Yoga Sutras I,5-6:Vacillations of the Mind ? Classification


[b]Vacillations of the Mind ? Classification

I, 5 vrttayah pancatayyah klishta aklistah

The vacillations
are of five types,
which may be either
or not painful.

I, 6 pramana viparyaya vikalpa nidra smrtayah

The five vacillations are
correct perception,
and memory[/b]

M. Stiles


Sw. Shyam categorizes vrittis as either perpetuating identification and ignorance or bringing true knowledge of the ?Self with the Soul?. Both classes of vrittis however obscure the Self. He suggests saying at the moment of an initiating thought wave ?I, the Self, am now this and now that, and not the Self always is.? (p.3)

In his commentary, Sw. Satchidananda notes that Patanjali classified the thoughts as either painful or not painful, as opposed to painful and pleasurable; this is because pleasure can ultimately bring pain. He proposes the use of the classification of selfish and selfless instead because selfish thoughts and actions ultimately bring pain. For example, selfish love can bring pleasure but the expectation of a reward also brings jealousy, hatred, and unhappiness.

Sw. Satch. says ?What ever the thought is, if there is no selfishness behind it, it can never really bring pain to the person concerned. The result is neither pain nor pleasure, but peace. Seeing this truth, we should analyze all our motives and try to cultivate selfless thoughts.? (p. 10) This is the first step in reducing the vacillations of the mind. Since the mind always likes to think, making selfless thoughts brings peace. Substituting selfish thoughts with selfless thoughts, replaces misery with peace.

There are five types of vrittis or vacillations of the mind: correct perception, misconception, imagination, sleep and memory. These five may either be painful or not painful.

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


I K Taimni suggests that we take any modification of the lower concrete mind and see whether we can put it under one or other of the 5 groups ? he translates them as right knowledge, wrong knowledge, fancy, sleep, and memory. He says that all modifications of the lower mind can be classed under one or more of the classifications and says this breakdown is therefore rational.

I K Taimni. The Science of Yoga. The Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar 2005


TKV Desikachar - ‘What is the mind? Patanjali defines it as the activities that occupy it. It cannot be perceived except in terms of these activities. There are five activites of the mind. Each of them can be beneficial and each can cause problems. Whether these activites are beneficial or create problems cannot be immediately seen. Time alone will confirm their effects.’

The five activities are comprehension, misapprehension, imagination, deep sleep, and memory. Each mental activity has its own characteristics and although not always apparent, they can be individually recognised. Their dominance and effects on our behaviour and attitudes combine to make up our personalities.’

The concept of our ability to choose our thoughts is debatable. Can we choose if we are unaware or ignorant of something? Or that we have not understood completely (as with Patanjali). Do we choose our dreams? Or is it simply that we try to have good thoughts with no benefit to the self. Selflessness. My personal progress with this sutra is that I am now aware that I know, I know nothing. This was one of my light bulb moments while training recently. The mind, conscious or unconscious will still chatter and vascillate - is this the duality? - to seperate from the chatter? To move from pain to pleasure and from pleasure to bliss?

TKV Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga, Revised Edition, Inner Traditions International


B.K.S. Iyengar states that: the fluctations of the mind may be painful or non-painful. He also states that pain may be hidden in the non-painful state, and that non-pain may be hidden in the painful state. I can understand how pain may be hidden in the non-painful state, but I have some trouble with how I may be able to discover the non-pain in the painful state. Lets take the example of a person dying of cancer; is it possible for them to find the non-pain in this situation and how. This is an important question for me.


From my Buddhist teachings our intention determines the quality and outcome of our thoughts and actions. A pure intention, wishing to benefit others, may mean an otherwise harmful action does not give painful result or karma.