1.15 The Paradox of Detachment
Updated: Jul 30, 2021
YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI | CHAPTER 1 - SAMADHI PADA | VERSE 15 | COMMENTARY
Drisht-anushravik-vishaya-vitrshnsya vashikar-sangya vairagyam.
दृष्तानुश्रविकविषयवितृषणस्य वशीकारसंज्ञा वैराग्यम् ॥१.१५॥
Dr̥ṣṭa̅nuśravikaviṣayavitr̥ṣṇasya vaśi̅ka̅rasaṁjña̅ vaira̅gyam. ||1.15||
Being able to keep the feverishness in check for the sensual pleasures experienced and heard (including memory and intuition) is Vairagya.
Every person, as soon as he develops a sense of individual identity, starts searching for stability of joy. A child tries to find it in toys, an adolescent in friends, a teenager in a romantic partner and so on. We run towards some thing or the another and run away from other things. We are troubled by those which give us pleasure and also which give us misery for both these objects shake us from our centre. The world trains us to label things as desirable and undesirable, superior and inferior, good and bad, happy and sad, and in turn we keep on vacillating between joy and misery without finding depth in any of the emotions. Many people do not realise in their entire lifetimes that things are not the answer for the void that consumes each one us – a search that we all embark in our lifetimes, a search for fulfilment. Either people get stuck on some sensory experience they had had in their lifetime and are unable to be peaceful because they wish to experience that same joy again and again (which is impossible for the human mind which wants freshness and change) or some believe that there is something that someone else has experienced and told them about which is the only thing that will bring them joy and hence they stay miserable as they consider themselves unlucky. At the other end of the spectrum, the mind sticks to something it does not like and fails to find peace. Like and dislike come from a limited perspective (yes, we all have preferences but letting that preferences control us obscure the reality of the event). These likes and dislikes do not allow the mind to focus and settle and such a life is spent in conflict.
Vairagya is a difficult word to understand. It has been interpreted in so many ways by different schools and different teachers that many people bolt at the mention of this word. A person who dons orange clothes and gives up the normal lifestyle and lives the life of a monk is called a Vairagi (one who has attained Vairagya) by many. It is believed by a major chunk of the population that practicing Vairagya means giving up family, wealth and a comfortable life and spending time begging or chanting “Aum” in the caves of the Himalayas. Other believe that becoming emotionless is Vairagya. A person who does not care for his parents, his friends, and other people around him and is always stoic and serious is called Vairagi by many because Vairagya is translated as detachment. What a foolish thought. What a sad life.
Vairagya is a state of mind – one of dispassion, one of stability, one of enthusiasm, one of joy that is not based on any external factor.
There is no love greater than that of a Vairgai for he loves without a reason, because it is his very nature. Such a love can never be painful for it can never be lost. There is no person more efficient and enthusiastic in action because the action does not need to accomplish anything to be joyful – his inner joy makes the action joyful. He will fulfil every duty towards everyone with utmost devotion because such a person shall take responsibility for everything and everyone around him. He will be the greatest asset of a civilisation. Pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, success and failure fail to impact him because he is aware of the temporary nature of duality. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna advises Karma Yoga – The Yoga of Action to be established in the Self.
Exploring the concept of Vairagya has caused many a seeker to suppress their desires and ambitions and try to force Vairagya on their consciousness. It is a futile task and a foolish one too. Inherent desires, urges and ambitions must be fulfilled. Vairagya dawns itself when you practice discipline, when you do Abhyasa, and when you are able to grow into a big mind where everything does not fall into boxes labelled good or bad, right or wrong, black and white. Therefore, do not worry about Vairagya too much, and work hard on just being a kind, compassionate being living with intent and intensity, aiming for excellence.