Yoga Sutra - Samādhi Pada 1.12
अभ्यासवैराग्याभ्यां तन्निरोधः ॥१२॥
abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyāṃ tat-nirodhaḥ ||12||
Through practice and dispassion arises restraint.
[The vṛtti states of mind] are stilled by practice and dispassion.
At the beginning of the text (I.2), Patañjali defined yoga as citta-vṛtti-nirodha, the restraint of the vṛttis, the changing states of the mind. Having explained what constitutes a vṛtti, he now turns his attention to nirodha, restraint. How, exactly, are the vṛttis to be restrained? In this sūtra he identifies two ingredients necessary for such restraint: practice and dispassion (renunciation). Vijñānabhikṣu quotes the Gītā here: “The mind is undoubtedly fickle and difficult to control, O Arjuna, but it can be controlled by abhyāsa–vairāgyābhyām, practice and dispassion” (VI.35). The same two ingredients are indicated by Patañjali in this sūtra. As was seen in I.6, Patañjali’s typical method is to introduce a list in one sūtra and then explain the items on this list in the subsequent sūtras, so his definitions of practice and dispassion follow in the next sūtras.
Before proceeding to an analysis on practice and dispassion, Vyāsa notes that the stream of the citta, mind, can flow two ways: toward its upliftment or toward its downfall. He analogizes the mind to a river, which normally flows down the channels of the senses toward their objects and into the sea of saṁsāra, the cycle of birth and death. However, by dispassion toward the sense objects, the flow of this river of the mind toward the sea of saṁsāra is checked, and by discrimination, the current of the river is reversed and the mind flows back, away from saṁsāra, and toward realization of the self. By flowing along the course of discrimination, the mind leads to upliftment and ultimate liberation; contrarily, if it flows along the course of nondiscrimination in the form of sensuality, it produces karma, which may be good or bad depending on whether the actions the mind provokes are pious or impious, and perpetuates the vicious cycle of repeated birth and death. By practice and dispassion, the flow of the mind toward sensual attractions, which might entice the mind toward vice, becomes drastically diminished. Rather, by practice, which of course refers to the practice of yoga, the flow of the mind toward higher knowledge becomes unobstructed, and the mind becomes immersed in discrimination.
Another way of putting this from the perspective of the guṇas is that sattva becomes enhanced and rajas and tamas minimized. Discrimination, dispassion, and the impetus to seek a practice in order to realize Truth are inherent in the mind when its sāttvic potential is not overwhelmed by rajas and tamas, which are the influences provoking the flow of the mind toward sensuality. Bhoja Rāja adds that by practice and renunciation, eventually all fluctuating states of the mind, whether sāttvic, rājasic, or tāmasic, can be controlled. He understands dispassion as the realization by the wise of the negative repercussions of sensuality, which results in avoidance of it—the pursuit of sensual pleasure always bears a hidden price.