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Home » Yoga Sutras 1.12-1.15 – Abyhasa + Vairagya Explained

Yoga Sutras 1.12-1.15 – Abyhasa + Vairagya Explained

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Sutras 1.12-.15

In order to quiet the mind, the practitioner must engage in both practice and dispassion.

This chunk of yoga sutras describe “abhyasa” and “vairagya,” practice and detachment. 

Let’s remember that what we are practicing is not the physical postures but the cessation of the turnings of the mind as described in Sutra 1.2

Let’s break it down in short.

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Table of Contents

Sutra 1.12 - Abhyasa + Vairagya


Consistent practice and detachment from sense objects create stillness of the mind.

Abhyasa means constant practice. Specifically, Patanjali means consistent vigilance when it comes to keeping the mind quiet.

Lots of unwitting yogis will use “abhyasa” as a directive to practice asana (the physical postures) consistently. This is not what is meant in the Sutras. 

Let us not forget that the practice is one of stilling the mind.

Vairagya means detachment, disinterest, or indifference. In other words, a true yoga aspirant cultivates a detachment from sense pleasures. 

Further, the yogi does not crave for the fruits, or rewards, of their practice. Instead, he or she is unmoved by material gain, sensual experiences, and personal accolades. 

Did you miss the explanation of helpful and unhelpful thoughts? Click here to read.

Sutra 1.13 - What is practice?

Tatra sthitau yatno 'bhyasah

Of these two, practice means the steadfast effort to keep the mind still.

This sutra emphasizes that abhyasa is the practice of bringing the turbulence of the mind under control. 

We see here that the practice must be made with effort and steadfastness or constancy.

In more recent times, the beloved master Papaji used to say that he would be “vigilant” till his last breath. He was speaking of abhyasa.

Sutra 1.14 - Uninterrupted devotion over a long period

Sa tu dirgah-kala-nairantarya-satkarasevito drdha-bhumih

Practice becomes firmly established when it has been cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion over a long period of time.

Effort to keep the mind still requires daily or even constant effort over a period of not merely years but actually lifetimes!

Swami Prabhavananda relates a tale of two aspirant meditators:

To make the story extremely brief, one is told he has several lifetimes before liberation and this meditator grows despondent and angry. The other is told he has so many lifetimes he’d need to count the leaves in a nearby tree to understand just how many times he will reincarnate. 

This latter aspirant rejoices at his luck. “At least it is a finite number!” In recognition of the humble heart of this sweet meditator, the cosmic force delivers him immediately to liberation from samsara, the cycle of birth and death.

It is with this consistency of devotion, cultivated over perhaps ages, that the aspiring yogi must remain dedicated to his or her project of creating such mental tranquility that she can perceive Reality as it is.

Sutra 1.15 - What is meant by detachment?

drs tanusravika-visaya-vitrsnasya vasikara-samjna vairagyam

Detachment refers to the state of being without craving for sense objects either known or merely heard about.

Many of the sense pleasures that bind us, according to the yogic teachings, are pleasures we have already experienced.

A bite of delicious food, a sexual encounter, a luxurious car, a monetary bonus… We are to detach from the desire for bounties such as these, focusing instead on the clarity of mind which begets an understanding of the cosmic source. 

Other sense pleasures are those we crave because we’ve heard about them: 

Heavenly realms, incarnations on more desirable planets, or perhaps more mundane enticements like fame, riches, or great repute — even these alluring promises must be regarded with indifference. 

To wrap it up...

A devotee of yoga will get far by practicing mental focus — and ultimately mental stillness — whilst cultivating indifference to material pleasures over many years and with constant determination.

It helps to remember that the ultimate promise is deliverance from incarnation and an ecstatic absorption in the cosmic consciousness. 

To get there, it is taught, we must constantly pick the weeds of our mental garden.

…That we might unite with holy source when the time is ripe. 

homework for the seeker

1. A Contemplation:

What is my own BEST way to focus and ultimately still my mind? (mantra? breath focus? another tool of focus? a methodless method?)

2. Meditation Prompt:

Demand your quiet time and come prepped with a timer nearby. Sit tall with eyes closed and the inner gaze up between the eyebrows for as long as it takes for your mind to empty out. Can you get there? Which tools of focus help most? How long does it take your mind to come to rest? 

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Quick Sutras Recap...

1.1 Now begins the instruction of yoga. 

1.2 Yoga is cessation of the thought waves of the mind. 

1.3 When we succeed in bringing the mind to stillness, the soul abides in its true nature. 

1.4 When the mind is not still, the perceiver becomes erroneously identified with the turnings of the mind. 

1.5 There are five basic turnings of the mind. 

1.6 They are: right knowledge, wrong knowledge (error), sleep, imagination, and memory.

1.7 Right knowledge consists of sense perception (direct knowing), logic, and verbal or scriptural testimony.

1.8 Error is false knowledge stemming from incorrect apprehension.

1.9 Imagination refers to a word or phrase that has no true referent.

1.10 Deep sleep is a state of mind that is devoid of content.

1.11 Memory is the retention of imprints from past sense impressions.

1.12 The changing states of mind are stilled by practice and dispassion/detachment.

1.13 Of these, practice is the effort to remain concentrated on quieting the mind.

1.14 Practice becomes firmly established when it has been cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion over a long period of time.

1.15 Dispassion refers to the controlled consciousness of one who does not crave sense objects either experienced or heard of.

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