I.15 दृष्टानुश्रविकविषयवितृष्णस्य वशीकारसंज्ञा वैराग्यम्

dṛṣṭānuśravika-viṣaya-vitṛṣṇasya vaśīkāra-saṁjñā vairāgyam
dṛṣṭa-anuśravika-viṣaya-vitṛṣṇasya vaśīkāra-saṁjñā vairāgyam

Vairāgya is experienced by one who has thirstlessness for the things he or she has seen or heard. It is an understanding of mastery.”

In contrast to the straightforward definition of abhyāsa (practice) in I.13, Patañjali’s description of vairāgya (nonattachment) is complex, seems almost backward. He says vairāgya is saṁjna–a naming, an understanding–of the mastery of one who is thirstless. Indeed, vairāgya hardly seems an action at all, more of an is-ness.

Vyaas Houston calls vairāgya the central force of nirodha. Through a declaration of oneself as seer, as the one who stands apart, detachment comes (see I.3).


“Detachment brings discernment: seeing each and every thing or being as it is, in its purity, without bias or self-interest. It is a means to understand nature and its potencies.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, p. 17

“Nonattachment is not a negation of the world but the cultivation of the appropriate relationship to the transitory pleasures and pains of the world.” –The Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras, p. 45

“Patañjali suggests that vairāgya cannot be defined; it can only be indicated. And its indication is a state free from all motives. Why cannot vairāgya be defined? Because a definition always sets a limit to anything that is defined. But vairāgya which has a limit is no vairāgya at all-when defined, it would mean a dispassion from something. How can this be called dispassion at all? It would mean that one is detached from something, but such detachment would involve an attachment for something else….Vairāgya is a state of psychological discontinuity even as abhyāsa is a phenomenon of continuity. It is in dispassion, that the effort involved in practice discovers its purpose moment to moment.”–Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 29-30

“Someone prone to strong attachment, for example, dependent on tobacco or alcohol, frequently becomes attached to religious commitments or a yoga practice. The result is an excess of one or the other, sometimes to the detriment of health and a balanced personality. Even though the new attachments are less destructive than the first and progress is certain, the difficulty is not yet resolved, simply displaced.” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, p. 21

• Are you more attached to material things (things that are “seen”) or to intangible, invisible ones (things that are “heard”)?
• See Rohit Mehta’s commentary above. What might it mean, for you, to be “free from all motives,” even in yoga practice? Is this the same as being free from feeling? Do you relate to his description of vairāgya as “psychological discontinuity”?
• Continue to consider sūtra I.14 and the three components to practice becoming well-grounded. What role does time play in learning vairāgya? Continuousness? Devotion or cheerfulness?
• What experiences have deepened your understanding of vairāgya?


adjective in compound

seen (from dṛṣ, “to see”)


adjective in compound

heard (from anu-, “after” + śru, “to hear”)


masculine noun in compound

object (from viṣ, “to act”)


masculine noun, 6th case singular

without thirst, here, meaning “of one who is without thirst” (from vi, “without,” + tṛṣ, “to thirst”)


participle in compound

bringing about mastery


feminine noun, 1st case singular

naming, understanding (from sam, “fully, completely,” + jña, “to know”)


neuter noun, 1st case singular

nonattachment (from vi , “without or away, + rāj, “attract,” + ya, suffix that creates abstract noun)

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