Yoga Sutra 1.12

Translation and Commentary

May 22, 2013    BY Pandit Rajmani Tigunait


That can be controlled through practice and non-attachment.
Yoga Sutra 1.12 Recitation
Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, PhD

abhyāsa practice
vairāgyābhyāṃ non-attachment or dispassion (dual form of the instrumental case of vairāgya)
tat that or those

nirodhaḥ = ni + rodhaḥ
mastery; complete control, discipline, and restraint
ni completely; in every respect; from every direction
rodhaḥ confining; restraining; disciplining; not allowing to roam aimlessly

Two great spiritual friends

Spiritual self-mastery brings control of the mind’s modifications. Along the way we will need two great friends: practice and dispassion.

Through systematic practice we gain stability of body and mind; we strengthen our power of will and determination.

The purely intellectual knowledge of yoga is of little value. In fact, intellectual knowledge of any spiritual path is of little value. So many of us know what is the right thing to do, and yet fail to do it. We know what is the wrong thing to do, and yet we do it. It seems that we have no choice, as if there were an invisible yet powerful force motivating us to behave without regard to what we know is right or wrong.

That powerful force is embedded in the depths of our mind. Yogis call it saṃskāra—the subtle impressions of our past deeds. And unless we gain access to those deep recesses of our mind, gain a direct understanding of the samskaras deposited there, and learn the techniques that will nullify their effects or destroy them once and for all, we have no choice but to remain under their influence. The process of destroying our samskaras is called "spirituality."

Spirituality is composed of methodical practice (abhyāsa) and contemplation accompanied by dispassion (vairāgya). Through systematic practice we gain stability of body and mind; we strengthen our power of will and determination. Persistent practice enables us to form new, spiritually enlivened habits, and as we do, unwanted, negative habits are gradually replaced by the newly formed habits.

The contemplative discipline of dispassion/non-attachment helps us avoid becoming entangled in the charms and temptations of the world. Non-attachment allows us to perform our actions skillfully so that we remain productive while living in the world: at the same time, it helps us cultivate a philosophy of life that enables us to avoid becoming a slave to the fruits of our own actions. Dispassion gives us the strength to discard these fruits when they are unpleasant, useless, and undesirable, as well as the strength to share them with others when they are pleasant, useful, and therefore desirable.

According to the yogis, the mind is like a river flowing between two banks. One bank is associated with worldly pleasure (bhoga) and its endless consequences; the other is associated with spiritual wisdom and spiritual freedom. Between these two banks there is a vast floodplain. Sometimes the river of mind flows more strongly toward the mundane realm, and sometimes more strongly toward the sacred. It is the quality of the water—the mental content of the mind—that determines whether the river flows toward the worldly realm or toward the spiritual. The more polluted it is, the closer it flows to the worldly bank; the clearer and purer it is, the closer it flows to the sacred bank.

Methodical practice gives us access to new springs of clear, pure water to nourish this river, while dispassion helps us clean up the pollutants already present. Therefore, according to the yogis, a spiritual discipline must contain these two components—practice and dispassion. Only then will it bear long-lasting fruit.

Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
Spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute, Pandit Tigunait is the successor of Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Lecturing and teaching worldwide for more than a quarter of a century, he is the author of fourteen books, including his recently-released The Secret of the Yoga Sutra, and his autobiography Touched by Fire: The Ongoing Journey of a Spiritual Seeker. Pandit Tigunait holds two doctorates: one in Sanskrit from the University of Allahabad in India, and another in Oriental Studies from the... Read more>>