Part 3. Action or renunciation

Abhyasa and Vairagya are directed to intensely intense students.  Kriya Yoga expounded in the second chapter and is directed to those who are of milder inclinations as the place of action is primary. 

‘…the very first sutra of Pantajali involves abhyasa – practice. (This is an unusual translation as he is focusing on  Anusasana which he emphasises it as a code of conduct or a practice, rather than an ‘exposition’)  What is practice?  It is a code of behaviour. He speaks of practice (abhyasa) in the first sutra and restraint and detachment (vairagya) in the next, while in the third he describes the zenith of abhyasa and vairagya.

Practice is imbued with codes of conduct in the form of yama and niyama, which Patanjali explains later.  He speaks of renunciation in the very beginning of the first chapter because the people of his time were capable of observing restraint.  Hence the concept appears early in the text as abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah (Y.S., I.12), practice and renunciation restrain the movements of consciousness.  His introduction of restraint in the first chapter is meant for the enlightened ones, known as uttamabhyasi (intensively intense practitioners), or those who have the seed of yoga in their hearts.  Through intense practice, their intrinsic genius rapidly germinates and grows to the highest level.

The fourth sutra of the first chapter says that the self is drawn by the mind to sweet waves of pleasure and fluctuating mood.  Patanjali does not want the sadhaka to be caught in the web of thought, but to cut his way to freedom.  That is why abhyasa (practice) and vairagya (renunciation) were dealt with so early in the text for those who are intensely intense.

Knowing that it is not possible for all to keep the self away from the net of the mind, Patanjali has divided the practice into four stages according to the level of the sadhaka known as mrdu, Madhya, adhimatra and tivra (mild, middle, intense and intensely intense).  In the first chapter he is speaking for the intensely intense sadhaka and not for the other levels.

The second chapter is for the mild, the average and the intense students.  There he begins, with tapah svadhyaya Isvarapranidhanai kriyayogah (Y.S. II.1), which means, practice with zeal, study to know about the Self, and devotion towards God.  For an average intellect, this yoga filled with action is easier than jumping straight into renunciation’.

BKS Iyengar. Astadala Yogamala Vol 2 p58

Read the full article by BKS Iyengar

Iyengar gives emphasis to a path of action before the path of renunciation . Why?


Write a few paragraphs on why Iyengar gives emphasis to a path of action before the path of renunciation. Give an example from your life where you have experienced this

Assignments should be in Pdf with the following code T-Ph04 Why action followed by your initial and surname. Example (T-Ph04 Why action JSmith)