I.16 तत्परं पुरुषख्यातेर्गुणवैतृष्ण्यम्

tat param puruṣa-khyāter guṇa-vaitṛṣṇyam
tat param puruṣa-khyāteḥ guṇa-vaitṛṣṇyam

“The higher form of that [vairāgya] is acceptance of the essential qualities of nature. It comes from a realization of who one is.”

Patañjali suggests that there are stages of vairāgya, and he states that a higher form is contentedness with nature itself. The word for this contentedness is vaitṛṣnyam. It is an abstract noun formed from vitṛṣna (thirstless), used in sutra I.15. Derived from vi, “the opposite of,” + tṛṣ, “to thirst,” vaitṛṣnyam could be understood to be the quenching of thirst, thus contentedness or a state of being non-disturbed.

The higher vairāgya comes, Patañjali says, because of a recognition, a naming (khyātiḥ) of who one is. This naming or knowing might itself be said to be a kind of non-action.

The non-effort of vairāgya balances the effort of abhyāsaḥ. The non-doing, the letting go of control, the acceptance of the flow and flux of life that is vairāgya results from an inner process that is organic.

Water flows continually into the ocean
But the ocean is never disturbed
Desire flows continually into the mind of the seer
But he is never disturbed.
He knows peace who does not desire desire.

Bhagavad Gītā, II.70


Vairāgya reveals the newness and originality of the unfolding moment. As we let go of reacting in conditioned ways, we are jettisoning the learned patterns we have developed in the past to relate to every aspect of experience….As vairāgya extends to our most intimate, subtle , or internal reactions, consciousness begins to reflect the fact that our self–including our likes, dislikes, and ideals–is made of the same stuff as the rest of creation. All of this stuff, including what feels like ‘me,’ is in flux and subject to cause and effect. The changing properties, or guṇas , of this flux are no different in consciousness than in anything else.” –Chip Hartranft, The Yoga-Sūtra of Patañjali, pp. 6-7.

“To allow the guṇas to function without the intervention of the mind is the highest form of detachment. In the normal functioning of the three guṇas–Tamas, Rajas and Sattva–what are displayed are the characteristics of stability , mobility and harmony respectively. These characteristics are needed for the furtherance of life…. When the guṇas are allowed to function without the interference of the mind then is seen a co-existence of Practice and Dispassion, of Action and Inaction. Then is right perception of things possible, and it is this which becomes the right starting point of action.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 32

• Are there areas of your body that have taught you about vairāgya? Perhaps your eyes, your jaw, your abdomen?
• What are the stages of giving something up, as you have experienced them?
• What does acceptance of the qualities of nature mean to you?
• Is nonattachment indifference?

The first sixteen sūtras concludes a section of Book One that is often looked at as the foundation of yoga principle.  Review these sixteen.


neuter pronoun, 1st case singular



adjective, neuter, 1st case singular



masculine noun in compound

person; in saṁkhya philosophy, the soul


feminine noun, 5th case singular

naming, recognition, realization (from khyā, “to name”)


masculine noun in compound

quality, constituent of nature (in saṁkhya philosophy, there are three constituent parts of nature: sattva, rajas and tamas)


neuter noun, 1st case singular

thirstlessness, quenching of thirst, contentedness (from vi, “the opposite of,” + tṛṣ, “to thirst”)

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