- Vairagya, freedom from any attachment, or renun-ciation, has been a central theme in Hinduism throughout the centuries. It was understood that attachment to worldly desires and ends can result only in continued rebirth, a continued circuit on the wheel of SAMSARA or worldly life.The period from the eighth to the sixth cen-turies B.C.E., when JAINISM and Buddhism first emerged along with the UPANISHAD era within the VEDIC tradition, saw a great expansion in mendicancy and ascetic orders and a flowering of traditions of renunciation. The Vedas themselves, in their ancient MANTRA sections, upheld a very different, world-affirming point of view.Ever since in India, it has been those who left the ordinary world behind and abandoned worldly concerns who have been credited with the greatest spiritual accomplishments. Vairagya in one form can mean simple avoidance of worldly externals, but in its most difficult form it might mean bodily mortification. In either case it is a central feature of Hindu religious life.Further reading: Robert Lewis Gross, The Sadhus of India: A Study of Hindu Asceticism (Jaipur: Rawat, 1992); Patrick Olivelle, “Contributions to the Semantic History of Samnyasa,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 101 (1981): 265–274; ———, Renunciation in Hinduism: A Mediaeval Debate, 2 vols. (Vienna: Univer-sity of Vienna, 1986–87).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.