TYAGA – Letting go

TYAGA – Letting go

A conscious decision to abstain from something is a way to mature in meditation

 In a certain monastery a master was preaching forgiveness. A few disciples argued that while letting go was the finest act, it was hard. They wondered what the harm in holding onto certain feelings was, especially if it did not hinder their meditation. The master listened patiently.

He asked them to take a handful of potatoes, engrave the initials of the person they could not or did not want to forgive, one potato per person. He further instructed them to put  their potatoes in a bag, bring them to the class and take them back to their quarters every day. The disciples followed the instructions and everyone carried a bag the next day.

Some were carrying bags bigger than others. 

A week went by, the monks felt ludicrous carrying their sacks around. The potatoes started to rot and stink. They asked their master for how long they were supposed to do the exercise. They complained that it was becoming unbearable to put up with the stench and unnecessary weight.

“So, what have you learned?” the master asked.

“Potatoes are our negative emotions. Holding onto them is carrying burden and stench,” they replied.

“Exactly. But, can you carry potatoes without the bag?” the sage spoke.

“If potatoes are your negative feelings, what is the bag?”

Pindrop silence ensued. It happens at the dawning of wisdom. They understood the bag was their mind.

Skill to Drop Emotion

It is incredible how much garbage we keep within us as if we are attached to the stench of our rotten potatoes. No one I know wants to be unhappy. They want to let go and move on,

but find it extremely difficult to do so. This is where the practice of letting go comes handy. If you consciously train your mind to let go, you can use this skill to drop any emotion.

We all have our attachments and they are the root cause of most of our disappointments. We may like to believe that we remain unaffected or that our love is pure, devoid of attachments to people or things.

The truth is, your degree of detachment can only be ascertained once you are removed from the object of your attachment. There is a specific yogic practice to help you in cultivating the art of letting go.

The word is tyaga in Sanskrit. It means to let go, to give up, to renounce, to detach, to set (yourself) free from the attachment to the object. The practice of tyaga is a powerful one, and the effect is profound. It is capable of igniting a radical transformation in you.

Detachment or letting go is not an automatic act. A fair bit of groundwork is required before one can acquire such a state of dispassion and abandon where it comes naturally to them. A fitting question here is,

“What is that groundwork?” The practice of tyaga is the groundwork.

Like everything else, detachment can be learned. For the purpose of better understanding and to make this a tangible practice, it is useful to segregate the practice into two parts.

First is letting go of physical objects; this strengthens one's mind.

The second is letting go of thoughts or emotions.

I am only elaborating on the first one (letting go of physical objects), because if you meditate correctly, you will develop your own wisdom and method to let go of undesirable thoughts and emotions.


How to Do It Right

Start giving up whatever you like. Essentially, that is the practice; start giving up.

So, should you give up your car, house, belongings and so forth? Not at all.

The attachment is generally not with the object, it is with the pleasure you get from such an object, with the value you place on it. You are not attached to tea, but the pleasure you get from drinking tea. So, if you are willing to part with the joy you get from drinking tea, the habit of drinking tea will leave you effortlessly. The practice of letting go starts with identifying what you love the most and then picking one to begin with, deciding to let go for a certain period. It can be one week, a month, one year or any other duration you decide.

Please see the chart below:


The complete practice of tyaga means abandoning consumption, desire, contemplation and thoughts of the object of attachment. In line with the framework tabulated above, let me elaborate the practice with an example. Let us say you love drinking coffee. Your favourite is cappuccino. For the last so many years, you have been routinely having your double shot cappuccino. You have gotten used to it. On days you cannot get your hands on your coffee, you miss it. Perhaps, you even get a headache if you are unable to get your dose of caffeine. This is attachment; it strips you of your freedom and makes you dependent.

One day, committing yourself to the practice of tyaga, you decide to give up coffee for a period of forty days. During those forty days, consuming coffee even once (consumption row in the table above) is a breach of your practice. The impact is red. It is an instant failure item. You need to restart. If you keep longing for coffee, this means you are unable to take your mind off coffee. You are curbing your desire. Your practice continues, but it brings down the overall quality by twenty percent. If you keep contemplating on coffee, the desire for coffee will arise automatically. If only you remember to gently take your mind off and focus it elsewhere each time you think about coffee, you are doing good. If you think about coffee, which may emerge even at the sight of a cafe, or seeing someone drinking it, is okay.

The key is to drop the thought when it emerges. Having thoughts is natural. When you stay mindful of your practice and resolution, thoughts become feeble and harmless; they disappear as soon as they emerge. When you let go, you gain freedom. It further leads to a state of independence, peace and fulfilment. Ultimately, if you can let go of everything that gives you grief, every agonizing emotion, every discursive thought, you can well imagine your blissful state. When you learn to let go, you are effectively learning to let yourself go free.

-        A Million Thoughts' by Om Swami.

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