Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhaha

Exploring the Sutras

Lesson 2 : Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhaha

The second sutra of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras could possibly be the most profound of all. Not sure if I mentioned this last week but there are 196 sutras total divided between 4 chapters. The second sutra falls within the first chapter entitled Samadhi Pada. Some scholars say that this sutra is the first sutra but I disagree because I find that the first sutra, Atha Yoga Nushasanam, sets the intention and tone of the teachings so beautifully. It does seem as though the second sutra comes full circle at the end of the entire book due to the depth of the sutra itself.

So, here goes: The second sutra is Yogas Chitta Vitti Nirodhaha. This sutra is considered to be the definition of yoga. It says that Yoga is the intentional calming and stilling of all the self-limiting, self-defeating, self-judging tendencies of the Citta, which is our deepest place inside; our subconscious mind. It is the intention that makes all the difference. Otherwise, the practice (for example, Hatha yoga), without intention, is merely physical exercise. Yoga is total freedom. It is truly learning how to love ourselves more, and carries with it a reminder to not believe everything we think; especially about ourselves.

Now, to break it down into its etymology. The root of the word Yoga in Sanskrit is “yuj”, meaning to yoke or to join together. It is about the union of seemingly opposite energies into a balanced harmonious entity. It is about light and dark, day and night, up and down, inside and outside.

Citta is a rather complicated word in Sanskrit. In this sutra the “chitta’ refers to our individuated field of consciousness. The word “citta” mean consciousness and there are four aspects of it. One aspect is the “Ahamkar” which means the ego. The ego is the aspect of our consciousness that sees itself as separate from everything else and is very surface oriented. When we move from this place it almost always brings us pain. The ego is almost the opposite of the chitta which is our deepest self. Vritti literally means “to revolve” or “to twist”. It is the almost electrical impulse in us to do something; I always think of it as a knee jerk reaction. It is often described as the agitations and fluctuations of the mind. When we don’t take a moment to reflect and instead react quickly, it is often the ego reacting and nine times out of ten, we regret the words or the actions we just said or did.

Nirodhaha is rooted in the name of the god of storms, Rudra. “Ni” is a negating prefix so when put together the “Ni” balances and negates the negativity of the stormy tempestuous nature of humanity. Nirodhaha is when we have reached that state of being inside that is calm and smooth and centered. The way that I always think of it is I imagine a lake in a storm with white caps and rough waters; this is rodhaha. When it is sunny and calm the lake is smooth and glassy and clear; this is norodhaha. This is the state that we are striving for in life and the reason for doing yoga at all; to find the state of nirodhaha. Imagine how amazing it will be when we can feel free of all the chatter inside our heads and we are at peace with ourselves and everything and everyone around us? I know that I practice yoga so that I can feel more and more free in my own mind, heart, and soul. I wish the same for all of you!

So, again, to paraphrase: Yoga is the intentional quieting and calming of all the self-limiting, self-defeating tendencies of the chitta which here refers to our individuated field of consciousness. It is the intention that is so important here. It doesn’t just come naturally to us, we must practice and study and work for this kind of freedom. It is so worth it because imagine the possibilities if we could all love ourselves more; then we could love each other more and more as well and that would lead to peace within and without.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti, Peace of the past, peace of the present, and peace for all of our futures.

Nicki Doane