Rev. Jaganath, Integral Yoga Minister and Raja Yoga master teacher, has spent a lifetime delving into the deepest layers of meaning in Patanjali’s words within the Yoga Sutras. Our series continues with the sixth sutra of Chapter 1 in which Patanjali describes five types of mental modifications (vrittis). Rev. Jaganath hones in on two of the five and also on the distinction between a mental modification and a mental idea or condition.
Sutra 1.6. The five types of mental modifications are:
• pramāṇa: correct or right knowledge
• viparyaya: misconception, incorrect knowledge
• vikalpa: verbal delusion, imagination
• nidrā : sleep
• smṛiti = memory
The essence of pramana is knowledge that has been demonstrated to be true, valid, and reliable by one of the methods Patanjali will list in the next sutra (direct perception, inference, authoritative testimony).
Pramana stands as a reminder that regardless of the source, only knowledge that has been tested and proven can dependably and consistently be used by the yogi.
We can also understand pramana as processes for acquiring knowledge in which thought and senses are not deceived. Compare pramana to viparaya, unreliable knowledge (sutra 1.8), in which knowledge is attained through faulty perception, inference, memory, or inaccurate or incomplete data.
Reliable knowledge allows us to make wise, informed decisions that advance us to our spiritual goals.
We think of knowledge mostly as a collection of facts, ideas, and images. That’s only partly true. The root of knowledge is a force that is like fire. Reliable data is like feeding a fire with good dry wood. The data digests well—the fire blazes hotter and gives off more light. More light equals more wisdom, more insight.
This means it is important not only to feed your knowledge fire with reliable data, but also to absorb and integrate it into your life through contemplation and practice.
Undigested knowledge and unreliable knowledge (viparayaya) chokes the fire, leading to sustaining ignorance, misperception, and confusion.
Viparyaya is the opposite of pramana (sutra 1.7). It is knowledge based on misperception. It happens when we are misinformed, under-informed, or completely ignorant of a subject, occurrence, or person.
Knowledge can also be corrupted by the passage of time, by biases, or when our judgment is hampered by self-centered desires, greed, fear, or anger.
Yogis are called on to be well aware of the ways of the world. Until intuitive insight gives rise to the expanded capacity to discern the subtle realities imperceptible by the senses, our beliefs need to be validated. The yogi is very careful not to be influenced by words alone without any trusted, independent source to validate them.
Like many of the terms in the Yoga Sutras, pratyaya [sutra 1.10; cognition or the mind’s waking and dreaming activities] has a number of definitions making it difficult to determine which one best fits or best captures the sense of the sutra.
In the Yoga Sutras, pratyaya can generally be understood as an idea or condition of mind. It is the content of individual consciousness at any given moment. It can also be regarded as the thought that immediately arises when the mind is impacted by a stimulus.
Comparing pratyaya with vritti, we can say that vritti is an underlying mental process, the fluctuation of individual awareness as the mind searches for what brings pleasure and what threatens it with pain and suffering. Pratyaya provides both the content of vrittis, and their significance (including ideas of self-identity) as well. Together, pratyaya and vritti constitute the primary mode of consciousness that absorbs our time and attention on a daily basis.
For Buddhists and Jains, pratyaya is a fundamental notion or idea. Buddhism also regards pratyaya as a cooperating cause of individual consciousness.
About the Author:
Reverend Jaganath Carrera is and Integral Yoga Minister and the founder/spiritual head of Yoga Life Society. He is a direct disciple of world renowned Yoga master and leader in the interfaith movement, Sri Swami Satchidananda—the founder and spiritual guide of Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville and Integral Yoga International. Rev. Jaganath has taught at universities, prisons, Yoga centers, and interfaith programs both in the USA and abroad. He was a principal instructor of both Hatha and Raja Yoga for the Integral Yoga Teacher Training Certification Programs for over twenty years and co-wrote the training manual used for that course. He established the Integral Yoga Ministry and developed the highly regarded Integral Yoga Meditation and Raja Yoga Teacher Training Certification programs. He served for eight years as chief administrator of Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville and founded the Integral Yoga Institute of New Brunswick, NJ. He is also a spiritual advisor and visiting lecturer on Hinduism for the One Spirit Seminary in New York City. Reverend Jaganath is the author of Inside the Yoga Sutras: A Sourcebook for the Study and Practice of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, published by Integral Yoga Publications. His latest book Patanjali’s Words is a work-in-progress.