Book 1, Sutra 15: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
“VAIRAGYA IS A STATE OF MASTERY OVER ANY DESIRES FOR THINGS SEEN OR UNSEEN.”
Most translations agree that Patanjali’s definintion of vairagya, or renunciation, declares that it is a state of mind and not a physical state of seclusion or exclusion. In other words, it is more important that the mind doesn’t harbor preferences or criticisms of what is happening or may happen then that the body doesn’t come in contact with objects that cause pleasure or that the body does avoid contact with objects that cause pain. Vairagya is not a recipe for avoiding pleasure and purposefully embracing uncomfortable conditions. It is not the same as austerity or “tapas.” It is, rather, a description of a mind that is indifferent to what is experienced right now, whether pleasurable or painful, and to what may be experienced in the future. As VishnuDevananda says, “One can own nothing and yet be full of desires.” And as Sri Rama says, “If the mental [aspect of vairagya] is not developed, living secluded in an ashram or on the high Himalayas is fruitless.”
Another important element in Patanjali’s definition of vairagya is that it includes dispassion for objects heard or read about through religion; that is, heavenly states. In other words, vairagya, as Patanjali describes it, is disinterest in even going to “heaven.” Heaven, of course, includes the paradiscial conditions that many of us have heard described but it also includes characteristics connected with becoming an angel or a demi-god. These characteristics may include the ability to fly, jump through time, emanate light from one’s eyes, be beautiful or beatific, be wise, able to see into the future, heal sicknesses or otherwise be super-powerful in some way.
The vairagya that Patanjali describes in this sutra 15 is not the highest however because sutra 16 will tell us about an even higher state of vairagya. But what attachments are left after the mastery of vairagya described by sutra 15 is reached? The only attachment remaining is an identification with existence itself when the vairagya of sutra 15 is reached. In other words, with this vairagya as described so far, you may have no likes or dislikes whatsoever for anything you are experiencing, might experience or will experience but you are still attached to the idea of experiencing. In other words the idea that you ARE experiencing something still remains and you are content or attached to that idea. In the next sutra Patanjali describes a further renunciation of even that idea.
Posted on December 10, 2015, in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and tagged attraction and repulsion, austerity, Heaven, likes and dislikes, pleasure principle, renunciation, super powers. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.