Yoga Sutra 1.15

Translation and Commentary

May 19, 2013    BY Pandit Rajmani Tigunait

Translation

Lack of craving for the objects known by the senses and described in the scriptures is dispassion or non-attachment. This level of dispassion enables the yogi to gain a high degree of self-mastery; hence it is called vaśīkāra: self-regulating, self-controlling, self-guiding.
Yoga Sutra 1.15 Recitation
Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, PhD

dṛṣṭa seen, perceived

anuśravika = anu + śravika
anu that which follows
śravika hearing, reading; scriptural; described in the Vedas

viṣayavitṛṣṇasya = viṣaya + vi + tṛṣṇasya
viṣaya object
vi devoid of
tṛṣṇasya possessive case of tṛṣṇa, pertaining to thirst, craving, clinging

Thus viṣayavitṛṣṇasya means one who is free from cravings for objects.

vaśīkārasajñā = vaśīkāra + sajñā
vaśīkāra mind’s ability to stay under control
sajñā title, epithet, definition

Here vaśīkārasaṃjñā defines a state of non-attachment that enables the mind to remain free not only from the charms and temptations of the world but also from the temptations described in books, including revealed scriptures.

vairāgyam dispassion; non-attachment

Treading the path of non-attachment

Self-mastery can never be achieved by holing away in a mountain cave. But there is a way...

We normally think that dispassion or non-attachment simply requires us to withdraw or disassociate ourselves from worldly involvement. In real life, however, it is not so simple.

The entire concept of dispassion falls into two categories: lower and higher. The lower form of dispassion is known technically as apara vairāgya, and the higher form is called para vairāgya. Sutra 1.15 describes the lower form; sutra 1.16 describes the higher.

In sutras 1.15–16 the commentators on the sutras explain the nature and role of dispassion in personal development. The initial steps of the actual practice were omitted by Patanjali, the author of the sutras. The commentators point out that even though the concept of dispassion may seem simple in theory, as a practice it is a long and involved journey. We normally think that dispassion or non-attachment simply requires us to withdraw or disassociate ourselves from worldly involvement. In real life, however, it is not so simple.

Just as there are two categories of dispassion—lower and higher—the lower level is further divided into four stages: (1) yatamana, the initial step, at which an aspirant makes an effort to understand the dynamics of the forces that bind the mind to the base level of our existence; (2) vyatireka, the stage of eliminating these forces; (3) ekendriya, working with the problems pertaining to a particular sense activity; and (4) vaśīkāra, the state of dispassion, in which an aspirant is no longer interested in even the charms of heaven and is no longer afraid of hell.

Yatamana, the first step in practicing non-attachment, is the process of self-reflection and self study. It entails paying attention to your thought, speech, and action; discovering your place and role in the world; and then contemplating on whether or not you have been living a meaningful life. This enables you to see the unwanted part of yourself, and this recognition inspires you to summon your willpower and determination to discover and discard the forces both within you and outside you that create obstacles to your inner journey. This recognition in turn puts you on the path of non-attachment in a way that is both natural and effortless. You leave the unwanted parts of yourself behind because you find them to be useless.

When you practice dispassion in this step-by-step manner, you begin to see your life and the world around you as a field of divine sport.

This level of the practice of non-attachment gives you a certain degree of freedom, but when you again contemplate on the issues which seem to be holding you back you will notice that, even though you have made good progress in general, your mind—still driven by ingrained habits—goes back to issues which you know to be useless and draining. Here at the second stage of practice you isolate the habits that require special attention and search for techniques to attenuate those habits. This is called vyatireka, the process of elimination that enables you to weaken the disturbing habits and replace them with positive ones; cultivating these positive habits requires abhyāsa (methodical, consistent, and prolonged practice).

Then there comes a time when you can clearly see that most of the habits, desires, and attachments that previously seemed to be big obstacles are no longer obstructing your path, but that some of the obstacles pertaining to a particular sense activity (such as sleeping, tasting, or other forms of sense pleasure) grip your consciousness and make you totally helpless. You know what you must not do, yet you continue to do it. At this stage you must find a more focused and well-structured contemplative tool to discover the dynamics of that particular sense activity and the subtle force that, in the presence of certain stimuli, throws a veil on your conscience. The practice of dispassion at this stage is called ekendriya; it focuses on one particular sense activity and the turmoil created by it.

When you practice dispassion in this step-by-step manner, you begin to see your life and the world around you as a field of divine sport. You no longer have a negative attitude, because the worldly experiences that are normally accompanied by success and failure, gain and loss, honor and insult no longer taint your mind.

And because of your clear worldview you begin to see this world as it is, even though you may still be struggling with the idea of heaven and hell, virtue and vice. The inevitability of death and the fear surrounding it haunt almost every human heart. Desire for heaven and fear of hell have been the central theme of all the world’s great traditions. But we can truly become the master of our own mind and heart only when we have overcome this form of desire and fear.

A confused mind is not fit to follow any path, for such a mind can easily become a victim of fear and doubt, and such a mind cannot be used as a reliable tool to discover the inner dimensions of life.

These concepts of heaven and hell have been described in scriptures that were originally revealed to saints and sages, and these same texts are also accepted as authorities on spiritual matters. The problem is, they may have been altered as they were passed down from generation to generation, and for a novice seeker it is difficult to determine which part of these scriptures to embrace and which to discard.

Here in sutra 1.15 the sage Patanjali clearly tells us that anything that contributes to the confusion of our mind should not be honored, for only a clear mind and pure heart can help us see the light that flickers at the end of the tunnel. A confused mind is not fit to follow any path, for such a mind can easily become a victim of fear and doubt, and such a mind cannot be used as a reliable tool to discover the inner dimensions of life. That is why this fourth stage of the practice of non-attachment is called vaśīkāra, the level of dispassion which enables us to be masters of ourselves, to be free even from the dictates of religion, theology, and mythology.

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>>