The stuff of the mind can be pulled into different patterns. Some of these patterns are beautiful the mind will dance with them for a while, some of the patterns bring us pain and the mind can become cloaked in their darkness. The goal of yoga is to help the mind stop both dancing and becoming shrouded: to help the mind turn back inwards and reflect the consciousness.
Another interpretation of vrtti is pattern, possibly an habitual pattern, a pattern of behaviour, a conditioned reaction. The citta (mindstuff) falls into this pattern and the energy of consciousness follows it. This is best exemplified by the classical conditioning demonstrated in the 1890s by Ivan Pavlov and his dogs. We respond to certain stimuli in the ways which we are conditioned to. Patanjali is offering an insight in how to change that conditioning.
Sutra 1:5 tells us that there are five patterns which the citta follows. Of these five some are conducive to a still, quite mind and others will agitate it further.
It is worthy of note the adjectives kilsta/aklista describing the patterns (vrttis) as either detrimental or beneficial have the same root as the word klesha: kils which can mean to trouble or to torment. Think of Macbeth “oh full of scorpions is my mind” this describes beautifully a tormented by vrtiis pulling the consciousness into a negative spiral.
Because Patanjali is taking us on a logical path next we are introduced to these five patterns.
pramana: accurate assessment of a situation, a source of ‘right’ knowledge.
viparyaya: inaccurate assessment of a situation, error.
At any given time when we are not in a state of yoga the mind will be following one of the patterns.
and just for fun 🙂