[b]I, 15: drsta anusravika visaya vitrsnasya vasikas samjna vairagyam
Non-attachment is the mastery of consciousness,
wherein one is free from craving
objects of enjoyment,
whether they have been perceived
or imagined from
promises in scriptures.
I, 16: tatparam purusa kyateh guna vaitrsnyam
The ultimate state of non-attachment
arises from self-realization,
in which there is indifference
to the primordial forces of desire,
is experienced as one?s
own True Self.
Without vairagya or non-attachment, the mind is drawn to what it sees, hears, smells, feels, tastes, or imagine. I suppose that is like a child in a candy store or toy store. Each desire creates a ripple or vacillation of the mind which makes it restless and distracted.
Swami Satchidananda cautions us: ?Before the mind is attracted to something it sees or hears, you should have discrimination to see whether that object is good for you or not. The mind should not just go and grasp as it wants.? (p. 23) He clarifies that vairagya, non-attachment or dispassion, is NOT indifference; neither is it a life devoid of zest or joy. Rather, it contributes to one?s peace and joy because it means that one is free of personal desire. The mind will always have desire but ?the secret is that any desire without any personal or selfish motive will never bind you. Why ? Because the pure selfless desire has no expectations whatsoever, so it knows no disappointment no matter what the result.? (p. 24) However, selfless desire has a reward: ?When you make someone happy, you see his happy face, and feel happy yourself. If you have really experienced the joy of just giving something for the sake of giving, you will wait greedily for opportunities to get that joy again and again.? (p. 25)
Swami Satchidananda explains that non-attachment free the mind from vritti and allows one?s practice to be fulfilled. For example, if the practice is meditation, then one can truly meditate.
Non-attachment also allows one to perform a job or duty perfectly because it is a selfless action. Sw. Satchidananda points out that ?..not only saints but everything in nature ? trees, birds, animals ? they all live for the sake of others. Why does a candle burn and melt away? To give light. Why does an incense stick burn to ash? To give fragrance. Why does a tree grow? To give fruit and flowers. Is there anything, sentient or insentient, in this world that lives for its own sake? No. When the entire nature sacrifices, why should we human beings lead selfish lives? We are here to give and give and give. What is due to us will come without worrying. Of course, here, we can wonder ?if I am to lead a sacrificial life, how can I eat, how can I clothe myself or have a house of my own?? You can have all these things to equip yourself to serve others.? (p. 27)
Beyond this state of non-attachment or vairagya, there is a higher, ultimate state of non-attachment, parvairagya. In this state, one does not even think of attachment. All the form impressions or samskaras are burned off when one has realized the True Self because the peace and joy of the true Self replaces all desires. After this point we can enjoy the world and not get lost.
Iyengar uses the following analogy ?The reverse or involutionary process, which is the path of yoga, can be seen as the ascension of the ladder. Abhyasa (consistent practice) gives us the necessary impetus for the ascent; by vairagya (non-attachment), we draw up the ladder behind us.? (p. 63) He likens the lower rungs of renunciation to one who has overcome an addiction in which the physical habit is broken but the memory or the sensation/pleasure remains and can be activated to cause a relapse. Even without a relapse, the person defines him/herself in terms of the addiction, e.g. non-smoker, non-drinker. This is equivalent to vairagya. It is only when the person becomes indifferent to addiction to the point that the addiction (cigarettes, alcohol) no longer exists in the mind, then this is equivalent to vairagya.
Iyengar, B.K.S., Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. New Delhi, India: Harper Collins Publications India. 1993
Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Buckingham, VA: Integral Yoga Publications. 2004
Swami Shyam, Patanjali Yog Darshan, India: International Meditation Institute, 2001, 3rd. edition.
Stiles, M., Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Boston, MA: Red Wheel/Weiser LLC. 2002