Vairāgya means giving up, renunciation. We have to give up something to get something higher or better. To strengthen the mind, we have to give up its impurities. All impurities come from selfishness. So, vairāgya may be understood as the giving up of all selfish hankering after small things that bring weakness and narrowness, for the sake of gaining strength and purity.
Rāga in Sanskrit means inclination, affection, attachment, or attraction toward something or somebody. Vairāgya is its absence. It is a very strong mental state characterized by indifference to or detachment from all worldly, selfish pleasures and objects of pleasure.
Most people think day and night: I want this and that, I must have so much money, so much enjoyment and fame, I hate others who are doing better than me, and so on. That makes the mind restless and extremely narrow day by day. Such a mind being weak and uncontrollable cannot be concentrated properly for any good purpose. And if we remain very selfish, how can we love and do good to others?
However, we are not suggesting that all of us must shun all selfish desire here and now. Higher ideals can be understood and assimilated only through slow and constant practice. Moreover, we must avoid a negative approach. The more we proceed toward Kashi, the more is Kolkata left behind. The more we progress toward the positive ideas of life, the more we grow natural detachment from weakening things. It is a question of growth and not of artificial imposition. A fruit falls when it is ripe.
For us, it may be suggested that we should try to have a little less selfish desire than before, curtail a bit of it, so that we can become true men, so that we learn to feel for others, work for others, without giving up our own ordinary requirements entirely. Let us not be too engrossed in self-centred thoughts and activities, in self-seeking pleasures. Let us avoid the unwholesome, weakening things of life by engaging the mind more and more in life-giving thoughts and good activities. Let us try to shun compromising with weakness and be men. A small drop of vairāgya will be enough for us.