Yoga Sūtra Verse 1.6

July 10, 2012 § 2 Comments



pramāṇa – evidence of your senses [as in proving something is real or exists], a posteriori, epistemology, source of right knowledge, sense perception, scientific method, testimony, inference
viparyaya – error, misperception,
vikalpa – imagination, fantasies
nidrā – sleep,
smṛtayaḥ – memory


“[These five vṛttis (mental habits) are] 1) evidence of your senses, 2) misperception, 3) imagination, 4) deep sleep, and 5) memories.”


Altogether, these five states of mind represent what Yoga theory considers all the things the mind can do. So think of anything you can do with your mind and it will fit into one of these five categories. Basically you can either;

  1. be aware of what is actually in front of you,
  2. mistake what is in front of you,
  3. imagine or fantasize something (there is a difference),
  4. be unconscious, or
  5. remember something.

Some mental activities overlap categories. Dreaming, for example, combines numbers  2, 3, and 5. Remembering something incorrectly, combines 3 and 5.

Here, Patañjali is introducing very importantly, how you think about the world, which is different from what you think about.  Since overcoming the mind’s influence is the goal of yoga, Patañjali is introducing us to the different ways in which the mind works. If you are more aware of how the mind functions, you will be in a better position to break the bad mental habits the mind has foisted on you.

These five actions of the mind aren’t inherently bad, they are simply they way the mind leads you through your experience of life. Four of the five actions are crucial for your material survival. It is important to remember that everything your mind is capable of doing, it does to keep you trapped in this temporary reality known as maya, or in popular parlance, the matrix. The reality that you are experiencing is a constructed reality.  This construction is a seamless experience; courtesy of the mind’s influence.

So your mind has trapped you here; you need to overcome the mind’s influence, but you cannot survive if you do not have a mind. That is quite the conundrum. How do you defeat an enemy that is inherently more powerful than you and has unlimited resources? The answer is, you don’t.

Victory over the mind by brute force is not a possibility for anyone. You must instead, figure out a way to use the mind’s considerable influence to your advantage. You must make a friend of the mind. If the mind becomes your ally in your journey of self-discovery you will gain considerable traction. While it may seem impossible to gain the support of your mind to aid you in its eventual demise, I can assure you that it is possible, because the all-powerful mind believes that almost anything is possible, except its own demise. The mind simply does not believe it will ever stop to exist. This hubris, is your silver bullet. You can use the mind’s own sense of immortality and omnipotence against itself. You can befriend the mind in pursuit of self-discovery or liberation because it thinks these things will add to its power and capacity. Even if you tell the mind outright that your intention in requesting its friendship is for the sake of overcoming it, it will not really believe you.

So go ahead, invite the mind to become your friend. Treat the mind like a person. Become the experiencer of your own mind.



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§ 2 Responses to Yoga Sūtra Verse 1.6

  • Rob says:

    Out of curiosity, why translate pramana as evidence instead of right knowledge or correct perception? Evidence sounds more like the form of pramana as inference or anumana.

    • Atma says:

      Thank you for your question Rob. Please note that this site is a work in progress. I had not yet completed my translation of this verse, when you were so kind to comment. I have posted a first draft of my translation of this verse. I look forward to your comments. I will be discussing pramāṇa further in post 1.7.

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