vrttayah pancatayyah klistaklistah
The mind is a combination of five (panca) different activities (vrttis). Each of these activities can either be problematic, resulting in pain (klista) or non-problematic and painless (aklista).
PRACTICAL LIVING The past 3 sutras have mentioned the mind several times. We have explored the definition of Yoga in Sutra I.2: the mind’s ability to choose an object, focus on it and sustain that focus. Sutra I.3 mentions how having a “clean” mind is essential in order to live a peaceful life. But what is the mind? This sutra begins to answer this question and introduces the idea that we can only understand the mind through its activities. The next sutra states what these 5 activities are:
- pramana (correct understanding or clear perception)
- viparyaya (misperception)
- vikalpa (imagination)
- nidra (deep sleep)
- smrtti (memory)
This sutra says that all of these activities can either cause us problems or not. Memory (smrtti) of a wonderful trip to the Himalayas can bring us to a positive state of mind in the present. On the other hand, the negative or traumatic memories of the dog that bit us when we were little can prevent us from seeing things clearly in the present, so that even seeing a stuffed dog on a child’s lap can be a painful experience. Misperception (viparyaya) often causes pain because the mind is colored from past experiences. We assume and judge others and later realize that they had not intended or said the words we had heard. However, misperception can be painless many times. The expression “ignorance is bliss” describes this idea. If a 94-year old woman, who is physically and mentally vulnerable from old age hears that her 54-year old son committed suicide, would knowing the truth be good for her? In this case, not knowing the truth (hearing it was an accident) may be the best for her; less painful and problematic at her advanced age. Similarly, we can use the imagination (vikalpa) to visualize a beautiful future, or we can use it to worry about all the horrible things that could happen to us if we were caught in a Tsunami. Finally, deep sleep (nidra) is a necessary daily activity which prevents us from having health problems. It could, however, become a problem if that is our main activity while we are driving or if we are depressed and sleeping 20 hours per day.
Whether these activities are beneficial or problematic cannot be seen immediately. Time will reveal the effects. The good thing is that we have a lifetime to learn which activities are causing problems, so that we can make the necessary changes to ultimately see things clearly (pramana).
IN THE YOGA WORLD The journey towards inner peace is long: committed seekers accept that there will be challenges along the way. Many of us live in viparyaya frequently. The reason for that is because we tend to focus on negative thoughts. Every thought creates an imprint (samskara), which is easier and easier to access every time we have that same thought over and over again. In Chapter II, Patanjali reveals the causes for suffering: ignorance (avidya), ego (asmita), attachment (raga), avoidance (dvesa) and fear (abhinivesa). All of those lead to viparyaya – not seeing things clearly. Our problematic thoughts (klista vrttis) often lead us to misperception (viparyaya), which result in ignorance (avidya – we will discuss this more in Chapter 2), causing us to see the world from an “I” or ego (asmita) perspective, eventually causing us to suffer (duhkha). On the other hand, non-problematic thoughts (aklista vrttis) frequently result in correct perception (pramana), which cultivates discernment (viveka), and later leading to freedom (kaivalya – the ultimate goal of Yoga).
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON Heather is one of the kindest and most generous people I’ve ever met. She has been there to answer phone calls when I was a ‘little’ emotional. She has listened to my mind go through a million thoughts, which were often based on complete misperception (viparyaya). This woman has an infinite capacity to look at me, listen and just be compassionate with little to no judgment. I thank you Heather for the numerous times you listened to my stories and offered the simplest, yet immensely powerful tools that have helped me in my life journey! I also super cherish all the fun moments we spent dancing to live music or making sand angels at the beach 🙂