Yoga Sutra (1.6) – pramana viparyaya vikalpa nidra smritayah. The five types of thought patterns to witness are:
1. Correct knowing (pramana)
2. Incorrect knowing (viparyaya)
3. Fantasy or imagination (vikalpa)
4. The void-ness that is deep sleep (nidra)
5. Recollection or memory (smriti)
Of the five kinds of thought patterns, pramana, or correct knowledge is the one to cultivate. Incorrect knowledge (viparyaya) or fantasy or imagination (vikalpa) are both made up of thought patterns that may have verbal expression and knowledge, but for which there is no real object or basis in existence. Dreamless sleep (nidra) is the subtle thought pattern which has absence or non-existance as its object. Recollection or memory (smriti) is mental modification of a previous impression.
Yoga Sutra (1.7) – pratyaksha anumana agamah pramanani. Pratyaksa is that which is right in front of our eyes (directly seen or perceived). Anumana means that which comes from the intellect (manas, a conclusion). Agamah (from agama), legacy or learning from reliable sources. Pramanani (from pramana), insight, accurate perception; accurate knowledge.
The Yogi learns to witness these five kinds of interfering thoughts (sutra 1.6) with non-attachment, discriminating between these five, and to cultivating the first type of thought, which is knowing correctly (pramana), and there are three ways of gaining correct knowledge:
3. Testimony or verbal communication from others who have knowledge.
According to the oral Yoga tradition, it is taught that you should not simply believe what you hear, but should seek your own direct experience. This is the meaning of the first of these three ways of knowing (Pratyaksa – perception). The second part is that of reasoning (Anumana – inference), whereby you want that experience to be understood in the light of your own inference or reasoning. The third part is that you seek the validation through some respected authority (Agamah & Pramanani – testimony). This might be an oral authority (e.g.; some respected person who has firsthand knowledge) or a written authority (such as the Yoga Sutras or Upanishads).
Yoga Sutra (1.8) – viparyayah mithya jnanam atad rupa pratistham. Viparyaya means false perception or false knowledge. Mithya, also false; misleading. Jnanam (root is Jnana) is knowledge, insight. Atad (a-not, tat-that) means “not that.” Rupa is form, nature. Atadrupa means different form. Pratistham (from root pratistha) is rooted, calming, compatible.
All together these words may be translated as “Error arises from knowledge that is based on a false mental construct” or “Incorrect knowledge (viparyaya) is false knowledge formed by perceiving a thing to be other than what it really is.”
Yoga Sutra (1.9) – shabda jnana anupati vastu shunyah vikalpah. Sabda means word. Jnana is knowledge. Anupati means consequent upon (real). Vastu can be reality, object, thing or entity. Sunya means devoid or empty. Vikalpah is imagining, illusion or semantic confusion (the illusion that a semantic construct actually exists).
Translated – “Imaginings are engendered by word/knowledge without regard for what actually exists in the real world.” Or in other words; “Fantasy or imagination (vikalpa) is a thought pattern that has verbal expression and knowledge, but for which there is no such object or reality in existence.”
Yoga Sutra (1.10) – abhava pratyaya alambana tamo-vritti nidra. Abhava means absence or non-presence. Pratyaya is cognition, impressions (i.e.; impressions in chitta via vrittis). Alambana is support, basis, foundation. Tamo means inertia (Tamas is one of the three gunas or basic properties of matter). Vrtti means lack of clarity (thought waves or patterns). Nidra is deep sleep.
Translated – “Dreamless sleep (nidra) is the subtle thought pattern which has as its object an inertia, blankness, absence, or negation of the other thought patterns (vrittis).”
Yoga Sutra (1.11) – anubhuta vishaya asampramoshah smritih. Anu (from), Bhuta (that which has been experienced in the past). Visshaya is experience (or objects of experience). Samasampramosash means neither being stolen or lost. Smrtih is memory or recollection.
This Sutra is translated to mean: “Recollection or memory (smriti) is mental modification caused by the inner reproducing of a previous impression of an object, but without adding any other characteristics from other sources.” Or more simply stated…”Memory is the recollection (in the current moment) of (past) experienced objects.”
Next in this series, Part 4 (Practice and non-attachment), Yoga Sutras 1.12 thru 16
Part 1 (*link below) in this series ended with the forth Yoga Sutra (1.4) – vritti sarupyam itaratra, which says: “At other times, when one is not in self-realization, the Seer appears to take on the form of the modifications of the mind field, thereby taking on the identity of those thought patterns.”
Those gross and subtle thought patterns (vrittis) referred to in (1.4) fall into five types, that block the realization of the true Self, of which some are colored (klishta) and
others are uncolored (aklishta). The five varieties of thought patterns to witness are:
1. Knowing correctly (pramana)
2. Incorrect knowing (viparyaya)
3. Fantasy or imagination (vikalpa)
4. The void-ness that is deep sleep (nidra)
5. Recollection or memory (smriti)
The Yogi learns to witness these five kinds of interfering thoughts with non-attachment, discriminating between these five, and to cultivating the first type of thought, which is knowing correctly, and there are three ways of gaining correct knowledge (pramana):
3. Testimony or verbal communication from others who have knowledge.
Incorrect knowledge (viparyaya) or fantasy or imagination (vikalpa) are both made up of thought patterns that may have verbal expression and knowledge, but for which there is no real object or basis in existence. Dreamless sleep (nidra) is the subtle thought pattern which has absence or non-existance as its object. Recollection or memory (smriti) is mental modification of a previous impression.
Now on to the sutras…
Yoga Sutra (1.5) – vrittayah pancatayah klishta aklishta. Vrittayah means “the vrittis are;” pancatayah means fivefold (and designates two kinds), panch means five; klishta comes from the root klish (to cause trouble colored, painful, afflicted, impure); aklishta, the root “a” means without or in the absence of, therefore is the opposite of klishta, being uncolored, not painful, not afflicted, pure or absent of the coloring called klishta.
So the sutra basically says; “Those gross and subtle thought patterns (vrittis) fall into five types or varieties, some of which are colored (klishta) and others that are uncolored (aklishta).” Those that are colored (klishta) have to do with ignorance, ego-self, attachments, aversions, and fears. The simple witnessing of whether thought patterns are colored or not colored is an extremely useful part of the process of purifying, balancing, stabilizing and calming the mind so that meditation can deepen.
, and we may come to experience our true “Self” (Atman). The joys of deeper meditation come through uncoloring these mental obstacles (hindrances) that veil the true Self. This uncoloring process is an extremely important concept, and is further dealt with in chapter 2 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It is such an important concept that it is virtually impossible to properly practice Yoga without understanding it.
Thoughts that are colored (klishta) move away from enlightenment and result in bondage, whereas uncolored thoughts (akleshta) move towards enlightenment, resulting in freedom.
Further commentary on this sutra (1.5):
To observe the coloring of our thought patterns is one of the most useful practices of Yoga, and can be done throughout the day. This meditation in action, or mindfulness, can be of tremendous value in clearing the clouded mind, so that during your seated meditation time, that practice can go much deeper.
Witnessing the coloring of thoughts means that whenever a thought and its accompanying emotion arises, you simply identify it as, “This is colored,” or “This is not colored.” Similarly, when confronted with whether some decision or action is useful or not also brings great control over your of minds habits. Again, it is witnessing, and distinguishing between, “This is useful,” or “This is not useful.”
Stay tuned, this series will continue with: Part 3 (Un-coloring Your Thoughts, cont.) beginning with Yoga Sutra (1.6)
Thought can become the master of us all, and as we all probably already assume, a good thought can be a good master and a bad thought can be a bad master. Good thoughts uplift us, making our mood brighter, and making us feel like we’re “on top of the world.” Bad thoughts on the other hand, can be compared to a backpack filled with rocks, slowing us down at every stage of our journey, often overcoming us with lethargy, disinterest or even violence and aggression. Hostile thoughts are especially destructive; even if we “hold them in” they tend to “eat us up” by draining our energy and vitality.
It seems as if every moment we’re alive we are continuously guided by our thoughts. Even when we’re sleeping; a good thought (as in a dream) can bring a smile to our lips, while a bad one can make us break into a cold sweat. So as long as our thoughts are our master, our mind is endlessly enslaved by them. This then would imply that even good thoughts are not really good as long as they are our master.
One of life’s hard realities is that a master/slave relationship will always result in the exploitation of the slave. This practical reality applies to all aspects of life and our relationship with our thoughts is no exception. As long as “thought” remains our master, it will continue to exploit our mind and through our mind we are exploited.
This can be quite humorous, but actually it is in fact humbling to realize that we are nothing more than a product of our thoughts; our actions, behaviors, and all that we are is just a consequence of the dominance that “thought” has upon us.
We become the vehicle and allow thought to be our driver. Now suppose this driver is having a bad hair day and decides to take their anger out on our vehicle (us). As the thought transforms from good to bad, our vehicle starts to get shaky, and all the jolting around causes it to experience excessive (and destructive) wear and tear.
My, oh my, if only that good thought had remained good, why did it have to turn bad? So, as you can see, what is a good thought today can become bad tomorrow, and it seems to do that totally by its own whimsical nature, without “you” even having a say in the matter. Now just imagine what our entire life would be like if it is continually dictated by our thoughts. We do what we do (action or inaction), in the hope that it will stimulate our thoughts (in other words, please our master), who in turn, will then gratify our senses. But we only hope for the best, when in fact, we have no control on how our master interprets what we do (or don’t do).
This begs the question; can we really enjoy the beauty of life, as slaves, without any control? If we look closely we’ll see that none of us even knows what this “beauty of life” really is, and honestly, these words will remain hollow as long as we continue to be slaves.
Time to Turn the Tables – “Role Reversal”
Now, consider what would happen if the role was reversed; if you could become the master and change the content and nature of your thoughts like you use the remote for your TV. What if you could be “genuinely” rejoicing from within, by simply willing it so, even in the face of the worst adversity! What if you could somehow “disconnect” your thoughts from the situation at hand and manipulate them to produce feelings of being totally free and blissful – in other words, you become the master of your thoughts, rather than the other way around?
The main point here is that can this be done? This relationship between slave and master can be altered? That is exactly what the science of yoga and the practice of meditation will achieve. And this is according to the great masters and the ancient scriptures.
As you explore the meditation process and begin to discover its secrets, you will start seeing situations with a new perspective, more as a “witness” than a victim. You will start feeling the control slowly flowing back into you when you establish your practice with a true spiritual purpose. Issues that would normally irritate you become surprisingly fewer in number; while an aura of peace starts to descend over you. You can start “switching off” disturbing situations and the thoughts that produce and/or accompany them with an ease that you never had (or realized) in the past.
This should certainly be reason enough to embark on the path of yoga and meditation without the need to “achieve” or “attain” any other goal?
To quote Eckhart Tolle, “Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don’t realize this because almost everybody is suffering from it, so it’s considered normal. This incessant mental noise prevents you from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from being. It also creates a false mind-made self that casts a shadow of fear and suffering.”
To put things in proper perspective takes real intelligence (Buddhi – to be awake; to understand; to know), not more mind chatter. Then it is possible to realize that thought is only a tiny aspect of our intelligence. Tolle goes on to say: “All the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind.”
The obsessive thinking mind and yoga practice – a bad mix
When the ego-self (established by the thinking mind) is the one performing asana, the mind is actively engaged in self-criticism, comparing your performance with others, thereby judging yourself and those around you. Your mind becomes restless, agitated and engaged in internal conflict while your body is engaged in performing asanas. This internal conflict causes you to be emotionally reactive to whatever is happening at any given moment during your practice and you are engaged in the posture of ego which is contrary to the purpose of yoga – the deconstruction of the ego.
In the Yoga Sutras (1:2) Patajali defines the purpose yoga by saying, “Yoga means stopping the mental modifications.” (chitta vritti nirodah). There is no exact English translation, but roughly translated these Sanskrit words mean…chitta = stuff of the mind, vṛitti = modification (altering perception) and nirodaḥ = to control (find tranquility).
Basically this means that whatever form of yoga you are practicing, the highest priority and the fundamental purpose for the practice is to eliminate mental agitations and emotional reactions. Whenever performing yoga asanas, it is necessary to change from an ego-driven posture that is externally placing the body in a so-called “yoga asana,” while internally, the mind is engaged in conflict. This equates to practicing conflict and calling it yoga. So it stands to reason that in order to convert this ego driven posture into true yoga asana, you need to remove the ego-mind (which is continually engaged by external motivation).
Whenever a student of yoga is able to connect with the part of themselves that is aware beyond any ego-conditioned perception, they have an opportunity to change their reactions to external circumstances. These “knee-jerk” reactions are automatic and unconscious, arising out of the past (or the anticipated future) and can only be dismantled in the present moment. Even though these unconscious reactions tend to happen automatically, there is a part of us that is conscious and can become a witness, thus changing the reaction. When we are able to change our reaction, we can change from our very core and that will change us from the inside, instead of simply altering our external conditions. This is your divine potential, your inherent “Self”. Accessing this Self (or divine potential) has nothing to do with what we’re doing, but how (or from where) we are doing what we’re doing.
Five kinds of thoughts
According to Patanjali, there are only five kinds of thoughts. Although there are countless thought impressions that come into the field of the mind (chitta), which form the source and substance of the barrier (or veil) covering the true Self (Divine consciousness), they all fall into one or more of these five categories. In other words; while there may be many individual thought impressions, there are not countless types of thoughts to deal with, but only these five. This can help students and practitioners of yoga greatly in seeing the underlying simplicity of the science of Yoga, without getting lost in the apparent multiplicity in both the gross and subtle realms. These five thought impressions are:
In Sutra II.33 Patanjali says: “vitarka-badhane pratipaksha-bhavanam” and this means principles that run contrary to yamas and niyamas are to be countered with the knowledge of discrimination. When one has thoughts of violence, untruthfulness, stealing, indulgences, accumulation, lack of cleanliness, discontent by greed, and anger or delusion, the result is dissatisfaction/sorrow. In general, negative thoughts are ones that negate yama and niyama, ethical norms and individual observances. Therefore, for the purpose of attaining a peaceful mind, yoga philosophy suggests two invaluable techniques, to be applied when one is in the midst of experiencing any of the thoughts listed above. The first is cultivating the opposite, positive type of thoughts. Iyengar1 describes negative thoughts, such as, violence, falsehood, stealing, non-chastity and greed as ‘pratipaksha bhavana.’ On the other hand, the opposite of these are cleanliness, contentment, fervor or dedicated practice, self-study and surrender to the Universal Spirit, God or faith, described as ‘paksha bhavana.’ The former, negative thoughts run contrary to ethical norms or yamas, and the latter, positive thoughts, are consistent with following individual disciplines, the niyamas. For cultivating peaceful states of mind it is important to follow yamas and niyamas and that is helped by nurturing thinking that is wholesome, based on right knowledge and awareness.
There is an ancient Indian adage that compares consciousness to a lamp at the door. It shines both in the house and out into the world. It makes one aware of the external (out there) and the internal (in here) worlds. Cultivated awareness is about creating a relationship between these two. In this context, in the sutra referred to above, Patanjali reiterates the importance of adhering to the ethical norms and individual disciplines while attending to the practice of the replacing habitual negative thoughts and tendencies with positive ones, attending to the weaknesses in the body/mind by nurturing strengthening options.
The Vibrations of Thoughts…
Everyone’s body is physiologically tied to their thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. To be healthy, one needs to recognize the intimate connection that exists between the mind, body and spirit. Cultivating positive thinking is a first step in raising your personal vibration.
Recent scientific studies, and state-of-the-art scientific instruments, are being used to measure the effects of both positive and negative thinking with respect to disease and optimal health. Never doubt that negative thoughts have just as much power as positive ones. Negative thinking can slowly wear you down, resulting in a host of mental, physical and emotional problems and conditions; including poor self-esteem, depression and even illness.
Do you ever wonder how one person can succumb to suffering during a particular circumstance, while another person will thrive in the same situation? Nine times out of ten it simply boils down to their mental attitude!
Whenever you choose a thought (and your thoughts are chosen by you), your brain cells are affected. These cells continuously vibrate, sending off electromagnetic waves. The more you concentrate, focusing on those thoughts, the greater the amplitude of vibration of those cells, and the electromagnetic waves, subsequently, become stronger.
Positive thinking can raise your vibration up to 10 Hz (vibrations per second), whereas negative thinking can lower your vibration by as much as 15 Hz. These measurements come from extensive research done by Bruce Tainio of Tainio Technology in Cheney, Washington. His company developed new equipment that can measure the bio-frequency of both humans and the foods they eat. Mr. Tainio has conclusively shown that the number one way to start feeling better is to start thinking positively.
Begin by striving to establish and maintain the positive attitude that you will be triumphant in the end, no matter what the circumstances might be. To do this, first begin by observing your thoughts and recognize habitual thought patterns. Remain detached from them and pay close attention whenever a negative thought enters your stream of consciousness. As soon as you realize this is happening, immediately replace the negative thought with a positive one.
There is an old saying: “You get what you expect.” In other words, if you think you are going to fail at something, you will probably fail and the reverse is also true; if you think you’ll succeed your chances of being victorious will greatly improve. Why? Because your energy follows your thoughts and you begin to create or manifest what you desire and expect. By remaining positive you will prove to yourself and to others that you are a victor, not a victim.