In the Yoga Sutras of Sage Patanjali it is written that the patterns of consciousness, chitta vritti, must be blocked, nirodhah, through yoga.
The patterns or modifications of the mind are fivefold, and they are painful, klishta, or not painful, aklishta. The five vrittis are: pramana, right knowledge; viparyaya, wrong knowledge; vikalpa, imagination; nidra, sleep; and smriti, memory.
Pramana means confirmation. Confirmation is required by the intellect, which unlike faith does not require confirmation. Logic requires confirmation, intuition does not require confirmation. Pramana is the process of confirming a situation, an idea or an event.
In vikalpa there is conflict and duality: this is appropriate, that is inappropriate, this should be done, that should not be done. A person is not able to understand. In vikalpa there are two paths, and one does not know which path to take.
Viparyaya is wrong knowledge or delusion. There are three people, two of them look at each other and smile, and the third person thinks that they are mocking him, and he becomes sad. This is called delusion, bhranti. It is something that does not exist, yet one imposes it on oneself. Sorrow is the result of wrong knowledge. Delusion gives rise to sorrow.
Nidra means disconnection. When the pressure of the senses, the pressure of the world becomes too much for the mind and brain, one feels the need to disconnect for a while. If one remains in a noisy place for a while, after some time one wants to have peace, sit quietly, be alone and away from people. There is a need for relaxation. The state of sleep is the same: withdrawing the mind from worldly objects, so that the mind can have some peace.
The fifth vritti is called smriti, memory. Memory is something that has its grasp on every individual, and no one can free himself from memory. Memory always has a connection with the past. Whenever a memory surges up in one's conscious awareness, one's consciousness moves into the past, ties itself there, and does not look ahead.
In the statement of the Yoga Sutras, Chitta vritti nirodhah – "Blocking the patters of consciousness", there is no reference to blocking the buddhi vritti, the vritti of the intellect, or the manas vritti, the vritti of the mind, or the ahamkara vritti, the vritti of the ego. The reference is to the blocking of chitta vritti.
In the Yoga Sutras it is said that there are four expressions of the mind: buddhi, manas, chitta, ahamkara. The meaning of mind is that which thinks, reflects, contemplates. The mind only makes an effort to know, beyond that there is no work for the mind. To reflect, to reason, to think, to understand, to know, this is the work of the mind.
There is no need to explain ahamkara. No individual is free of ahamkara. Whoever has a mind also has ahamkara. Chitta is the centre of the mind, where past memories are stored. Chitta is the storehouse of the memories of countless births.
When one thinks of one's near and dear ones, childhood comes to mind, and with the recollection of childhood the mind goes into the past and becomes absorbed with it. When the mind links with the past, it forgets the present.
The memories of the past are good as well as bad. Many people are not able to carefully preserve good memories. They easily hold on to bad ones. People always remember the moments of sorrow in their lives and are quick to forget the moments of joy. The person, who is able to remember the moments of joy and forget the moments of sorrow, is always happy in life. The person, who forgets the moments of joy and ties himself to the moments of sorrow, lives and moves in the world. Memory is spoken of as a vritti, which originates from the chitta.
Sage Patanjali says that it is these chitta vrittis that should be blocked, for they disturb the mind. However, once one has blocked the vrittis, can one remain without vritti in this world? Never! The presence of vritti is necessary, and one cannot manage life in the absence of vrittis.
A sixth vritti must emerge, the brahmi vritti. The meaning of brahmi vritti is excellence, perfection, the perfect state, the attainment of perfection. With the brahmi vritti one becomes free from the happiness and sorrow of the world and is established in the realm of peace.
Through yoga sadhana and intense spiritual discipline the chitta vrittis are blocked. The vrittis, responsible for creating turbulence and restlessness in the mind, come to an end, and the brahmi vritti emerges which is responsible for the evolution of the mind.
This brahmi vrittit is a sattwic vritti. The vrittis which Patanjali referred to as painful and not painful are worldly vrittis. According to Sri Swami Satyananda, the cessation of worldly vrittis and the attainment of the spiritual vritti, a spiritual mentality, is the purpose of yoga. According to the shastras, to acquire the spiritual vritti, one has to practise meditation, recite mantras, practise yoga sadhana, observe yamas and niyamas and engage in rigorous spiritual discipline. There should be only one focus: how to attain excellence in life, and for this the observation of yama and niyama is necessary.
For blocking the chitta vrittis it is absolutely necessary to take the help of yamas and niyamas. Without applying the yamas and niyamas the vrittis cannot be controlled. One may perform asana, do pranayama, meditate, recite mantras, do japa, do pooja and recite prayers. There are many types of personal effort one can make, yet there will be no control over the restless chitta vrittis.
With the observance of the yamas and niyamas one finds the way to dissolve the chitta vrittis, and the mind will immediately become peaceful. Sri Swami Satyananda used to say that in life there can never be trouble for there is a solution for every problem.
People say, "I am in such and such situation. I can't understand how to get out of it. I can't find the solution." Every problem has a solution and there is a way out of every situation.
Once this is understood and experienced, the path becomes simple and free of obstacles. The yamas and niyamas are for the blocking of chitta vrittis and subsequently for the ascent of energy. In this process one acquires a new mentality. One is reborn in this world in the form of a yogi.
—19 September 2014, Tyagaraj Sports Stadium, Delhi, India