Yoga sutras I,12: Methods to control vritti - part I


[b]I, 12

The vacillating waves of perceptions
are stilled through
consistent earnest practice
dispassionate non-attachement[/b]

M. Stiles

Both Iyengar and Sw. Satchindananda describe abhyasa or consistent practice to be the positive aspect of thought control/yoga and vairagya or dispassionate non-attachment to be the negative aspect. Iyengar explains that both ?balance each other like day and night, inhalation and exhalation.? He elaborates that practice is the evolutionary path while detachment is the involutionary path. The evolutionary path leads to the discovery of Self through yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, while the involutionary path ?detaches consciousness from external objects through pratayahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi?. He further states that ?without restraint (vairagya), the forces generated by practice (abhyasa) would spin out of control and destroy the sadhaka (practitioner). At the higher level, vairagya without abhyasa could lead to stagnation and decay.

These two principles were put to practice during a recent Sanskrit workshop with Vyaas Houston. He explained to us the biggest obstacle to learning Sanskrit was the learning model in which the student ?gets it right?. ?Getting it right? elicits emotions/feelings of success & confidence but ?getting it wrong? elicits feelings of failure and insecurity. However, both of these states interfere with the acquisition of Sanskrit. He provides an alternate model based on abhyasa and vairagya.

In this model, abhyasa, is staying on the point and vairagya, is the detachment from perceived success or failure. The point of this workshop was to learn Sanskrit. Learning Sanskrit was supported by listening focus, visual focus, and recitation focus. This focus was supported by the following agreements:

  1. I choose the point. That is, when I observe that I am being distracted by thoughts of fear, anxiety, pride, achievement, judgment or other irrelevant thoughts, I come back to the point of listening, or seeing, or recitation.

  2. We move on when I understand. That is, no one gets left behind.

  3. I participate fully. That is, I volunteer to recite and to support those that are reciting or listening with my silence.

  4. I use only the devanagri script. That is, I do not relate Sanskrit sounds to English.

  5. I remain upright and awake so that I can participate fully.

  6. I am on time so that we can move forward together.

Using Vyaas? model of yogic learning, we were all able to progress tremendously in a short period of time. I was able to pronounce and recognize the Sanskrit alphabet and its combination with the vowels. All accomplished in 14 hours during one weekend. This was an extremely valuable experience, one that I try to bring into all aspects of my life.

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


For me non-attachment is a positve movement, as it brings a feeling of peace and acceptance. I find that it takes consistent practice to move towards non-attachment and determination to keep practicing! As my Lama says “each year get a little better” that is, don’t aim for or expect perfection in one go. As yoy said - detachment drom success or failure - a good reminder for me.


Taimni keeps the commentary short ? we are told that the full significance of these two apparently simple words is defined in subsequent Sutras and that their full significance can only be understood after the study of the book has been completed. Each of us has experience of the difficulty in maintaining regularity of practice and certainly non-attachment is so very, very vast ? or should I say attachment is so vast. Slowly, slowly we can release and find glimpses of the tranquility that is masked by the vrttis.

IK Taimni. The Science of Yoga. The Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar 2005


I have to agree with B.K.S. Iyengar when he states: “Practice is the positive aspect of yoga: detachemnt or renunciation (vairagya) the negative.” I presume what he means is that practice is the easy part of yoga: detatchment is the difficult part. Even though practice involves all of the eight limbs: he makes a distinction between the first four and the last four. " Evolutionary practice is the onward march towards discovery of the Self, involving yama, niyama, asana and pranayama. The involutionary path of renunciation involves pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. this inward journey detaches the consciousness from external objects". I quite like Iyengars explanation of this Sutra. It is worth reading and thinking about.
Light on the Yoga Surtas of Patanjali.
B.K.S. Iyengar 1993


For me this sutra is as simple as the first which was the ‘what is’. This is now the ‘how to’ by stilling the mind through the practice of yoga and non-attachment. Recognising our attachments, not just physical, but mental attachments too helps us to let go of them. I am a work in progress on this one.


“He further states that “without restraint (vairagya), the forces generated by practice (abhyasa) would spin out of control and destroy the sadhaka (practitioner). At the higher level, vairagya without abhyasa could lead to stagnation and decay.”

Thank you for sharing this experience.

[B]Consistent earnest practice.[/B]

I did have a problem with consistence, but I have been granted the strenght to pass this, now I am fighting with earnestness. This means I must practice without being delighted by the results I get. I also know, that I am weak, and if my goals would be miraculously granted, I would not be able to wield such power without succombing to temptation. I must learn not to attach myself, but also not to avoid pleasure, because in what we deny ourselves, we die, without the possibility to let them go.
Acceptance, witnessing, understanding and letting go.


And the failureI have to accept every day.


Without awarness is also difficult sometimes in life to deal with the attachments/expectations of other people especially those who are close to you. I was trying to fulfill them but on the other hand I was also running away and looking for freedom external instead of internal.
Non attachment is fundamental for pure and unconditional love which is so much missing in this world. When you love unconditionally you don’t have to run away from anything and everybody is more happy.
During meditation I finally started to understand what is meant with wittnesing thoughts and practising non attachment to them. I feel now that I will finally start to practise yoga. It took me a year of “warming up”:slight_smile:
Teaching of non attachment is so beautiful!


How could we learn without others ? Compassion when you see their weaknesses, and great humility when you witness their strenghts you lack.
Women are especially good teachers for me. They teach without words and theory, by selfless action.
Perhaps, next life when I’ll be a woman, it will not be as bad as I imagined. :slight_smile: