1.6 The Famous Five
Updated: Jul 30
YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI | CHAPTER 1 - SAMADHI PADA | VERSE 6 | COMMENTARY
प्रमाणविपर्ययविकल्पनिद्रास्मृत्यः ॥१.६ ॥
The five categories of the modulations of the mind are – Evident, Erroneous, Fanciful, Sleep and Reminiscence.
Basic human psychology says that every event that is perceived by a human being is based on some factors due to which the human fails to see the event as it is. The state of the mind of the person is one of the primary factors discussed. For example, a big festival in an exotic land with good music, abundant food and drink, and friendly people can also be described as “nonsensical tradition in a strange foreign land which gives an excuse to create noise pollution, waste food and drink, and grope people”. One scenery but two completely opposite perspectives. It is not that two people with inherently opposite personalities shall hold this view – it is quite possible that a person who generally enjoys a good celebration experiences the event in a tragic manner because he just received news that a close relative expired while he was on vacation. The event does not change – it is how we perceive it that makes our experience and that experience continues to affect our further decisions that consequently affect future experiences. Similarly, all our thoughts that arise corresponding to every situation and event in our life are not descriptive of the nature of the event but of the state of the mind at the particular moment. Hence, if we become familiar with this process, observe it from a distant which will show the larger picture, we can relieve the mind of its concepts and impressions and make effort to see each moment as it is, effectively living in the present moment.
This sutra names the five categories under which Maharishi Patanjali categorizes all the Vrittis of the consciousness. All knowledge, thoughts, desires, sensory perceptions and sensory actions in every plane of awareness fall under these categories.
Pramana – means proof. Here it means the knowledge that is gained by some evidence.
Viparyaya – means wrong knowledge due to error in judgement/perception. Once Viparyaya dawns, there is no space in the mind for Pramana.
Vikalpa – means fanciful thoughts. All phobias, daydreams, anxieties, and hallucinations fall under the category of Vikalpa.
Nidra – means sleep. The Yogic philosophy considers sleep one of the modulations of the mind that can be controlled at will. Sleep is just another plane of awareness where different visions, dreams, sensations are perceived.
Smriti – means Memory. Recollecting all the events gone by, talking about who said to whom, reliving humiliations and glory, these is all possible due to the faculty of memory.
Many people may come forward and contend that their state of mind does not fall under any category given in the Yoga Sutras. It is not productive to dwell on this information. What must be understood here that the mind manifests in different forms which veil its true nature and it is possible to transcend these patterns of the consciousness. Observing the vrittis helps us to come out of them, but then going into the scholarly activity of categorising them and then again going into the loop of judgements and quantification defeats the purpose of this knowledge.
The vrittis are explained in detail in the following sutras one-by-one.