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Understanding Vairagya through Mudagala Maharishi’s story

The Yoga­su­tra of Patan­jali talks about a two-fold approach to achieve chit­ta vrit­ti: Abhayasa and Vairagya

अभ्यासवैराग्याभ्यां तन्निरोधः॥१२॥ Abhyāsavairā­gyāb­hyāṁ tannirodhaḥ||1.12||

Bha­ga­van Sri Krish­na too talks about this in the Bha­gavad Gita. For Arju­na’s remark that con­trol­ling the mind seems more dif­fi­cult that con­trol­ling the wind, Shri Krish­na acknowl­edges and says that the mind can be con­trolled through abhyasa and vairagya.

चञ्चलं हि मन: कृष्ण प्रमाथि बलवद्दृढम् | तस्याहं निग्रहं मन्ये वायोरिव सुदुष्करम् || 34|| chañcha­laṁ hi man­aḥ kṛiṣhṇa pramāthi bal­avad dṛiḍham tasyāhaṁ nigra­haṁ manye vāy­or iva su-duṣhkaram The mind is very rest­less, tur­bu­lent, strong and obsti­nate, O Krish­na. It appears to me that it is more dif­fi­cult to con­trol than the wind.

असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् | अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते || 35|| asanśhayaṁ mahā-bāho mano durn­i­gra­haṁ cha­lam abhyāse­na tu kaunteya vairā­gyeṇa cha gṛi­hy­ate Lord Krish­na said: O mighty-armed son of Kun­ti, what you say is cor­rect; the mind is indeed very dif­fi­cult to restrain. But by prac­tice and detach­ment, it can be con­trolled.

Vairagya can be defined as detach­ment where we are no longer attached to the fruits of our action. Though it seems like a very dif­fi­cult thing, we devel­op this over a peri­od of time and with hap­py and bit­ter life expe­ri­ences.

Patan­jali Mahar­ishi defines Vairagya as

दृष्टानुश्रविकविषयवितृष्णस्य वशीकारसञ्ज्ञा वैराग्यम्॥१५॥ Dṛṣṭānuśravikav­iṣayav­itṛṣṇasya vaśīkārasañjñā vairāgyam||1.15||

Vairā­gya or Renun­ci­a­tion (vairā­gyam) is known (sañjñā) as the act of sub­ju­gat­ing (vaśīkāra) the desire (vitṛṣṇasya) for objects (viṣaya) seen (dṛṣṭa) or repeat­ed­ly heard from the scrip­tures (ānuśravika)||1.15||

A sim­i­lar def­i­n­i­tion can be noticed in the Tatt­va Bod­ha

इहस्वर्गभोगेषु इच्छाराहित्यम् ।

The absence of desire for the enjoy­ment (of the fruits of one’s actions) in this world, as also in the oth­er world.

This can be illus­trat­ed by the sto­ry of Rishi Mudgala and his great Tapasya. The sto­ry appears in the Vri­hi Drouni­ka Par­va of the Mahab­hara­ta. Yud­hishti­ra asks Vyasa Mahar­ishi “Which is great? Dana or Tapasya?” Vyasa Mahar­ishi says that noth­ing more is dif­fi­cult than giv­ing what has been earned with great effort. Hence Dana is great. He goes on to nar­rate the sto­ry of Rishi Mudgala. Rishi Mudgala lived in Kuruk­shetra and lived on grains that he gath­ered. He adhered to the Unchavrit­ti tra­di­tion of par­tak­ing grains that are col­lect­ed from those that are left­over in the fields or mar­kets. He served the guests and par­took of what was left. For a fort­night his fam­i­ly would eat and the remain­ing days he would col­lect a drona of vri­hi. He enjoyed great rep­u­ta­tion for this dana and sev­er­al brah­manas used to come and eat there.

Once Dur­vasa Mahar­ishi, in the form of a dishev­elled lunatic, approached Mudgala Mahar­ishi and expressed his desire to have food. Mudgala Mahar­ishi offered his respects to Dur­vasa Mahar­ishi and served him all the food he had. Dur­vasa had a hearty meal and he left. For the next tithi too he appreared and fin­ished all the food.Inspite of hav­ing no grain to con­sume, Mudgala Mahar­ishi did not dis­play any anger or jeal­ousy, dis­re­spect or agi­ta­tion. Dur­vasa Mahar­ishi was extreme­ly hap­py and he said “Con­trol of the sens­es, for­ti­tude, gen­eros­i­ty, self-con­trol, seren­i­ty, com­pas­sion, truth­ful­ness and dhar­ma are all estab­lished in you. You will go to heav­en in your own body”. Mes­sen­gers from heav­en came read­i­ly to pick up Mudgala mahar­ishi. Mudgala Mahar­ishi asked the mes­sen­gers “Can you describe heav­en? What is nature of those that are in heav­en? What aus­ter­i­ties are fol­lowed?”. The mes­sen­gers described heav­en in glow­ing terms, leav­ing no detail. They even described the worlds beyond. Lis­ten­ing to this Mudgala Mahar­ishi did not devel­op any inter­est to go to heav­en. He told the mes­sen­gers that he has no desire to go to heav­en. He returned to his life of col­lect­ing grains and engaged in med­i­ta­tion. He attained Mok­sha.

The sto­ry of this great Rishi Mudgala who had no desire in the world or else­where illus­trates Vairagya as described in our shas­tras.

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