What is the quintessential pre-requisite for spiritual progress?

vairāgya or dispassion is the quintessential pre-requisite for spiritual progress. It is the only vital and fundamental sādhanā prescribed by vedāntic practitioners. vairāgya is detachment or mindful self-restraint which bestows unswerving freedom from the craving for worldly objects that are enjoyed through the senses.

Using the buddhi (intellect), one can win over the vagaries of the mind and take to the path of shreyas (that which is good), instead of heading towards the path of preyas (that which is pleasurable). True vairāgya is the will power to hold on to the right things and give up the wrong things. vairāgya is born of an unbroken practice of viveka or discrimination, and it certainly does not mean that you should give up everything and retire into a forest. You should stay where you are, in whatever situation of life you are in, and understand the subtle nature of things, while giving up worldly desires. It means that by using discrimination you should know what to accept and what to reject. You should strive to recognise the divinity in every object you see and enjoy it.

vairāgya is not merely giving up things. It consists in enjoying without attachment, the very same things which were previously enjoyed with attachment. That is real vairāgya. That is the mark of a true spiritual being. Is there a way to vaccinate ourselves from this virus of desires?

jñāna or wisdom acts as the vaccine against desires. The main reason for this state of the world today is man’s greed and desires. Look at the irony—the economy is collapsing because people have started taking corrective measures to their lifestyles during this pandemic. They are not buying things that they do not want using the money that they don’t have. The correction in consumption has led to a tumbling economy. When you clean your attic after a long time, you will end up raising a lot of dust and you may sneeze non-stop. But once the attic is cleaned and you maintain it regularly, there is no more dust and sneezing. This corrective measure is akin to that. All these material acquisitions and fulfilment of desires do not give lasting happiness. They only lead to more pain and suffering. Such deep enquiry for an extended period of time during the day, every single day, will awaken lasting vairāgya, which is required for spiritual progression.

Back to all questions