According to yoga philosophy, our attachments to people, things, and our inner thoughts and feelings can cause us to suffer. When the things we are emotionally attached to change or leave, it causes us pain—the more intense and robust our attachments, the more pain and suffering we will experience. We can reduce our suffering by removing, dissipating, or softening our attachments. Vairagya is the yoga term for detachment. Detachment can be incorporated into our yoga practice and daily lives.
The desire to practice yoga is an expression of our humanity. Kama motivates us to practice yoga and do the hard work required to improve our practice. Our desires can also cause mental discord, which leads to unnecessary psychological suffering. Ancient yogis developed vairagya to reduce (and ultimately eliminate) kama.
Vairagya is the only sword that can cut all attachments to this world. You can march on the spiritual path with this sword. “You will reach your goal safely.” — Sri Swami Sivananda
What is Vairagya
Vairagya, a Sanskrit term, is translated as “detachment” or “dispassion.” According to Patanjali, the essence of vairagya can be described as the conscious control of desire over objects perceived, heard, or seen. Vairagya is a more conscious, subtle, and profound practice of “not caring a damn.”
This conscious removal of mental and emotional reactions, while often associated with cave dwellers and renunciates, is essential and beneficial for all levels of yogis to practice. The detachment of desire allows us to achieve greater peace and tranquility.
Vairagya: Benefits and Uses
Vairagya is a daily practice that has many benefits. We find peace when we can let our worldly attachments go. We don’t have to deal with unimportant thoughts and emotions. We’re less worried about the future. We are less stressed.
We can focus more effectively when we can detach. We can focus on a single task at a given time. We can pay attention to the world around us. We can think logically and clearly. We can see the truth without being distracted by our emotions. Our mind becomes calmer and happier as we gain more control.
Vairagya is a beautiful way to cultivate stability and helps us see our lives in a new light. Vairagya allows us to observe ourselves objectively, without judgment. This makes it easier to see patterns and habits we want to change. Detachment allows us to see our actions objectively. This can help us gain greater insight and self-awareness.
Vairagya practiced consistently, reducing emotional reactivity and increasing patience. It improves acceptance, forgiveness, non-judgment, contentment, and self-worth. It also enhances your relationship with others. With less attachment, you may find an improvement in energy, vitality, and health.
Awareness and acceptance
To achieve freedom through yoga, being aware of your attachments is essential. You must be able to see your passions to let them go. After you have identified the item, notice what it does to you. Does it bring up positive or negative feelings or thoughts?
Accepting an attachment as it is will be necessary once you become aware of it. Acknowledging and recognizing our extensions can give us the power to overcome them. Once we accept them, their power over us is lost, and we can move on.
Fears and expectations
You can also release unnecessary fears and unrealistic life expectations to weaken your attachments. Fear can keep us in the same position and prevent us from moving forward. We worry about the past instead of living in the moment. False expectations can lead to disappointment when the reality does not match our expectations. We can open up new possibilities by letting go of our fears and false expectations. Vairagya is the practice of seeing and accepting life as it is.
Vairagya: The Four Stages
Vairagya helps cultivate equanimity and master the mind. It is also essential to progress along the path of yoga. Vairagya requires a lot of patience, inner strength, and effort. Be prepared to see this skill develop slowly and steadily. Vairagya is divided into four stages, which allow us to choose the best level for our skills, abilities, or goals.
Yatamana In yatamana, the first stage in vairagya, we learn to transform or let go of harmful thoughts. Mental suffering is often caused by negative thinking and self-criticism. Acceptance, forgiveness, kindness, and friendliness can change these thoughts. A repetitive thought pattern can also be a cause of suffering. An emotional trigger often causes this. Yoga practices like pranayama, sun salutations, and mantra meditation can help you get out of a mental rut.
In Vyatireka, we realize that our dislikes and likes are at the core of all unhealthy mental patterns. This stage is about moving towards mental and emotional neutrality. Begin practicing vyatireka, identifying which thoughts and emotions are true or false. You can then cultivate awareness by noticing how external objects, such as people, food, smells, and so on, attract or repel you. How you respond to things is determined by the labels you assign to them (good, bad, or pleasant). Finally, try to move past deciding whether something is good and be aware of the energy and sensations delivering the information from the outside world.
Ekendriya is achieved when all ten indriyas are entirely under control by manas. This third level of vairagya will require more practice and discipline to reach. This level of vairagya is achieved by using Pratyahara. It involves withdrawing attention from the sense organs, like a turtle pulling its limbs back into its shell. Focus on reducing external distractions and focusing your attention inward. Take a few breaths when you feel any solid sensations or thoughts. Bring your attention back to your core.
In vasikara, the ten senses, as well as the mind, are restrained. The attachments of the mind are also entirely controlled. Awareness of how the mind is drawn into the attachment process is essential. The reason is no longer attracted to or repelled by mental images and thoughts in this final stage of vairagya. You are not attracted to objects or senses, and life’s sweet and bitter fruits seem the same. For mental mastery to be achieved, you will need regular meditation and yoga practice.