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Patanjali Yoga

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Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah- Patanjali Yoga Sutra I:II.

Patanjali, the great sage of yoga, gave us a sacred gem in this short and complete sutra.  A sutra is a compact aphorism that contains a pearl of deep, profound wisdom and insight. Sutra means a thread and is the root for the english word suture. The classic image is that of a pearl upon a thread. This is called a mala, or garland. A mala is a beaded piece of jewelry like a necklace or bracelet that can worn as an outward sign of beauty and grace. A mala also has an inner and subtle meaning as well. On the surface Patanjali’s yoga sutras can be read as a technical manual for your practice. For the modern practitioner of yoga the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is the mala that one wears while endeavoring in the world as spirit. May the garland of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra become the spiritual, philosophical and practical adornment of your yogic practice.

It is tradition for a teacher to break down a sutra so that the student might begin to develop a relationship to the key ideas in the sutra. Lets take a look at the layers of the pearl.

Yoga:  means to yoke, to join or to unite
Chitta: means the field of the lower mind, it refers to the complex containing the subconscious     mind, the memory and processing mind
Vritti: means a thought wave or fluctuation of the mind
Nirodhah: cessation, suspension or stopping for a time

The next step after gaining a basic understanding of the key concepts is to begin to see how they fit together to create insight into the sutra. Yoga, as many know, means to yoke or to join. Now combine yoga to the following word chitta. Yoga-chitta is the yoking of the ahamkara, or individual self, known as the “I-maker” to the lower mind. Let’s lightly unpack this technical phrase. Part of understanding the nature of reading sutra is coming to understand what is not said, but implied through prior knowledge. So the line of inquiry might proceed as follows: what is attached to the chitta? It is the ahamkara, or the individual sense of self. The chitta which compromises many aspects, which are fields of the mind contain the following: the field of the subconscious mind, any light musing, processing, day-dreaming, dreaming, fantasy, and reminiscing. These are all in the domain of the lower mind or in yogic terms, the chitta. Memory is another aspect of chitta. The processing mind is also another function of the chitta along with the emotions. The emotions are synonymous with the lower mind in yogic thought. So, the chitta is the vast storehouse of the mind, memory and emotion that tosses back and forth like the waves upon the sea.

Now it is understood that it is the separate sense of self that is attached to the mind. Yogas- Chitta-Vritti. Vritti means a thought wave. Reflect for a moment on the hundreds of rising and falling thoughts in a day. Yogas-Chitta-Vritti can be translated as the individual sense of self that is identifying with the various thought waves. In each moment the ahamkara identifies with the thought wave vis a vis the waves on the surface of the mind. Experiences such as “I am depressed,” “I am angry,” or “I am fearful,” are all experiences of the “I-sense” yoked to the mind, emotions and memory. This is a description thus far of ordinary conditioning.

Where do they come from? Where do they dissolve into?

Now comes the insight and practice and the most technical part of the sutra. Nirodhah means the cessation, or the pausing of the fluctuations of the mind. Up to this point we have been only hinting at the ocean metaphor. Now let us look into this nyaya, or metaphor, to illustrate the wisdom teaching. This metaphor is called Samudra-taranga nyaya, also known as the wave and the ocean metaphor. Yoga uses metaphors to lead the seeker into deep contemplation. Imagine that the waves on the ocean are the thought vrittis. Each thought is a wave on a infinite ocean. The ahamkara is the separate “I-sense” that identifies itself with the wave. Each wave has a form, some happy, some sad, etc. The ahamkara assumes the shape of energy that is giving form to the surface of the water. Believing the form in the water to be it’s true identity, the ego-sense recreates itself in each rising wave; this however, is not proper understanding of the nature of the wave. It is only an apparent notion that each jiva, or soul, is separate from the Self.

One may inquire in one’s own home meditation practice the following lines of contemplation thoughts. From where do thoughts come from? What do they dissolve into? And then contemplate the wave and ocean metaphor. From where does the wave gain its nature?
Similarly, from where does the individual sense of the self arise? Patanjali yoga gives the answer to these inquiries. The reply is from the Self. The ocean is the true source of the wave. Our True Nature is that of the Supreme Self. In conclusion, Patanaji teaches that Yoga is the cessation of the thought waves. When one suspends the fluctuations of the mind and enters into yogas-chitta-vritti-nirodah the nature of the True Self is revealed. One’s own True Nature is of the nature of infinite Truth, Consciousness and Bliss.


About the Author:

Krishna Peter Perry is Co-founder of the ShivaShakti School of Yoga. He has been teaching yoga and practicing massage and bodywork more than 18 years. He has studied various styles of Yoga around the world and primarily teaches 200-hr, 300-hr YTTs/AYTT's and certification courses currently.
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  1. Eliza  February 8, 2017

    Beautifully written!

    • ShivaShakti  February 17, 2017

      Thank you Eliza. I hope you are well.


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