the mind in the first place. Non-attachment is cessation! If attachment does occur (whether appealing or aversion), and attention fixes itself on a deep mental impression, the subsequent non-attachment comes from the cessation of mental clinging, not from an act of forcefully prying attention away.

Patanjali further explains that non-attachment (vairagya) applies to progressively deepening levels of our being. While we might begin with our more shallow level attachments, such as the objects and people encountered in daily life, this practice is intended to deepen to include all of the objects or experiences even those we might have only heard about, including the many powers (siddhis) or experiences of the psychic or subtle realm. We gradually come to witness that even these are nothing more than distractions on our journey to Self-realization, and we learn to let them pass by as clouds in the sky.

Yoga Sutra (1.16)tat param purusha khyateh guna vaitrshnyam. Tat is “that.” Param is higher, superior, supreme, transcendent. Purusha means pure consciousness, Self. Khyateh means through knowledge, vision, discernment. Guna represents the elements, prime qualities, constituents or attributes (three gunas of sattvas, rajas and tamas). Vaitrshnyam is that state of freedom from desire or craving (for the gunas)

This sutra can be translated to mean…Indifference to the subtlest elements, constituent principles, or qualities themselves (gunas), achieved through a knowledge of the nature of pure consciousness (purusha), is called supreme non-attachment (paravairagya). Or put another way: The highest state of desirelessness (unsurpassed non-attachment – paravairagya) arises from the experience of the true Self and in this state even the most basic elements of nature lose their power over us.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 5: Practice & Non-Attachment, cont.)

Supreme non-attachment (paravairagya) to the gunas (the three primal elements that the yogis refer to as the prime constituents of both manifest and unmanifest matter (prakriti) includes non-attachment in relation to not only the gross physical world, but also to the entire subtle, psychic and astral planes, as well as the causal realm out of which they arise.

Paravairagya comes after Self-realization and is described in these sutras as where non-attachment ultimately leads, that is, once you have the tool of samadhi and direct experience of the Self.

*Part 1 can be viewed by clicking on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 1 – Yoga Defined)

*Part 2, here: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 2: Un-coloring Your Thoughts)

*Part 3, here: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 3: Un-coloring Your Thoughts – Cont.)

*Part 4, here: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 4: Practice & Non-Attachment)

*Of related interest… The Three Gunas

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 4: Practice & Non-Attachment)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – Chapter 1: (Practice & Non-Attachment; Sutras 1.12 thru 1.14)

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 4: Practice & Non-Attachment)Practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya) are the two foundational principles on which the entire system of Yoga rests. Through the cultivation of these two principles, all other Yoga practices evolve and eventually mastery over the mind field (chitta) occurs, and allows the realization of the true Self (Atman).

Regular practice keeps you headed in the right direction, while non-attachment provides you with a means to continue your inner journey without getting sidetracked by the pains and pleasures encountered along the way.

Abhyasa and Vairagya go hand-in-hand as companion practices, and they are the tools for mastering (nirodhah) the many levels (fluctuations) of the mind, thus allowing the experience of the true Self.

In order to properly practice and cultivate non-attachment, it is necessary to become consistently better at discriminating between which actions, utterances, and thoughts take you toward the goal of union, and those which tend to separate and divide. Developing this increasing discrimination is both a foundation practice and a subtle tool for advancing the inner journey.

Practice means having an attitude of persistent effort to attain and maintain a state of stable tranquility. Non-attachment involves learning to let go of the many attachments, aversions, fears, and false identities that are clouding the true Self.

Yoga Sutra (1.12)abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah. Abhyasa means practice (also cheerfulness). Vairagyabhyam is non-attachment, indifference (or dispassion). Tat means this (of those). Nirodhah in this context, means control, regulation, restraint or mastery.

Translated this sutra means these thought patterns are controlled via a balance between cheerful practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya).

Yoga Sutra (1.13)tatra sthitau yatnah abhyasa. Tatra means “of these two” (abhyasa and vairagya). Sthitau represents stability, consistence and undisturbed calmness. Yatnah is effort, persistent exertion or sustained struggle. Abhyasa means with (repeated) practice.

This sutra can be translated as: Practice (abhyasa) involves applying the chosen effort, and doing the actions necessary to bring a stable and tranquil state (sthitau). In other words – It means resolutely and consistently adhering to one’s practice of yoga until stable and undisturbed calmness is attained.

A note on Sthitau as a stable form of tranquility: This stability is more than just a matter of regaining your peace of mind when it has been lost, it is taking the extra steps when planning your life to support meditation; no only when meditating formally (like sitting meditation) but also when in “the marketplace.”

Yoga Sutra (1.14)sah tu dirgha kala nairantaira satkara asevitah dridha bhumih. Sa means the same, that (practice). Tu is but or in any case. Dirga Kaka (Dirgha = long. Kala = time). Nairantarya is continuous; uninterrupted. Satkāra means seriousness; care. Adara is respect; consideration for others. Asevito (from asevita) means practiced, followed or continued. Drdha means sound, well founded. Bhumiḥ (from bhumi) basis, foundation or earth.

Put together all these words mean: When that practice is done for a long time, without a break, and with sincere devotion, then the practice becomes a firmly rooted, stable and solid foundation. In other words – Success can definitely be achieved through a sound and continuous practice over an extended period of time, when carried out in a serious and thoughtful manner.

Because consistency is such an important part of practice, choose a practice to which you commit yourself. Rather than be overenthusiastic when establishing your practice and taking on more than you have time (or energy) for, it is better to start by choosing a level of practice that you know you can maintain without a break. As your lifestyle changes to give you more time for meditation you can increase your time to include a session of longer duration.

Next in this series, Part 5 (Practice and non-attachment, cont.), Yoga Sutras 1.15 – 16.

*Part 1 can be viewed by clicking on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 1 – Yoga Defined)

*Part 2, here: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 2: Un-coloring Your Thoughts)

*Part 3, here: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 3: Un-coloring Your Thoughts – Cont.)

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.