Thursday, May 24, 2012

Studying the Yoga Sutras: The Five Kinds of Thoughts

By Lisa Dawn Angerame

In my last post, I explained that Bhagavan Patanjali says there are five kinds of vrittis, thoughts, which can lead to either bondage or freedom.  What are the five categories of thoughts? 

The first category is called pramana, which means right and unchanging knowledge of what was previously unknown. We gain correct knowledge three ways. The first, pratyaksha, is perception through our senses.  We perceive the world, its general and specific characteristics through our five senses, and information is then presented to the mind. This is the most important means of gaining right knowledge. 

Another way to attain right knowledge is through anumana, logical inference, wherein we are able to establish the correct cause and effect relationship about something because we have already perceived the specifics directly.  For example, if there is smoke, there has to be fire. 

And finally, we gain right knowledge through, agama, verbal and written testimony of others who have reached the endpoint of knowledge and realized the truth.  The words are initially spoken and then written down.  Think of Jesus and the New Testament, the Buddha and the Pali Canon, and Sage Patanjali and the Yoga Sutras.  All of these sages had transcendental experiences and were able to communicate them to the world.  However, this is not to say that is okay to accept these words on face value as blind faith plays no part in our personal quest for enlightenment.  We need to do our own practice.

The second category of thought, viparyaya, is false or wrong knowledge, perceiving a thing as being other than what it really is.  It encompasses all delusions, illusions, and confusions and can arise through impaired sense perception, defective inference, and invalid verbal testimony.  The good news is that viparaya gets dismissed by right knowledge.  For example, say you are walking on the beach and you something sparkling in the sand.  At first you think it is a piece of gold but then when you pick it up and inspect, it you realize it is simply a rock that glints like gold in the sun.

The third category of thought, vikalpa, is another type of false knowledge but it is based on words that have no corresponding perceptible object.  An idea arises in the mind that is created by the power of the words themselves but there is no corresponding perceptible object.  While useful in worldly communication, and will continue as long as we interact via language, we have to be conscious of the fact that thoughts based on vikalpa are illusions. For example, time is vikalpa because it is a construct of the mind. There is a sundial in the park near my apartment.  After daylight savings time went into effect, the dial shows the “wrong” time.

What is the difference between an illusion created by viparaya and one created by vikalpa?  In viparyaya, after we realize the true nature of an object, the delusion is no longer there.  But in vikalpa the illusion is still there. 

The fourth category of thought is nidra, deep sleep.  It is the state of mind caused and supported by the quality tamas or restlessness.  Sometimes we sleep and have no memory of having slept.  But other times, we are so restless that we are tossing and turning because thoughts are disturbing our sleep.  We are the physical embodiment of the activities of the mind.  Upon awakening, we feel cloudy in our minds and heavy in our bodies, and because there is memory of having slept upon awakening, deep sleep is considered a vritti, with the goal to bring the mind under control in order to have restful sleep.

The fifth category of thought is memory, smriti, recall of experience without addition.  In fact, all of the vrittis, including smriti, are considered memory because all thoughts create lasting impressions.  Smriti is memory of memory! We are the sum total of all of our experiences.  Everything else is a delusion.  Every memory creates an impression in the mind, and these impressions, whether they lead to bondage or freedom, need to be controlled in order to abide in our own true nature, in the state of yoga.

Lisa Dawn has been studying the Yoga Sutras in depth with master teacher A. G. Mohan of India.  She has memorized all four books and teaches small groups. 

No comments:

Post a Comment