Editor's Note: Dr. Miller has translated several classical Indian texts from Sanskrit into English. In the last issue we published a Part One of Richard's translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras along with his rich insights and incisive commentary.
Click here to read Part One in the December edition.
The Five Categories of the Mind
Identification with the movements of our mind (prakṛti) can distract us from recognizing and awakening to our Essential Nature (puruṣa), which is always
present. Therefore, it can be helpful to understand the various movements that otherwise bind attention and prevent self-realization.
In the following seven sutras, Patañjali provides us a clear view of the five ways mental activity can arise and cloud perception. Right understanding
leads to right orientation, so that in each moment we may break free of our identification with thoughts, and free attention to discover our underlying
Essential and unchanging Nature.
What are the movements of the mind that often bind attention?
I. 5. vṛttayaḥ paṇchatayyaḥ - kliṣṭâkliṣṭâḥ
movements; attitudes of the mind; modifications; modes; states; moods
five modes or ways; five degrees
painful; impurity in relation to the senses and mind and their intake and evaluation of painful situations
not painful; not impure; pleasant; happy; neutral (sattvic)
The mind can be categorized as being comprised of five principle activities, states or moods that give rise to our experience
of happiness, pleasantness, pain, difficulty, or neutrality.
Identification with the mind’s attitudes of happy, pleasant, painful, difficult, or neutral gives rise to our experience of dissatisfaction and suffering.
The practices of yoga help dissolve identification, thereby clearing the way for discriminative perception, insight, and wisdom whereby we realize we are
more than any changing attitude that’s arising. We must keep in mind, however, that awakening and enlightenment are not dependent upon the elimination of
these activities (prakṛti), but upon recognition of our Essential Nature (puruṣa) that exists independent of any and all of the activities of the mind (See
also Yoga Sutra I.3).
What are these five principle activities, or moods of the mind?
I. 6. pramâṇa - viparyaya - vikalpa - nidrâ - smṛtayaḥ
sources of valid knowledge; to see; to pursue right conceptual knowledge
misinterpretation; illusion; wrong knowledge
delusion; hallucination; fancy; imagination
We need to understand the five categories, activities, or movements of the mind, so that we don’t become reactively caught up in and identified with them.
These activities are:
(1) Right cognition, reasoning, perception, or intuition, which is assumed to be reliable and therefore to constitute our
ability to discern right knowledge;
(2) Misapprehension, unsound thinking, or wrong knowledge, which is based on incorrect assumptions, presumptions, beliefs,
self-judgments, deductions, and inferences;
(3) Imagination, hallucinations, or delusions, which are totally unrelated to facts;
(4) Sleep, lethargy, torpor, or dullness, which arise as a result of identification with, and succumbing to the movement of thought, that gives rise
to the belief/feeling that it is impossible to break free; and
(5) Memory, which is our recollection of a teaching, experience, notion, or image.
We perceive the existence and workings of the mind through understanding how these five principle movements of the mind function. We must understand that
these are filters, modifications, fluctuations, or cycles of thought. By understanding their nature, identification with these movements can be broken, and
correct apperception of our Essential Nature (puruṣa) can arise. That said, we must constantly remember that our Essential Nature is always present, but is
often ignored as a result of identification with these five movements.
What is right cognition, reasoning, perception, or intuition?
I. 7. pratyakṣa - anumâna - âgamâḥ - pramâṇâni
direct perception; sense experience; intuition
valid proof; tested and attested facts; correct knowledge
is derived from one of three principle sources:
(1) Direct perception whereby understanding is recognized directly and accurately;
(2) Deductive reasoning, which is an extension of direct perception whereby, in the absence of direct experience, we deduce understanding through
the application of logic based on previous knowledge, which may lead to correct understanding, or our false presumption that “since this comes from a
reliable source, it must be correct”; and
(3) Scriptural or other trustworthy testimony whereby we accept as proof the statements of others whom we accept as an authority.
Right Cognition occurs in three ways:
1) Our senses provide reliable perceptions, which enable us to perceive and recognize an object directly and accurately.
2) When the senses cannot provide accurate information, the mind can develop an understanding through deductive reasoning based upon prior knowledge.
3) When our senses and mind cannot provide accurate information, our mind can rely upon reliable, authoritative sources.
What is incorrect knowledge?
I. 8. viparyayo - mithyâjñânam - atadrûpapratiṣṭham
wrong or incorrect knowledge; misinterpretation; erroneous impressions; misperception
false or mythical
untrue form; not established in the true form of the object that is being seen
with the reality of possessing
and incorrect knowledge, which is the most frequent activity of the mind, is due to our inability to correctly observation or infer right
understanding. Our inability to perceive correctly is based on errors in cognition that we don’t recognized in the moment, or even during subsequent
actions. Hence, our thinking is faulty and unsound, as there is no agreement between the perception and reality, between our experience and our description of our experience.
In unsound thinking gives rise to incorrect knowledge due to one of five aspects:
(1) avidya: our inability to perceive correctly
(2) asmitâ: identification with the ego I function of the mind
(3) raga: attachment
(4) aveṣa: aversion
(5) abhiniveśa: blind clinging and refusal to relinquish
What is imaginative or delusive cognition?
I. 9. śabdajñânânupâtî - vastuśûnyo - vikalpaḥ
actual objectivity; substance
hallucination; fancy; delusion; imagination
, hallucinatory or delusional cognition is perception without substance, or words that have no corresponding reality,
however inspiring or satisfying they may appear to be.
Imagination is created by identification with mental impression of an object, which arise without direct observation, or through faulty communication. So
long as perception occurs with the help of words, imaginative delusions will arise. The opposite—truth-bearing wisdom (ṛtambhâra prajñâ)—is based on
perception that lies beyond the five categories, or modifications of the mind.
What is sleep?
I. 10. abhâvapratyayâlambanâ - vṛttirnidrâ
natural absence; without
content of the mind; consciousness
When we identify with the content of the mind as an absence or void, sleep prevails, which is our identification with a state
of mental inactivity. Sleep is a state characterized by identification with the cessation of cognition. Sleep (nidra) occurs as a daily
activity, or as a result of boredom, exhaustion, or physical or mental lethargy. It is a state of mind characterized by identification with the inert state
of mind (tamas).
During sleep there is lack of awareness and understanding of the blank or void state that is present. But sleep is a mental state and can be witnessed like
any other cognition. Meditation does not stop simply because gross or subtle cognition ceases.
In the waking state the thinking mind, senses, and organs of action are operational. In the dream state only thinking is active. In the dreamless state all
three are inactive. Yoga enables us to experience the ability to witness even the dreamless state.
What is memory?
I. 11. anubhûtaviṣaya - asaṁpramoṣaḥ - smṛtiḥ
experience; to follow an object
object; subject matter
exact presentation; not letting go or allowing to escape
arises when we cling to, or retain impressions created by past experiences. Because memory is based on past impressions, it prevents current, accurate observation and understanding, and is therefore categorized as a distraction, and should be
witnessed like any other cognition.