Now then yoga is being explained. 1.1

Atha yoganushasanam (now then, the start of an authoritative treatise)

When defining the opening stanza above of Patanjalis Yoga Sutras it must be put in context with the philosophy being discussed. The term yoga has various meanings, such as for instance the union of prana and apana (Bhagavad Gita). In this philosophy however the term ‘Yoga’ is being defined as Samadhi, or concentration, which is discussed in the following Sutra.

What does Patanjali mean by Yoga?   

Yoga can be defined in two ways.

  1. Yujir Samadhua – Samadhi or contemplation
  2. Yujir Yoge – Union
  • 1. Patanjalis Yoga Sutras describes the liberation from the bondage of change (Prakriti) to the unchanging truth of Purusha. Patanjali sets the path for the isolation of Purusha from Prakriti.
  • 2. Yujir Yoga, or union as defined by Panini, is describing the path of non-dualism, or Vedantic Yoga as defined in the Bhagavad Gita.      
The Five Mind States

Yoga is the suppression of the modifications of mind stuff. 2.1

 The Yoga Sutras describes 5 habitual mind states and says that concentration is possible within any of these mind states.  

  1. Ksipta – restless
  2. Mudha – infatuated
  3. Vikshipta – distracted
  4. Ekagra – one pointed
  5. Nirodah – suspended

Although concentration is possible in all the mind states, only the suspended mind is conducive to yoga.  

Yoga is the suppression of the modifications of mind stuff. 2.1

Yogas citta vrtti nirodha (what is yoga?)

Citta = mind. Vrtti = modifictions. Nirodha = suspended mind

The mind has the three the functions of

  • Prakhya – sattvic element of the mind
  • Pravritti – seeking perfection in the detail
  • Sthiti – steadiness of mind

And goes on to state that therefore the mind must be made up of the three Gunas.

  • Sattva – Prakhya
  • Rajas – Pravritti
  • Tamas – Sthiti


Samkhya states that all matter (prakriti) is composed of the three qualities of action (rajas), tamas (lethargy) and balance (sattva).  

Viparyaya or illusion is false knowledge formed of a thing as other than what it is. 1.8

An example often quoted is seeing a coiled rope at twilight and mistaking it for a coiled snake. The reaction between seeing a coiled rope will be very different to seeing a snake. It is not that the reaction is either correct or incorrect, it is the process that ensues because of the misconception.

Once we have made the decision that it is snake, we see, without questioning the decision, this is Viparyaya. Jumping to a conclusion is Viparyaya. It is lacking all the information but passing judgment anyway.

Viparyaya or wrong knowledge causes affliction.

KLESHA (affliction)

  1. Avidya – ignorance
  2. Asmita – ego
  3. Raga – attachment
  4. Dvesha- aversion
  5. Abinivesah – clinging to life


Afflictions which are expressed as, anxiety, fear, anger, jealousy, desire, depression etc.  


Viparyaya is one of the five Vrittis, which affect the way we perceive and react to the world around us.

The five Vrittis are:

1. Right cognition (Pramana)

2. Misconception (Viparyaya)

3. Imagination (Vikalpa)

4. Sleep (Nidra)

5. Memory (Smriti)

Misconception occurs when knowledge of something is not based upon its true form. It Is not that the Vrittis are either good or bad, it Is more becoming aware of the fluctuations of the mind, and how they affect our thinking.

Sutra 6.1

3. Imagination – Vikalpa

Imagination is a more subtle Vritti than the previous examples. Pramana (real object) and Viparyaya involve the five senses. The mind on the other hand is able to conjure up images on its own, from past events, and an imagined future all by itself.   

Control the imagination, and it can be used very effectively to plan and fulfil a task or project. On the other hand, if left to its own imaginings, it can cause much harm. Practicing Yoga and Meditation helps control and train the mind.

4. Sleep – Nidra

Sleep can be either good or bad. Experiencing a bad nights sleep can create an impression.

 5. Memory – Smriti

Memory holds continuing impressions of past events, either consciously or unconsciously. Situations and events during the course of a day, will trigger memory. Depending on whether the memory is a good one or a bad one, it will have an effect on our life moment by moment.   

The object knowable is by nature Sentient, Mutable and Inert. It exists in the form of the Elements and the Organs, and serves the Purpose of Experience and Emancipation. 18. 2

  • Sentience is the characteristic of Sattva
  • Mutability of Rajas
  • Inertia of Tamas    

These Gunas go by the name of Pradhana (the source of the material world – Prakriti) These are called Objects or Knowables and they exist in the form of elements and are transformed as earth and other gross and subtle elements. Similarly, they exist in the form of sense organs and are transformed as subtle or gross, auditory and other sense organs.

  • Sentient – knowing (in the context of subjective principles) or capable of being known (in the context of objective principles)
  • Mutable – subject to change
  • Inert – opposed to sentience and mobility
  1. All knowledge and all knowables are instances of sentience
  2. All sorts of movement and actions are instances of mutation
  3. All forms of latencies and retention are instances of inertness


KSIPTA – A restless mind that doesn’t have the patience or intelligence needed for deep contemplation of subtle concepts. Through envy or malice this mind can reach concentration, but not the concentration discussed in Yoga.

MUDHA – A dull mind which is obsessed and infatuated with objects viewed through the senses. A mind that is concentrates its energies with family or money, is unable to consider subtle concepts.

VIKSIPTA – Is a distracted mind. A mind that can be calm sometimes and unsettled at other times. When calm this mind can comprehend subtle concepts, or the real nature of things. This does not last as this mind swings between calm and restlessness.

EKAGRA – Is a one pointed mind. A thought is replaced by a similar thought. When a thought vanishes form the mind it is replaced by similar thought.  

NIRODAH – A suspended mind.  Thought processes are suspended or arrested for long periods of time.         

Martin Thompson