1.5 वृत्तयःपञ्चातय्यः क्लिस्टाक्लिस्टाः
vṛttayaḥ pañcatayyaḥ kliṣṭ-ākliṣṭāḥ
vṛttayaḥ – activities of the mind, mental states; pañcatayyaḥ – fivefold (are); kliṣṭa – harmful, painful, distressful; ākliṣṭāḥ – not painful or distressful;
The activities of the mind are divided into five states and can be considered as harmful/painful or not harmful/painful (i.e. leading to further material entanglement or to spiritual enlightenment)
pramāṇa – right perception, correct understanding; viparyaya – misconception, false understanding; vikalpa – imagination conceptualization (based on verbal delusion); nidrā – deep sleep; smṛtayaḥ – recollection, remembrance, memory;
The five mental states are (1) correct understanding of what is, (2) false understanding of what is, (3) conceptualization, (4) deep sleep and (5) memory.
1.5 vṛttayaḥ pañcatayyaḥ kliṣṭ-ākliṣṭāḥ
The activities of the mind are divided into five states and can be is considered as harmful/painful or not harmful or painful; meaning leading to further material entanglement, or to spiritual enlightenment.
So now looking at the translation, or the English synonyms for the words here – ‘vṛttayaḥ’ of course refers to the activities of the mind or the mental states. ‘Pañcatayyaḥ’ means the fivefold. Then ‘kliṣṭa’ – this is the first time that we’re hearing this word – which literally means harmful or painful, or distressful. And then it’s opposite by placing the ”a’‘ sound in front of it – ‘ākliṣṭāḥ’ – not painful, or not distressful.
So Patañjali is now going to …he dedicates more or less from this fifth sutra until the twelfth sutra, to discuss the nature of the vṛttis which he has mentioned. And then, after that, he will dedicate something like three or four verses to discussing ‘nirodha’ – the winding up, or the containing or confining. So ‘vidhis’ – that is the mental fluctuations – they give rise to actions or karma.
‘Karma’ literally means action. Action then binds the living being to material existence, meaning that …We become bound for two principal reasons: one is that we become obliged to experience the consequences of our actions in the form of ‘karma-phalam’, which means the fruit of actions. But there is also this reality that when we engage in action, it causes impressions upon our mind that will give rise to further activity, which further binds the living being. So, this very vicious cycle of action and reaction is known as ‘samsara’.
Saṁsāra means this repeated cycle of birth and death that the living being becomes bound to when we become absorbed in material consciousness. And it’s very profound, the way in which these things happen. For instance, this idea of what I just mentioned, where I engage in a particular activity and then I must stick around to experience the result or the consequence of that. But the fact that having engaged in an activity, it creates what’s called… in English the best terminology is probably, a latent impression. There is an imprint upon the mind that will give rise in the future to a desire to either repeat in the same way or in another way, or to avoid an action that was performed. And then when one does that – when they repeat it or avoid it – then again, they are bound by karma, the laws of karma, and again it creates a further latent impression or ‘saṁskāra’. This is different than samsara.
This is called saṁskāra. Saṁskāra is used in a couple of different ways in the Vedas, and within the context of yogic teaching it quite often refers to the latent impression that is stamped upon the mind or the consciousness of the living being. So I think a good example is… there is a story in the Bhāgavat Pūraṇa of a young man who in his…approaching adulthood, had been raised in a very traditional Brahmin family, had always been engaged in pious activity – his life was very regulated, and he had gone off to collect paraphernalia for puja at the behest of his father. And while out in the forest he had heard a noise that drew him to explore, “What is this?” and he came across a kind of a low-class individual who was drunk, and who was engaged in sexual activity with a prostitute. Even though Ajamila had not seen anything like this, or thought of anything like this in this lifetime, it immediately sparked a very deep effect on him and he began to follow this woman around town when he saw her, and eventually took her in as a maidservant in the house. And that was all done so that he could begin to engage in a sexual relationship with her, which in the ancient Vedic culture was considered very degraded for somebody of his station in life to do this. And of course, it had led to a life where he really became engaged in a limitless variety of very fallen and sinful activity, in order to support his new chosen lifestyle, as it were.
So in just speaking about that part of that account or story, it is like, “How is it that someone who has not had this kind of exposure or anything; has lived a very spiritually directed or spiritually focused life – at least a very pious life, if not deeply spiritual…?” How just one incident can completely capture this person’s mind and heart and take them on this really destructive course. And it has largely to do with these latent impressions – these latent impressions that are imprinted upon the consciousness and may arise within the mind at any time. And so we see numerous examples of this in different cultures, where suddenly somebody becomes exposed to something and they just set off in a whole new direction, because of these past saṁskāras.
In this particular śloka, Vyāsa speaks about how one can perform activity that is more sattvic – in the mode of goodness – and this also leaves latent impressions, but the latent impressions are of a more sattvic nature. He says that this is really what a yogi should be doing, in order to set themself up for success as it were, on the path of self-realization; by engaging in activity and mental activity that is more pure and more sattvic. Vyāsa says that when the citta – the consciousness – manifests its pure sattvic potential, then it very much becomes like the ātman.
One of my spiritual teachers would often use the example of like iron. If I take an iron rod; iron is heavy, it is rigid, it is cold… you know it has these characteristics, but I place that iron rod in an extremely hot fire, then eventually the iron will become red-hot and then white-hot, and when I remove it from the fire, it is now manifesting many of the characteristics of fire itself. It is emanating heat – you can feel the heat radiating from it; it is emanating light… if it is hot enough it can even take on a somewhat liquid state; if I touch it to something which is flammable that thing will burst into flames. So in this way something that is substantially different than that which is light and hot, and like fire, can take on the characteristics of fire.
And so in a very similar manner, the process of yoga… our sādhana… is meant for the purpose of now having our mind engaged in that which is transcendental – immersed in transcendence and that which is spiritual. And then the mind becomes purified by this experience and begins to take on a character that is quite different than the material mind. It is still material, but now it is in a state of purification and in many ways, as Vyāsa has stated, it becomes or manifests characters that are like the atma, or like the self.
The five mental states are: correct understanding of what is; false understanding of what is; conceptualization; deep sleep, and memory.
So now, looking at the English synonyms: for the Sanskrit: ‘pramāṇa’, it means right perception or correct understanding; ‘viparyaya’, is misconception or false understanding; ‘vikalpa’, means conceptualization based on a verbal delusion… we’ll explain that a little later when we deal specifically with that condition; ‘nidrā’, is deep sleep; and ‘smṛtayaḥ,’ means to recollect or remember something – It refers to memory.
So Patañjali now lists the five distinct categories, or types of vrttis, or mental states. Someone may think, “Well how come there’s only five? Aren’t there other sorts of mental states that one can exist in?” These ancient sages put a great deal of time and effort into understanding these things, and in this particular system of yoga, and in Sankhya yoga, these five states are considered to be five actually really distinct states, or conditions of consciousness, or the citta. If there are any other states that we want to consider or focus on, they would be considered to be somehow contained within one of these five states. So, all these other types of consciousness are considered like subsets of these five principal vṛttis, or states of consciousness.
So, on this particular sloka we won’t go any further. And the commentators themselves have traditionally not gone any further on that, because now Patañjali is going to speak about each one of these five states and explain the nature of that state: the nature of that vṛtti.