From Patanjali’ s Yoga Sutras.
Sutra 1.15 drsta anusravika visaya vitrsnasya vasikarasamjna vairagyam – Renunciation is the practice of detachment from desires.
Sutra 1.16 tatparam purusakhyateh gunavaitrsnyam – The ultimate renunciation is when one transcends the qualities of nature and perceives the soul.
In the training I attended last week, we talked about unified versus dualistic thinking. One of the definitions of yoga is union and yet we often use dualistic concepts to explain and achieve the unification of yoga. The use of 2 different lines to define a concept is often a useful framework that allows us to discuss and develop deeper understanding of a whole. In this way, practice and detachment are two sides of the same coin. They are both necessary to still the movements of the mind (chitta) but ultimately they are transcended as we move deeper into our yoga.
Often when I am contemplating a sutra I look at a variety of translations. Sometimes the way they are translated is almost verbatim, at other times they are almost unrecognizable as the same sutra. Through comparing the various translations, I try to glean the key concepts.
In Sutras 1.15 & 1.16 what stands out is that effort is needed in order to disconnect from our desire for worldly pleasures and that mastery is achieved when one is no longer affected by the changing nature of life.
Sometimes I prefer the language of one translator because it resonates more with my experiences or I reject it because I have cultural or personal biases against certain words. I’ve even been known to blend a few translations together. Detachment can be one of those “tricky” words. In these particular sutras, I saw both detachment, nonattachment and renunciation used to describe vairagyam. I chose Iyengar’s translation because I found it the easiest to understand despite my own suspicion of the word “renunciation”.
Ultimately understanding moves beyond words. I invite you to contemplate vairagyam and create your own working definition. My current one is freedom, which as you may remember “is just another word for nothing left to lose”. Now that makes sense!