This post will explore Patanjali's Yoga Sutras 4, 5 and 6 from Chapter 1 (1.4, 1.5, & 1.6), Book One: Samādhi Pāda (the Portion on Contemplation); reflections on all previous sutras can be found in the other posts of the Exploring the Sutras category on this blog (in the right-side column).
*All translations by Sri Swami Satchidananda*
Sutra 1.4: Vrtti sārūpyam itaratra ~ "At other times [the Self appears to] assume the forms of the mental modifications."
Sutra 1.5: Vrttayah pañcatayyah klistāklistāh ~ "There are five kinds of mental modifications which are either painful or painless."
Sutra 1.6: Pramāna viparyaya vikalpa nidrā smrtayah ~ "They are right knowledge, misconception, verbal delusion/imagination, sleep and memory."
The distorted reflection of Self arises in the mind's eye as we identify too heavily with our thoughts and our form. The true Self lies beyond gender, career, finances, relationships, hobbies. I think there is a common human fear that in stripping away all things that we build our identity around, we'll end up useless or apathetic, and disconnected from the "real world". I totally understand this fear, and I also feel the drive to hold onto my life as I know it. But in reality, it's the attachment to these trappings of our lives that keep us overly connected to the small self and cause us to lose sight of our "original identity" (as Sri Swami Satchidanada puts it), keeping the True Self hidden.
The thing that really intrigues me about all of this is that it seems to be an endless journey... I went to a Catholic school as a kid, and I remember a priest explaining to my class this idea of committing to a lifelong practice of good intention. Though he didn't mention anything about our Oneness (nor did he make very clear or convincing arguments) I just had this understanding that we all need to be as kind to one another as possible, more for the common good than for my own admittance into Heaven (though that was also something I wasn't interested in screwing up). The Yoga Sutras (along with my own experiences over time, of course) have helped me to fill in some of the missing pieces since then; having developed a deeper understanding of my connection to the universe and everything within it, the intention and practice of stilling my mind, to get back to my true nature, has become an unwavering commitment and a lifelong endeavour.
In Sutra 1.5, Patanjali explains that there are five types of vrttis which are either painful or painless. Interestingly, he doesn't seem to favour or discourage one type over the other. Sri Swami Satchidananda believes that this is because thoughts might only appear painful or pleasurable initially, when in fact the result will be the opposite, and so it's unnecessary (and impossible) to differentiate between these two types. He says that we should instead think of these as "selfish" and "selfless" thoughts, depending on the true intention and motivation behind them. If we want to elevate our consciousness by cultivating more selfless thoughts, it's important that we analyze our thinking, noticing the patterns that serve us and those that hold us back.
In Sri Swami Satchidanada's commentary on Sutra 1.6, he doesn't yet describe the five types of vrttis, because they are discussed in more detail in the next few sutras that follow.
Stay tuned for the next blog post!