As a yoga practitioner (or Abhyasi, if you prefer), perusing the Yoga Sutras of Sage Patañjali (पतञ्जलि, pronounced: Puh-tun-juh-lee) is a must. Let us explore two more concepts here that can add to the Wealth of our Life: Vairāgya (वैराग्य) and Viveka (विवेक).
Invocation Prayer for Sage Patañjali:
योगेन चित्तस्य पदेन वाचां मलं शरीरस्य च वैद्यकेन। योऽपाकरोत्तं प्रवरं मुनीनां पतञ्जलिं प्राञ्जलिरानतोऽस्मि॥
Yōgēna cittasya padēna vācāṁ malaṁ śarīrasya ca vaidyakēna. Yōpākarōttaṁ pravaraṁ munīnāṁ patañjaliṁ prāñjalirānatōsmi
English translation: I bow with my hands together to the eminent sage Patañjali, who removed the impurities of the mind through yoga, of speech through grammar, and of the body through medicine.
About the Yoga Sutras:
A terse collection of only 196 verses, the Yoga Sutras of Sage Patañjali provide wisdom on essential topics such as Abhyāsa (practice; read more about it in this post) and Svādhyāya (Self-study; read more about it here).
Today, we will explore two more concepts critical for a balanced yoga practice: Vairāgya (वैराग्य) and Viveka (विवेक).
दृष्टानुश्रविकविषयवितृष्णस्य वशीकारसंज्णावैराग्यम् ॥
dṛṣṭa-anu-śravika-viṣaya-vitṛṣṇasya vaśīkāra-saṃjñā-vairãgyam ||
[Yoga Sutras, Chapter 1 verse 15]
Translation: Absence of thirst towards objects,
either as seen or following heard spiritual teachings,
is the acknowledgement of the mastery of dispassion.
Interpreted as “complete detachment from worldly or material concerns”, Vairāgya is often misunderstood only as a quality for monks. However, this excludes the possibility of us, as yoga students and practitioners, bringing this quality into our own practice. If seen from a broader lens, Vairāgya presents us the opportunity to tune our senses inwards and focus on the real goal of all the postures, breathwork and meditation: finding silence within.
A simple way to inculcate this Value in our life is to first think about our favourite sweet or dessert, and then decide on having it less frequently. Instead of weekly, perhaps monthly – and eventually, to consider the concept of “taste” and “favourites” altogether. The idea here is to train our tongue (and eventually, all our sense organs) to loosen its grasp on our mind’s thoughts. In this manner, we can come at least an inch closer to an otherwise seemingly unattainable quality like Vairāgya.
Similarly, Viveka is heralded as the “hallmark of an enlightened mind”.
विवेकख्यातिरविप्लवा हानोपायः ॥
viveka-khyātiḥ aviplavā-hāna-upāyaḥ ||
[Yoga Sutras Chapter 2, verse 26]
Translation: The means of destruction of ignorance
is the unbroken practice of discrimination.
But we need not wait for enlightenment to begin developing an attitude to practice keen discernment. Just like the sun shines on all patches of land, big or small, during the day – similarly, the illuminating power of our mind shines upon all thoughts. It is our job to remove the weeds, rocks and other impediments from the land in order to let the sun shine and nourish it completely…
An easy way to include this second Value in our life is to meditate upon the thoughts that lurk in the deeper recesses of our subconscious mind. Just like rocks cast big shadows upon the earth under them, similarly unexamined thoughts cast misunderstood or conflicted emotions within us. All it takes is shining the light of discernment, of Viveka, upon these patches of land to banish the darkness. Easier said than done, yes – but likely all the same! As yoga practitioners, it is important to remind ourselves that our practice time on the yoga mat is just a precursor for the level of difficulty of this practice: if we do not seek to draw the nectar of our practice to purify our minds and selves, then what do we put so much effort towards?
I will leave you with these thoughts, to ponder upon and conclude for yourself what you think is best. If you’ve made it till this point, I sincerely thank you for your time and attention! As always, I’d love to spark a conversation with you, do reach out in the ‘Comments’ section below.
with love and gratitude,
More insights to follow from ancient yogic philosophy. Please share your email via the ‘Contact’ page if you’d like to stay updated!