A Little More on the Vrittis

Exploring the Sutras

Lesson 5: A Little More on the Vrittis

Being human and having a spiritual experience is how some of us view life on earth. As a yogi, I prefer to think of us all as spiritual beings having a human experience. Human beings come prepackaged with an ego which we spend most of our lives trying to figure out. In Sanskrit, the word for ego is Ahamkar. “Kar” is the root word meaning to do and aham has to do with the concept of “self” or “I”. A healthy ego is an important part of being human and without we lose our ability to discern. While the ego can lead to many things that may appear to be self centered, there truly is such a thing as a healthy ego. We need to individuate as human beings and an ego kept in check can lead us to greatness and spiritual liberation. However, if we are not practicing discernment and self-reflection on a consistent and regular basis then the ego can get rather swollen and we can get a little full of ourselves and lean towards narcissistic behavior.

In the fifth of Patanjali’s Yoga sutras, he introduces us to the idea that the ego can be led in two directions; namely, towards vice or virtue. Only time will tell. I firmly believe that with regular spiritual practice we can steer the ego towards virtue and away from vice. Now, as I always say in my classes, “there is some pain on the path to freedom”. What I mean by that is that not everything is always perfect and people (including ourselves and myself) do not always act int he way we would like or what we consider to be righteous. However, as long as we keep the positive end goal in sight we can get through the pain and obstacles placed in our path if we have support and a strong moral compass. As I have been moving through the process of separating from my husband after over 20 years together, it has been so valuable to me to keep moving forward towards what I know to be the right decision for me in spite of the difficulties and challenges that inevitably come from such a separation. I am doing my best to stay in my integrity through it all and I will absolutely admit that it is really hard sometimes. I do trust my heart and know that it is the right thing for me. Where am I going with this? Good question, lol, and back to the sutra please.

Vrittayaha panchatayaha kishtaklishtaha: According to Patanjali, the Vrittis (remember these are the agitations and fluctuations of the mind) are considered to be five-fold. They can be either painful (kishta) or seemingly non painful (akishta). This sutra is basically an introduction to the five vrittis that are non-painful and he goes on to name and define them in the next 6 sutras of chapter 1. The five vrittis that are absolutely painful do not get discussed until the second chapter and they are so important that he actually gives them a name which is the Kleshas, not to be confused with klishta. I know, I was kind of confused at first too! I do find it helpful and encouraging that he chooses to discuss, define, and classify them for us. I don’t want to get into what these five are as that would be getting ahead of the sutra. Just suffice it to say that as human beings with an ego, we will inevitably encounter these vrittis and the more we can talk about them and identify them, the less shame around them because everyone has to deal with them. As Jim Morrison from the Doors said, “No one gets out of here alive”. Spoiler alert: Patanjali does say that there is a way out of this suffering and pain and that is spiritual practice! Yay for yoga. Have a great week and I will have more for you all next week!

Peace, Nicki

Nicki Doane