Prof. V. Krishnamurthy:
VairAgya is dispassion, absence of passion and attachment (rAga). Though this sometimes is a result of disappointment and depression -- which is the type that we hear about in most stories of mythology as well as in our worldly experience, the Vedantic dispassion has to come out of a correct assessment of what place each issue in life is to be placed in.
As a child toys and sweets are most attractive and important. The loss of even a little of these upsets the child totally
As a youth, the attraction and importance shifts from toys and sweets to many other 'more substantial' things! -- we know what! Now at this stage of life we also realise that the attraction we had for toys and sweets and the importance we attached to them are 'childish' and we are not any more bothered about them. In other words we have learnt, at this stage, what place in life toys and sweets have and we learn to put them in their place.
Vedanta says, each issue in life has a place. Put it in its place.No more, no less. Spiritual upliftment and progress has a supreme place. Give it its due. If we learn to do this, that is vairAgya.
Sri Shankara defines vairAgya in Gita 6:35 -
"...'Indifference' means freedom from desire for any pleasures seen or unseen, attained through a constant perception of evil in them...."
["dRRiShta-adRRiShTa-bhogeShu doSha-darshana-abhyAsAt vaitRRiShNyam"].
My teacher says that VairAgya, dispassion, really comes when one knows that the source of happiness is within. As long as the seeker looks for happiness in objects (whether gross or subtle), the seeker will hold to the reality of those objects. And spiritual progress will be limited.
Bhagavad Gita (II.59):
viShayA vinivartante nirAhArasya dehinaH |
rasavarjaM raso'pyasya paraM dRRiShTvA nivartate ||
Poojya Gurudev translates this verse thus:
The objects of the senses turn away from the abstinent man leaving the longing (behind) ; but his longing also leaves him on seeing the Supreme.
THE FIRST STEP IS TO TRANSCEND THE 'EGO'- you don't need to go to an ashram to do that! For a bhakta, this comes naturally and to a vedantin this comes by using the sword of discrimination
between what is 'real' and 'unreal'.
Here are some useful links on this wonderful subject:
http://www.advaitin.net/Subramaniam/Vairagyam10.pdf (10 files)
Dr. K. Sadananda:
True vairAgya comes with viveka - some incidences can trigger the intellect to think deeply. Otherwise it is called smaShANmAsya vairAgya - dispassion until funeral is over. The statement of the Upanishad is 'parIksha lokAn karma chitAn ..... tat vij~nAnArtham sa gurum eva abhigachchet...' ‘when one realizes after examining his whole life of experiences that he cannot achieve the ever-lasting happiness through result of any action or karma, he is advised to approach a teacher for proper knowledge’.
Hence the emphasis is vairAgya that is well founded by the thought process of discrimination. It is recognition that yje normal ‘rat-race’ will not give the happiness that I am longing for - it can come with heavy suffering or even light suffering- what is needed is discriminative intellect. Buddha just saw once the suffering of the individuals and Ramana witnessed the death of a relative. Their minds took off, while we see these everyday and nothing happens. There is saMskAra that is required for the mind to withdraw. In Mahabharata, Dhramaraja says to yaksha in response to the question 'what is the wonder of all wonders': 'we see people being born every day and people dying every day; yet everybody operates as though they are going to live here permanently and that is the greatest wonder'. Dispassion can be triggered by sorrowful events in life but sorrowful events need not be precursors for vairAgya.
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