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ABHYĀSA (अभ्यास) & VAIRĀGYA (वैराग्य)

"Both practice / perseverance (abhyāsa) and non-reaction / detachment (vairāgya) are required to still the patterning of consciousness" [Yoga Sutra 1:12]

In the Yoga Sutras [1:13], Patanjali defines abhyāsa in the following way: “Abhyāsa is the effort toward gaining stability in that state of cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” In sutra 1:14, he further elaborates: “But this practice is firmly grounded only after it has been cultivated properly and for a long time uninterruptedly.”


In his teachings, Ramana Maharshi also stressed that “no one succeeds without effort. Those who succeed owe their success to perseverance.”


It is important to understand that abhyāsa is not just any kind of effort (not even, for example, the effort of practicing Hatha Yoga in a physical way), but a very specific kind—the effort toward gaining stability in the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. Therefore, this practice is essentially oriented in the same direction as vairagya (detachment). Thus, any particular attitude becomes a spiritual practice if we stabilize ourselves in the Stillness of our real being for a long period of time.


Constant repetition of a yogic practice reaches the unconscious and starts a quiet, deep transformation there, which Patanjali called nirodha parinama (the transformation of dissolution). Once it becomes so deeply connected to the unconscious, meditation and any other practice becomes effortless and natural.


In the Yoga Sutras [1:15], Patanjali defines it in this way: “Vairāgya is the certainty of mastery of the yogin who is without thirst for visible and revealed (or invisible) things.”


Since all desires produce a kind of bondage, they must all ultimately be released. Each desire is intrinsically linked to the ego, and thus is a veil between our limited being and the Infinite. 


Vairāgya is usually defined as renunciation, self-abandonment, relinquishment, or self-control. It is generally interpreted as the abandonment of certain material things or of the world itself. But in reality, vairāgya is not an abandonment of things. It is an abandonment of the false values, mental filters, and dogmas that create an incorrect interpretation of things and generate an erroneous relationship with the world and everything around us. 


Mental projections and false perceptions are the reason for our attachments and aversions, our likes and dislikes.


This is not a forceful suppression of our perceived values or a crushing of the desire for things that are perceived to bring our personality real satisfaction. When we rise to a higher degree of reality, we do not reject the lower degree of reality. Rather, we overcome it and integrate it into a wider perspective.


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