Vairāgya (वैराग्य) 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 temporary material world. The Hindu philosophers who advocated vairāgya told their followers that it is a means to achieve moksha.
True vairāgya 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. Vairāgya does not mean suppression of 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 Brahman.
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.
A practitioner of vairagya is called a vairagi.
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-Vāsiṣṭha.
- Apte, A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary, p. 891.
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