Jainism and Patanjali Yoga (Comparative Study)

by Deepak bagadia | 2016 | 109,819 words

This page relates ‘Cittavrtti (Modifications of mind)’ of the study dealing with the Spiritual Practices of Jainism and Patanjali Yoga in the context of ancient Indian Philosophy (in Sanskrit: Darshana), including extracts from the Yogasutra and the Tattvartha-Sutra. The system of Yoga offers techniques which are scientifically designed for the spiritual development of an individual. Jainism offers ethicical principles and meditation practices to assist with spiritual development.

Part 4.3 - Cittavrtti (Modifications of mind)

[Full title: The Concept and Content of Patanjali Yogadarsana (3): Cittavrtti (Modifications of mind)]

Vrtti means a way of existing and in a way a thing can exist is its modification, activities, thoughts or functions.

Different types of vrttis described by sage Patanjali in various sutras are classified depending upon effects on our feeling as painful and non-painful. So, vrttis can either be painful (klista) or non-painful (aklista). Only painful (klista) vrttis need to be controlled for further progress in Yoga. If these vrttis are classified as per nature of perception (pratyaya) produced in the mind, as per Yogasutra 1.6, they are of five types.

These five vrttis are:

  1. pramana (right knowledge),
  2. viparyaya (wrong, illusory knowledge),
  3. vikalpa (Fancy, imagination),
  4. nidra (sleep) and
  5. smrti (memory).

The ultimate goal of Yoga is to get rid of all vrttis for dissolution of mind. The details of five vrttis are given below:

The first vrtti as mentioned above is right knowledge, pramana. This knowledge consists of all experiences gained by mind through contact with objects of senses. Three sources of this right knowledge are mentioned in Yogasutra 1.7 through three means. One is through direct contact with the object i.e. pratyaksa. You can directly see the person, who is infront of you. This perception is direct or pratyaksa, which is authentic and reliable. Whereas, if you hear voice of a person through ears and recognize him, the knowledge perceived is indirect. It is called anumana or inference as the cognition is inferred. If your family member, whom you trust most comes and tells you that your friend is at the door. This knowledge though, through an indirect object is based on testimony (agama), which is third means. A true seeker should consider all these three aspects of knowledge i.e. perception, inference and authority to one’s own analysis and conclusion to find the truth.

In all these cases, our cittavrttis are included in one category called as pramana. But if the knowledge is incorrect or false, the vrtti becomes viparyaya as explained in Yogasutra 1.8. Incorrect knowledge is based on the false perception, not corresponding to the actual. Here also knowledge is based on some kind of contact with the external object but the mental image does not correspond with the object. Viparyaya is a case of superimposition or incorrect knowledge. A drunkard under the influence of liquor or drug acquires incorrect knowledge.

In both these vrttis pratyaksa and viparyaya, there is a direct or indirect contact with the object. In other vrttis like vikalpa (fancy) and smrti (memory), experience is a pure creation of the mind and not the reality.

Vikalpa[1] or imaginary knowledge proceeds from verbal cognition about something which is devoid of reality. We may imagine a man with the head of a horse, which can never be the reality, is an example of vikalpa (fancy).

The fourth modification of citta is nidra (sleep), the deep dreamless sleep, which we normally understand as the state where vrttis are absent. But, according to Patanjali, nidra (sleep) is modification of mind which is based on absence of any content in it.[2] During sleep, there is no object or pratyaya in the field of consciousness. Incorrect knowledge based on wrong imagination or subjective misconception is nidra. When sattva predominate citta, one goes to deep, dreamless sleep which is devoid of any experience, a state of nidra. But when rajas predominate, citta is active and one gets dreams in sleep. According to Vacaspati, one of the commentators of Patamjalyogadarsana, citta remains in one of the three states namely, mudha, ghora and santa with predominance of tamas, rajas and sattva respectively.

Mandukya Upanisad refers to following four stages of citta or its consciousness[3] :

  1. jagrat: ordinary, conscious state
  2. svapna: sleep with dreams
  3. susupti: nidra of Patanjali, deep and dreamless sleep
  4. turiya: state of the ultimate, nirbija samadhi

According to bhasyakara of Yoga philosophy and many other commentators, five states of citta[4] have been describes as ksipta (raving, distracted citta or rajas), mudha (forgetful, inertia or tamas), viksipta (citta going away from rajas towards sattva and also oscillating inbetween), ekagra (prolonged one-pointedness, dharana state, sattva predominates) and niruddha (no vrtti, restrained, beyond any guna, samprajnata samahi). Among these, the first three are not conducive to the samadhi or meditation, while the last two can take the aspirant to the state of spiritual absorption.

The mental activity does not stop in nidra or sleep unlike the state of samadhi. The difference here is that brain is disconnected from the mind, so can not record the activity of the mind. As the person wakes up, he re-establishes the contact and the brain again becomes the seat of activities of mind.

Patanjali’s fifth vrtti, smrti (memory or recollection) is retention of past experiences in the mind. It is reproduction without taking from any other sources, of the thing that was previously experienced. Not allowing the the experience of the object to escape from the citta is memory or smrti according to Yogasutra.[5]

As per this Taimini’s translation, mental impressions which are stored in the inner mind become cittavrtti only when they get converted to active state as mental images. When we face any incidence or experience, it gets recorded in our memory in terms of certain forms of words. We normally react according to our past memories from these experiences only. Thus, memory is the most important modification of the citta and we may not be able to function normally without it.

Samskara (residual impression of the karma) and smrti (memory) are identical (ekarupa). The arousal of samskara and its transformation into smrti is so vivid, as though there is no gap of distance, interval of time or difference of lives at all.[6] The overall memory of the jivatma enables him to see the perfect working out of causes and effects even though they are scattered over different lives in irregular manner. And there is no beginning of them as the desire to live is eternal.[7]

In Yoga, one tries to suppress the activity of citta or mind to attain spiritual goal by wakefully stopping the vibrations of the lower mental body. According to Maharsi Patanjali, memory also can be controlled with full awareness through Yoga practices. For this purpose, he has suggested various spiritual methods in his Yogasutras. The awareness helps to decide whether to invite the particular memory or not. Through all these practices and intense awareness, one can attain the highest level of understanding beyond all these vrttis, those levels of supreme knowledge and realization are termed by Patanjali as prajna and pratibha.

Footnotes and references:


Patanjali Yoga Sutra, 1.9


abhāvapratyayālambanāvṛttirnidrā || Patanjali Yoga Sutra, 1.10


Swami Ananda Rishi, Patanjalayogadarsana,Yogavidyaniketan, 2012, p.18


kṣiptaṃ mūḍhaṃvikṣiptamekāgraṃ niruddhamiti cittabhūmayaḥ | Vyāsabhāṣya, 1.1


anubhūtaviṣayāsampramoṣaḥ smṛtiḥ || Patanjali Yoga Sutra, 1.11


jātideśakālavyavahitānāmapyānantaryaṃ smṛtisaṃskārayorekarūpatvāt || Ibid., 4.9


tāsāmanāditvaṃ cāśiṣo nityatvāt || Ibid., 4.10

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