Yoga Sutra 1.5

Translation and Commentary

May 27, 2013    BY Pandit Rajmani Tigunait


The mental modifications are fivefold. Some cause misery; others do not.
Yoga Sutra 1.5 Recitation
Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, PhD

Vṛttayaḥ plural of vṛtti: "thought constructs; mental modifications; the revolving habit of the mind."

Pañchatayyaḥ "fivefold; five categories; group of five."

Kliṣhṭākliṣhṭāḥ = Kliṣhṭa + akliṣhṭa
derived from kleṣha: "affliction"
Kliṣhṭa "that which causes afflictions or that which is caused by afflictions." In general, Kliṣhṭa means "that which is hard to deal with; that which creates complications in life; harmful; painful."
Akliṣhṭa "that which minimizes afflictions; the modifications of the mind that are not caused by afflictions; harmless; not painful."

5 waves of the mind

The mind is agitated by waves—dancing day and night. Using just five categories, Patanjali sums up all the activities of the mind.

The entire range of the modifications or fluctuations of the mind can be divided into five categories.

Every activity of the mind creates an impression in the mindfield, which is stored in the form of a saṃskāra. These subtle impressions then motivate the mind to undertake similar activities. Thus, in the long journey of life, actions and their impressions serve as the cause for each other. The goal of yoga is to break this cycle and free the mind.

The entire range of the modifications or fluctuations of the mind can be divided into five categories. Some emerge when we are awake, some when we are dreaming, and yet others when we are asleep. Thought constructs accompanied by accurate perception, false perception, and imagination emerge during the waking state. Imagination also emerges in the dream state. Sleep is a function of the mind in which the mind blocks out all its contents. Recollection is a modification of the mind that may occur in all three states: waking, dreaming, and deep sleep.

All modifications create some degree of agitation in the mindfield. Some are relatively harmless, while others are harmful. Imagination and false perception triggered by fear, for example, perpetuate fear; imagining the presence of God in a Shiva lingam infuses the mind with love and devotion, and thereby banishes fear. Anxiety triggered by the instability of the stock market brings misery; therefore such anxiety is kliṣhṭa, a harmful or painful modification of the mind. On the other hand, anxiety triggered by a spiritual discourse can infuse the mind with courage and enthusiasm to undertake a practice conducive to one’s growth; therefore such a modification of the mind is akliṣhṭa, not painful.

In the language of modern psychology, these kliṣhṭa and akliṣhṭa vṛttis are regarded as negative and positive thinking. When accompanied by negative emotions, such as anger, fear, hatred, jealousy, ego, attachment, and grief, the modifications of the mind are called "negative thoughts." When accompanied by love, affection, hope, kindness, and forgiveness, these modifications are called "positive thoughts." Often we know that negative thoughts and emotions are not conducive to our well-being and yet we fail to stop them; we also know that positive thoughts are conducive to our well-being but we fail to engender them at will. Driven by the subtle impressions of the past, the mind keeps producing negative and positive thoughts and we, as conscious beings, find ourselves tossed by these powerful forces of the mind.

The yogis say that as long as there is mind, there will be modifications, and that if we do not make a conscious effort to take charge of ourselves, the mind will keep functioning under the influence of the subtle impressions of the past. To escape from the past and create a joyful future, we must learn to employ our inherent power of will and determination in the present. This power, called saṃkalpa śhakti, is an intrinsic attribute of consciousness, which employs the mind to explore its own awareness. By using the power of will and determination, we can break the cycle of subtle impressions of the past that give rise to the modifications of the mind, which in turn create the subtle impressions. Cultivating the power of will and determination is called spiritual practice.

Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
Spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute, Pandit Tigunait is the successor of Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Lecturing and teaching worldwide for more than a quarter of a century, he is the author of fourteen books, including his recently-released The Secret of the Yoga Sutra, and his autobiography Touched by Fire: The Ongoing Journey of a Spiritual Seeker. Pandit Tigunait holds two doctorates: one in Sanskrit from the University of Allahabad in India, and another in Oriental Studies from the... Read more>>