be a witness to thoughts

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – Part 3

Chapter 1 – Concentration/Samadhi Pada – Part 3

Un-coloring your thoughts, cont. – Yoga Sutras (1.6 – 1.11)

Witnessing the five types of thoughts, along with practice, non-attachment are more covered in the next 6 sutras
Yoga Sutra (1.6) – pramana viparyaya vikalpa nidra smritayah. The five types of thought patterns to witness are:

  1. Correct knowing (pramana)
  2. Incorrect knowing (viparyaya)
  3. Fantasy or imagination (vikalpa)
  4. The void-ness that is deep sleep (nidra)
  5. Recollection or memory (smriti)

Of the five kinds of thought patterns, correct knowledge (pramana) is the one to cultivate. Incorrect knowledge (viparyaya) or fantasy and imagination (vikalpa) are both made up of thought patterns that may have verbal expression and knowledge, but for which there is no real object or basis in existence. Dreamless sleep (nidra) is the subtle thought pattern which has absence or non-existence as its object. Recollection or memory (smriti) is mental modification of a previous impression.

Yoga Sutra (1.7) – pratyaksha anumana agamah pramanani. Pratyaksa is that which is right in front of our eyes (directly seen or perceived). Anumana means that which comes from the intellect (manas). Agamah (from agama) is legacy or learning from reliable sources. Pramanani (from pramana) means insight, accurate perception; accurate knowledge.
The Yogi learns to witness these five kinds of interfering thoughts (sutra 1.6) with non-attachment, discriminating between these five, and to cultivating the first type of thought, which is knowing correctly (pramana), and there are three ways of gaining correct knowledge:

  1. Perception
  2. Inference
  3. Testimony or verbal communication from others who have knowledge.

According to the oral Yoga tradition, it is taught that you should not simply believe what you hear but should seek your own direct experience. This is the meaning of the first of these three ways of knowing (Pratyaksa – perception).

The second part is reasoning (Anumana – inference), whereby you want that experience to be understood in the light of your own inference or reasoning.
The third part is when you seek the validation through some respected authority (Agamah & Pramanani – testimony). This might be from an oral authority (e.g.; some respected person who has firsthand knowledge) or a written authority (such as the Yoga Sutras or Upanishads).

Yoga Sutra (1.8) – viparyayah mithya jnanam atad rupa pratistham. Viparyaya means false perception or false knowledge. Mithya, also false or misleading. Jnanam (root is Jnana) is knowledge, insight. Atad (a-not, tat-that) means “not that.” Rupa is form, nature. Atadrupa means different form. Pratistham (from root pratistha) is rooted, calming, compatible.


All together these words may be translated as “Error arises from knowledge that is based on a false mental construct” or “Incorrect knowledge (viparyaya) is false knowledge formed by perceiving a thing to be other than what it really is.”

Yoga Sutra (1.9) – shabda jnana anupati vastu shunyah vikalpah. Sabda means word. Jnana is knowledge. Anupati means consequent upon (real). Vastu can be reality, object, thing or entity. Sunya means devoid or empty. Vikalpah is imagining, illusion or semantic confusion (the illusion that a semantic construct actually exists).

Further translation Vikalpah – “Imaginings are engendered by word/knowledge without regard for what actually exists in the real world.” Or in other words; “Fantasy or imagination (vikalpa) is a thought pattern that has verbal expression and knowledge, but for which there is no such object or reality in existence.”

Yoga Sutra (1.10) – abhava pratyaya alambana tamo-vritti nidra. Abhava means absence or non-presence. Pratyaya is cognition, impressions (i.e.; impressions in citta via vrittis). Alambana is support, basis, foundation. Tamo means inertia (Tamas is one of the three gunas or basic properties of matter). Vrtti means lack of clarity (thought waves or patterns). Nidra is deep sleep.
Translation – “Dreamless sleep (nidra) is the subtle thought pattern which has as its object an inertia, blankness, absence, or negation of the other thought patterns (vrittis).”

Yoga Sutra (1.11) – anubhuta vishaya asampramoshah smritih. Anu (from), Bhuta (that which has been experienced in the past). Visshaya is experience (or objects of experience). Samasampramosash means neither being stolen or lost. Smrtih is memory or recollection.

This Sutra is generally translated to mean: “Recollection or memory (smriti) is mental modification caused by the inner reproducing of a previous impression of an object, but without adding any other characteristics from other sources.” Or more simply stated… “Memory is the recollection (in the current moment) of (past) experienced objects.”

~Rae Indigo

Next in this series, Part 4 (Practice and non-attachment), Yoga Sutras 1.12 thru 1.14