1.11 अनुभूतविषयासंप्रमोषः स्मृतिः

anubhūta-viṣayāsaṁpramoṣaḥ smṛtiḥ

anubhūta – experienced; viṣaya – objects, subject matter; asaṁpramoṣaḥ – not forgotten; smṛtiḥ – remembrance, memory, recollection:

Memory is the recollection of an experience (previous mental impression).


1.12 अभ्यासवैराग्यभ्यां तन्निरोधः

abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyāṁ tan-nirodhaḥ

abhyāsa – (by) practice; vairāgyābhyāṁ – detachment (also); tan – that (they); nirodhaḥ; – controlled, cessation, restrained:

These states of mental fluctuation (vṛtti) cease (are restrained) by practice and detachment.

1.11 anubhūta-viṣayāsaṁpramoṣaḥ smṛtiḥ

Memory is the recollection of an experience (previous mental impression).

So, this is the last of the vṛttis – the states, or the broad categories of mental fluctuations. And if we think about what we just heard and what we read in relation to that verse – that all types of activity all types of experience, all types of sensual stimulation, create mental impressions. We often don’t think of it that way, but in reality that is what happens. And memory is the recollection of these previous experiences or mental impressions.

So, memory is is generated by and is dependent upon the vṛttis – the other vṛttis that we have spoken about. It has no independent existence; it is always dependent upon the other four vṛttis. So, there is a great amount of knowledge connected to this in relation to memory, but once again we won’t go into great detail here. It’s something we’ll deal with later as we progress.

So since the mind is exposed to numerous sense objects all of the time, and has been for numerous lifetimes, there are unlimited saṁskāras or mental impressions – latent impressions – continually being embedded in the citta; the citta meaning the consciousness, which are all potentially retrievable. They can be dredged up, or they may just become manifest spontaneously for some reason or other. Memory then is the fifth, or as I have stated, the final type of vrtti listed by Patanjali, and it really consists of retrieving these saṁskāras or mental impressions. So memories are the reactivation of the imprints of sense objects that one has experienced or recognized in the past. And I think the term reactivation is an important one, because when we go to that place of deep recollection when the memories rise up in us – particularly ones that had a very powerful imprint on us – a person, simply by remembering them, although nothing may be happening, to them may break down, they may cry, they may burst out laughing, they can have all kinds of responses to these latent impressions as they become reactivated, as it were, in the in the consciousness, So memory itself… the act of remembering something; the act of consciously or unconsciously remembering things, can itself also produce samskaras or latent impressions that further bind us to the material world by producing desires and attachments.

So, the act of even remembering while it may seem superficially to be quite harmless, can actually have a very great effect on our ongoing entanglement in the material world. The experience of memory often evokes thoughts or ideas of attraction and also its opposite, repulsion. It may activate or evoke feeling of pleasure or of pain, and this experience tethers us, just like you could tie an animal to a tether or a lead and stake it in the ground, and it can only walk to the extent of that tether, and eat all the grass or whatever within that area. In a similar manner it’s these recollections, and more specifically, the attractions or repulsions – the ideas of pleasure or pain – that may be evoked or rise from them, further tether the ātmā or the seer to material existence.

And so for the yogi, the proper utilization of the mind and things such as memory, etcetera, were really majorly important – super important – things for their spiritual journey and to help them towards liberation.


1.12 abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyāṁ tan-nirodhaḥ

These states of mental fluctuation (vṛtti) cease (are restrained) by practice and detachment.

So once again you can just look at the English synonyms for each of the words here. You might find that that is helpful in your study and focus on the actual teachings being presented.

So now, with this new sutra, Patanjali is beginning to discuss the aspect of’ nirodhaḥ’, or restraint or the stoppage of the vṛttis. So, in the previous number there, we had all of the description of the vṛttis; now there will be a focus on their restraint or stopping them. So Vyāsa, in his commentary on this particular verse, he states that, “The river of mind flows in both directions – towards good and towards evil. That which flows down the plane of the Viveka or discriminative knowledge ending in the high ground of Kaivalya or spiritual liberation, that leads unto good; while that which flows up to the plateau of the cycles of re-birth and down the plane of non-discrimination, it leads unto evil.”

So this is a really interesting topic that permeates the Vedas: that the mind has the capacity to do good or to do complete evil. It is not that the purusha – the living being, is good or evil, but under the influence of the three guna – the modes of nature – and under the influence of the mind, and the cultivation of different types of desires, and different tastes for different types of things, it can make it so that the living being heads in the direction of that which is good or that which is actually evil and harmful – highly detrimental.

And so, it’s not like the idea that you’ve got…you know… like a devil and an angel; one on one shoulder, one on the other. One is telling you, “Oh be good, don’t do the bad stuff!”, and the other one’s going, “Yeah, let’s go for it – party time!’… you know. It is not like that. The living being is capable of the most horrific things. Everything that you may have read about or heard about, or even witnessed in recent memory or in history – all of the worst things that have ever happened, you and I are completely capable of, if we are under the influence of these vrttis.

The quest for self-realization is a quest to become free from that which is actually harmful; that which is destructive; that which is actually painful. The Bhagavad-gīta has two actually really nice verses…it’s got more than that… but it’s got two nice verses in relation to the mind, which I will read for you:

“One must deliver himself with the help of his mind, and not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well”. I mean that is just like,” What!” That is astonishing; the idea that my own mind potentially could be my greatest enemy.

So, in the other verse it states: “For one whose mind is unbridled, self-realization is difficult work. But he whose mind is controlled and who strives by appropriate means, is assured of success. That is my opinion.” So, this was a statement of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. And it’s a really amazing thing… I mean without realizing and recognizing it, the connection between the mind and the puruṣa – the spiritual living being – is utterly amazing.

All living beings have a tendency to completely embrace their mind; to lie down with it, cuddle up to it, to listen to whatever it has to say. Whatever is produced within the mind, I take to be true, I take to be real, and it deeply and profoundly affects me. There is a great need, for your own well-being, to learn to be able to step back from the mind. In the meditation and mindfulness courses that we run in the local maximum-security prison, this is one of the principal things I try to teach the guys there: That nothing good will ever come from a highly emotional state. When we are overwhelmed by emotions, whether positive or negative, what has happened is our mind has completely taken over, and we are simply being led by the mind to act or to react in different ways. And invariably, the things that we do, the actions that we take and the words that we speak, or the decisions that we may make, are never in our actual interest nor anyone else’s. Nor will they produce real and permanent happiness for ourselves or anyone else. And so to understand, that there is a need to be able to hit a pause button when we are in a heightened state of emotions, when something’s disturbing our mind; to understand that we need to step back from it, and to go and breathe, take some… do some deep breathing (prāṇāyāma), take a walk, engage in some meditation – some japa practice, and wait until a person has actually completely calmed down. And then begin to consider: “How should I respond or how should I act; how should I be thinking in this particular circumstance?” “What is in my real interest; what is going to cause difficulty; what is good for myself and for everyone else involved?” This is a really important part of progressing down the spiritual path towards self-realization.