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Maharishi Patanjali

Abhyasa and Vairagya:


Practice and Centeredness
The two pillars of Yoga Sadhana

Shriram Sarvotham

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Abhyasa and Vairagya: Practice and Dispassion

Maharishi Patanjali teaches Abhyasa (practice) and Vairagya


(centeredness, dispassion) in order to achieve the state of Yoga. In
this presentation, we looked at the Yoga Sutras where Maharishi
Patanjali defines what is Abhyasa and Vairagya, and why we
should do it.

The same teaching was given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna in


Bhagavad Gita, in Chapter 6 on Dhyana Yoga. Lets look at this
first.

After Lord Krishna expounds the teaching on Meditation


(Dhyana), Arjuna asks a question that most of us can identify with.
Here are the relevant verses from the Bhagavad Gita (Chap. 6) that
captures this dialog:

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Maharishi Patanjali, who composed the Yoga Sutras several
hundreds of years after the Bhagavad Gita, echoes the same
teaching Abhyasa and Vairagya to bring mind to a place of
tranquility. Here are the relevant Sutras:

First, what is Yoga according to Maharishi Patanjali?

Yoga is stilling the uncontrolled movements (restlessness, chatter)


of the mind.

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And how can we still the uncontrolled mind chatter?

Calming the restlessness of the mind is achieved by Abhyasa and


Vairagya.

Maharishi Patanjali precisely defines what is Abhyasa:

The means (practices, discipline, etc) that is employed in order to


remain in a state of union (harmony) with ones own Self is called
Abhyasa

What are the three ingredients of Abhyasa for it to be fruitful?

Abhyasa is to be practiced for a long time (that is, several years),


without interruption (no holidays!), with honor and respect
(without grumbling or unenthusiastic). Then, we become
established and grounded in the state of Yoga.

What is Vairagya?

Withdrawing the flow of mental energies outward towards what


we perceive or what we hear to be pleasurable and consolidating
& controlling the mental energies is called Vairagya.

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Maharishi Patanjali talks about Parama Vairagya or the highest
form of Vairagya:

The highest form of Vairagya is when we are established in


awareness of our true nature. When we discover that the joy we are
seeking resides within us, we relinquish our attachment towards
the outer. In other words, we are freed from the bondage of the 3
gunas of the Prakriti.

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Let us conclude with a Prayer on Maharishi Patanjali:

Meaning:
I offer reverence to the eminent sage Patajali, who removed the impurities
of the mind through yoga, of speech through grammar, and of the body
through medicine.

The upper body of human shape, holding a conch (divine sound), discuss
(wheel of time) and sword (discrimination), I bow down to the white (pure)
thousand-headed (elevated awareness), I respectfully bow to Patanjali.

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