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The Vrittis

Being back in the Anuttara Yoga Shala this week was probably the only way I was able to keep any semblance of sanity. Between a head full of frizzy dreadlocks I can’t stop twisting, which Yogacharya Philip points out is a Vritti and a distraction I should be working to overcome, and the back and forth between jobs the only time of peace I find is during a flow in the Grand Tapas Hall or study time in the Anuttara Yoga Shala library. The crowd of new and familiar faces smiling and curiously chatting about what the week has held for them between lectures and studies is a welcome change. It is all a chance to dispatch my intellect into subjects that stir my soul with excitement and connection, separate from the rat race of the mundane of Monday-through-Friday office-ness.

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali we revisit a familiar subject from the Anuttara Hatha Yoga Training- the Vrittis! These Vrittis are the 5 fold fluctuations of the mind- categories by which the Yoga Sutra classifies the infinite activities of the cognizance into sections, which can be further divided into the class of Klista (afflicting) or Aklistah (non-afflicting).

Yogacharya explains to us basically what we find in the text; it is essential for us in our efforts to understand the different functions of the mind if we can ever hope to control our minds, so the Yoga Sutras begin by explaining in what Yogacharya likes to call “excruciating detail” what each category of activity is and how we can work to identify with the text and evaluate the impact of these elements.

The Vrittis:

  1. Pramana

Meaning Valid Cognition/Preconceptions this mental activity deals with how we obtain and understand information. Further in the Sutras we assess how there are different forms of obtaining our information, including direction perception, inference and deduction or reliable testimony.

  1. Viparyayah

Incorrect Perception/Misconception is about making assumptions based on false knowledge. It can easily be eliminated by using other means of obtaining true knowledge, but in our everyday lives we all have been conditioned by stigmas and prejudices subconsciously to the point where we regularly rely on misconceptions instead of facts.

  1. Vikalpah

Imagination is the initial translation, but we can easily use the word misrepresentation, as the mind can imagine things that do not actually exist or it can misrepresent the truth by using what information it has to create incorrect inferences it then imposes on the real world.

  1. Nidra

To sleep, for chance to dream is the activity of Nidra; a danger many highly underestimate because we have seen sleep as a requirement in life instead of a wave on the sea of consciousness. However as an activity that depends on the absence of cognition we have not much to go on about deeper dreamless sleep, but we know it has an impact on the mind and body, and dreams can influence us for better or worse in this reality.

  1. Smrtih

Memory; the mental process responsible for retaining the impressions created in our minds by all that we come into contact with, and for retrieving those impressions as a reference. Not all memories are bad, but they can be a distraction from meditation and a scar on someone’s peace of mind. Many of us see our memories as sacred pieces of who we are, but what we forget is we are so much more.

Yogacharya pulls us into a conversation this week about the true meaning of karma and how it relates to our actions. Students ask questions and offer examples of situations, and Yogacharya observes each factor in order to give an idea of what kind of karmic imprint this has on the individual, advancing the conversation of everyone understanding that karma means action and causation.

The lectures and the Yoga Sutra direct the class through methods of restraining the mind. We talk about the importance of consistent practice with stability, attention and devotion. Yogacharya teases a few of us on our reliance on the senses and other worldly aspects before he addresses the kinds of detachment utilized to restrain the mind, all in the flowing effort to establish a congruent meditation with self-realization.

The more I write about each week spent in the Anuttara Raja Yoga Teacher Training the more I see that Part 1 of this training is set to take some of the vital pieces of information we touched on in Hatha Training and expand upon the basis for these core concepts. We see the truth behind them and why they relate so closely to all aspects of life. We see a more intimate picture of the fine line as Philip pensively unveils the ever-present and awe-inspiring truths of what yoga is and why it is part of all that we do.

I guess with all my Vrittis I definitely need to do more, but that’s enough for today.

Until next week- Grace and Peace

-Angiras

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