Anatomy of Vairagya

Understanding the Exegesis of The Human Rama

Vairagya is not just a passing mental condition but a mature and ripe psychological state where the human mind-heart-will becomes free, with no attachments, no desires and no yearning for power pelf or fame. It is a secure composure which is above desire, passion or attachment. Certain terms in our philosophy and thinking defy single word equivalents. Being subtle concepts, they need explanation to people who are not familiar with Hindu concepts. It is thought best to retain the terms without attempting to ‘translate’ them, while indicating their meaning at length.


Professional Personality Building Preceptors believe that living is an art. But there are arts and arts and sciences and sciences. We live in age where everything is made or made out to be a science. I believe that living is more a science than an art for sanatana dharma, the pristine way of living is both analytical and practically disciplining. It has issued rigorous enough directions to make human life meaningful for all people to achieve the ultimate goal or objective. Science is not limited to test tubes and labs. Etymologically science is derived from the Latin scientiascire – to know. And knowledge in Greek is gnosis from the root gignosco.

The goals of human life have been understood and propounded quite clearly several millennia ago in sanatana dharma – which, it is essential to note, is not a religion but simply a way of life. The mechanics or the operational part of living is different from the enduring aspects of earthly life. As of now, thinking minds and feeling hearts do not contest the idea that man has been tending more and more towards money-making and comfort-enhancing activities. These in their turn have led to man committing all sins in the calendar leading to turbulence and grief which are resulting in deformities and aberrations of thinking.

Ennui, disillusionment and awareness of higher things cause Cerebration

When the gap between the ideal and the actuality becomes a chasm, the best minds have fallen into various kinds of disenchantment. Our age old scriptures bear testimony to this. Sage and seer Maharshi Veda Vyasa fell into vyakulata. This was occasioned by his seeing before his mind’s eye the inhabitants of the earth becoming inane, cowardly, dull, inactive, lascivious or promiscuous. They become victims of asthenia. Divine incarnation of Sri Rama, King Dasaratha’s son ‘fell’ into vyragya, having returned from pilgrimages. He submits to Sacred Seer Vasishth that he has given up the pursuit of all luxury and comfort realizing the transience of all earthly things. In another aeon, on the battlefield, Partha fell into a similar mood of dejection and disenchantment and throws down his bow and arrows and tells Sri Krishna with humility that he would not fight his preceptors, kith and kin for a kingdom. Vyasa saw the people falling into utter degradation and the culture suffering decadence. Enthused and urged by the Divine sage Narada, he made a viable division of the corpus of Vedic expositions and wrote the mahaaitihaasaas. On the battlefield taking exception to Partha’s sudden deflation, describing it as klaibyam, literally impotence, Sri Krishna teaches him valor and deep understanding that would elevate him as MAN.

The Context of the Dialogue between the Sages Valmiki and Vasishtha and Rama

Valmiki wrote Yogavasishtham, also called Maharamayanam, which is a meta narrative dealing with the sublime truths about the human life and existence. This is peopled with sages, seers, kings and seekers. Suteeshna, the seeker, asks Muni Agasthya as to which of jnaana and karma (gnosis and praxis or knowingness or action would yield liberation or mukti from the endless Cycle of Birth and Death. Answering that both together would lead to salvation, Agsthya narrates Suteeshna the tale of the highly learned Agnivesya, whose son Karunya acquired all Vedic learning. But, to his father’s surprise and ire, he gave up performing rituals. Asked for an explanation, he tells his father that the Vedas declared that mukti can be attained only by tyaga, renunciation of all things worldly. Agnivesya narrated to him the story of Surucihi, the apsara. While sitting on the Himalayas, Suruchi saw Indra’s messenger flying above and asked him as to why and where he had set out. The sky messenger told Suruchi of his errand from Indra to King Arishtanemi engaged in his penance on Mount Gandhamadana. The messenger went and told the king that Indra wanted the king to be brought to his heavenly abode, Amaravati. Asked about the place and its inhabitants, the messenger told the king that it was the place of great joy where humans with accumulated punya (merit) stayed as long as their punya would allow them to and later returned to the earth to the Cycle of Birth and Death. The king sent back the messenger stating that he had no use for such a place as Amaravati. Thereupon the messenger was sent back to the king to be taken to Sage Valmiki’s hermitage to acquire tattwajnana from the great luminary. The messenger took him to Valmiki’s hermitage where the king was accorded a warm welcome. Valimiki told the king that he would rather finish this work on hand, composing the Ramayana. He assured that listening to the narrative would be a sure way to salvation. Valmiki gave Ramayana first to his worthy disciple Sage Bharadwaja, who in turn related it to Brahma, the creator on Mount Sumeru. Bharadwaja asked Valmiki as to how Rama, his consort, brothers and his minister could get salvation. Valmiki answered saying that by performing the homa, sacrificial ritual fire, dana, charity, grahana, acceptance and smarana, remembrance, as Rama did, others too can get salvation.

After his stay at the gurukul Rama and his brothers returned home. A few days later Rama went on pilgrimages. After his return he became tongue-tied and sat always thoughtful and looked like a statue. Dasaratha was worried and took his problem to Vasishth, who consoled him telling him that great minds do not stoop to anger, grief or even jubilation. Dasaratha kept mum. When Bhramarshri Viswamitra came asking for Rama’s help in containing the demons for the successful performance of his Yaga, Dasarath complained of his own inability to brook Rama’s separation, Vashishth assured him that Rama would return victorious. He suggested that as a king he should keep the promise of helping the sage. The sage as well as Vashishth asked Rama to tell them as to what bothered him, Rama sets forth to explain his point of view. Years of purposeful stay at Gurukul and wide pilgrimages lead the great mind and benign heart to realize and feel sad about the human condition. We find in Rama’s explanation a thorough analysis with unparalelled insight into the working of the human mind and how it degenerates quickly straying farther and farther from realizing the everlasting goal of human life and earthly sojourn.

Details of Rama’s explanation

Cause of Vairagya

Man is born to die and dies only to be born again. Everything in this world is transient. Sensory pleasures are ephemeral and momentary. Everything appears as it does only because of the manas, the mind-heart-will. Manas does not have existence apart from the living individual body. Man gets enchanted by mirages as a stupid deer is attracted and enticed by a mirage. In the nagging dejection of vairagya, the mind gets tossed and loses its peace like an elephant chained by a clever and skillful ruse. Cerebration creates a feeling of the futility of all imperfections in human life in operative details. Pleasure and comfort are hankered after by people who little realize their evanescent quality. Rama feels dejected like a withered tree being consumed by fire in its own hollow. Riches enchant, cast maya, a spell, and destroy noble qualities. Deceptive, these base qualities are responsible for suffering and grief.

Nature and from of riches

Just as air makes water turn ice hard, riches only harden man leading him to lose compassion and softness. Just as a layer of dust causes the loss of the luster of a diamond, even a wise and good man is stained and corrupted by riches. Growing riches only lead to growing grief. It is rare to find in this world an affluent one without disrepute, a courageous one without conceit and a king who is absolutely unbiased and impartial.

Nature and form of aayush, longevity

The length of life given to an individual, aayush, which we call longevity here, is very short. It is like a drop of water dangling from a tree leaf. Like a lunatic it just leaves the body suddenly and unpredictably. People’s minds are tossed in turbulence. Aayush wreaks havoc on them owing to their attachments. They are like the company of venomous serpents. Those who are aware of what is really to be known and those with equanimity view both gain and loss as equal and would enjoy real bliss. Rama is aware and conscious of the self, the inner Being. For that reason he does not bother about longevity, which is like the lightning of the cloud of samsara, the world and its ties. One may perhaps catch air, cut the sky or string waves of water, but surely there is no way to be certain about longevity. Man wishes for a long life in vain since the manas is ever tossed by trishna, greed and desire. On the contrary, the man who attains the awareness of the self, the inner being, would never grieve or come to grief. His life alone is a life that is ideal. One with the knowingness, jnaana of the tatwa nature of longevity by destroying his manas is the one really alive. Those who would not be born again are those who are really born. For the stupid one shastra, scriptures and sciences are a burden; for the sense-immersed knowledge is a burden; for the one who does not destroy it his manas is a burden and for the one who does not the realize the self, the body is a burden. For the ignorant grief would be heavy as for the one who bears a great load. Death eagerly lies in wait to swallow man as the cat looks for an opportunity to pounce on the mouse. Youth leaves man very quickly as a good man gives up his bad company.

The nature and form of ahankaara, ‘egosense’ or the ‘I and Mine Sense’

Calamities occur because of egosense which causes evil mental aberrations. Always insurmountable grief results from it. It eclipses positive and good qualities like charity and compassion. Rama feels he is no longer Rama or King Dasarath’s son for he has shed all his ahankaara. He has no manas, no desire mind-heart-will. The very embodiment of satwa (buddhi), he says, he is at peace with himself and everything. What is done with egosense is illusion, a ‘thing’ with no essence in it. Only because of egosense there is suffering. It is best to shed it. All worldly things are bubbles. Rama wants to be free from passion and desire. This is possible only with the rooting out of egosense. Manas loses its power and strength because it tends to sense engrossment. It demands gratification of senses. It trembles and flutters like the tip of a feather in the peacock’s tail with the slightest blowing of the wind. Like a stray cur, or a stray dog, it wanders about aimlessly in distant lands.

The nature and quality of chitta mind-heart-inclination

Chitta wanders hither and thither without let up. It is like a basket with holes that never fills up with water. It is never contented: never at ease. Caught in the net of greed, it can never be calm and at peace with itself like a deer separated from its herd. Like the water on the Ocean of Milk churned with Mount Manthara, it is ever caught in worldly pursuits and sensory gratification. It runs in multiple directions. This deer falls in a ditch running after grass. It is never stable: can’t be locked up like a lion in a cage. It is bound by trishna, desire-greed. It keeps going down into the nether world and coming up to earth like a water-lift worked with ropes. As an eagle swooshes down for a bit of flesh, it perches on vishayas, sensory attractions. It is easier for a man to drink off the whole ocean, pluck Mount Meru or swallow fire than to restrain his chitta. In Chitta are born all desires for sense gratification. With the aid of viveka, wisdom-discrimination-judgement-discretion, chitta is destroyed. With that everything else is destroyed. The immitigable darkness of the night of trishna, greed-desire, clouds or covers aatmaviveka, the judgement of the soul or self, leading the lapses and defects to surface.

The form of trishna, greed-desire

Man is drawn hard like a bull through a rope in its nose. This trishna entices man in the form of desire for wife, children, friends, wealth etc. Rama confesses to the sacred seers that he is haunted by this in spite of his courage. Trishna, he tells them, blinds him. It is a deadly black cobra, which appears soft but kills a person on touch. It causes lasting grief. This, along with moha, deadly allurement, clouds jnana, knowingness and wisdom. Jeeva which does not shed this would be steeped in ajnaana, ignorance, forever.


The way to destroy trishna

Man gets deliverance from grief by shedding chitta, mind-heart-inclination. This is the mantra, incantation for destroying ignorance. Trisha makes everything eatable, finally destroying man. It is on the hook like a bait to catch a fish. The fish bites it and is led to death. Trishna is thus bait for man. The best of men are thrown into turbulence by greed desire for wealth and women. Trishna renders the best men, courageous, grave and valiant helpless. The knowing ones slay this with the powerful sword of viveka, judgment, discretion and wisdom.

The form and nature of shareera, the physical body

Wet with intestines, frightful with naadis along with all kinds of deformity, this bubble is what we call body. This is the most dreadful as also grief causing. It feels happy when is fed. It does not brook the slightest inconvenience. There is nothing else that is grosser than this. Few realize that this body is a boat to ferry one across samasara, the world. It is made of flesh, blood, bones and skin. There is none who would listen to wise counsel to get out of its limitations. Rama does not have egosense and the body is no trammel for him. The mouth occupied by the tongue is frightful. Teeth are its doorframe. This house of the body is given a lime wash often. It moves like a machine. The rat of manas digs holes all along. Rama says that he has no use for money, kingdom or the body, or desires or inclinations. All these are nipped by time. There is nothing worthy or beautiful in it either inside or from outside. Who would repose trust in it! Though taken care of in a thousand ways it crumbles to dust. It is like a tender leaf that would wilt and emaciate in no time. It is shameless to thirst for pleasures of the same type again and again knowing they are short-lived. Why should anyone tend and nurture it at all! Many faggots go into the fire and so does the body. Shame on those who in drunken ignorance make much of the body!

Rama tells the seers that man is not the body and he is not even related to it for long. Those who realize this are the best men. Many wrong attitudes and conceptions like honor, prestige, and infamy would only lead to death invariably. Nothing visible is real. The body is fit to be just burnt. It is surprising that men are misled to believe that it is real and lasting. Lightning, cloud, a season: all these are transient, short-lived. Rama detests the body as of no consequence and wants to be quite resigned. Fear, desire to eat etc. are all childish. Even childhood is full of grief. Maturation into youth leads only to downfall. The demon of desire causes all illusions and fears. The powerless youth becomes a slave to the body.

Censure of yauvana, youthfulness

He who crosses youth without being enticed by its allurements is the great one. Man is burnt like a tree in wild fire of his separation from his woman. Youth vitiates good qualities like liberal mindedness, charity and compassion. It is not easy to cross this period of youthfulness without getting into some trouble. Man is put to ruin by contemplating and yearning for female graces. But mahatmas, the great minded men, would look upon youth as a ruined, wilted blade of grass. Just as a fierce wind raises a cloud of dust, spreads darkness and pulls down nests of birds, dreadful youth is capable of destroying valuable virtues. We should not repose any faith in yauvana for it does not last long. One who is enticed by fleeting youth out of ignorance is a beast. The one who trusts it comes to great grief. Only those who pass the period without ignominy are real men and are venerable. One may cross an ocean easily but not his youth without a blemish. Youth with humility and virtues like charity and compassion is rare like Nandavana, Indra’s orchard.

The form and nature of woman

Full of vessels, bones, glands, the form of female in flesh, is ever unstable. Whoever would believe it would be glorious forever. If there is anything really beautiful in it, be attracted by it. It is all flesh bones and skin. Hair in one place, blood in another - that is woman. No one with viveka, wisdom, intellect and judgment, would be enamored of it. Their very bodies are made much of, decorated, sprayed and laved. But soon foxes would eat them. Why should be one attracted to a woman’s body! Those goblets raining nectar would soon be morsels for dogs. It is only ignorance that causes attraction and enticement. There is not much of a difference between an intoxicant and a woman. Both offer excitement for a while leading only to the aberration of the behavior of chitta, mind-heart-inclination. Man is like an elephant tied to a stump of a woman and is engrossed in languor. Woman drags man into luxury and then grief. Though appear soft and alluring they are faggots to hell fire. Women wearing make-up, mascara and lovely to look at are flames that burn man. She is bait on the fishing line to catch a fish, a stable for the horse of man. Woman is bondage.

Rama tells the sages and seers that a woman is a nice casket of all kinds of defects. Of what use is the breast, eye, buttock or an eyebrow of a woman! With flesh here and a bone there and blood everywhere, a woman’s body is worth only the burning. In a few days her hair would be a feather fan on the graveyard tree. The one who gives up women is like one who has given up the world and is venerable. Only such a person would find bliss. The stages of childhood and youth soon disappear into old age, decay and death. Servants, sons, wife and friends only laugh at the decrepit old man. He is looked upon as a lunatic. An old man’s desire for things grows but he cannot enjoy them. This really maddens him. As snow destroys lotuses, wind disperses clouds and destroys trees on river banks, old age destroys the body. The wise and knowing ones do not trust this body. It is only kids that wish to eat all the sweets seen in the mirror.

The nature and form of kaala, TIME

Desire for and preoccupation with comfort in life is bitten through by Time, a mouse. There is nothing in this world that can stand the ravages of this. The Deity of Death is kaala too. Death gulps all. It swoops from somewhere without warning. All beings crave for comfort and pleasures, which are momentary and dreadful ultimately. Ayush, length of life, is unstable. Death is cruel, youth is momentary: childhood is stolen by ignorance. Trishna, like a mirage, deceives. Sense organs are man’s deadly enemies. Self is always hidden unnoticed and unknown by the ignorant many. Owing to rajo guna, viveka suffers. Satwa is not easy to achieve or find. Tattwajnaana, the knowingness of the ultimate reality is difficult to attain. Existence is unstable, Death is ever ready to pounce and courage is usually lost. Company of the wicked and vicious is easy to find, that of the wise and good difficult to come across.

The transience of the visible world

The entire visible world, animate and inanimate, mobile and immobile, is unstable. It is like people meeting in a dream. The body silk-clad, decorated and sandal laved today rots very soon in a ditch. In the very place where there may be glorious city a frightful forest may be seen some day. The resplendent emperor today may be only a heap of ashes tomorrow. A wilderness now may be a city in a short while. Everything we see is like the tip of a fluttering flame which may go out the next instant. Men may be born as birds or beasts and deities as insects. Nothing is ever stable. Heaven and earth, air and sky, mountains and rivers, even diks, directions, are faggots for fire. Wealth, relatives, friends, even wife and children and worry for them would appear unworthy for a wise knowing one. There is nothing that is not momentary or transient. The broken pot goes into mud, gets transformed as cotton and becomes clothing only to go into dust again to become pot. Growth, transformation, decay, ruin and rebirth – where is permanence! Where is stability! Nothing can be trusted. When trust is destroyed in chitta, viveka is not misled by mirages. One does not care either for joy or sorrow. More than the wearisome rule of kingdoms or debilitating luxuries, solitude without chinta is the best. ‘Orchards and pavilions do not have any charm for me. Women do not give me comfort or joy. Riches do not impress me. I wish only to have peace in my manas,’ avers the prince. It is impossible to find peace in this world: impossible to conquer trishna. His egosense is conquered and he has no use for any kingdoms. Jeevi is held captive by the skin: only those go beyond the glands win peace. Manmadha churns man’s manas employing a woman. When it is impossible to have a pure, unsullied manas even in childhood, how would it be possible to have mental purity in youth or old age! There can be no cure for eradication of chitta, and manas. More deadly poisons are vishayas, sense objects. Rama appeals to the sages and seers to enlighten him on the ways of acquiring tattwajnaana, knowingness of the ultimate reality. Only tattwajanaana can secure freedom from fear and grief. He tells the rishis that he would rather bear the friction of the saw’s teeth than withstand the enticement of the senses. Only the company of the wise and knowing ones would be able to allay fear and secure deliverance from grief. Ayush is brief and unpredictable: luxuries are momentary: the joys and entertainments of youth are inconstant like the water in a coursing river. He has sought only peace even in his childhood. Running after base and detestable things, tendencies and predilections of the manas dump one in the slough of grief.

Series of posers seeking answers for attaining relief from moha, illusion-enticement and allurement

Rama seeks guidance from the sacred seers and asks them in all humility to enlighten him on several things.

  1. Which is the resort of peace where there is no grief, no bother of endless births and deaths and no shackles like the body and the senses?
  2. How did great men like King Janaka, who while performing all world-related deeds, could obtain freedom from all shackles and limitations?
  3. How can a man be free from all the slush of worldly pursuits?
  4. What is the attitude that sages and seers cultivate for bliss?
  5. The serpents of attachments only inspire fear. How can one achieve stability and permanence?
  6. How can the lake of buddhi devastated by the havoc wreaked by elephants be brought back to its original condition of having crystal clear water?
  7. How can a man while still in the world be like a drop of water on a lotus leaf without being attached to it?
  8. With inward-looking attitude, unsullied by manas and attachments, how can one attain the highly evolved state?
  9. Who could be taken as a model for a man to be able to cross successfully the ocean of samsara?
  10. In this world what is worth absorbing and what is worth rejecting? How can one achieve the feat of making the unstable chitta steadfast and stable like a mountain?
  11. Which is the most cleansing, sanctifying incantation which would mitigate the poisonous samsara?
  12. What is the message of the sacred seers for a man to attain paripoornatwa, wholeness and completeness?
  13. Ayush is like a drop of water dangling from the tip of a leaf high on the tree. It is like the quivering skin on the throat of a frog in a rice field. The meeting with friends and relations is like the hangman’s rope. Cruel Yama like a cat lays in wait to pounce on the rat of man’s life. People come like a flood from somewhere. In this situation what is the route for escape? Where is the refuge? How can this life be shaped as something auspicious?
  14. The world always lands man in grief. What should man do to steer clear of deadly maladies and be free from nagging dreadful serpents? There must be a way, a ruse or a strategy. Kindly teach me.

Having listened to all this, the assemblage of sages, seers and visitors from the ethereal regions praised Sri Rama for his mature outlook. Sri Rama presented the essence of his own mental condition of ennui, dejection and philosophical rejection. The questions he raised are poignant and pointed and the answers are implied in themselves. Vairagya needs to be taken as a positive, creative and comprehensive attitude. Equipped thus with a vision and a sane perspective, Sri Rama sets an example as maryada purushottoma for us all to emulate.


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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