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Abhyasa and Vairagya


 

BALANCING INNER INCLINATIONS


 

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“Karat karat abhyas ke Jadamati hot Sujaan

Rasri Aavat jaat te sil par parat Nisaan”

[Continuous endeavour can turn a slow-witted person into a wise one

 Just as continuous movement of a rope on the stone, creates a permanent

mark on the stone.] - Kabir

                                                                                        

Last month we examined one of the simplest techniques of meditation. Moving further in that direction, let us see how we can establish ourselves in our chosen form of meditation. We have already acknowledged that ‘Stillness is the Key’ to success in meditation. We need both physical as well as mental stillness to find access to our inner self. Constant connection with this inner, higher self serves as the fountain head of joy and peace in life’s everyday situations. 


In the beginning (in the Chapter 2 itself ) of The Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna makes us feel as if finding ‘Shanti’ is not very difficult and that a person of equanimity , “Sthitprajna’ is not very different from us - he eats, sleeps, walks, talks and does all the activities in the world just as  we do them. However  when we proceed further into the text , we realise that Lord Krishna is doing nothing in the rest of the Gita but explaining to Arjuna, the various attitudes involved in becoming a “Sthitprajna” - a person possessed with peace and equanimity . Krishna says with His charmingly divine ease that a person who has his/her inner instruments, the ’Antahkarana’ i.e. ‘Manas, Buddhi, Chitta and Ahamkar’ under control and engages with the sense pleasures of the world without ‘Raga or Dvesha’ (attraction or repulsion), attains happiness. 


Alas! Only a mortal like us knows how difficult it is to have control over our senses, mind, intellect and ego or the ‘Antahkarana’. In this regard, Arjuna, as a representative of mortal beings like us, asks a very pertinent  question when he states: 


Chanchalam hi manah krsna pramaathi balavad drdham   I 

Tasyaham nigraham manye vayor iva sudushkaram         II


                                                      (Chapter 6:Verse 34 ) 


[Hey Krishna! this unsteady mind is very turbulentin, strong and obstinate . I suppose that subduing the mind is as difficult as subduing the wind.] Krishna agrees and also understands Arjuna’s problem. He now recommends a solution. He says: 

Asamsayam maha-baho mano durnigraham chalam 

Abhyasena tu kaunteya vairagyena cha grhyate 


                                                 (Chapter 6: Verse 35)


[O! One with mighty arms! (Mahabaho!) undoubtedly, the mind is fickle and very difficult to control but O! Son of Kunti! (Kaunteya!), with ‘Abhyasa’(practice) and with ‘Vairagya’ (detachment), it can be controlled].

 

So Krishna suggests that with continued effort and with non-obsession with sense objects, we can exercise control over our mind. We find same advice in the Yoga Sutras of sage Patanjali. According to the sage, the fluctuations of the mind can be checked with “Abhyasa and Vairagya” (1:12). A very refined definition of these two concepts is provided in the Yoga Sutras. To quote from the translation of this text by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, the founder of Bihar School of Yoga, “to be established in the endeavour” is ‘Abhyasa’ and freedom from attraction and repulsion  is ‘Vairagya’.

 

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Seemingly “Abhyasa” is a conscious and prolonged effort on the part of the practitioner and appears to be an exoteric act.  But ‘Vairagya’ certainly is an esoteric practice which involves working on the deep rooted “Samskaras”, the seeds of genetic inclinations  in our personality . In other words ‘Vairagya’ appears to be more difficult than ‘Abhyasa’. The latter only needs a will to act, “Just do it” type thing  but the former requires  a  strong reassessment and balancing of our inner inclinations and  habit patterns. 


The Indian festival of colours and inebriety - Holi is round the corner. It is associated, along with other things, with the burning of ‘Kamadeva’ by Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva opened his third eye and burnt Kama, the god of desires, when Kama disturbed Him too much. Probably the time is ripe for us to use a strong attitude of “Vairagya”, and throw the desires that trouble us more than necessary into the fire of Holi.






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