Page sized inspirational teaching from the writings of Swami Sivananda, compiled by Swami Venkatesananda. These teachings are content progressive and cover the entire width of Yoga and Vedanta in a practical and easy to follow format. Messages are sent daily for the next day to accommodate different time zones.
Today I will talk on vairagya. Vairagya is
the opposite of raga. Vairagya is dispassion. Vairagya is detachment.
Vairagya is indifference to sensual enjoyment herein and hereafter. It is the
second item in sadhana chatushtaya—viveka, vairagya, shadsampat and
Vairagya is born of viveka, discrimination
between nitya and anitya (eternal and non-eternal), sat and asat (real and
unreal), tatwa and atatwa. Viveka comes through disinterested selfless service
done in several births and through puja and aradhana, and through the grace of
the Lord. From viveka is born vairagya. It gives spiritual strength.
A man of vairagya has no attraction for the
world. It is like a straw. So vairagya is a supreme inexhaustible wealth for
aspirants. Vairagya produces concentration of mind, samadhana, and generates
burning mumukshatwa, strong yearning for liberation or emancipation, or
Raga is attachment to objects. Wherever
there is a little pleasure, there is raga. Wherever there is pain, there is
dislike. Like and dislike are one. Raga-dwesha is also one of the important
afflictions, according to Patanjali Maharshi. The five afflictions are: avidya
(ignorance), asmita (egoism), raga-dwesha (like and dislike) and abhinivesha
(clinging to life). First there is ignorance, the original avidya. From this is
born egoism, asmita, and from asmita is born raga-dwesha, and from raga-dwesha,
abhinivesha, this clinging to this life.
Vairagya is of different types or
degrees—mridu, madhyama and teevra (mild, moderate and intense). Intense
vairagya only will help the aspirant to stick to this path. If it is of a dull
type like smasana vairagya or prasava vairagya, the mind will simply be waiting
to get back the objects that were renounced previously, and the aspirant will
get a downfall. He will not be able to climb again to the heights he formerly
reached. So aspirants should be careful. Even though the vairagya is of a mild
type, they should try to make it moderate and then intense. Vairagya comes
through looking into the defects of sensual life. Sensual pleasure is not real
happiness. It is illusory, transient, impermanent. It is mixed with pain. So
again and again looking into the defects of sensual life, vairagya dawns. It
should be strengthened through study of spiritual books, satsang, vichar and
Simply living in nudity and eating neem
leaves, and drinking cow's urine does not constitute real vairagya. Vairagya
should be born of discrimination, enquiry and Vichar. By these, the mind is
weaned from sensual enjoyments and rendered thin like a thread—thanumanas—and
then only the vairagya is lasting. Again and again you will have to make
enquiry. Physical nudity and these external things will not constitute real
vairagya. Real vairagya should come from enquiry, vichar. All these objects do
not give us lasting happiness. They lead us into pain and sorrow. Such deep
enquiry, again and again persisted in for a very long time, produces real
vairagya. It is the real sadhana. It makes the mind introvert. The vairagya
puts a brake to the extrovert tendency of the mind. Even if the mind runs
towards objects, at once it will point out that there is pain there, that
sensual enjoyment is the cause for rebirth and intense suffering. So the mind
is terribly afraid, and gradually through intense practice, it is established
in real, lasting, sustained, intense vairagya.
Vairagya is of two kinds also: para
vairagya and apara vairagya. Para vairagya comes after one attains
self-realisation. The whole world then looks like a straw. That is intense
spiritual strength. That is para vairagya.
Without vairagya there cannot be any real
spiritual progress. In vedanta it is the only vital, fundamental sadhana. If
you have vairagya, all other virtues will come by themselves. Patanjili
Maharashi says: abhyasavairagyabhyam tannirodhah—"The mind is controlled
by meditation or sadhana and vairagya." They are the two wings of the
aspirant to soar high into the realm of immortal abode. The same thing Lord
Krishna also says: abhyasena tu kaunteya, vairagyena cha grihyate—"The mind
is controlled by practice and viragya, dispassion, intense detachment." By
vairagya, the mind is detached. He who works in a detached way, is not bound by
karma. So it is aspirants' duty to cultivate this one virtue, or sadhana-anka,
Vairagya is, doubtless, a mental state
wherein the mind does not run into sensual grooves. It moves towards atma,
toward God. Queen Chudalai ruled a kingdom, and yet she had absolute para
vairagya. Even amidst the temptations of the world, she had mental vairagya, through
vichar and wisdom. So she was not affected in the least by the attractive
objects of the world, even though she ruled a kingdom, whereas her husband,
Sikhidwaja, went to the forest renouncing his kingdom, yet he was not
established in vairagya. He was attached to the body, he was attached to the
kamandal. A man may be attached to any one object.
You see a vairagi. His whole body is
smeared with ash, but he will fight for a rupee, if he finds you giving a rupee
to another vairagi. This is his mental state. So, by external appearance you
cannot tell that one has vairagya. Vairagya is a mental state. Sri Ramanuja
does not belong to this extreme type of vairagya—wearing only a rope around the
waist. He was amidst luxurious things, but his mind was not polluted. He had
that mental state of vairagya, detachment, indifference, born of viveka.
Lord Krishna says that He is not in favour
of extreme asceticism. Karsayantah sareerastham bhootagramamachetasah, mam
chaivan tasareerastham tanvidhyasuranischayan—"They torture all the
elements in the body and Me also who dwell in the body." Lord Buddha also
tortured his body, and later found out that there was not much spiritual
progress, and then he came to the golden medium, the middle path. So we should
go by the middle path always. The body is an instrument for attaining
self-realisation. Especially in this kali yuga, prana lives in the bones. So
you should not torture the body. Whatever is needed for the body, you should
have. You should not expose the body to chill. God has given commonsense. So
you should practise 'commonsense sadhana'. There is no harm in taking good,
healthy, food. Every man has got a different physical constitution. Some may
require nutritious food. Some strong people like bhumananda may take only
kitchedi. You should use commonsense in your sadhana. If you are weak and you
cannot sit for a long time in one asan, you can take a little chyavanaprash or
Generally aspirants say, "I have given
up umbrella." "I take only one meal." Their whole sadhana is
"I have given up shirt," "I have given up sweater," "I
have given up shoes," "I live only on bread and dhal." Their
sadhana consists in 'giving up'—give up this, give up that. Real spiritual life
does not involve any giving up or taking. There is no giving up or taking. The
only thing is you should not give too much leniency to the mind. If you are
very hungry in the morning, take one or two iddalies and a small cup of milk.
Vairagya is a mental state. But do not give leniency to the mind. It will hurl
you down. Always be watchful. Be eternally vigilant.
At the present moment, there is a Swami
Krishnashram in Gangotri. He is a great vairagi. For the last so many years he
is living without clothing in the icy region, and he sleeps over the ice
sometimes. Rao Bahadur Modi gave a very good description of him, sleeping on
the ice. He found him to be a wonderful man and made him his guru.
Avadhoot Kesavananda is another vairagi. He
was living in Rishikesh. He was very much liked by Malaviaji. He always slept
on grass. Malaviaji once took him to Mussorie. He refused to sleep on blanket.
It was raining and Malaviaji had to bring grass for him to sleep. He was a
vairagi. Vairagi is a cult. Our Ram Kumar belongs to this cult. They put ash
all over the body and make the hair look golden, and they wear a very thick
rope, of size used for drawing chariots. This is vairagya sampradaya. In
Lakshman Jhula there is a vairagi. They do panchagni tapas. They have got a
good physical body.
There was another great vairagi, our
Sendamangalam Brahmendra Swami. He lived on gomukha vritti. He used to take
food left in the leaves that are thrown out by others after meals. 'Avadhootas'
are naked people. They have no clothing or home. Real avadhoota is one who has shaved
his mind of all vasanas. When all vasanas are destroyed, you will have
manolaya. Brahmendra Swami lived a very austere life. He was Poornabodh's guru
and Swami Krishnanda's guru. Once in his ashram, they prepared very good food,
and Brahmendra Swami ordered the food to be given to cows. He used to make
severe tests. Sankarananda is also his disciple. He had a very strong body and
lived an austere life.
Each one will have to do sadhana according
to his constitution and strength. What one does may not suit another.
Another swami with vairagya was Swami
Narayana who lived in Swargashram. For some time he would take only milk, and
for some time only dal. His blanket was only two layers of grass specially
brought for him. He would not use blanket. The intelligent method is instead of
using grass as blanket, have a small blanket. Vairagya is necessary, but too
much of it will produce a dilapidated constitution. You will have no progress
in sadhana. So use your commonsense and take whatever you want. This is my
doctrine. Train the stomach in different ways. Lord Krishna says clearly that
the food should be snigdha. You can take a little ghee or a little halva. He
does not ask us to eat grass. We do not find report that Sankara lived on
grass. In the next sloka Krishna says, do not take too much chillies, do not
take too much salt. That means a little chilli is good for health and
digestion. There are people in Ayodhya who live on chilli alone. If you eat
chilli alone, you will not be able to take food for some days. I do not advise
this sort of sadhana. You must train the stomach in different ways. For a week
live on fruit. For a week live on halva. For a week live on kitchedy. For a
week fast, live on water alone. Whatever you take, it must be digested. Thus, you
will have no difficulties. Wherever you go, you will have perfect balance and
your constitution can work under different climatic conditions and different
kinds of food. That is called commonsense discipline.
In our Ashram we have got vairagis. Swami Mownananda
is also a vairagi. Chidananda is also a vairagi. Krishnananda is a vairagi.
There is no world for him. There is no world for Swami Omkarananda. He goes to
his table, studies, write articles. Hari Sharanananda, Hari Om Ananda—they are
also vairagis. Venkatesananda is a vairagi. I only checked him in the
beginning. He was sleeping on the floor, without clothing. I scolded him, and
he came back to his senses. Our Mokshananda is also a vairagi. He never accepts
even cashew nuts from me. He is a man of service—very useful man. A superman is
Swami Satchidananda. He sleeps on the floor. His hands are his pillows. He
takes a little milk, and a little fruits. That is all. He studies, composes
books. He is rendering great service. If he wants to make his body fat, he can
do it. If he takes curd and lady's finger, he can reduce the fat. If he takes
milk, his whole body will be bloated. He has got his body under perfect
control. He is a great vairagi. There are many other vairagis also. Vairagya is
a great help to sadhana.
How to develop vairagya? By looking into
the defects of sensual life and reading vairagya books, lives of saints,
Bhartrihari's Vairagya Sataka, and Vairagya Prakarana in Yoga Vasishta. These
will increase your desire for liberation and your conviction in spiritual life.
Sri Rama describes the disastrous effects of lust, wealth, the miseries of
birth, infancy. A beautiful description is given in the Vairagya Prakarana.
Everyone should read it. Everybody should study vairagya books. Advanced students
should not think that they have attained self-realisation, and that they need
not study these books. These books are important to neophytes, middle students
and advanced students. You should study 'How to Get Vairagya' and 'Vairaga
Mala'. If you are established in vairagya, the super structure of samadhi,
ritambaraprajna, can be built very easily. Some of the important slokas if you
can remember daily, it will be a great help to you. In Gita there are verses:
anityam, asukham, dukhalayam, asaswatam. There are two hundred diseases for the
eye. There are fifty thousand diseases or more for the whole body—two hundred
for the eye, two hundred for the throat, and so on. In this beautiful body
which we worship and adore, there are fifty thousand diseases. Sareeram vyadhi
mandiram—'The body is the abode of diseases'. Anityam, asukham, dukhalayam,
asaswatam, ye hi samsparsa ja bhoga, dukha yonaya eva te. In the early morning
you should repeat these slokas. Then you can start your meditation.
Indriyarteshu vairagyam, anahamkara eva cah, janma mrityu jara vyadi dukha
doshanudarshanam—'Birth is painful. Death is painful. Old age is painful.
Disease is painful'. Again and again you should meditate on these verses. If
you have vairagya, your sadhana is over. Yattadagre amritamiva, pariname
vishopamam. In the beginning sensual pleasures are like nectar, but in the end
they are like poison. Too much sugar produces diabetes. Too much meat produces
albumen in urine. Too much cinema leads to cataract, too much indulgence
produces debility and impotency.
janma dukham jara dukham, jaya dukham punah
samsarasagaram dukham, tasmat jagrata,
Birth is pain. Old age is pain. Wife is
pain. Samsagara is pain. Samsara is an ocean of pain. Therefore, wake up, wake up.
This is a jati vada. Matri devo bhava,
pitre devo bhava—is meant for those who have no vairagya. When vairagya dawns
then: mata nasti, pita nasti …. yadahareva virajet, tadahareva pavrajet. The
moment you get vairagya, you should renounce the world and come to Ananda Kutir
asaya badhyate loke, karmana bahuchintaya,
ayuksheenam na janati, tasmat, jagarat,
Man is tied by thousand ties, thousand
desires and expectations and hopes and anxieties. But he does not know that he
is advancing in age.
'Vairagya dimdima' is a very great help to
aspirants. Patanjali says: sarvam dukham vivekinah—"Everything is pain
only for the wise." Even rasaswad is a hindrance. Once gets false
satisfaction and stops his sadhana, thinking that he has attained
self-realisation. Only in nirvikalpa samadhi there is the greatest happiness.
All others are productive of pain. So let us remember all these points,
cultivate para vairagya, real vairagya, born of viveka, vichar and enquiry.
Otherwise, you will be half-baked aspirants.
Vairagya does not mean that you should not
wear a sweater. 'Commonsense sadhana' is very necessary. Doctors will say,
"Do not take this," or "Do not take that." But if you have
an inclination to take certain things, you can take them. Instincts speak
aloud. They are your guide. Even doctors may say, "Do not take white
pumpkin." But you will take it, because you know white pumpkin will give
you strength and tushti.
Vairagya is the only one sadhana. Not all
other things. If you have vairagya, all other things will come—manonasa, tatwa
May Lord grant you para vairagya. May you
all be established in vairagya. It is the only vital, fundamental sadhana for
all people to get themselves established in their own satchidananda swaroopa,
whose swaroopa is vairagya, whose swaroopa is sanyaya, whose swaroopa is
Behold, listen. Come. There is a way to the
immortal abode. There is a way to the supreme happiness. There is a way to the
fourth state. There is a way to the fourth dimension. Follow the way. That way
is vairagya, serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realise, be kind, be
19. SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE
Today I shall talk on spiritual discipline.
Discipline is necessary for keeping order
and harmony in schools and colleges, in military departments. Discipline is
necessary in all offices. Punctuality, cleanliness, obedience are some of the
ingredients of discipline. Obedience is better than reverence. Obedience is
better than sacrifice.
In the spiritual path rigid discipline is
essential. Then alone the different organs, mind, intellect and prana will be
controlled. This will help in the attainment of God-realisation. The body must
be rendered supple and must be under the control of the aspirant. If it is
filled with tamas or inertia, it will become heavy, the aspirant will not be
able to sit in one asana for two or three hours, but the body will be unsteady,
and when the body is unsteady, the mind will be unsteady. Padmasana or any of
the three asanas which are beneficial for concentration should be
practises—padmasana, siddhasana, or sukhasana. One should be able to sit in one
asana steadily for three hours. This will produce asana jaya, mastery of asana.
When one is established in asanas, the prana also will vibrate harmoniously,
and the mind also will become steady. Padma asana produces poise of mind. So,
every aspirant should practise asanas, first beginning with five or ten minutes
and then extending to half an hour and more, keeping the head and trunk in one
straight line, steady like a statue. It is of great help to concentration.
You should practise other asanas also.
Practice of bhujangasan, halasan, ardha matsendriyasan will keep spine elastic.
The bones will not ossify quickly. Siras asana is good for digestion and in the
practise of celibacy or brahmacharya. It supplies sufficient quantity of blood
to the brains, bestows good concentration and develops the intellect.
You should have ethical discipline—practice
of ahimsa, satyam, brahmacharya (cosmic love, truthfulness and celibacy),
asteya (non-stealing) and aparigraha (non-covetousness). You should lead a
simple life. When there is ethical discipline, when there is ethical purity,
then only one will be established in nirvikalpa samadhi. Ethical discipline is
of paramount importance. It is the 'be all'. He who is established in ethical
perfection will attain God-realisation very easily and quickly. The heart must
be purified. In a pure heart serenity, tranquillity, tolerance, humility and
divine light will descend. Ethical discipline, physical discipline, discipline
of tongue, dietetic discipline, mitahara, (moderation in diet)—all of these
should be practised. Half the stomach should be filled with food, quarter with
water and the remaining quarter of the stomach should be left free for the
expansion of gas and also propitiation to God.
You should take satvic food. In Gita, 17th
Chapter, Lord Krishna says: Ayuh sattwabalarogyasukhapritivivardhanah, rasyah
snigddhah sthira hridya aharah satiwikapriyah—"Food should be bland,
non-irritating, delicious, oleaginous (snigddha). It should be calculated to
produce good health, longevity, cheerfulness and strength. This food is
suitable for satwic people, who meditate." Too much of chillies, too much
of pungent things, too much salt, fried things excessively sour things should
be avoided. Stale food, remaining of food, (ucchistham), putrid food, should be
avoided. It will produce tamas. You should take light food, not heavy food at
night. Generally people fill the stomach at night. If you do so, you will not
be able to get up early in the morning. Rice at night produces tamas. You will
not be able to get up early in the morning.
Aspirants should go to bed early by nine or
ten o'clock and get up at 4 a.m., brahmamuhurth. The atmosphere is satwic at
this time, and the mind is refreshed after sleep and is free from disturbances.
You should fill the mind with sublime, divine thoughts—recitation of stotras,
mantras meditation on OM, pranayama. So, go to bed early and get up early. This
is one discipline. Generally people do not do that. They are in the club till
12 o'clock and get up at 8 o'clock. This is unfavourable for the meditator. The
aspirant who wishes to meditate should get up early in brahmamuhurth. At this
time the sages meditate in different parts of the world, and the aspirant gets
help during contemplation. This is very important—trying to get up early in
brahmamuhurth and starting kirtan, pranayama, meditation or enquiry into
Brahman, practice of sravan, manan and nidhiddhyasan.
You should practise mowna, discipline of
the tongue. Speak sweetly. Speak softly. Speak gently. Speak lovingly. Speak
truthfully. Speak measuredly. Speak with force, emphatically. You must practise
pranayama. Then only you will be able to control the impulses of speech and
emotions. You will have a calm mind.
In Gita, you will find three kinds of
discipline—discipline of the body, discipline of speech, and discipline of
brahmacharyamahimsa cha sreeram tapa
Sowcham, (purity internal and external),
arjavam, (straightforwardness), practice of ahimsa (non-injury and cosmic
love), worship of gods and wise people and practise of perfect brahmacharya and
the discipline of the body. No half measure is allowed in the spiritual path.
Perfect brahmacharya, physical and mental, should be practised. Ahimsa is not
only non-injury and non-killing, but development of positive cosmic love.
Embrace all creatures. Love all. Serve all. Be kind to all. Then there is the
discipline of speech.
anudwegakaram vakyam satyam priyahitam cha
swaddhyayabhyasanam chaiva vangmayam tapa
Anudwegakaram—not harsh, not giving pain to
others, truthful, pleasant, sweet, beneficial—this is the discipline of speech.
Discipline of speech is very necessary. Man wastes his energy in gup-chup. This
energy should be transmuted into ojas sakti. It is a great help to meditation.
Anger when controlled becomes ojas sakti. You can move the entire world with
the help of ojas sakti. Energy is wasted in anger and idle talk. So an aspirant
should be very careful in conserving the energy, and transmute it into ojas
sakti, which is stored in the brain, and which is a help for concentration.
Swadhyaya, study of scriptures, also is a discipline of speech.
Cheerfulness, equilibrium, silence,
self-restraint, purity of nature—this constitutes mental discipline.
Vigil is another discipline. You have got
Sivaratri and Vaikunta Ekadasi. You try to keep awake at night on these
occasions. Man sleeps more and through practice of vigil, he can reduce sleep
and utilise that time for meditation. Lord Krishna says that the spiritual
aspirant should be moderate in sleep, he should regulate diet, he should be
moderate in work, in exercises. Do not read too much, do not sleep too much.
Keep to the golden medium. These are the aids for the practice of meditation
and living the spiritual life. Fasting also is a good discipline. Observance of
ekadasi vrata, pradosha vrata, chandrayana vrata and krichra vrata are forms of
In Japan they have got Nippon discipline,
very rigid discipline. In the West also in monasteries belonging to St. Francis
they observe very good discipline. They sleep on the floor. They observe
So, spiritual discipline is very necessary
for keeping the body, mind and the senses under your control. Some people like
moving about always. This is due to rajas. If you sit in one asana, this rajas
will be removed. So sitting in one asana is a help to remove rajas. Practice of
tratak, gazing on a spot or the Lord's picture steadily, will make the mind and
eyes steady. When the eyes are steady and the mind is steady, you will have
good concentration. These are the aids for bringing the body and the senses
under control, for purifying the nadis, for purifying the heart and mind. And
when you are purified, you will have very good meditation, and you will be able
to rest in your own satchidananda swaroopa. So let us all practice spiritual
He who has conviction in the existence of
Parabrahman, he who has the conviction that he can find eternal peace in
Brahman alone, will try to have spiritual discipline and try to control the
vihaya kaman yah sarvan puman charati
nirmamonirahamkarah sa santim adhigachchati.
(Bhagavad Gita, II.71)
Peace is not an eternal object. Peace is
not in accumulation of wealth. Peace is not in erudition. Santi is in that man
who has given up mineness and I-ness, who has given up trishnas, desires,
longings for objects. That man alone will have peace. Peace is not in a dark
bungalow. Peace is not within the reach of all. He who has got vairagya, he who
has understood the magnitude of human sufferings here, he who knows the real
value of this earth, composed of the five elements, of colours and sounds, he
who has analysed "What is this vast world of mountains and rivers and high
posts in government," what this world can give him, and has got vairagya
can have santi. The world is nothing for a man of vichar. He who has found out
the real worth of this world, who yearns for liberation, who has understood
that beyond the names and forms there is one eternal, everlasting Atman or
Brahman—that man only will try to discipline the mind and indriyas. That man
only will develop viveka and vairagya. That man only is the King of kings,
atmasamrat, not he who is simply carried away by a little colour, by a little
touch, a little nervous titillation. He is ever miserable who has not got
viveka and vairagya—discrimination between the nitya and anitya, sat and asat,
tatwa and atatwa. To a man of vichar the world is nothing more than a little
bit of sensation and titillation of nerves. So let us have vairagya or
dispassion. It is a mental state. Without it we cannot have spiritual progress.
That man who has vairagya only is the strongest man. He has inner spiritual
strength born of dispassion. He is the King of kings. So let us all try to
develop discrimination and dispassion along with spiritual discipline,
discipline of the mind, body and senses, and let us march towards the goal of
perfection, of kaivalya, of independence. That is the goal of life, the summum
bonum of life. Man forgets his goal on account of the forces of attraction and
repulsion, because he has not strengthened himself by discrimination. Vairagya
is real spiritual wealth, because it opens the door of intuition, the door of
Brahman, where you will get eternal sunshine, everlasting peace and bliss,
whose nature is satyam, jnanam, anantam, vijnana ghana, ananda ghana, chit ghana.
So, let us gaze within, introspect within
and rest in our own essential nature. Let us not forget our essential nature. I
may remind you of the last word of the Upanishads, TAT TWAM ASI—Thou art That!