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

28 November 2013

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.

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