Two ways, and two ways only, there are of inhibiting these modes, these ways of existence, of the mind. They were given by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita, when Arjuna complained that the mind was impetuous, strong, difficult to bend, hard to curb as the wind. His answer was definite: “Without doubt, O mighty-armed, the mind is hard to curb and restless; but it may be curbed by constant practice (abhyasa) and by dispassion (vai-ragya).” (loc. cit., VI. 35, 35)
These are the two methods, the only two methods, by which this restless, storm-tossed mind can be reduced to peace and quietude. Vai-ragya and abhyasa, they are the only two methods, but when steadily practiced they inevitably bring about the result.
Let us consider what these two familiar words imply. Vai-ragya, or dispassion, has as its main idea the clearing away of all passion for, attraction to, the objects of the senses, the bonds which are made by desire between man and the objects around him. Raga is “passion, addiction,” that which binds a man to things. The prefix “vi” — changing to “vai” by a grammatical rule — means “without,” or “in opposition to”. Hence vai-ragya is “non-passion, absence of passion,” not bound, tied or related to any of these outside objects. Remembering that thinking is the establishing of relations, we see that the getting rid of relations will impose on the mind the stillness that is Yoga. All raga must be entirely put aside. We must separate ourselves from it. We must acquire the opposite condition, where every passion is stilled, where no attraction for the objects of desire remains, where all the bonds that unite the man to surrounding objects are broken. “When the bonds of the heart are broken, then the man becomes immortal.”
How shall this dispassion be brought about? There is only one right way of doing it. By slowly and gradually drawing ourselves away from outer objects through the more potent attraction of the Self. The Self is ever attracted to the Self. That attraction alone can turn these vehicles away from the alluring and repulsive objects that surround them; free from all raga, no more establishing relations with objects, the separated Self finds himself liberated and free, and union with the one Self becomes the sole object of desire. But not instantly, by one supreme effort, by one endeavour, can this great quality of dispassion become the characteristic of the man bent on Yoga. He must practice dispassion constantly and steadfastly. That is implied in the word joined with dispassion, abhyasa or practice. The practice must be constant, continual and unbroken. “Practice” does not mean only meditation, though this is the sense in which the word is generally used; it means the deliberate, unbroken carrying out of dispassion in the very midst of the objects that attract.
In order that you may acquire dispassion, you must practice it in the everyday things of life. I have said that many confine abhyasa to meditation. That is why so few people attain to Yoga. Another error is to wait for some big opportunity. People prepare themselves for some tremendous sacrifice and forget the little things of everyday life, in which the mind is knitted to objects by a myriad tiny threads. These things, by their pettiness, fail to attract attention, and in waiting for the large thing, which does not come, people lose the daily practice of dispassion towards the little things that are around them. By curbing desire at every moment, we become indifferent to all the objects that surround us. Then, when the great opportunity comes, we seize it while scarce aware that it is upon us. Every day, all day long, practice — that is what is demanded from the aspirant to Yoga, for only on that line can success come; and it is the wearisomeness of this strenuous, continued endeavour that tires out the majority of aspirants.
I must here warn you of a danger. There is a rough-and-ready way of quickly bringing about dispassion. Some say to you: “Kill out all love and affection; harden your hearts; become cold to all around you; desert your wife and children, your father and mother, and fly to the desert or the jungle; put a wall between youself and all objects of desire; then dispassion will be yours.” It is true that it is comparatively easy to acquire dispassion in that way. But by that you kill more than desire. You put round the Self, who is love, a barrier through which he is unable to pierce. You cramp yourself by encircling yourself with a thick shell, and you cannot break through it. You harden yourself where you ought to be softened; you isolate yourself where you ought to be embracing others; you kill love and not only desire, forgetting that love clings to the Self and seeks the Self, while desire clings to the sheaths of the Self, the bodies in which the Self is clothed. Love is the desire of the separated Self for union with all other separated Selves. Dispassion is the non-attraction to matter — a very different thing. You must guard love — for it is the very Self of the Self. In your anxiety to acquire dispassion do not kill out love. Love is the life in everyone of us, separated Selves. It draws every separated Self to the other Self. Each one of us is a part of one mighty whole. Efface desire as regards the vehicles that clothe the Self, but do not efface love as regards the Self, that never-dying force which draws Self to Self. In this great up-climbing, it is far better to suffer from love rather than to reject it, and to harden your hearts against all ties and claims of affection. Suffer for love, even though the suffering be bitter. Love, even though the love be an avenue of pain. The pain shall pass away, but the love shall continue to grow, and in the unity of the Self you shall finally discover that love is the great attracting force which makes all things one.
Many people, in trying to kill out love, only throw themselves back, becoming less human, not superhuman; by their mistaken attempts. It is by and through human ties of love and sympathy that the Self unfolds. It is said of the Masters that They love all humanity as a mother loves her firstborn son. Their love is not love watered down to coolness, but love for all raised to the heat of the highest particular loves of smaller souls. Always mistrust the teacher who tells you to kill out love, to be indifferent to human affections. That is the way which leads to the left-hand path.