The Secret of the Yoga Sutra Book Club Session 1

Sutras 1:1-1:6

October 13, 2014    BY Yoga International

Summary and Key Terms

The first four sutras are the foundation not only for the first chapter of the Yoga Sutra, but also for the entire text.

Sutra 1:1 is a celebration of the luminosity and power of our core being. It tells us that samadhi is the mind’s natural attribute and explains why unveiling the mystery of the mind is the core of Yoga philosophy and practice. 

Sutra 1:2 is an overview of the innate and acquired attributes of the mind. It introduces two key terms: chitta and vritti.

Chitta: the principle of awareness. This is the word Patanjali uses to describe the dynamics and power of the mind.

Chitta has three distinct faculties:

  1. Buddhi: the essence of intelligence; the force of and conduit for illumination
  2. Ahamkara: the faculty of self-identification; the sense of I-am-ness
  3. Manas: the faculty of thought; the ability to notice and cognize   

Vritti: operation of the mind; the mind’s roaming tendency. The concept of vritti is discussed briefly in the Introduction and expanded on throughout the commentary on Samadhi Pada. 

Sutra 1:3 provides an overview of Consciousness—our pure, eternal, and unchanging core being—and explains why in spite of the intrinsic luminosity of our core being, we find ourselves completely at the mercy of our mind. 

Sutra 1:4 explains how our mental conditioning shapes our experience of life and why it is so crucial that we refine our mind and restore it to its pristine state.   

Sutras 1:5 and 1:6 outline the qualities and characteristics of the mind’s roaming tendencies, dividing them into five distinct categories. 

The next five sutras are a detailed explanation of the five categories of vritti.

Other key terms you will encounter in the commentary on sutras 1:1-1:6 include samskara and vritti samskara chakra. 

Samskara: Every vritti (thought) creates an impression in the mind. Repeated thoughts manifest as habits; a habit repeated over and over begins to influence our thoughts and becomes a samskara—a habit so deeply ingrained that it shapes our inner world and molds our personality. 

Vritti samskara chakra: We perform our actions under the spell cast by our mind’s roaming tendencies (vrittis), fueled by our deeply ingrained habits (samskaras). This cycle gathers momentum until it becomes self-sustaining and shapes our experience of life. This concept is also known as the wheel of karma. (See the Introduction and Appendix C, as well as the commentary on sutras 1:5 and 1:12.)

Questions 

  1. Sutra 1:2 gives Patanjali’s definition of Yoga in four words: Yoga, chitta, vritti,and nirodha. What do they mean and why it is important to understand them at the outset?
  2. Panditji’s commentary starts out on a high note, telling us that a human being is an island of excellence and that samadhi is the mind’s natural attribute. He focuses much of the discussion in the next four sutras (1:2-1:5) on the mind’s acquired attributes. What are they and why does Panditji place so much emphasis on them?
  3. What is vritti samskara chakra and how is it operating in your life today?
  4. In the commentary on sutra 1:5, Panditji says that the purpose of Yoga is to understand the nature of vritti samskara chakra and bring it to a halt. Is vritti samskara chakra the key to unveiling the mystery of the mind? At a practical level, are the mind and vritti samaskara chakra synonymous? 
  5. In his commentary on sutra 1:3, Panditji explains that Consciousness has become enslaved by the mind. Why is it so important to understand that this is the situation we all find ourselves in? 
  6. Consciousness has fallen into the domain of the mind, and the mind has appropriated the role of Consciousness. What does this mean on a practical level? What are the consequences?
  7. What are the five categories of vrittis or thought constructs? As the goal of Yoga sadhana is to arrest all vrittis, did you find any of these categories surprising?

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