Vairāgya (Devanagari: वैराग्य, also spelt Vairagya) is a Sanskrit term used in Hindu philosophy that roughly translates as dispassion, detachment, or renunciation, in particular renunciation from the pains and pleasures in the material world (Maya). The Hindu philosophers who advocated vairāgya told their followers that it is a means to achieve moksha. True vairagya refers to an internal state of mind rather than to external lifestyle and can be practiced equally well by one engaged in family life and career as it can be by a renunciate. Vairagya does not mean suppression or developing repulsion for material objects. By the application of vivek (spiritual discrimination or discernment) to life experience, the aspirant gradually develops a strong attraction for the inner spiritual source of fulfillment and happiness and limited attachments fall away naturally. Balance is maintained between the inner spiritual state and one's external life through the practice of seeing all limited entities as expressions of the one Cosmic Consciousness or Brahma.
Vairāgya is an abstract noun derived from the word virāga (joining vi meaning "without" + rāga meaning "passion, feeling, emotion, interest"). This gives vairāgya a general meaning of ascetic disinterest in things that would cause attachment in most people. It is a "dis-passionate" stance on life. An ascetic who has subdued all passions and desires is called a vairāgika. Further etymological definition indicates the root "rańj", referring to colour. "Vi – rańj + ghaiṋ = virága. The state of virága is vaerágya. Virága means “to go beyond colour” or “to be uncoloured”. To remain completely engaged in the world yet uncoloured by the world is called vaerágya.
In Hindu texts
The concept of Vairāgya is found in the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, where it along with practice (abhyāsa), is the key to restraint of the modifications of the mind (YS 1.12, "abhyāsa-vairāgyabhyāṁ tannirodhaḥ"). The term vairāgya appears three times in the Bhagavad Gita (6.35, 13.8, 18.52) where it is recommended as a key means for bringing control to the restless mind. It is also the main topic of Mokṣopāya or Yoga Vasistha.
Stages in Vairagya
Swami Sivananda Saraswati teaches us in his book "How to Get Vairagya" about the stages involved in Vairagya as follows:
"There are four stages in Vairagya:
(1) Yatamana:- This is an attempt not to allow the mind to run into sensual grooves;
(2) Vyatireka :-In this stage some objects are attracting you and you are endeavouring to cut off the attachment and attraction. Slowly Vairagya develops for these objects also. Then the Vairagya matures. When some objects tempt and delude you, you should ruthlessly avoid them. You will have to develop Vairagya for these tempting objects and it must also mature. In this stage you are conscious of your degree of Vairagya towards different objects;
(3) Ekendriya:-The senses stand still and are subdued, but the mind has either Raga or Dvesha for objects. Mind is, in other words, the only sense that functions independently;
(4) Vasirara :-In this highest stage of Vairagya, the objects no longer tempt you. They cause no attraction. The senses are perfectly quiet. The mind also is free from likes and dislikes (Raga and Dvesha). Then you get supremacy or independence. Now you are conscious of your supremacy. Without Vairagya no spiritual progress is possible.
Vairagya is of three kinds viz., dull (Manda), intense (Tivra) and very intense (Tivratara). Dull Vairagya cannot help you much in the attainment of your goal."
Notes and references
- Apte, A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary, p. 891.
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