VAIRAG, usually bairagor sometimes virag`in Punjabi, is derived from Sanskrit vairagya meaning “change or loss of colour, growing pale ; disgust, aversion, distaste for or loathing of ; freedom from all worldly desire, indifference to worldly objects or to life ; asceticism,” or analysed as vi (prefix denoting disunion, separation, division)+rag (act of colouring or dyeing, colour, hue, tint, dye especially red colour, redness ; any feeling or passion especially love, affection or sympathy for ; vehement desire of, interest, joy, delight in; musical note, harmony, melody; loveliness, beauty). Simply stated, vairaghas been defined as a mental state or attitude implying “detachment from and indifference to all things that stimulate desire, arouse the passion and strengthen any of the other virtues or vices.”
Thus defined vairaga may be desirable or odier wise depending on what its practitioner desires or disapproves. However, the term is more often than not employed to connote freedom from all worldly desires and indifference to worldly objects and to life itself. It is thus considered as synonymous with renunciation and asceticism. Asceticism, which is the consequence of vairag, is a value acknowledged in many advanced religions including Christianity and Islam.
In traditional Indian religions it is at the core, and has given rise to numerous sects of anchorites and hermits. All these indulge in ritual practices of their respective order. One of the sects of VaiSriav anchorites is named Bairagi (Skt. Vairagin).Sannyasis (Skt. sannyasin), torn from worldly affairs, seek liberation by renunciation, meditation or repeated chanting of certain man tras aloud or sotto voce. Sikhism introduced significant changes in the traditional concept of vairag”.
For the Guru the world and worldly life were not to be despised because they were the manifested part of the Ultimate Reality. God created earth as dharamsal, i.e. premises for right action (GG, 7) and human birth is a rare chance for Godrealization (GG, 12). Disinterested participation and not renunciation is therefore the right path. Vainly must be differentiated from tyag (renunciation) and sannyas (inonasticism). Mere abandonment of property means nothing so long as the mind remains chained to desire.
Vai`rag implies freedom from desire other than a craving for nearness to God. In Punjabi speech virag” (vairag) is also used for yearning, love sickness or sadness caused by separation. Bairagm this sense is also used by tlie Gurus in their hymns to express deep longing for God. Guru Ram Das, Nanak IV, says, “Come, meet me 0 God ; I have been separated for long ; my mind is lull of bairag`. in}` eyes moist with love,” (GG. 149). Guru Arjan also sang, niani bairag bhaia darsami dcklianai ka (hail “my mind craves, anxious to have a glimpse“ (GG, 50).
Vairag in Sikhism thus connotes not renunciation and escapism, but living a life of rightful activity with a longing to win God`s pleasure. Says Guru Nanak, “Countless bairagis talk of bairag, but bairagi is lie whom tlie lord likes” (GG. 634).According to CÂ»uru Ram Das, “True hairagis are those fortunate ones who, living in their houses with their families in a trance of equipoise, imbued in Lord`s name and concentrating on Sabda, tlie Guru`s Word, serve the True Lord” (GG, 1246): To quote Guru Nanak again, “a householder, bairagi at heart, who dyed in truth and God`s fear sips the nectar of true knowledge, feels no other hunger” (GG, 21).
Three things are necessary for the cultivation of true vairagGuru; faith and God`s grace. As Kabir says in the Guru Granth Sahib, “One does not have detachment (vairag`) without the true Guru even if one wishes and craves for it” (GG, 1104). For the Sikh Gurus` Word (gurbanT) is the true Guru who shows him the right path.Unwavering faith in the Guru is, however, necessary.
Doubt (dubidha) being antithesis of faith is a great hinderance to true vairag, as says Guru Nanak, “so long as . there is even an iota of dubidha, detachment (vairag) cannot be attained” (GG, 634). But ultimately, everything depends on God`s will and pleasure, that is nadar, a basic concept in Sikhism. Neither Guru nor gian (true knowledge) nor vairagis found without God`s grace. As already said, “countless talk of vairag”, but vaimglis lie whom He wills so to be” (GG, 634).
1. Jodh Singh, Bhai, Gurmati Nirnaya. Patiala, 1990
2. Sher Singh, The Philosophy of Sikhism. Lahore, 1944