Yoga Sutra, an ancient Indian text, is a philosophical guide to using meditation as a means to achieve Moksha or liberation from the cycle of life and death. Abhyasa means “practise” or “to do something repeatedly.” Abhyas is defined in the Yoga Sutra as the continuous effort to attain steadiness of mind. The process of keeping the mind directed towards the intended goal of being established in oneself repeatedly is called practise.
As Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras explain, Vairagya means “detachment from all objects” or “making the mind absent of desire.” Through detachment, one makes the mind absent of all objects.
He describes Abhyasa as a dedication to a practice that leads to mastery and ultimately, liberation. The practice is based on focusing on a specific object or idea, without the influence of emotions or attachments.
Vairagya is the giving up of negative vrittis. For e.g. let’s imagine a river flowing from east to west. Now instead of the river flowing from east to west, we want to direct the river to flow from east to north. For this, we’ll have to do two things; first, we’ll have to dig a canal from the river towards the north; second, we’ll have to build a blockage or a dam on the western side so that the water does not flow towards the west and gets directed towards the north. Keep in mind that both the tasks need to be done together. If we only build the dam, then the velocity of the river will break the dam and flood the nearing areas and destroy the habitat. And if we only build the canal, then also our goal will not be achieved as most of the water will flow in its natural direction.
The stream of our vrittis flows towards objects. We stop them from flowing in that direction using the ‘blockage’ of detachment, and we dig a ‘canal’ of practise. Then we slowly go towards getting established in ourself or asampragyat samadhi. Sage Vyasa has given a very scientific explanation of this sutra.
‘The chitta, like a river, flows in two streams. It flows towards happiness, virtue or aklisht and it also flows towards sadness, sin or klisht. The one flowing towards happiness leads to kaivalya (liberation) and is the virtuous stream; and the one flowing towards sin leads to attachment to worldly objects, and is the sin stream. Through detachment, we block the sin stream and through wisdom we open the source of the virtuous stream. This way, the vrittis of the chitta are stopped with the help of both, practise (abhyasa) and detachment (vairagya).’