The Importance of Abhyas or Regular Practice

Hinduism Concepts

by Jayaram V

Abhyasa means regular practice or doing the same thing repeatedly, such as memorizing, or learning a skill, trade or professions, with an intention to gain mastery and control over what has been learned. It is mostly associated with education, learning, study and practice (vidyabhyasam).

In spiritual life abhyasa has a great significance. For example, the practice of yamas and niyamas or meditation and concentration in yoga requires dedicated effort which qualifies as abhyasa for understanding. With regular practice arises self-control and mastery.

In ancient India, Students recited the scriptures regularly even after they completed their education. It helped them remain grounded in the knowledge of the Vedas which was crucial for their success in life. For them abhyasa was the means of practicing dharma, achieving artha (wealth) (ordained karmas) and attaining moksha or self-realization.

A great emphasis was laid upon practice and discipline, By that alone one attained excellence and attained these aims of human life. The first one was accomplished by memorizing all the important scriptures such as the Vedas and Shastras. The second one was accomplished by performing ones obligatory duties such as household duties and familial duties. The third one was accomplished by training the body and mind under the watchful eyes of an enlightened master.

The word Abhyasa is a combination of two root words: 'abhi' and 'aayas'. "Abhi" means "over" or "above" or "greatly" or "excessively" and "aayaas" means "effort" or "action". Thus literally speaking, "Abhyasa" means over-action, excessive action, or deep exertion. The word is usually used in a positive sense to denote a virtue rather than a vice. In education, Abhyasa means reading, studying and doing exercises. In mathematics it refers to the practice of multiplications.

We come across many references to Abhyasa in Hindu scriptures. In the Bhagavadgita, Lord Krishna informs Arjuna that it is by abhays one develops vairagya (detachment) from worldly things(6.35).

Bhagavadgita 6:35

Whether it was in arts, education, military training, household matters, spiritual practices or worldly affairs, Abhyasa is the key to learning, developing insight, and memorizing a scripture. Especially in times when there were no written scripts, Abhyasa was the only way to retain the whole scriptures in memory and pass on to others. Abhyasa was therefore at the core of ancient Indian thought and was an important factor in the preservation of sanatana dharma and ancient traditions.

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