What is True Vairagya? )Dispassion)
- One of the first steps in Raja Yoga (the Yoga of Meditation)
is to practice Discrimination and Dispassion. Discrimination
between the real and the unreal, the eternal and the temporary.
Dispassion is herein well illustrated by this article by the
great sage Swami Sivananda. It is a rarely discussed subject
and an important one for every meditator to understand and
practice. Swamiji's style includes using many Hindu terms and
as they are usually accompanied by English translations, it
becomes a way to better understand Hindu scriptures when they
are referred to in your further studies. Similarly, he also
virtually always presents new sources of the wisdom of other
sages in his writings, and I think you may find them very
beneficial. In this (fairly long) article, the song that
Buddha heard that led to his Enlightenment was new to me and
I expect you too will have similar appreciation when these
holy gems are shared.This article was sent out today in the
always enlightening "Sivananda Day-to-day" which is sent out
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What is True Vairagya?
Sri Swami Sivananda
Unnecessary torture of the body in the name of Tapas
(austerities) is highly depreciable. This is Asuric Tapas
(demoniac austerities) of ignorant persons. This is condemned
by Lord Krishna in the Gita. Body is the moving temple of
the Lord. It is an instrument for Self-realisation. You cannot
do any Sadhana if the body is not kept strong and healthy.
Attachment to Vairagya (dispassion) is as much an evil as
attachment to sensual objects. Give up Vairagya-Abhimana
(ego-centred dispassion). This Abhimana of Sadhus and
Sannyasins is more dangerous and inveterate than the Abhimana
of worldly persons.
Vairagya-Abhimana is a deadly canker. It is difficult to
get rid of the Vairagya-Abhimana as long as there is the
body-idea. The feeling, `I am a great Vairagi or Tyagi' is
Vairagya-Abhimana. The body of a Sannyasin who has dedicated
it unto the service of humanity, is a public property. He
has no claim on it because he denies the existence of body
and tries to feel always: `I am Shiva (Sivoham).' The public
will take care of his body.
Lord Buddha tortured the body, did severe austerities, gave
up food and yet he was not able to attain the goal. He heard
"Fair goes the dancing when the Sitar's tuned,
Tune us the Sitar neither low nor high,
And we will dance away the hearts of men.
The string o'erstretched breaks and the music flies,
The string o'erslack is dumb and music dies,
Tune us the Sitar neither low nor high."
Then he ate food, adopted the middle path and succeeded in
achieving Nirvana. Extreme asceticism is not at all necessary
for attaining perfection. What is wanted is strong mental
Vairagya born of strong discrimination. All bodies are not
fit for the practice of severe austerities. The body will drop
down if you tax it too much by way of rigid Tapas. Do not spoil
your health and body in the name of Tapas. Have a strong,
healthy body, but have no attachment for the body. Be prepared
to give it up at any time for a noble cause.
The care-taker of the horse feeds it with proper nutrition
when it is over-worked, when it is ailing. Then only it is
ready for further work. Even so, this body should be injected
with proper nutrition. Then only it will turn out good work.
Then only it will soon regain its lost vitality on account
of over work or ailment. Work will suffer if the body is not
well attended to. When the body grows old it must be well
protected against cold and well-looked after. If hard Titiksha
(endurance) is practised now it will give way soon.
Consequently the other shore of immortality and fearlessness
cannot be reached.
O Ram, neglect not this body. The society and Prakriti will
extract and continue to extract as much work as possible from
those selfless workers who have dedicated their lives to the
service of humanity. They are yoked to service till the last
breath leaves their bodies. Lord Vishnu instructs Prahlada,
"My dear Prahlada! enough of your Tapas. Take care of your
body. Rise from your Samadhi. Serve people now. Disseminate
Bhakti far and wide." Yoga Vasishtha speaks of one as a
`Maha Tyagi' (great renunciate) and `Maha Bhogi' (great
enjoyer), who has renounced the idea of `I am a Tyagi' and
`I am a Vairagi', who neither accepts nor rejects things
that come by themselves by identifying himself with the silent
witness, the Immortal Atman, who feels always `I am Akarta
(non-doer)', `I am Abhokta (non-enjoyer)' even while moving
amidst objects. The Gita says, "But the disciplined self,
moving among sense-objects, with senses free form attraction
and repulsion mastered by the Self goeth to Peace." Chapter II-64.
Some neophytes and raw aspirants pose themselves for
`Maha Tyagis' or `Maha Bhogis' and quote scriptures also:
`We eat without tongues; we see without eyes.' The thief
or the hypocrite will be found out soon. They are just like
the people who catch fishes from the Ganges to satisfy their
palates and quote Gita:`Nainam Chindanti Sastrani Nainam
Dahati Pavakah; Na chainam kledayantyapo na soshayati
marutahWeapons cleave him not, nor fire burneth him, nor
waters wet him, nor wind drieth him away.' Sublime philosophy
indeed of perverted people with perverted intellects! The
gilted ornaments cannot shine for a long time. The crow that
shines under borrowed feathers of the peacock will be found
out soon. Their Trishnas (sense-hankering) and Vasanas (subtle
desires) will burst out and any lay bystander can detect the
hypocrite without any difficulty.
A Maha Tyagi or Maha Bhogi will not refuse to accept some
mangoes or a cup of milk when they come by themselves. But
he will not crave for them. He will not say, `I have enjoyed
today good mangoes or good milk.' If an aspirant is seriously
ailing, if he is not able to eat solid food-stuffs, if there
is a feeling of want in him for milk, if he has no money with
him to purchase milk, if any devotee casually offers of his
own accord some milk, he should not refuse it. God works
mysteriously. He takes care of his devotees by working through
the minds of various persons.
The child sometimes eats food at night while he is sleeping.
If the mother asks the child in the morning, `Baby, you took
food last night,' he replies, `I have not taken anything
last night. You are playing and joking with me.' Such is the
condition of a Jivanmukta, or a Maha Tyagi or Maha Bhogi. He
eats and yet he does not eat. He eats without a mouth and
smells without a nose. Sometimes a man talks at night when he
dreams. If you ask him when he comes to waking consciousness,
`O Prema, do you know that you talked last night when you were
dreaming?' He replies, `I do not remember anything.' Such is
the state of a Jivanmukta or a Maha Tyagi and a Maha Bhogi.
Durvasa ate a sumptuous meal and yet he said, `I am a Nitya
Upavasi. I do not eat anything. I take grass juice only'
because he identified himself with the Atman who is always
the witness and the non-enjoyer. Lord Krishna is regarded as
a Nitya Brahmachari (eternal celibate) though he was with Radha,
Rukmini and Satyabhama. Sage Tiruvalluvar said to his wife, `My
beloved! say unto the river that my huaband, a Nitya Brahmachari,
has commanded you to give path of way. She will at once yield
and you can cross it without a boat.' She repeated the words of
her husband and crossed the river immediately. She was quite
amazed at the words of her husband and asked him, `My Lord! you
are living with me and yet you say that you are a Nitya
Brahmachari. I am struck with wonder. I am puzzled. Kindly
explain this philosophy'. Tiruvalluvar replied, `I am immortal
Atman. I have realised this through direct cognition (Anubhava).
I do not do anything. I am the silent witness. The senses,
body, mind and intellect are my instruments. I am entirely
distinct from them.' Tiruvalluvar's wife understood the nature
of the soul and then she became silent.
Ordinary aspirants with delicate health should not take
recourse to the practice of drastic austerities. He who has
attained Kaya Siddhi (bodily perfection) can do any kind of
Tapas because his body is adamantine. If an aspirant with
delicate health gives up food and tries to live on Neem
leaves alone, the obvious result is that he will get various
sorts of gastro-intestinal diseases and pass away soon. This
is the fruit obtained by persons who practise Tamasic Tapas.
If you have mastery over the pair of opposites, viz., heat
and cold, if you can bear intense heat and intense cold, if
you can remain without clothing in the icy Gangotri, this is
highly creditable indeed. But if your frame is delicate, if
you attempt to stand before the sun in summer for some hours,
if you throw off your clothing in the Gangotri all at once,
you will die immediately of sunstroke or pneumonia. You should
not attempt to take recourse to these hard practices. What
little you will gain by Japa and meditation in this birth will
be lost and you have lost one chance given by the Lord in this
birth to reach him, by your foolish practices or Tamasic Tapas.
An aspirant gave up his clothing all at once. He developed
rheumatism, malaria, enlarged spleen and died within a short
time. During the period of sickness all cravings that were
temporarily suppressed asserted themselves with re-doubled
force. He be came a slave of the tongue. He craved for many
varieties of food. He could not suppress them. He ate
indiscriminately and died of acute diarrhoea.
An aspirant said, "I have not realised the Self though I did
meditation for some years. I am going to commit suicide with
the Bhava (feeling) I am immortal Atman. I have got full
Vairagya. No sin will cling to me, because my motive is pure.
I will attain Self realisation." He actually committed the
abominable act. Do you think that he realised his Self by this
act? Do you find such a statement anywhere in the scriptures?
Certainly not. This is extreme foolishness. Some aspirants who
have no idea of the nature of true Vairagya, who have not lived
under the guidance of their masters for some time, commit such
ignoble acts. They can never get salvation by taking to wrong
Tapas though their Bhava may be pure. They cannot entertain the
Bhava `I am Atman' just at the time of committing the act.
Horrible thoughts will crowd at the critical juncture. They
will have to share obviously the fate of Pretas (ghosts).
The mind should gradually be weaned off its old habits and
cravings. If you cut off all at once its pleasure centres, it
will get puzzled. That is the reason why young aspirants who
take to too much Vairagya commit the ignoble act of committing
suicide. You should train the mind in meditation gradually and
make it taste the inner bliss. Gradually it will leave off its
old habits and old cravings and you can get yourself established
in true Vairagya.
The more the Viveka (discrimination), the more the true
Vairagya. The flower of Vairagya gradually grows in the garden
of Antahkarana (inner faculties, i.e. mind, intellect, ego and
the subconscious mind), from the understanding that the world
is a mere appearance and full of miseries and that Brahman
alone is the only reality full of knowledge and bliss, and
through continued practice of meditation and association with
the realised souls for a protracted period. Eventually all
objects of the world appear before the dispassionate soul as
trifling or worthless things. He will not give up his new
spiritual life even if the wealth of the whole world is offered
Aspirants should give up those articles of food which they
like best for some time. They should discipline all the
Indriyas (senses) in a perfect manner. They should always
lead a simple life. They should always eat simple food. But
they should not become slaves of Vairagya Abhimana. Vairagya
is a mental state. The Lord infuses this in his devotees in
order to get rid of the clinging to sensual objects.
May you all become Maha Tyagis and Maha Bhogis! May you all
be free from the canker of Vairagya Abhimana! May you all
possess true lasting Para Vairagya (intense dispassion)!
May you all attain Kaivalya or Perfection!