1.11 Don't you Remember?
Updated: Jul 30, 2021
YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI | CHAPTER 1 - SAMADHI PADA | VERSE 11 | COMMENTARY
Anubhut vishaya sampramoshah smritih.
अनुभूतविषयासम्प्रमोषः स्मृतिः ॥१.११॥
Anubhu̅taviṣaya̅sampramoṣaḥ smr̥tiḥ ||1.11||
That which is solely from the past and has not faded is Memory.
Memory, the fifth vritti of the mind, is the most recognizable vrittis of all. As our life goes on and we continue to experience events and emotions, the brain stores these events. Memory is what allows us to experience Time, for it provides a frame of reference to measure change, and is a very important tool for survival.
Memory can be divided broadly into two categories – conscious memory and subconscious memory. The events or information in the conscious memory are those which are readily available for use and can be fetched easily like your phone number, your favorite food, or what you had for breakfast today. The conscious memory can hold a few pieces of data at a time which is similar to the RAM storage of the computer. The subconscious memory is very vast just like the hard drive. While the hard drive has the information, one must know the where the information is to access it, otherwise we need tools to access the memories. There is a lot of information in the subconscious that we do not even know we have gathered. There are many techniques including hypnosis and meditation that are applied to access this part of the mind. It takes time and patience to skill to access this memory.
Every event that we experience has an emotional context. A heartbreak is painful, a wedding is joyful and warming, a loss of loved one is shocking and grievous and so on. The myriad of emotions that are felt during a particular event are complex and overlapping and I shall not attempt to put them all into words but you get the idea. When your mind accesses the memory and reopens the event, the emotions also come up. In fact, the more intense your emotions were at the time of the event, it is more likely the memory is really solid in your brain. Psychologists and sleep scientists have found that dreaming about a traumatic event helps in deleting the emotional context of an undesirable event and hence helps in moving on from that event. Now dreaming is possible only in deep states of sleep, and that requires relaxation of some kind. Therefore, in essence, a relaxed mind, is more likely to heal and move on.
The past, while it serves to make better decision in the future, must be at beck and call, and not something that can invade the mind anytime it wants. Maharishi Patanjali does not talk about deleting the memories, but instead reining them. The memory should be a powerful tool, an instrument to navigate the world – it should not become a burden that prevents movement. Unfortunately, this happens to all of us. There are so many memories that we wish we did not have, and there are so many events we wish we could relive – both futile desires. The past does not exist. There are also many instances in daily life when the past shadows the present. If you had once a bad experience with a roller coaster ride, it is very likely you get a bad taste in your mouth when you see them today. Most of the people will not get along with people they started with on a wrong foot. A person, who wins a few games at a gambling, has higher chances of becoming an addict than him who does not win the games initially. The memory overpowers the intellect, and affects the decision making and experiences of the present. Therefore, this vritti, which overpowers the mind frequently, is one of the states of mind that need to be controlled if one wishes for clarity in perception and awareness.