We humans are creatures of diverse desires. Risen above our instincts, it is our desire-to-be which makes us survive first and foremost. After that, various desires make us survive better, have dreams and aspirations and make us do each and everything we do.
Without desires, there is not much we would do. Desires are fuels which make us sustain that which exists or pursue that which doesn’t yet exist.
Vairagya is both a concept and state-of-mind in Vedic and Post-Vedic systems of Philosophy. These systems of thinking are basically based on desires, their management, control and restraint— towards the attainment of salvation. Vairagya is about restraint, removal or being indifferent to desires.
It is told that desires are responsible for keeping us in worldly-illusions. It is because desires give birth to attachment, lust, greed, etc. that we do not get to see beyond the veils-of-maya and hence exist forever in a cycle of ignorance, unable to ‘realize’ the true. Getting rid of desires therefore is crucial to end the cycle of birth-death. Vairagya in this sense is the state of having removed the desires to eventually end up salvated. Whatever that may mean!
When you start thinking in this light and begin scrutinizing, analyzing, and especially abhorring desires, you get into the Vairagya zone. You do.
But, this concept sucks the life and its motivations out of you. It is a ridiculous concept to be honest. And one that is inherently impossible and contradictory to itself.
Let me explain.
Imagine yourself, waking up one day: blank and without a reason to do anything. There is nothing you desire and nothing you want. Every urge you ever had has been subdued and murdered. You don’t want that cup of coffee nor do you want to connect your device to the internet to know what is going on in the world. Nothing matters to you anymore. Sounds like depression doesn’t it?
You will go about fulfilling your biological functions and practical ones through which you are surviving; but you are empty on the inside and don’t have any plans because you don’t have a purpose. You are just merely existing.
What does it mean?
Why would you even survive and live? What are the motivations? Where are the reasons? Where are the desires?
This is void. This is nothingness. This is Vairagya.
The contradictory part begins now. The schools which profess Vairagya, speak of it as a medium-state towards their metaphysics. Be it the One-Brahma of Hindu thinking or the Nibbana of the Buddhist. But why would you even bother to reach that highest realm? Aren’t you supposed to get rid of all desires? Isn’t aspiring to those realms in itself a contradiction to the concept and state of Vairagya?
If Vairagya or such systems of indifference and renunciation have ever been applied by their advocates:
Why did Buddha preach?
What motivates all those Hindu ‘Gurus’ to make a business out of their teachings?
Vairagya is a concept that is vague, out-of-reach and impractical. It is merely one of the devices used by spiritual-businessmen and spiritual-politicians. It is a point that is so vague and dry and out-of-reach that the confusion it generates in the practitioner is the very basis through which their advocates manipulate and forever oblige the practitioner. Just notice how lively the advocates are! Without such lofty and absurd concepts, spirituality in that sense would have been dead for a long time now!
We humans are in this seemingly vague and vast world and we have just begun to understand our frailty, the world and the absurdity of our existence. We have only just begun searching for meaning in the true sense. And we are really struggling at it.
For those of us who want to truly understand and experience ourselves and the world, the task is difficult, complicated and full of obstacles. Our practical necessities are enough to occupy us for our entire lives. Yet, we persist and try to gather some hints, some clues. And we succeed somewhat.
Yes, uncontrolled and ambitious desires will surely blind us and make it impossible for us in our mission towards true understanding. Yes, having too much attachment towards x or y binds us to them and blind us to such an extent that we take those things to be the only thing worth having in the world and be ignorant of everything else. We have to surely subdue or at least check-and-balance a lot of things in life. We need to use our intelligence and wisdom.
But concepts such as Vairagya make our journey more difficult if not impossible. As slowly, we get attached to Vairagya itself.
They confuse us and suck the life out of us. They make us draw conclusions and demotivate us from exploring and making enquiries. They depress us. They make us dry and lost. They don’t take us anywhere substantial. They only take us towards dependency to their advocates. These concepts are what make us vulnerable.
For those of us who really want to understand, the path is tricky, confusing and vague. The challenge is to be able to constantly experiment and persevere. It requires jumping ships and even changing ourselves inside-out constantly. The last thing we would want in this pursuit is the indifference and dullness towards life!
The last thing we want is: Vairagya!