Vairagya means literally absence of raga, which has the sense of colour, especially red as Shankara remarks, and hence passion, vehemence, hankering, anger and so on. A desire to win in an argument is not necessarily raga, but if it becomes vehement so that there is exultation when winning, and fury when losing, then it is. The root in Sanskrit has the sense of dyeing – cloth of a neutral colour is dyed a violent red; in the same way actions and feelings can become ‘charged’ with passion.
Raga is sometimes contrasted with dvesha or aversion, but as a rule raga stands for both hankering and aversion, both of them being passionate and based on an intense interest in the object.
Vairagya is detachment from the objects of the world, and further from the gunas or qualities which are the basis of particular objects. We are related to objects and to gunas by false desire and false aversion, both based on a wrong conception of the Self and of the object or guna. All desires, except the desire for God, are false.
The main means to vairagya are:
learning through experience of disappointment,
creating a master sentiment which pulls the currents of life into a harmonious flow, expanding selfish desires into universal art,
science and benevolence, samadhi meditation, vision of Self, and grace of God.