Abhyasa and Vairagya – constant inner practice and desirelessness: these are the two foundation stones of Patanjali’s yoga. Constant inner effort is needed not because something has to be achieved, but because of wrong habits. The fight is not against nature, the fight is against habits. Your inherent nature is there, every moment available to flow in, to become one with it, but you have got a wrong pattern of habits. Those habits create barriers. The fight is against these habits, and unless they are destroyed, your inherent nature, cannot flow, cannot move, cannot reach to the destiny for which it is meant to be.

So remember the first thing: the struggle is not against nature. The struggle is against wrong nurture, wrong habits. You are not fighting yourself; you are fighting something else which has become fixed with you. If this is not understood rightly, then your whole effort can go in a wrong direction. You may start fighting with yourself, and if once you start fighting with yourself you are fighting a losing battle. You can never be victorious. Who will be victorious and who will be defeated? – Because you are both. The one who is fighting and the one with whom you are fighting is the same.

If my both hands start fighting, who is going to win? Once you start fighting with yourself you are lost. And so many persons, in their endeavors, in their seeking for spiritual truth, fall into that error. They become victims of this error; they start fighting with themselves. If you fight with yourself, you will go more and more insane. You will be more and more divided, split. You will become schizophrenic. This is what is happening in the West.

Christianity has taught – not Christ, Christianity – has taught to fight with oneself, to condemn oneself, to deny oneself. Christianity has created a great division between the lower and the higher. There is nothing lower and nothing higher in you, but Christianity talks about the lower self and the higher self, or body and the soul. But somehow Christianity divides you and creates a fight. This fight is going to be endless; it will not lead you anywhere. The ultimate result can only be self-destruction, a schizophrenic chaos. That’s what is happening in the West.

Yoga never divides you, but still there is a fight. The fight is not against your nature. On the contrary, the fight is for your nature. You have accumulated many habits. Those habits are your achievement of many lives’ wrong patterns. And because of those wrong patterns your nature cannot move spontaneously, cannot flow spontaneously, cannot reach to its destiny. These habits have to be destroyed, and these are only habits. They may look like nature to you because you are so addicted to them. You may have become identified with them, but they are not you.

This distinction has to be clearly maintained in the mind, otherwise you can misinterpret Patanjali. Whatsoever has come in you from without and is wrong has to be destroyed so that which is within you can flow, can flower. Abhyasa, constant inner practice, is against habits.

The second thing, the second foundation stone, is Vairagya, desirelessness. That too can lead you in the wrong direction. And, remember, these are not rules, these are simple directions. When I say these are not rules, I mean they are not to be followed like an obsession. They have to be understood – the meaning, the significance. And that significance has to be carried in one’s life.

It is going to be different for everyone, so it is not a fixed rule. You are not to follow it dogmatically. You have to understand its significance and allow it to grow within you. The flowering is going to be different with each individual. So these are not dead, dogmatic rules, these are simple directions. They indicate the direction. They don’t give you the details.

I remember once Mulla Nasrudin was working as a doorkeeper in a museum. The first day he was appointed, he asked for the rules: “What rules have to be followed?” So he was given the book of the rules that were to be followed by the doorkeeper. He memorized them; he took every care not to forget a single detail.

And the first day when he was on duty, the first visitor came. He told the visitor to leave his umbrella there outside with him at the door. The visitor was amazed. He said, “But I don’t have any umbrella.” So Nasrudin said, “In that case, you will have to go back. Bring an umbrella because this is the rule. Unless a visitor leaves his umbrella here outside, he cannot be allowed in.”

And there are many people who are rule-obsessed. They follow blindly. Patanjali is not interested in giving you rules. Whatsoever he is going to say are simple directions – not to be followed, but to be understood. The following will come out of that understanding. And the reverse cannot happen – if you follow the rules, understanding will not come, if you understand the rules, the following will come automatically, as a shadow.

Desirelessness is a direction. If you follow it as a rule, then you will start killing your desires. Many have done that, millions have done that. They start killing their desires. Of course, this is mathematical, this is logical. If desirelessness is to be achieved, then this is the best way: to kill all desires. Then you will be without desires.

But you will also be dead. You have followed the rule exactly, but if you kill all desires you are killing yourself, you are committing suicide-because desires are not only desires, they are the flow of life energy. Desirelessness is to be achieved without killing anything. Desirelessness is to be achieved with more life, with more energy – not less.

For example, you can kill sex easily if you starve the body, because sex and food are deeply related. Food is needed for your survival, for the survival of the individual, and sex is needed for the survival of the race, of the species. They are both food in a way. Without food the individual cannot survive and without sex the race cannot survive. But the primary is individual. If the individual cannot survive, then there is no question of the race.

So if you starve your body, if you give so little food to your body that the energy created by it is exhausted in day-to-day routine work – your walking, sitting, sleeping – no extra energy accumulates, then sex will disappear because sex can be there only when the individual is gathering extra energy, more than he needs for his survival. Then the body can think of survival for the race. If you are in danger, then the body simply forgets about sex.

Hence, so much attraction for fasting, because if you fast, sex disappears – but this is not desirelessness. This is just becoming more and more dead, less and less alive. Zen monks in India, they have been fasting continuously just for this end, because if you fast continuously and you are constantly on a starvation diet, sex disappears; nothing else is needed – no transformation of the mind, no transformation of the inner energy. Simply starving helps.

Then you become habitual for starvation. And continuously if you do it for years, you will simply forget that sex exists. No energy is created; no energy moves to the sex center. There is no energy to move! The person exists just as a dead being. There is no sex.

But this is not what Patanjali means. This is not a desireless state. It is simply an impotent state; energy is not there. Give food to the body… You may have starved the body for thirty or forty years – give right food to the body and sex reappears immediately. You are not changed. The sex is just hidden there waiting for energy to flow. Whenever energy flows, it will become alive again.

So what is the criterion? The criterion has to be remembered. Be more alive, be more filled with energy, vital, and become desireless. Only then, if your desirelessness makes you more alive, then you have followed the right direction. If it makes you simply a dead person, you have followed the rule. It is easy to follow the rule because no intelligence is required. It is easy to follow the rule because simple tricks can do it. Fasting is a simple trick. Nothing much is implied in it; no wisdom is going to come out of it.

There was one experiment in Oxford. For thirty days a group of twenty students were totally starved, young, healthy boys. After the seventh or eighth day they started losing interest in girls. Nude pictures will be given to them and they will be indifferent. And this indifference was not just bodily, even their minds were not interested – because now there are methods to judge the mind.

Whenever a young boy, healthy boy, looks at a nude picture of a girl, his pupils of the eyes become big. They are more open to receive the nude figure. And you cannot control your pupils; they are not voluntary. So you may say that you are not interested in sex, but a nude picture will show whether you are interested or not. And you cannot do anything voluntarily; you cannot control your eyes’ pupils. They expand because something so interesting has come before them, that they open more, the shutters open more to take more in. No, women are not interested in nude men, they are interested in small babies, so if a beautiful baby’s picture is given to them, their eyes expand.

Every precaution was taken whether they are interested – no interest. By and by the interest was declining. Even in their dreams they stopped seeing girls, sexual dreams. By the second week, fourteenth or fifteenth day, they were simply dead corpses. Even if a beautiful girl comes nearby, they will not look. If someone says a dirty joke, they will not laugh. For thirty days they were starved. On the thirtieth day, the whole group was sexless. There was no sex in their mind, in their body.

Then food was given to them again. The very first day they became again the same. The next day they were interested, and the third day all that starving for thirty days had disappeared. Now not only they were interested, they were obsessively interested – as if this gap had helped. For a few weeks they were obsessively sexual, only thinking of girls and nothing else. When the food was in the body, girls became important again.

But this has been done in many countries all over the world. Many religions have followed this fasting. And then people start thinking that they have gone beyond sex. You can go beyond sex, but fasting is not the way. That’s a trick. And this can be done in every way. If you are on fast you will be less angry, and if you become habitual to fasting, then many things from your life will simply drop because the base has dropped: food is the base.

When you have more energy, you move in more dimensions. When you are filled with overflowing energy, your overflowing energy leads you in many, many desires. Desires are nothing but outlets for energy. So two ways are possible. One is: your desire changes; the energy remains, or energy is removed, desire remains. Energy can be removed very easily. You can simply be operated, castrated, and then sex disappears. Some hormones can be removed from your body. And that’s what fasting is doing – some hormones disappear; then you can become sexless.

But this is not the goal of Patanjali. Patanjali says that energy should remain and the desire disappears. Only when desire disappears and you are filled with energy you can achieve that blissful state that yoga aims at. A dead person cannot reach to the divine. The divine can be attained only through overflowing energy, abundant energy, an ocean of energy.

So this is the second thing to remember continuously – don’t destroy energy, destroy desire. It will be difficult. It is going to be hard, arduous, because it needs a total transformation of your being. But Patanjali is for it. So he divides his Vairagya, his desirelessness, in two steps.

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