Vairāgya is possibly one of the most misunderstood concepts in Yoga, especially by those who are aware of the term outside of the Yogic context. For many such people, Vairāgya brings forth an image of a Sanyāsin or ascetic, someone who lives outside society and has given up all worldly pleasures and attachments. But is that what the term implies? Let us find out!
What is Vairāgya?
Vairāgya in the simplest of terms means detachment from worldly desires or indifference to worldly attachments. That, indeed, sounds like an ascetic’s main quality, doesn’t it? Are there other ways of understanding this term? Sanskrit is a wonderful language where, like many other beautiful languages, a single word can have multiple meanings and layers of understanding.
The meaning stated above is how most Indians or anyone speaking any major Indian language, understand the word. It is a popular meaning, but one that might have gotten over-simplified over the years for ease of use. When you say you have Vairāgya, people expect that you will leave them and go into the forest or to the Himalayan mountains to meditate and live a life of isolation.
Let us now try to understand this term through the lens of Yoga and Yogic texts and see if it can mean something else.
Vairāgya in Yogic terms
Alright, now, what does Yoga say about Vairāgya? Yoga defines the term as detachment from worldly desire, from sensory overload, from attractions and aversions; from effort and anticipation of results. Instead, Yoga says we should focus our energy on the task, on the effort required for the task, and on the satisfaction of having done something to the best of our ability.
Two of the most important Yogic texts, Yoga Sūtra by Sage Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita, both mention this concept as an important step to advance on the spiritual path and to find peace in everyday life. The Bhagavad Gita says that detachment from sensory distractions, relationships, desires that lead us astray is critical to finding focus, peace, and joy in life. The Yoga Sūtra says that consistent practice and effort combined with detachment can lead to self-realisation, samadhi, enlightenment, freedom.
Personally, this concept is a big favourite of mine, one that I have felt a lot of connection with in terms of what I believe I need in life. It is a concept I have slowly started applying to my everyday life bit by bit, made it a part of my thinking and being over a period of time. That, in no way, means that I have perfected it and applied it fully; no, I have a long way to go, but I can already see the positive difference it is making in my life.
When applied to daily life, Vairāgya brings a sense of objectivity to our decisions, our thinking, and our interactions with the world. It helps us think rationally without letting our emotions make decisions for us. It helps us respond rather than react to people, situations, and to our thoughts and emotions. It makes our Āsana practice more wholesome and energising, our conversations with ourselves more positive and less self-deprecating. It can help reduce overthinking and make better decisions I everyday life.
Want to understand how can you can bring this concept into your life without leaving society and becoming an ascetic? Do you want to reap the benefits of Vairāgya without having to leave your loved ones or shirking your responsibilities? Reach out to me and we’ll find ways to integrate this beautiful concept into your life, one step at a time.
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