Three stages of Vairaag Satsang By ShriShri Vinod Bihari Das Babaji Maharaj
Sridhar swami, the well known commentator of Shrimad Bhagvatam, says renunciation means indifference. For instance, someone keeps a book in front of me and after sometime takes it away. Since it doesn't belong to me, I am indifferent to its arrival and departure. Another example is that suppose someone offers you to eat something that you have no interest in, maybe even a slight aversion to it. Then it doesn't matter if someone else takes it away. You are indifferent to it. But if you had the desire to eat it, and someone asks if he could have it, you said yes for the sake of kindness and he takes it away, you will be slightly unhappy. This is not renunciation. Since this sacrifice involves a sense of unhappiness; you are not absolutely indifferent about sacrificing it.
There are three types of renunciation: Spriha-yukta vastu vaishishtha apekshini vairaag (desire-bound value-sensed renunciation), Spriha-shunya vastu apekshini vairaag (desireless value-sensed renunciation) and Udasin vairaag (indifferent renunciation).
Spriha-yukta vastu vaishishtha apekshini vairaag means the physical sacrifice of a desired material thing. Spriha means desire. Vastu vaishishtha apekshini means the sadhak has a sense of value for the material thing. A sadhak must not eat good food, wear good clothes or have lavish lifestyle with comforting things around. These things removes one's mind from focusing on chanting harinaam and contemplate pastimes of Krishna. Sweet, sour and spicy food, soft and comforting clothes, comforting bed and pillows, etc increase Rajoguna in the sadhak and arouse one's senses to get attracted to their objects of attraction. So when a sadhak starts to follow a spiritual lifestyle it always starts with the physical sacrifice of things which he has been desiring till now. By not giving our senses what they want, we impose discipline on them. This is called Indriya daman. This is not actually renunciation but it is of course, its first stage. Our mind and senses may tell us to enjoy many things but we must atleast physically maintain aversion from them as our senses will never stop craving for pleasures and as a rule, tries to distract the mind from focusing on naam rup gun lila of Krishna.
Spriha-shunya vastu vaishishtha apekshini vairaag means the stage when a sadhak has no desire to enjoy good things for himself but still has a sense of value for them. Suppose someone brings 10kg rabri (sweetened condensed milk) to you and says "please accept this for sadhu sewa". Now you don't have any desire even to taste it but you know this is a special sweet and thus you want to serve it to specially invited sadhus. Here, even though you are desireless, you have a sense of value for the thing, you are not completely indifferent. This is an intermediate stage and yet difficult for everyone to achieve.
Udasin vairaag means the stage when a sadhak is indifferent to the presence and absence of materialistic pleasures. There is the lifestory of Raka and Baka in the Bhaktamaal. Therein, the husband Raka and the wife Baka are Vanaprasthis, the third ashram of sanatan dharma. (Brahmacharya, garhastya, vanaprastha and sannyas are four ashrams of sanatan dharma. From the age of one to twenty five a person is supposed to follow brahmacharya, that is celibacy and strict discipline of senses. From the age of twenty five to fifty he must follow garhastya dharma by marrying and undertaking related responsibilities. From the age of fifty to seventy five, one must follow vanaprastha ashram, that is, the husband and wife must leave home and visit different tirthas and follow a disciplined life. After seventy five one must take sannyas till death. If one is not prepared to take sannyas, then the scriptures say that the person must light a pyre of wood for himself and sacrifice his body to fire.) So Raka and Baka were crossing through a forest once. Raka was ahead and Baka had fallen behind. Raka saw a big bag lying on his path. Out of curiosity, he looked into it. It was full of gold and precious jewels. He was a brahmin of high virtues and strict discipline. He had no desire to take even the tiniest part of it but thought that if Baka saw it she might get greedy. So he quickly closed the bag and pushed it under a bush so that Baka wouldn't see it. But Baka came around and noticed him hiding something under the bush. Surprised, she asked what it was. Raka replied it was nothing, she must not worry. But Baka's curiosity was all the more aroused. She ignored him and pulled the bag from under the bush and looked into it. Immediately she closed the bag and looked at Raka with pity. She said, "This is another's property. This is equal to soil to me. But you consider it with so much value! If you cannot consider gold and soil as same, how will you take sannyas?" Saying this, she threw the bag away and moved on.
This is udasin vairaag. There is neither desire nor any sense of value for the object. This is the highest stage of vairaag.
"Sama dukha sukha swasthah sama loshtasma kachana,
tulya priya apriyah dhirah tulya nindatma samstuti"
He to whom sorrow and happiness are alike, who is established in his own Self, to whom a lump of earth, a pebble and gold are the same, to whom the agreeable and the disagreeable are the same, who is wise, to whom censure and his own praise are the same.
"Maan apamanayoh tulyastulyo mitra ari pakshayoh, sarva aarambha parityagi gunatitah sa uchyate"
He who is the same in honour and dishonour, and the same to friend and foe, and he who has abandoned all enterprises - he is said to have risen above the sattva, raja and tama gunas.
This is the highest stage. But such kind of vairaag is very rare. It is not easy to abandon the sense of value for material objects. Even if you want to serve others with that object, you don't want it for yourself, but still the sense of value for the object can become a reason for material bondage. And unless the mind loses the sense of value for anything except Radha and Krishna and their transcendental pastimes, it is not possible for a sadhak to enjoy that nectar.
And those who have desire for material objects but are only trying to avoid them, have many dangers to bother them.
Shri shri Tinkori Goswami Prabhupad, my gurudev was very strict about vairagya. When I had only newly come to him and had started living the life of a renunciate, I was in the first stage of vairaag. Desireful and sense of value for material objects. I had a good appetite. But the brajvasi maiyas were very poor at that time and gave only a quarter of a chapati each as Madhukari. From 5-6 houses we would get hardly two rotis in total. One day there was some special occasion and someone had offered puris, halua, chana, etc for gurudev's giriraj. I was very happy. I hadn't eaten well from many days and was longing for some good treat. We were at Giriraj talhati and only the two of us was there. And a dog who stayed close to us. After offering vog to Giriraj, since there was no one there except me, I was expecting baba to say "Binod, take some prasad." But gurudev said, "Binod, this dog is very hungry. Give him all the prasad." I thought a dog can be given chapattis. But halua puri? But gurudev was indifferent to chapatti and halua puri. He wouldn't ask disciples to keep something aside for themselves. There would be bhandara almost everyday at his goverdhan ashram or wherever he went, but disciples were not given even a chilli to eat with their dry madhukori rotis. This is udasin vairaag, desireless and complete lack of sense of value for objects.
Vairaag is possible only when Anuraag comes. The more the love and attraction towards naam, rup, lila of Radha Krishna, the more the vairaag from material objects. 'Vai-' means 'lack of'. And '-raag' means attraction. The lack of attraction towards material objects is possible only when your mind is attracted towards Radha Krishna. The mind cannot sit idle. It has to contemplate something or the other. Since we have been wandering in this material world through thousands of births, it is natural for the mind to get attracted towards material objects and pleasures. But to relish the nectar of pastimes of Radha Krishna and be freed from this cycle of birth and death, one has to turn this attraction towards Radha Krishna. How can we turn the mind's object of attraction? Discipline of senses, association with higher sadhaks, increasing the time and quality of chanting, aahar shuddhi (the food/prasad we take should be of good money, cooked by oneself or a devotee, free from various doshas of touch, etc) and cautious about aparadhas increase our attraction towards Radha Krishna. It has to start with discipline of our senses, avoiding what they find pleasurable. This will minimise distractions for our mind and let us concentrate in chanting and learn more and more from the association of higher sadhaks. Without discipline of senses, our mind will get affected with more rajasik and tamasik energies that will not help us even in our sadhu sanga, our mind will try to find faults even in good qualities of the sadhus and we will make more aparadhas than learn anything good from them.
Sanga (our association of people) affects our mind intensely. We must choose our association with much consideration. If you want to increase your chanting, start associating with a sadhak who chants more than you. Or if possible, one who chants most of the time. Just being with such a person, eating or sleeping, sitting or walking with such a person will start inspiring your mind. On the contrary, if you associate with a person who cannot discipline his senses, eats too much, sleeps too much, talks of worldly matters, travels hither and thither, likes interacting with lots of people, etc then your mind will start urging you to do the same. That is why ekanta (living alone, to contemplate and practically manifest what you learn from higher sadhaks) and association with higher sadhaks are very important to progress in bhakti.
Also, there is the need to maintain a rule/schedule for bhajan. Niyam. At what time to wake up, how many rounds of chanting, when to perform service to the deities, allot the time for reading scriptures, how many more rounds of chanting to complete before going to bed are things one should strictly follow. Scheduling one's daily activities has been the habit of most successful people. It is required even in bhajan.
Observing these techniques, slowly the mind will get attracted towards Radha Krishna and the material objects will not seem pleasurable anymore. You will become indifferent to them. You will become indifferent to pleasures and pains of this body and get immersed in the contemplation of Radha Krishna forgetting the world, forgetting the body.