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Yoga Sutra

Samadhi Pada

Sutra 1.12
अभ्यासवैराग्याअभ्यां तन्निरोधः
abhyāsa-vairāgya-ābhyāṁ tan-nirodhaḥ

Practice and dispassion stop the modifications of the mind

abhyasa = Practice
vairagya = dispassion
abhyam = together
tan =  their
nirodhah = stop, control

Patanjali first defined yoga in two words as Chittavritti Nirodhah, the stoppage of modifications of the mind. From Sutra 3 to 11, he explains Chittavritti. From here on he starts to explain the second part of the definition: Nirodhah, the stoppage. We know yoga is stopping the modifications. But, we don't know how. How the modifications could be stopped ? He says that stoppage is mastered by the practice and dispassion. Yoga is the practice and dispassion. Of course, this is the second and more specific definition of yoga.  

Commentary by Maharishi Vyasha

By exercise and dispassion, their suppression.

The river of the internal organ goes both ways, for good as well as for evil. The flow of internal organ which is directed in the course that starts with Isolation and ends with discrimination, is for good. Whereas the flow directed in the course that starts with rebirth and ends with non-discrimination, is for evil. Among these, flow of the content is thinned by dispassion and flow of discrimination is initiated by exercise of discriminate vision. So it is clear that the suppression of functions of the internal organ depends on both of these. 

Commentary by Swami Vivekananda

Their control is by practice and non-attachment.

The mind, to have this non-attachment, must be clear, good and rational. Why should we practice? Because each action is
like the pulsations quivering over the surface of the lake. The vibration dies out, and what is left? The Sansharas, the  impressions. When a large number of these impressions is left on the mind they coalesce, and become a habit. It is said “habit is second nature;” it is first nature also, and the whole nature of man; everything that we are, is the result of habit. That gives us consolation, because, if it is only habit, we can make and unmake it at any time. The Sanshara is left by these vibrations passing out of our mind, each one of them leaving its result. Our character is the sum-total of these marks, and according as some particular wave prevails one takes that tone. If good prevail one becomes good, if wickedness one wicked, if joyfulness one becomes happy. The only remedy for bad habits is counter habits; all the bad habits that have left their impressions are to be controlled by good habits. Go on doing good, thinking holy thoughts continuously; that is the only way to suppress base impressions. Never say any man is hopeless, because he only represents a character, a bundle of habits, and these can be checked by new and better ones. Character is repeated habits,
and repeated habits alone can reform character

Commentary by Sri Osho


Two things – how the mind can cease with all its modifications: one – abhyasa, persistent inner practice, and second – non-attachment. Non-attachment will create the situation, and persistent practice is the technique to be used in that situation. Try to understand both.


The deepest pattern of the mind is desire. You are whatsoever you are because you have certain desires, a group of desires. Patanjali says, ”First thing is non-attachment.” Drop all desires; don’t beattached. And then, abhyasa.


Simple things on the surface are deeply rooted in complex things, and everything is interrelated. So just by changing a thought nothing is changed. Unless you go to the complex pattern, uncondition it, recondition it, create a new pattern, only then a new life can arise out of it. So these two things have to be done: non-attachment, non-attachment about everything.

That doesn’t mean that you stop enjoying. That misunderstanding has been there, and yoga has been misinterpreted in many ways. One is this – it seems that yoga is saying that you die to life because non-attachment means then you don’t desire anything. If you don’t desire anything, if you are not attached to anything, if you don’t love anything, then you will be just a dead corpse. No, that is not the meaning.

Non-attachment means don’t be dependent on anything, and don’t make your life and happiness dependent on anything. Preference is okay, attachment is not okay. When I say preference is okay, I mean you can prefer, you have to prefer. If many persons are there, you have to love someone, you have to choose someone, you have to be friendly with someone. Prefer someone, but don’t get attached.


What is the difference? If you get attached, then it becomes an obsession. If the person is not there, you are unhappy. If you miss the person, you are in misery. And attachment is such a disease that if the person is not there you are in misery, and if the person is there you are indifferent. Then it is okay; it is taken for granted. If the person is there it is okay – no more than that. If the person is not there, then you are in misery. This is attachment.

Preference is just the reverse. If the person is not there, you are okay; if the person is there, you feel happy, thankful. If the person is there, you don’t take it for granted. You are happy, you enjoy it, you celebrate it. But if the person is not there, you are okay. You don’t demand, you are not obsessed.

You can also be alone and happy. You would have preferred that the person was there, but this is not an obsession. Preference is good, attachment is disease. And a man who lives with preference lives life in deep happiness. You cannot make him miserable. You can only make him happy, more happy. But you cannot make him miserable. And a person who lives with attachment – you cannot make him happy, you can only make him more miserable. And you know this You know this well. If your friend is there, you don’t enjoy much; if the friend is not there you miss much. 


Attachment is a disease. When you are together, you are not happy. If you have riches, you are not happy. You will be miserable if you are poor. If you are healthy, you never feel thankfulness. If you are healthy, you never feel grateful to existence. But if you are ill you are condemning whole life and existence. Everything is meaningless, and there is no God. 


Attachment will make you more and more miserable; preference will make you more and more happy. Patanjali is against attachment, not against preference. Everybody has to prefer. You may like one food, you may not like another. But this is just a preference. If the food of your liking is not available, then you will choose the second food and you will be happy because you know the first is not available, and whatsoever is available had to be enjoyed. You will not cry and weep. You will accept life as it happens to you.

Any practice, any conscious effort, can change your old patterns. And this is not a work which can be done immediately; it will take time – because you have created your pattern of habits in many, many lives. Even in one life you can’t change it-it is too soon.

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