My perspectives of Patanjali Yogsutra, article 12- Detachment is not that you should not own anything, but that nothing should own you!

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Since childhood we are conditioned to seek knowledge, nourishment and satisfaction from outside surroundings. This samskara (impressions) stay along through our whole life on our minds.

As we have already seen in previous articles of the series, if these impressions are not undone when required then they can pose a distraction in the journey of a Yogi towards self-realization.

When we set on the journey of self-discovery for gaining salvation by the path of Yoga, we need to get rid of the impressions and the attachments. By looking inwards, we discover that pure awareness of just being in self at the present moment brings tranquillity. This leads us to a state of santosha (inner happiness) which stays along no matter the situation around. Merging into this bliss requires daily practice to overcome our intrinsic tendency to reach outward for satisfaction or pleasure i.e., our attachments.

Sage Patanjali in this context Quotes,

दृष्टानुश्रविकविषयवितृष्णस्य वशीकारसंज्ञा वैराग्यम्॥१५॥

Drishta anushravika vishaya vitrishnasya vashikara sanjna vairagyam.

Translation: “To be a detached yogi, you must take back control of your consciousness, so that it is free from desire for any material object in this world, or any of the subtler dimensions.”

When the mind loses all desire for objects seen, heard or perceived about, it acquires a state of utter desire-less-ness which is called dispassion.

Firstly, we need to understand the difference between detachment and non-attachment. Detachment implies that there was an attachment at some point of time.  Non-attachment implies that there was never an attachment.

Detachment is letting go, ending the attachment that exists and not suppression. Suppression is not good, it causes the object being suppressed to arise again. Vairagya therefore means the absence of any attraction towards objects which give pleasure. This reduces the possible agitation within the mind of the aspirant in the most appropriate way.

Now, talking about Desires, they can be classified in two ways.

  • The first kind are the result of direct perception through the five senses. These are referred to as ‘drishta’ and ‘shravika’ in the sutra.
  • The second kind are those that followers of the orthodox philosophy expect to gain in the life after death.

Even to achieve a state of vairagya, constant abhyasa (Practice) is needed. We have already seen and learnt the importance of practice & possible solutions to strengthen it in our previous article.

The consciousness of one who has this mastery over the senses has been termed as ‘vashikara samjna’.

What we need to understand particularly is that, True vairagya is not something that is attained by cutting ourselves off from the material world and living in a forest.

Real vairagya happens as a result of spiritual evolution in the journey of a Yoga aspirant.

In our day to day material world too, practicing detachment helps a lot to stay away from stress. For e.g., detachment from results and focusing only on our efforts increases our focus & concentration in our work keeping stress at bay, thus increasing possibility of gaining desired goals.

Similarly, in relationships, staying detached from the expectations from the other person always helps to have a healthy relationship.

The difference we need to adumbrate★ here precisely is, detachment towards goals and relations is not being emotionless or not being attached with it! Vairagya is all about the subtle understanding of when and where to detach yourself from the desired expectations related to the goal and relationships, leading to pain or pleasure.

The best example of this is Lord Shiva, who despite being the Adi Yogi-  the pinnacle of austere life still has a happy family with a wife and Kids. As Shri Swami Ramdas postulated★ in his book Dasbodha, ‘staying in the material world without being attached to your expectations with the material gains from goals & relationships is what elevates a human being above the normal people who are stuck in cycle of pain & pleasures of the world!’  It is like lotus leaf holding the droplet of water on its surface but not letting it absorb in the system!

Let us all learn the art of detachment to attain the ultimate peace and happiness lying deep in our soul.

For any queries regarding the same or to know more about Patanjali Yogsutras, Ashtanga Yoga or the Philosophy of Yoga, get in touch with me at

★Adumbrate: represent in outline.

★Postulate: suggest or assume the existence, fact, or truth of (something) as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or belief.

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