I start from where I left off my last article? What is Yoga?
We defined Yoga as the connection between body and mind, physiology and psychology with the connecting link being the breath. For our purposes we are following the instructions so lucidly and succinctly laid down by Patanjali at around the 2nd century A.D. or bit before around the time of Jesus Christ, but definitely after the time of Buddha.
The purpose of Yoga is achieved when we are able to cease all thoughts and rest in our own form uncontaminated by the conditioning of collective consciousness or our own. When we connect with our Self, the duality of object and subject does not remain to confuse us. We are all one and a part of each other. There is no you, me, them, us, this, that – there is just the Self and all Self are merged into one.
So how do we cease the thoughts that prevent us from reaching our higher potential – that of connecting us to our Self? In other words, how do we cause cessation of our thought processes which arise to cause obstacles on our path to reach our supreme consciousness where we can see objects as they are without being colored by our past conditioning?
Patanjali is a very practical man. He does not at this stage say that we must always be without thought – that would have been thoughtless of him! After he says that the purpose of Yoga is to cease the thoughts that prevent us from being in our supreme consciousness, lest he be misunderstood, he immediately clears the concept by saying in Sutra 1.4, that other times, when one is not without thought; we are in the same mode as our thoughts are.
Sutra 1.4 in Sanskrit: Vritti Sarupyam Ittaratra.
Vritti – wandering thoughts
Sarupyam or Sarupa – in other forms other then our own form, phenomena
Ittaratra – at other times
When we are not in our own form, when we are not free from our wandering thoughts we are in the form of whatever our mind comprehends the object to be, or sometimes without any comprehension. When we are upset with an event, we continue to think what upset us and stay in the mode of being upset as long as we continue to think of what upset us.
In such a state of thoughtful wandering we lose track of our own form and potential. The thoughts lead us in their own way and we meekly follow. We find ways and means to justify our thoughts. Our conditioning takes over and we get stuck in whatever others say than what we need to do. It becomes difficult to be focused. We stop the flow and have no explanation to all the negative consequences that flow from this mindless thinking.
For our benefit, so that we can reach the sate of Yoga, Patanjali in Sutra 1.5, actually states the five mental thought patterns and then spends time on each pattern in the next five Sutras (thought processes) that prevent us from connecting with our Source to reach the state of supreme consciousness where we become one with our Divine Self.
Sutra 1.5, in Sanskrit: Vrittayah Panchtayyah Klishtaklishta
Vrittyah – wavelike psycho-energy patterns; conditioned thought processes
Tayyah – categories or groups
Klishta – afflictive
Aklishta – neutral of afflictive results
In English: there are five categories of conditioned thought processes or wave like psycho-energy patterns that may lead or be derived from obstacles and hindrances or may be neutral of such obstacles and hindrances. While these five obstacles are very useful for the evolution and development of our entire species, we need to stay within the context of Yoga, where they act as obstacles. Elsewhere, they are as per use and application. What are these five obstacles that prevent us from reaching supreme consciousness in yoga? Patanjali answers them in the next Sutra.
Sutra 1.6, in Sanskrit – Pramana, Viparyayo, Vikala, Nidra, Smriti
Pramana – proof, evidence, correct perception, belief systems
Viparyayah – false beliefs, incorrect perceptions
Vikalpa – conceptualizations, intellectual thought constructs
Nidra – sleep
Smriti – memory
Pramana – Conditioned and biased thought processes as a result of belief systems (BS) believed to be right, correct, or even superior. We do not have to go far to see the evidence of this. All through the ages war, strife, terrorism and all that threatened to destroy the fabric of our existence have been caused in some way or other by our belief systems which we are convinced are true and superior to others. Evidence (Pramana) leads us to hold limited experiences in narrow confines as the Truth. Proven theory is just that, a proven theory. Just as a map is not the territory, a proven theory is not reality, the truth or right. Belief systems (so called accepted or politically correct views/beliefs) is thus a conditioned psycho-energy pattern and acts as a hindrance in the process of Yoga, and needs to cease (not suppressed) for us to stay connected with our Divine self.
Viparyayah – Filtering, bias, conditioning of thoughts and mental energy patterns due to mistaken beliefs based on errors of perception or interpretation. Anything that we believe without evidence, reasoning, culture, unsubstantiated beliefs fall into this category. Similar to Pramana, while Pramana is a hindrance due to evidenced belief, here there is an error in the process of perception, understanding, inference or in the data itself.
Vikalpa – Filtering through flight of fancy. We are often caught in thinking circularly about our plans to solve various problems. These are rarely tried out or do not see the light of the day. Thus, considerable mental energy is wasted in finding solutions to problems which may not even exist or exists in our imagination. This is like feeling afraid of what the future holds. Until the future manifests itself, we have no way of knowing what the future holds. Yet, we spend considerable energy in making future plans and worrying about their success, without doing anything practical to fructify them.
Nidra – Sleep is also a state that acts as an obstruction to our Yogic state. Here, Patanjali does not mean just active sleep, but conditions of sleep, such as laziness, sleepy moods, dullness, inattentiveness, delusion and hallucination. This could be substance induced, a natural state, tiredness and exhaustion. We all have experiences of how this state affects our attentiveness and concentration.
Smriti – Memory of past events, our relationships with our family and others, our growing up experiences, past conditioning and some past life memories or archetypes in the collective consciousness act as hindrances to our achieving the Yogic state. Memories act to cause rigidity, as our references to past events act to harden our views on various phenomena and behavior.
With this short essay on what are the actual mental energy processes that hinder us to connect with our source and achieve our highest potential Patanjali goes on to define and describe each of these patterns in detail. In the next article I will try to describe the five hindrances which may be obstacles or may be neutral in our efforts to achieve our goals.