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The Yoga Blog

How Yoga Helps Us To Understand The Mind

If you can cultivate a deepened interest in Yogic Philosophy, you begin to appreciate how an ancient guidance and understanding through our inner and outer worlds is just at your fingertips.

Our thought processes and how they affect happiness and wellbeing are just one area which yoga can help you understand and evolve personally and spiritually.

Yoga categorises thoughts or mental modifications in five categories. It is taught that these are the root cause of klishta/bad and aklishta/good in our life; pain and pleasure, suffering and joy. As you read each modification, imagine how each type of thought process might affect your experience and reactions to a certain event.

At any one time, our minds may be active between several of these states but with focus and awareness, we can learn to see the world with Pramana – right knowledge - as much as possible.

The Modifications of the Mind according to Yoga philosophy:

1. Pramana - real or approved cognition, right knowledge, valid proof, seeing things clearly. This can be by means of direct perception, inference and from words (listening and studying scriptures). Pramana is the state of mind to be cultivated by seeing all things as they are, without conditions or afflictions of mind.

Keep watching your own mind whenever you can, letting go and not holding/suppressing thoughts and emotions to attain ekagra and nirodhah states of mind - the stillness, concentration and focus required for meditation.

2. Viparyaya - unreal cognition, indiscrimination, perverse cognition, wrong knowledge, misconception, incorrect knowing, not seeing clearly. This is similar to ignorance. An example could be seeing or hearing something incorrectly, misinterpreting events. This modification causes the following kleshas or obstacles in growth- Avidya or Ignorance; Asmita or Egoism; Raga or Attachment; Dvesa or Hatred; and Abhinivesa or the sense of self-preservation.

 3. Vikalpa -imagination, verbal misconception or delusion, fantasy, hallucination. Vikalpa is the source of ignorance/avidya. This is the situation when one creates its own objects by words and imagination even though the object doesn’t exist.

4. Nidra - deep sleep. Deep sleep or nidra is also stated as a negative modification of the mind. During this mental state the mind is overcome with heaviness and no other activities are present. This state is virtually a withdrawal from the external world, when one is left without any control over one's consciousness. The dream state and the conscious state are not the same because while dreaming our minds are occupied with vikalpa and while awake, the mind is concerned with the categories of pramana and viparyaya.

 5. Smriti- memory, remembering. This is concerned with the evocation of stored impressions, or rather the mental retention of conscious experiences. This modification of mind can be present in any of the five states of mind.

Exercise in Pramana – Jnana Yoga Kriya

When you are trying to relax or meditate try not to force, imagine or create something you are intending to experience as it may result in viparyaya or vikalpa. Allow your mind to calm down and attain stillness by watching or observing your mental activities without being affected by thought, or judging with the conditioned mind.


This article has been taken from the 1st issue of Amrita Yoga Magazine released in 2015. If you are interested in buying this magazine, you can do so from here!

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