Calming the mind

Calming the mind

||Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah||12||

English meaning: Their control is by practice and non-attachment.     

English meaning of Sanskrit words:

abhyasa = repeated practice; vairagyabhyam = by vairagya; Tat = that; nirodhah = stopping, blocking.  

When we physically hurt ourselves, the wound gives pain yet even after it heals it still leaves a mark on our skin. Similar is the action of each of our thought. We experience that every thought in the mind, vibrates, calms down yet leaves a mark, an impression. Lots of impressions left on mind turn into a habit. Habit is not only the second nature of man but also the whole nature of man. Human being builds his character by repeated habits and repeated habits alone can reform character.   While abhyasa- repeated practice is one method the second method to be adopted is vairagya- detachment or non-attachment.

What are we to detach from?  

Detaching to gain Freedom from the attitude of mind of like and dislike. Abhyasa and vairagya help us make our mind steady. Patanjali says that abhyasa and vairagya are the means one should first master so that meditation will follow easily.   We will study more explanations on abhyasa and vairagya in the following sutras.

||Tatra sthitau yatnah abhyasa||13||

English Translation: Of the two (mentioned in the previous sutras) ‘to be established in the endeavor’ is abhyasa.

English meaning of Sanskrit words: tatra = of these two abhyasa and vairagya; sthitau = being fixed, established; yatnah = effort; abhyasa =practice

Patanjali clarifies what actually practice of abhyasa means through this sutra. He stresses three aspects of practice here – 

  • Practice that is continuous,
  • Practice that is firmly established,
  • Practice that takes effort.

This sutra says Abhyasa or continuous practice is a constantantly restraining of vrittis, mind in chitta form – chitta vritti nirodhah. Just practicing something for some time is not practice. One that is not left at all, that which is practiced continuously is abhyasa. It should become part of individual nature. One should be firmly established and get fixed in one’s practice. The student must be ready to put on that effort through kriya yoga, hatha yoga or meditation. When practice becomes natural, firmly rooted and complete, it leads to Samadhi.

||Sa tu dirgha kala nairantarya satkaraasevito druda bhumih||14||

English Meaning:

 Practice becomes firmly grounded by being continuous for a long time with reverence and without interruption.

Meaning of Sanskrit words: sah = that abhyasa; tu =  but; dirgha = long time; kala = time; nairantaira = without interruption, satkara = reverence; asevitah = practiced; dridha-bhumih = firm ground

 Patanjali established through this sutra that restraint does not come in a day but with long continuous practice made with love for the end to be attained. So the three conditions essential for practice to become one’s nature are:

  • Practice with complete faith,
  • Continuous and without interruptions (nairantarya) and
  • Should be done for a long time.


The length of time often is seen to deter the practitioner from continuous practice without any interruption. This is where faith should take importance. Faith is the most important factor, that it is that we have the patience and energy to continue the practice against the odds of life.

For practice to be continuous, one should like the practice to the highest extent. There should be no feeling of compulsion but one should do the practices willingly. One should cultivate the qualities of earnestness, respect and devotion. Attachment to the practices can be developed through constant self-analysis and sat -sang. The book- four Chapters on Freedom says- Patanjali declares that if we practice abhyasa with faith and conviction continuously for a long time, it will definitely bring about a blockage of the fivefold vrittis of the mind.


||Drista anushravika vishaya vitrishnasya vashikara sanjna vairagyam||15|| 

Meaning in English: When an individual becomes free from craving for the sense objects which he has experienced or heard of, this state is Vairagya.  

English meaning of Sanskrit terms: drista = seen; anushravika = heard; vishaya = objects; vitrishnasya = of one who is free from desire; vashikara =control; sanjna = awareness; vairagyam = absence of craving. 

Patanjali explains the state of mind where there is ‘no thirst after and no craving’ in this sutra. Attaining such state of mind that is called ‘Vairagya’. One has to practice Vairagya, while undergoing the responsibilities of family and society. It is not giving up one’s duties but rather giving up one’s ownership over the good and bad effects of one’s actions. Vairagya is just not the practice of silencing one’s mind or purifying the mind. It is resolving of the desires, cravings, ambitions and wishes that may not show themselves in daily life but at deeper levels of consciousness and of the subconscious, we crave to fulfill. We crave through ‘drishti’ and ‘anushravika’: that we experience through our senses and those we experience by mere hearing from other people or through books (through others experience). To control the two fold motive powers arising from our own experience and from the experience of others and thus preventing the chitta from being governed by them is Vairagya. The practitioner should be able to control them and not be controlled by them. This mental strength is renunciation or vairagya. While other practices like Pranayama or meditation lead to calming the mind it is only vairagya that leads the way to freedom and so is very important. The book- ‘four chapters on freedom’, further explains that a practitioner of vairagya will initially experience his efforts of detachment see no success, then there is partial success and later the aspirant completely succeeds in the extermination of raga and dwesha although their roots may still be there.  


 ||Tat param purusha khyateh guna vaitrshnyam||16||

English meaning: Knowledge of the real self (purusha) leads to freedom from the desire for gunas – the highest state of vairagya.

English meaning of Sanskrit words: Tat = that; param = highest; purusha = pure consciousness, Self; khyateh = true knowledge; guna = three gunas of sattvas, rajas, tamas; vaitrshnyam = state of freedom from desire for gunas

Vairagya could come in an instant or in stages, as pointed out last week. Lower state where there is conscious control by the mind and the desires and cravings are kept under control. Where there is effort made to discriminate and control through the development of religious consciousness and sat-sang. There is a possibility of going back from this lower state to the original state of craving. But such return is not so with Paravairagya. This is a state where even the deep-rooted taste for enjoyment is given up. Philosophy of Yoga says that nature has three qualities (Tamas, Rajas and Sattva). Self is beyond nature. Also nature is a reflection of the self. Nature by itself is lifeless. It is inert. The mind, the thought to the grossest form of matter make the nature. The nature manifests and covers the self. Realizing this gives freedom for Purusha from Prakriti. This state of Paravairagya cannot be reached through reading books or through sat sang or any practice. It comes with the intuitive direct knowledge of the Purusha. There is no return to the life of cravings and passions.




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