Yogasutra Stories

Swami Nirvikalpananda Saraswati

Sutra 1: 15-16

When an individual becomes free of cravings for the sense objects which he has experienced as well as those of which he has heard, that state of consciousness is vairagya. That is highest in which there is freedom from the desire for gunas on account of the knowledge of purusha.

Story Commentary

Next evening came, and Purusha went to the angel again to hear the story about vairagya or detachment, which the angel had promised to tell him the evening before. - At the beginning of time, began the angel, when God hadn't yet started to create the plants and the animals, but had just formed the earth, the ocean, the air, the sun, the moon and the stars, the next thing to be created were the clouds. So God took some material from the ocean and some from the air, and out of that he created the clouds and hung them above the earth. Now one of the clouds was not sure about what the purpose of his existence was. He saw the sun and felt its warmth on his body, and he saw the rain and felt it flowing down his legs. And he liked this so much, although the rain sometimes was painful to him, that he absorbed all the sunbeams and all the raindrops and kept them inside himself, as he thought that this was what he was made for.

But now a shadow fell over the earth, and the soil became very dry, as the cloud absorbed the sunbeams and the raindrops and didn't let them pass through him. God saw this, so he called the cloud and told him that he shouldn't keep the sunshine and the rain inside himself, as that wasn't good, neither for himself nor for the earth.

On hearing this, the cloud was very confused and didn't know what God meant him to do. He thought, 'Maybe the best thing is if I don't do anything. Then God will be pleased - probably he doesn't want me to mix with either the sun or the rain.' So he went far away and hid himself from both the sunshine and the rain.

But this was not what God had meant. Again he called the cloud and said:

-You will not be detached from action just by withdrawing yourself. You have to do your duty - you have to act with detachment. Let the sunshine and the rain pass through you, without being affected by them - you must let them pass. Your sister, the lotus flower, knows this very well. Look at her; she lets the rain fall on her, but she doesn't keep one single drop. She is so detached that the rain has no influence on her at all. The water is just falling down from her body at the same moment as it reaches her. Try to be as detached from your actions as she is. Remember that you are not really the doer; I am.

So the cloud went back and tried to do this; to be merely an instrument for God, letting the sunshine and the rain pass through him as God wished. But still he kept thinking about how nice it had been to have the sunshine inside him, and he also thought about how nice it would be to keep the wind inside, as he had heard from other clouds about that marvellous feeling. As he still wished to experience these things, he unconsciously made himself hard, so neither the sunshine nor the rain could pass properly through him. Just some of it could come through; the rest had to stay above the clouds and never reached the earth.

This was not good either, so God called the cloud again and said:

-This what you are practising now is not vairagya; you are still thinking about the experiences of raga and dwesha, likes and dislikes. In this case it's preferable that you really experience the sunshine, the rain and everything you want for a while, as it's better to exhaust your desires than to suppress them.

So the cloud went back again, this time very happy as God had given him permission to absorb the sunshine and the rain as much as he liked. So he gave himself completely to sensual pleasure for some time, only to discover that this didn't give him real joy. The rain became as painful to his body as the sunshine was pleasant, and even the sunshine no longer made him really happy. So this couldn't be the purpose of his life- for wasn't he in joy created, and wasn't he for joy existing? So he went back to God, who said: -Now you are ready for vairagya; you have realized that sorrow and pleasure in this world are nothing compared to the eternal divine joy. It was necessary for you to experience that for yourself; it isn't enough to hear things from others and believe in them- experience is required.

Then God gave the cloud his blessing, and as he laid his hand on him, in a lightning flash the cloud realized his true nature. He saw that he was a part of God, who had created him from the ocean and the air, which had been made from God's own body. And, as soon as he realized this, a joy much, much greater than the pleasure acquired from the sunshine and the rain filled him.

The cloud went back to his place, able to practice complete vairagya, because he was filled with the joy of God.

The sunshine and the rain flowed through him in abundance, and he was such a perfect instrument for God that he didn't even notice that they passed through his body. He was just thinking of God all the time.

The angel ended, but Purusha was still confused.

- I do not fully understand the nature of the sunshine and the rain, he said, and my desire for experiencing them. Can you please explain this to me?

-Actually, said the angel, there is a true story about this. It concerns the grass, who at the beginning of creation didn't know what his food would be. He looked around him, but the only things he saw which seemed to be edible were three fruits, the fruits of the three gunas.

So the grass tasted the first fruit which had lain in the sun for too long and was overripe, It was called the fruit of tamas, and its taste was rich but dull. People who eat much of this fruit become tamasic in temperament: lazy, heavy, dark and passive.

The second one was called the fruit of rajas or the fruit of the pepper plant. He tasted it, and found that it was very strong. His mouth and stomach were filled with its burning taste, and he couldn't decide whether he liked it or if it was too strong. The fruits of rajas are usually very intense, causing much desire, anger, greed and passion. People who eat much of this fruit become rajasic in temperament.

The third fruit was a fresh and beautiful orange. Its juice was sweet and nice, and the grass ate it greedily. This fruit was called the fruit of sattva; it creates peace, light and a positive nature in the people who eat much of it. They become sattvic in temperament. Now the grass was confused. He liked all three fruits, but still he wasn't sure which one he was meant to eat. He wondered what would happen if one day he couldn't find the particular fruit he wanted to eat. He worried very much about this, and eventually he went to God to ask. God listened to his problem, and then he said:

-None of these fruits is made for you. I don't want you to be tamasic, rajasic or sattvic. However the fruit of sattva is definitely the best one of the three and certainly won't do you any harm. But you are made to transcend all three of them; the divine rain from heaven is your food. It is pure, and the supply is infinite. It is tasteless, and therefore you can't become attached to it. This is the perfect food for you - as soon as you taste it, you will lose all desire for the gunas. The rain from heaven will give you the experience of divine joy, which was my intention when I made you. The fruits of the gunas can never give you this.

So the grass went back and tasted the rain water. And since that day, the grass desires nothing but this divine drink.

Here the angel ended, and Purusha went home, determined to start practising vairagya at once.

Vairagya means detachment from raga and dwesha, attraction and repulsion.