This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)
This post is a continuation of the post What is Yoga All About. If we are to explain yoga in one sentence, it is the sutra 1.2
Yoga citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ
Yoga is restraining the activities of the mind.
When you hear ‘restraining the activities of the mind’, what do you imagine?
During the hours that I’m awake, a million thoughts go through my mind. Some I don’t pay much attention to, some I brew in my head for a while. The first time I heard this sutra, I was wondering if I had to be sleeping or dead to ‘restrain the activities of my mind’. To clarify, the answer is no. Let’s take a look at what CHITTA is.
Definition of CHITTA: ‘mind-stuff’, ‘mental substance’, or ‘the ground floor of the mind’
There are three elements that make up CHITTA.
Ahamkara: the self, the ego
Buddhi: the intellect
Manas: the mind, engages in thinking, doubting and willing.
It’s very hard to explain the difference of these 3 elements without a little story telling. However, I will share some example stories. These stories all come from my teachers, who heard it from their teachers.
The difference between Buddhi, Manas and Ahamkara
You’re sitting in the living room in a nice and cozy seat. For instance, the smell of cheese comes from the Kitchen. Manas sniffs it and says
“Oooo boy! This smells DELICIOUS!”
Buddhi says “Mmmm. THIS is the smell of CHEESE. And it ain’t just any ol’ cheese. It’s SWISS CHEESE. Remember? It’s the exact same smell as that cheese you ate on your holiday in Switzerland!”
Ahamkara says “Ah! That sounds awesome. I want some of that immediately!”
The entire process before we stand up and go to the kitchen is less than 2 seconds. In short, within those 2 seconds, buddhi, manas and ahamkara are at work.
What’s a VRITTI？
The transliteration of VRITTI is “thought waves”, “mental whirlpool” or “mental modification”. There are countless thought waves, vrittis that appear in our minds every minute. Do you have the experience when you try to concentrate, your mind wanders off to something totally irrelevant? During a yoga (asana) class, you’re probably thinking about what to do after class, what’s for dinner, or what’s left in the fridge. There’s 5 types of those thought waves.
5 Types of VRITTIs
Firstly, there are five types of thought waves. They include painful thought waves and non-painful thought waves.
1. Pramana：correct knowledge
2. Viparyaya：erroneous understanding
3. Vikalpa：verbal delusion
The only one that is non-painful is pramana, correct knowledge, and the rest are considered painful. To sum it up, it’s the idea that the absolute truth is the only non-painful thing, and life itself is full of pain.
What’s ‘Correct Knowledge’?
1. Direct perception：experienced directly through your own senses
2. Inference：reasoning, logic, and through past experience.
3. Competent testimony：knowledge given by a person who had direct experience themselves.
The hard part here is if we do not understand the correct knowledge, it becomes vikalpa, delusion. In order to gain correct knowledge, the path is full of pain, and that too, is a part of yoga.
In addition to this post, I will be continuing to talk about the yoga sutra, and various other things. If you’d like to know when the next article will be released, don’t forget to sign up for email updates.