Yoga Sutra Verse 1.5

July 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

yoga_sutra_verse_1.5

Definitions

vṛttiayaḥ – habits, fluctuations, impressions, waves
pañcatayaḥ – five ways
kliṣṭāḥ – molested, tormented, afflicted, distressed,connected with pain or suffering
akliṣṭāḥ – untroubled, undisturbed

Translation

The impressions and subsequent mental habits [vṛttis] of the mind are created five ways and can be uplifting or degrading

Commentary

Thoughts, fantasies, material desires, remembrances, ideas, knowledge, and other mental activities are all the products of perception. They do not arise spontaneously in a vacuum, but represent a pattern of stimulus and response. A wave (i.e vṛtti) is the ocean’s lapping upon the shore, but it is not some unique and arbitrary phenomena. It is the habitual result of conditions (i.e saṁskāras) within the ocean itself.

Even thoughts that are seemingly constructed on demand are a product of earlier inputs. In other words, thinking you are original is very unoriginal. Mental activity is a habit. A self-reinforcing habit that appears to have no beginning and no end. Yoga is about overcoming the habits of the mind, which is in fact, thinking and anything else your mind is busy spinning out.

Some habits are hard to break, others are easier. In general, bad habits are harder to break because they have more inertia. Good habits are easier to overcome so Patañjali will suggest that developing good habits, which support yoga practice, are beneficial. Not because they will help you overcome the mind, but because a mind made up of good mental habits will be easier to overcome.

Your character, or dharma, are what create the habits of the mind. That is to say, your mental habits in and of themselves are not problematic, but rather the intent or conditions (saṃsāra) you created them with will make your mental activity/habits either helpful (akliṣṭa) to your yoga or harmful (kliṣṭa). If your intentions or efforts are virtuous (virtues are kindness, courage, honesty, humility, forbearance, etc…) they are considered dharmic. If the underlying conditions of your mind give rise to unhealthy, irresponsible, or dysfunctional mental habits, then you are adharmic. For example if you are always angry, sullen and quick to violence, then you can see how your internal state ,or perception of reality, leads to a certain  type of mental activity. This in turn, leads to different types of behavior (which means more karma).

Karma is different from dharma. Karma is the cyclical law of action and reaction. In your life you will create multitudes of karma in the form of every action you take. And, you will experience a long history of karma that produced the life you are living now. In other words Karma is a self-reinforcing feedback loop. According to the great yogis the karma you perform in this life blossoms in the next life. You cannot do much to change the karma you are born with but you can change your perception of it and you can stop creating more of it. Changing your perception of it is a function of dharma. This involves taking what you got and doing something virtuous with it. Think of it this way – karma is what you are born with and dharma is what you do with it. Stopping the creation of karma is a function of bhakti (aka love of spirit). This involves doing everything for the sake of unconditional love. You will learn more about this as we proceed through the sūtras.

So your behavior creates your internal conditions, and your internal conditions create your mental activities. Patañjali categorizes all mental activity into five categories. These are in the next verse, yoga sūtra 1.6.

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