Once, I can’t remember, it was long ago.


अनुभूत विषयासंप्रमोष स्मृतिः

anubhūta-viṣayāsampramoṣaḥ smṛtiḥ

experienced sense objects not slipping away (is) memory.

Memory is our capacity to retain information.

We remember what we experience in the way we perceive it. Therefore memory is dependent on the other vṛttis. if we have correct knowledge of something we will remember it correctly, or we will remember the errors that we make and if we don’t realise we made an error then our memory may result in us making that error again. We often think and remember in metaphor, we may remember our ‘lovers face is like the moon’ or ‘she walked in beauty like the night’, and swapna (our dreams) are created by our memories. In nidra we may have no active vṛtti but on waking we remember the quality of our sleep.

Remember in the last sutra the concept of pratyaya (the imprint of an object in the mind)? When there are imprints which are collated by the mind into actions, or the performance of a task, through memory, they are called saṃskāras. Saṃskāras are the patterns that we learn in order to function in prakṛti, as an embodied being. For example the action of making a cup of coffee is a saṃskāra. I have learned to set up the areopress, put in the ground coffee, put water in the kettle, light the stove, place the kettle on the stove, wait for the kettle to whistle, add the boiled water to the coffee, press the coffee. All of these stages form the saṃskāra of making coffee. There are variations on the theme depending on the equipment and my familiarity with it. A few years ago I had a south Indian coffee press, it took me several days to learn and remember the order of the process, I had to modify my previous coffee making saṃskāra to include new information.

If any step in the pattern of the saṃskāra is crystallised incorrectly then the mistakes will be repeated. Let us extrapolate beyond coffee making. There are saṃskāras for every element of our lives, from mundane tasks to building relationships, they are all predicated upon our previous experiences, our perceptions, our understanding.

Thus our life and the way that we exist in the world is completely within our control. For example if my perception is that my self worth is low then Patanjali gives me the tools to change that perception. The process of yoga is an undoing of misunderstandings and misidentifications with parts of our mindstuff that we mistake for who we are.  The answer to the question ‘who am I?’ is puruṣa. Yoga helps us to realise this. We can realise this as householders or renunciates but ultimately the purpose of our life is to live in harmony with ourSelf, in such a way prakṛti (the act of living in the material world) does not hinder the experience of puruṣa (the cosmic world).


Patanjali postulates the first step towards this is acknowledging the components of the mind so we can recognise we are not our mind. We can contemplate and analyse how we think, which in itself indicates we are not those thoughts but something else. Whilst this sounds like Cartesian dualism it is worthy of note that in the context of yoga puruṣa is not the mind, the mind is of the body but that puruṣa pervades all matter as well as being beyond matter (remember sutra 1:9, vikalpa, my experience of studying these philosophies is such that at some point I have had to let go of trying to put my understanding into words because words are not fit for the purpose of understanding.

Just sit in the silence and watch, become the drṣṭṛ and see for yourself who you are.



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