Meaning of ‘Vairagya’ – Detachment: Part 2 (Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh)

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The word ‘Vairagya’ is used quite many times in yoga scriptures. Among the spiritual practitioners also this is a topic of debate. Many yoga practitioners are talking about detachment and most of the times they misinterpret the detachment to be something very pessimistic. Detachment doesn’t mean to leave your family, children, job or society and start living in the forest. But this is what most people understand it to be. Here I will try to explain the meaning of ‘Vairagya’ from the yogic point of view. The word ‘Vairagya’ is mentioned by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra in chapter one. There he says:

‘Drishti-Anushravik-Vishay-Vitrashnasya Vashikaar-Sangyaa Vairagyam.’ 1.15
‘When the objects were seen or listened about don’t create any craving, it is called Vairagya.’

So Patanjali means to say that being free from the craving for the things that are good looking to eyes and ears is the essence of Vairagya (detachment). Good looking things can be a beautiful house, car, man, woman, money, gold, heavenly pleasures, etc. These things are naturally attracting and appealing to eyes and ears. Avoiding temptations and craving is detachment.

So does it mean we should get away from the beautiful house or car or wife we have? Or should we not have any desires for anything good in life?

No! It doesn’t mean anything like that. We are not trying to run away from this beautiful world or anything good we may have. What is important to note here is the word ‘craving’. We wish to avoid carving. If you have a beautiful wife, husband, car, house or job then enjoy it as the blessing of God, but at the same time don’t be dying for the same things. If someone else has it then also we must not feel the greed and temptation to possess them. Same feelings are echoed in ‘Ishwasyopishad’.

Ishawasyam Idam Sarvam, Yena Kinchit Jagatyaam jagat.
Tena Tyaktana Bhunjeetha, Maa Gridha Kasya Swid Dhanam. 1.1

‘All this whatsoever exists in the universe, is covered by the God. So enjoy this world with detachment. Do not covet the wealth of any man.’

So when craving /temptation/greed is gone then only ‘Vairagya’ can be achieved. If something is beautiful then it should be appreciated. God Almighty has created this beautiful world. Everything is perfect in its place. But ‘if something is good then I must possess it’ this is sheer arrogance and foolish greediness. There is no end to this. This is where the attachment comes and avoiding it is detachment (Vairagya) only.

Two core principles: Practice and non-attachment are the two core principles on which the entire system of Yoga rests. It is through the cultivation of these two that the other practices evolve, by which mastery over the mind field occurs, and allows the realization of the true Self.

PATANJALI YOGASUTRA