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Vairagya – A Powerful Friend In Our Quest For Freedom

People are afraid of vairagya. They think it means they will have to give up everything — and people are afraid of renunciation. ‘Oh no, not that! We hold to both — with one hand we hold to God and with the other we do our duties. We practice mental renunciation.’ That’s all well and good. Sri Ramakrishna prescribed just that — mental renunciation — for householders. Only monks are to give up everything. But this fear is a curious phenomenon. It prevents us from seeing what the scriptures, what the saints and sages continually aver: that vairagya is the key to freedom, peace, and joy. And that is what all people seek, knowingly or unknowingly: peace, freedom, and joy. Vairagya — detachment, dispassion, renunciation — is not something to be feared, but a powerful friend in our quest for freedom, an effective tool in our spiritual toolbox.

Traditional teachers of Vedanta identify four prerequisites for spiritual aspirants, the sadhanacatustaya, lacking which one is not yet qualified to undertake spiritual practice. Though they are stipulated especially for the path of knowledge, for jnana yoga, they serve as a guide for all serious seekers, in whichever way they may approach the Divine. Viveka, vairagya, samadi-shatka-sampatti, and mumukshutva — discernment, dispassion, the six treasures like calmness, forbearance, and faith, and longing for liberation—these four disciplines are intimately connected; they rest one upon the other.

Viveka, discernment, means facing squarely this fact of impermanence. We analyze our human condition and understand that all we take to be real is impermanent and changing. We realize that the Eternal alone— that Reality which is described by the saints and sages as sat-cit-ananda, Atman, Brahman, God — is permanent, and that there is no other goal to be sought but That; that nowhere else can we find unalloyed joy.

Source excerpts from article titled 'Vairagya - Path To Freedom' by Swami Mahayogananda published in the Prabuddha Bharata Magazine January 2010 issue.