Monday, March 01, 2010


The Yoga Sutras after the one posted below state that practice should be undertaken with supreme detachment. Or, as I explained yesterday, it can be compared to depositing money in a bank (before the crash): You keep putting it in, having faith that eventually some interest will be paid (in today's terms, very little interest - which is where the faith part comes in).

Or, as this awesome website puts it:

Two core principles: Practice (abhyasa, 1.13) and non-attachment (vairagya, 1.15) are the two core principles on which the entire system of Yoga rests (1.12). It is through the cultivation of these two that the other practices evolve, by which mastery over the mind field occurs (1.2), and allows the realization of the true Self (1.3).

1. Abhyasa/Practice: Abhyasa means having an attitude of persistent effort to attain and maintain a state of stable tranquility (1.13). To become well established, this needs to be done for a long time, without a break (1.14). From this stance the deeper practice continues to unfold, going ever deeper towards the direct experience of the eternal core of our being.

2. Vairagya/Non-attachment: The essential companion is non-attachment (1.15), learning to let go of the many attachments, aversions, fears, and false identities that are clouding the true Self.

They work together: Practice leads you in the right direction, while non-attachment allows you to continue the inner journey without getting sidetracked into the pains and pleasures along the way.

Supreme Non-attachment: Gradually, non-attachment expands to the depth of the subtlest building blocks (gunas) of ourselves and the universe, which is called paravairagya, supreme non-attachment (1.16). Eventually the three gunas resolve back into their cause during deep meditation, leading to final liberation (4.13-4.14, 4.32-4.34)....


Two directions: There are two directions that one can go in life as well as individual actions, speech, or thoughts. One direction is towards truth, reality, Self, or spiritual realization. The other direction is opposite, and involves those lifestyles, actions, speech, and thoughts that take one away from the higher experiences.

Abhyasa means cultivating the lifestyle, actions, speech, and thoughts, as well as the spiritual practices that lead in the positive direction (rather than going in the opposite direction, away from the positive, and towards the negative).

Vairagya is the practice of gradually letting go of the mental colorings (1.5, 2.3) that lead one away from the spiritual (rather than going in the opposite direction, giving in to the attachments and aversions).

Discrimination is key: To be able to do the practices and to cultivate non-attachment, it is necessary to become better and better at discriminating between what actions, speech, and thoughts take you in the right direction, and those which are a diversion (2.26-2.29, 3.4-3.6). This discrimination is both a foundation practice and also the subtler tool of the inner journey

The Sanskrit term for this discrimination is Viveka (as in, Vivekananda, who brought yoga to America when he spoke at the World`s Parliament of Religions in Chicago on September 11, 1893; there is also a Mysore connection, which you can learn more about here). I am trying to cultivate viveka with the speech and the actions - especially while in the snack aisle of the grocery store. Thoughts are even more difficult to police. Sometimes, replacing a negative one with the exact opposite does the trick - for a while, anyway.

*The Aleve ad, above, paid for air travel to and from Dharma's 500-hour teacher training. Be the first to guess which figure I am and win!


  1. I really enjoyed this post, and the picture :) Are you the "o" in stop on the right side in purple shirt?

  2. Thank you, Flo.
    Nope- not me!

  3. You are the 'first' person -- the N.

    I agree with Flo -- great post. It's nice to see the Sutras being mentioned and disussed.

    BTW: The alley picture looks almost like any alley in northern IL.

  4. Thank you, rhh.

    But nope - not me (or, not my container, as they say).

  5. Possible grand prize winner?10:12 PM

    You're the B, right? Just kidding.

    You are so the M... the left side of the M.

    That's "M" for March. :)

  6. Yes - you win!!!!

    I'm the one who's *not* a model. But how nice it was to be treated like one for half a day.

  7. Anonymous7:27 AM

    Well I get for years now the theories of abhyasa and vairagya but applying them is very difficult. Maintaining a state of tranquility when everyone around you is freaking out about something all the time, is a tall order. So what to do? Isolate oneself to practice more??? All the writings but no one tells you how to be in every day life and doing all this. Everyone has expectations. Letting go means what exactly? Just curious because I have been grappling with all this for a long time so therefore remain in a state of confusion about it most of the time. Especially when I am forced to do things because of other's expectations of me in order to be in human relationships. Otherwise I'd be in a cave meditating :)
    Can anyone shed some more light here?

  8. Dear Anon,

    Did you see the post on constant practice?

    I think it all goes back to Yamas and Niyamas (especially the Yamas), which can be practiced anywhere, at any time - and can help calm down the mind.

    With people and activities, it can come down those same questions: Is this person / activity helping me on the path, or hindering me?
    When it's a duty that must be performed, it can be offered up - which also makes it a form of practice.

    (Sometimes, it's good to say no once in awhile. A helpful book is Elizabeth Elizabeth Hilts's "Getting in Touch with Your Inner Bitch.")

    Here is a story from "The Eternal Companion: Brahmananda, His Life and Teachings":

    "Rakhal's enthusiasm for the spiritual life did not weaken, bt after awhile he ceased to meditate regularly. Sri Ramakrishna noticed this and asked him the reason. Rakhal answered, 'I do not always get the inspiration. My heart seems dry, and I feel an emptiness.'

    "'You must never neglect your meditation on that account,' Sri Ramakrishna told him. 'Make up your mind to practice spiritual disciplines, then the enthusiasm will come naturally. Those who are farmers by birth and occupation do not and cannot give up farming just because the crops fail. So you must not give up meditation even though you may not get any apparent results. You must be regular in your practice.'

  9. and you booked that job without yama talent agency...

  10. Anonymous11:58 AM

    Thank you've given me a lot of good to remember. Much appreciated. Keep up the great work with your blog all around :)

  11. You're very welcome, Anon.