Yoga Sutras I, 10-11: Vacillations of the mind - last two


[b]Vacillations of the Mind ? Descriptions of the last two vacillations.

I, 10 Abhava pratyaya alambana vrittih nidra

Sleep is a
vacillation of understanding
dependent upon the
absence of mindfulness.

I, 11 Anubhuta visaya sampramosah smrtih

Memory is a
vacillation of knowledge
created by
not allowing the objects
of sensory experience
to escape.[/b]

M. Stiles

IV. Sleep
Swami Satchidananda explains that during sleep all but one thought is suspended ? ?the thought of ?having no thought?, of knowing nothing?. It is this thought that gives the impression of emptiness. In contrast, if you were unconscious, you would be devoid of this thought and the perception of being asleep. Iyengar proposes that sleep gives one a glimpse of the seer, but only indistinctly because the light of discrimination, viveka, is clouded. ?Stimulation of this state of sleep when one is awake and aware, is samadhi, wherein the seer witnesses his own form.? Therefore, the goal is to achieve this state of having no thought while awake.

V. Memory

Iyengar defines memory as a collection of impressions of correct perception, misconception, imagination/delusion, and sleep. He explains that memories are subject to changes and modifications just as perceptions are subject to changes. However, if memory is used correctly to recall the original experiences without modification, it lays the foundation for discrimination. So here we have a tool to help develop discrimination.
Swami Satchidananda explains that memories can resurface either intentionally or not via dreams if sleeping or daydreams if awake.

Iyengar, B.K.S., Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. New Delhi, India: Harper Collins Publications India. 1993

Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Buckingham, VA: Integral Yoga Publications. 2004
Swami Shyam, Patanjali Yog Darshan, India: International Meditation Institute, 2001, 3rd. edition.

Stiles, M., Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Boston, MA: Red Wheel/Weiser LLC. 2002


It is good to study various translations of the Yoga Sutras and thus contrast them to see how they can help with discernment. The goal of the study is developing discernment on the primal questions – what is to be done to know my own Self? Who is this Self that manifests around these vascillations but does not itself change? blessings. mukunda


1.10 Iyengar states that in sleep the the four types of knowledge, which are: correct knowledge, perverse knowledge, fanciful knowledge and knowledge born of memory, are absent. " This is abhava, a state of void, a feeling of emptiness". He goes on to say: “the sadhaka, having experienced this negative state of void in sleep, tries to transform it into a positive state of mind while awake”.

1.11 “Memory is the unmodified recollection of words and experiences”

If we develop the ability “to recall experiences in their true, pristine state”, we are laying a base for the practise of discrimination.

Iyengar, B.K.S., Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. New Dehli, India.
Harper Collins Publications India.1993


For me the point about sleep and dreaming is that we don’t have sufficient awareness / attention of our true self ‘a soul’/conciousness, during waking hours so the mind is not ‘controlled’ during sleep. The more we can practise awareness during the day, the more we can maintain the pure, positive thoughts during sleep.
Memory is returning to the mind of past experience, which we can choose to do or just to stay in the present.


Through these sutras we are to know that part which is pure self. So do we find ourselves during sleep and memory - that part that never changes. I feel I have glimpsed it but more so have a sense of it being there. Does this sound strange? But the sense is of oneness or calm, like coming home. The part of us that does not question or or seek to exist but just is.


A major part of my practice is observing my mental modifications and how they are affected by my lifestyle. When I don’t get sufficient sleep it is very difficult to maintain positive attitudes and behaviour. Sleep is an important part of my journey - not too much but definitely not too little.

Memory is essential for everyday living. If as Iyengar says, it lays the foundation for discrimination then it is also important in the search for spirit. For example, remembering the quality of life before practice can be stimulation to maintain a regular practice.