The partner to practice

The partner to practice

This week we discussed the definition of abhyasa as being defined by a marriage of time, consistency and enthusiastic devotion. This abhyasa is related specifically to the mental practices of the antaranga sadhana (but of course we can apply it to the entire 8 limbs). But practice alone is leaving out a key ingredient. Patanjali states early on….

  • abhyasa: practice
  • vairagya: dispassion
  • tan: that
  • nirodhah: stoppage of chitta vrittis (i.e. state of yoga)

“Nirodhah comes about by sustained yoga practice coupled with dispassion”

Raga means desire or intense attachement. Viraga is non-attachment. Vairagya is the attitude of viraga. 

So along with enthusiastic practice we also must cultivate dispassion in order to find absolute peace of mind. But how do enthusiasm and dispassion go together? At first glance this might seem contradictory. Often times translating words from one language to another leaves a bit to be desired which is why we have to dive into the essence of the meaning. Consider this advanced reading comprehension 🙂

Dispassion alone could certainly be considered tamasic. Depression would be a dispassionate state where sadness or confusion has turned into a consistent pattern. But dispassion here is preceeded by and married with action. Through the process of applying our meditative capacity on the 24 tattvas of nature we enthusiastically explore our relationship to them through practice and realizing they are changeable release any attachment towards them.

Yoga practice (specifically the antaranga sadhana) can result in a myriad of Siddhis or yogic powers. There is an entire chapter on the results of sustained practice in the yoga sutra alone. However, if we only practice to refine the capacity and prowess of THIS FORM/body then we will stay stuck in the cycle of transmigration. Therefore, for nirodhah, we need dispassion to avoid becoming overly enamored with the results or boons of this practice. This formula is important for the final siddhi of liberation. This requires the higher vairagya (para vairagya) and the effect is one of tranquility. So dispassion here is the practice of developing tranquility; not being pulled by desire and sensation. Now this dispassion does not mean we deny our basic needs. Remember, jivana prayatna means our efforts are first to maintain health so that the mind is capable of going deeper.

The process is layed out in sutra 2.19…

  • visesa: gross (bhutas)
  • avisesa: subtle (indriyas and tanmatras)
  • lingamatra: unmanifest (buddhi)
  • alinga: gunas/mulaprakriti
  • parvani: stages

“the observed is made up of 4 stages: the gross elements, the subtle elements and the senses, the unmanifest and the manifest.”

All of these 4 stages include the 24 tattvas of prakriti

so the process is to apply our samadhi capability (abhyasa) to every tattva ( from the gross to the subtle) in order to develop dispassion (vairagya) towards everything that is not truly “me” (everything that is changeable).

Or as Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj wrote

“Desirelessness means to let go of that which only disappears anyway” 

~Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj

We can see the result of this higher dispassion in the 64th shloka of the Samkhya Karika.

  • eva: thus
  • tattva: principle
  • abhyasa: practice
  • na asmi: I do not exist in this prakriti body (remember asmita is the feeling I exist)
  • na me: not mine
  • na aham; not I
  • iti: thus; in this manner 
  • aparisesam: all encompassing
  • aviparyayat: without a doubt
  • visuddhi: special purity
  • kevala: alone, excluding others
  • utpadyate: arises, is born
  • jnanam: higher knowledge

“Thus by the practice of truth (implied as abhyasa and vairagya) my buddhi will release itself for the sake of Purusha. Through jnana marga (higher knowledge) the one established in practice and dispassion will cease the three mistakes, instead realizing… 

  1. na asmi: “i do not exist in this prakritic form”, 
  2. na me “this (buddhi tattva) is not mine”, and 
  3. na aham “this is not I”. 

Through this jnana marga (knowledge) alone is born moksa marga (liberation) where there is no doubt that the purusa is absolutely pure (visuddham) and stands alone (kevala).”

Ramaswami says that by this process of samadhi (abhyasa) and higher dispassion (paravairagya- dettachement from all the 24 tattvas) the buddhi becomes stunned. Completely at ease, no longer following the typical streams it stops associating with distractions (citta vrttis). At this state of ultimate liberation we eventually go beyond practice and dispassion into freedom….The practice of vairagya gives way to the state of Paravairagya (establisehd dispassion for everything that is not the Self-including the practice itself). No more misidentifications are made. At this point the one who attains liberation while still living becomes a jivanmukta (realized being): the prana continues to function but all the while the mind will be in a state of absolute serenity (citta vrtti nirodhah).

Until that time though we must direct our efforts wisely and slowly unstick ourselves from what we are not. Turn our natural desire towards the aim of self knowledge. And so we return to the details of abhyasa as devotion and consistency over a long period of time. If the mind waivers we still have efforts to apply.

And here they say that a person consists of desires,
and as is his desire, so is his will;
and as is his will, so is his deed;
and whatever deed he does, that he will reap.

—Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 4.4.6

See you tomorrow,



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