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Modifications of Mind

by Swami Sivananda

1. Modifications of Mind

The mental modifications are five kinds, (some) painful and (others) not painful.


If you want to suppress the modifications, it is necessary for you to have a comprehensive understanding of these modifications. The painful Vrittis have to be controlled by the not-painful Vrittis, and these in turn have to be mastered by Para Vairagya or absolute non-attachment or dispassion or indifference to sensual enjoyments. The painful Vrittis are those which bring the afflictions and become the field for the growth of the vehicle of actions (Karmasaya). Vrittis that emanate from Rajas and Tamas are all painful ones. All Vrittis that proceed from Sattva Guna are not-painful ones. Through Vairagya and Abhyasa the painful Rajasic-tamasic Vrittis are to be controlled. Good Samskaras are generated by Vairagya and Abhyasa.

2. Five Modifications

They (the modifications) are right knowledge, wrong knowledge, imagination, sleep and memory.


All the above five kinds of modifications are dealt with in the subsequent five Sutras.

3. Pramana

Right knowledge is direct perception or inference or testimony.


Right knowledge is that which is unquestionably reliable and true. Right knowledge is right cognition. Wrong knowledge is misconception.

These Pramanas are helps or steps to attain knowledge of the Self. They are of no use for one who is resting in his own native divine glory. A full-blown Yogi depends on his own realisation for his knowledge. He is not in need of these proofs. An ordinary man depends on Pratyaksha only for his knowledge. A little advanced man depends on Pratyaksha and Anumana. A little more advanced man depends on these three proofs. Pratyaksha is that knowledge which is caused by the direct contact of any of the five senses of knowledge, viz., ear, eye, tongue, skin and nose with the objects of knowledge. Proofs are the right sources of knowledge. If there is no contradiction in your two perceptions, you can call it a proof or right condition. If there is contradiction, you begin to doubt at once. You see a river or mountain. You feel heat and cold. You taste an orange or a mango. These are all Pratyaksha Pramanas or direct cognitions. There cannot be any contradictions in these experiences.

If there is flood in a river, you infer that there ought to have been a heavy rain on the previous day. If you see smoke, you infer that there must be fire. These are all inferences. Inference is knowledge produced by a previous knowledge of the relation between a characteristic mark and the possessor of the mark. You see a clear sign and from that you come to the thing signified. You see a table and infer that the table ought to have been made by a carpenter. You see the external universe and thereby infer that there must be a Creator. This is inference.

Testimony, Apta Vakya, Agama Pramana and Sabdha Pramana are all synonymous terms. A competent person is an Apta. He has omniscience. He is a Seer or a Sage who has direct knowledge or Aparokshanubhuti. He will not reason anything. The whole book of inner knowledge or knowledge of the Self is revealed to him like Amalaka fruit in the hand. His words serve as direct authority. There can never be any mistake in his statement. His words are infallible. The highest testimony is the Veda (Agama), which has come out of the mouth of Isvara. An Apta is a Seer who has Self-realisation. All his words are gospel truths. He has derived super-intuitional knowledge beyond the senses through Asamprajnata Samadhi. His words will not contradict reasoning and past human experiences. Sankhyas also have three Pramanas like Raja Yogins. The Naiyayikas add Upamana (Analogy) to the above three. Vedantins have six proofs. In addition to the above three, they have Upamana, Anupalabdhi (non-presence) and Artha-patti (implication). These three come under the category of Anumana.

4. Viparyaya

Wrong knowledge is false perception whose real form is not of its own.


The real Svarupa of one thing does not appear. A false form appears in its stead. I will give you a clear illustration. Mother-of-pearl is mistaken for silver. A post is taken for a man. A rope is mistaken for a snake. Viparyaya is wrong cognition brought about by some defect either in the object itself or in the means leading to it. Doubt is also included in this.

5. Vikalpa

Imagination follows from mere words which have nothing in reality.


As instances of Vikalpa we have: 'horns of a hare', 'son of a barren woman', 'lotus in the sky', 'intelligence of Purusha', 'head of Rahu', etc. The difference between Vikalpa and Viparyaya lies in the fact that Vikalpa can hardly be removed by a careful observation of the object, as Viparyaya is. As soon as you closely observe, the notion of silver in the mother-of-pearl, or snake in the rope, disappears.

Mind havocs through the power of imagination. Imaginary fears of various sorts, exaggeration, concoction, mental dramatisation, building castles in the air, are all due to the power of imagination. Even a perfect man full of health has some imaginary disease or other due to the power of imagination of the mind. A man may have a little weakness or Dosha (fault). When he becomes your enemy, you at once exaggerate and magnify his weaknesses and Doshas. This is due to the power of imagination. Much energy is wasted on account of imaginary fears.

Whenever the minds of two friends are strained by ill-feelings, these minds begin to exaggerate and concoct things. Fault-finding nature increases. It is very difficult to get at the truth of the statements of these two broken friends with broken friendship. Their utterances are always coloured by their inner feelings. The power of imagination havocs now. Maya havocs through mind and its power of imagination. May peace be unto them. May there be sympathy and better understanding amongst them.

I shall explain to you the nature of 'mental dramatisation.' Mark the ways of the mind. During conversation with your friend the mind sometimes imagines in vain that it has hurt the feelings of your friend. It spends much of its energy in unnecessary feelings. You think: 'How can I see him tomorrow morning? He may be displeased with me.' Next morning when you meet him, nothing happens. Your friend starts a pleasant conversation and smiles. You are surprised. To your great astonishment the subject of talk takes quite a different turn altogether. A family man imagines when a severe epidemic of plague ravages: 'What shall I do if my wife develops plague and dies now? I have got six children.' This is vain imagination. Nothing happens. Sometimes when the train moves slowly on the Pamban bridge over the sea, near Ramesvaram, the mind imagines: 'If the bridge gives way now, what will become of me? I will be smashed to pieces.' A touch of fear creeps in. There are thousand and one ways of mental dramatisation like these. The power of imagination plays a vital part in mental dramatisation. To destroy Vikalpa, you must have right knowledge described in Sutra I-7.

6. Nidra

Sleep is a modification of mind which has the cause of nothingness as its support.


Sleep manifests when there is preponderance of Tamas, when Sattva and Rajas subside and when there is no knowledge of the external world. Ordinary people think that there is Vritti-sunya in sleep. It is not so. As there is memory in you when you wake up and as you say when you wake up, 'I slept soundly; I knew nothing,' there ought to have been a particular kind of subtle wave in the mind during sleep (Abhavarupa Vritti). It should not be understood that sleep is no transformation or Vritti of the mind. If it were so, the remembrance: 'I slept soundly,' would not follow on waking, for you never remember what you have not experienced. Sleep is a particular kind of Vritti. This must be controlled like other Vrittis if you want to enter into Samadhi.

7. Smriti

Memory is 'not slipping away' of the objects perceived.


Remembrance is a function brought entirely by the residuum or impression due to former experience. The objects cognised do not slip away from the mind. They come back to the surface of the conscious mind through the influence of Samskaras that are imbedded in the subconscious mind. Knowledge produced by recollecting impressions of past experiences is memory. The above five kinds of Vrittis come under the three categories, pleasure, pain or Moha (delusion or infatuation or fascination). Pramana, Viparyaya and Vikalpa are enjoyed in waking state. The Vasanas of these three Vrittis are enjoyed in dream.

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