I.37 वीतरागविषयं वा चित्तम्

vīta-rāga-viṣayam vā cittam

“Or, a citta whose thoughts have transcended passion.”

The citta also can be clarified by contemplating a consciousness that is itself freed from the struggle of passion: vīta-rāga (vīta, “past”; rāga, “desire”). That is, focus on a person who is enlightened.

The classical commentary mentions the great sages of India in reference to this sūtra, and Edwin Bryant observes in his commentary that I.37 “hints at” the guru-disciple relationship, esteemed in sacred texts and strong in Indian tradition.  The Bhagavad Gīta itself is a long and beautiful dialogue between the seeker Arjuna and Lord Krishna. In one poignant passage, Arjuna asks, what does it look like to be one who is vīta-rāga—or to use the language of the Bhagavad Gīta—to be one who is the same in success or failure, who accepts the fruits of action, good or bad:

He who is steady in wisdom—how does he talk?
How does he sit? How does he walk?
The Bhagavad Gīta, II.54

We might look at the term vīta-rāga more closely. It sounds like and is built on the same root verb as vairāgya (“non-attachment,” from vi- + raj). Vairāgya is so essential to the practice of yoga that Patañjali introduces it at the start of this chapter—with abhyāsa (“practice”)—as the How of yoga (see sūtra I.12). How is yoga done? By practice and non-attachment.

In using vīta-rāga, Patañjali also casts forward to chapter two, where he identifies rāga as one of the five key afflictions of mankind (the kleśas). In sūtras II.2-11, Patañjali describes the power of yoga practice to “thin” the kleśas, and ultimately remove them.

What does it mean–in this life–to be free from passion? The word vīta is a past passive participle of the verb “to go away.” The word carries a  sense of having passed away. Perhaps in allowing ourselves to feel desire, its ebb and flow, we allow it to pass. We are free because we have allowed the movement within ourselves. Krishna gives a long response to Arjuna, and he concludes with this powerful image:

As streams of water flow into the ocean
And yet, undisturbed, it stands,
So do desires enter the sea of peace
That is the sage.
The Bhagavad Gīta, II.70


“Let your mind dwell on some holy personality—a Buddha, Christ, a Ramakrishna. Then concentrate upon his heart. Try to imagine how it must feel to be a great saint; pure and untroubled by sense objects, a knower of Brahman.” — Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God, The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, p. 74

“Not to be attached to something may be the result of being attached to its opposite. Vītarāga is a state of being attached neither to this nor to that. Such a state comes only in the moment of meditation, but it is possible for one to visualize it even before one comes to it. It is an intellectual recognition.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 51

“One can also contemplate each stage of an āsana or each movement of breath in order to bring the citta to a state of desirelessness.” —-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on I.37

• Is there a person in your life that has been a model for you of mental stability or non-attachment?
• Do you tend to rely on the assistance of more experienced people—whether teachers or other authority figures? Are you reluctant to receive such assistance?
• What are ways that you practice non-attachment? What does “desirelessness” mean to you?



past passive participle

gone, past, freed (from vi-, “away,” + i, “to go”)


masculine noun in compound

desire, passion (from raj, “to be excited”)


masculine noun, 2nd case singular

object (from viṣ, “to be active,” + aya, “going”)




neuter noun, 1st case singular

mind, consciousness, life field (from cit, “to perceive, to observe, to know”)

4 thoughts on “I.37 वीतरागविषयं वा चित्तम्

  1. was once called an emotional nymphomaniac – thrived on fun and drama – and so studied theater and realized it satisfied my needs in an artistic unharmful manner – with my study and practice of yoga have lost those ‘desires’ – or is it just ageing and maturing

    • Yes. What changes are due to age and what to practice. I once had a spiritual advisor tell me–when I described how I longed to live in a more peaceful way–that I was “right on target” for my age. I was 45!! That was fifteen years ago. I do see now what he meant.

  2. Hi Julia, catching up! As I read these comments and also 1.22 what came to mind was thoughts from a Hinduism primer I recently read where the author offers, and I’m paraphrasing, that the only difference between those of gently natures and those of extreme natures is time. That we all have the capacity for awakening as you so quote. And that if by following a chosen path we get to the point of frustration, perhaps we have skipped some steps that are necessary to our particular nature or constitution. And per Gitta Bechsgaard, CIYT and PhD, vairagya is important to All practitioners of Yoga but it will look different for a householder vs one who is not.
    As far as “a person in your life that has been a model for you of mental stability” certainly my father who I am on my way to visit. Retired, single, spending 6 months a year in WI, 6 months in FL, just renting apartments in each place. Always supportive of my every endeavor, and always one to remind me “each in their own time.” 🙏🏻

  3. And regarding ““Let your mind dwell on some holy personality—a Buddha, Christ, a Ramakrishna. Then concentrate upon his heart. Try to imagine how it must feel to be a great saint; pure and untroubled by sense objects, a knower of Brahman”
    I now have Lakshmi/Narayana, Hanuman, Ganesha along with Patanjali and an image of Guruji’s feet in my room at home, all supports whom I imagine to be untroubled by sense objects. 🙏🏻

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