The word Cit means to incite, make aware. That which is incited or made aware or conscious, the Citta, is not just the mind that perceives through the senses; it is also the intellect that discriminates. It includes the mind of the ethereal body/spirit body. It also includes the intuitive faculty, the I Cloud that is available to the Jivatma or our innermost level of consciousness.
At different levels of existence, it is the Citta that provides awareness to different bodies within us. The Citta in each of us is dynamic. It is ideally meant to be a still lake, but it is not. Ripples that activate or modify its equanimity or stillness continuously disturb it. These ripples or modifications are called Vrittis. Reducing these ripples in the Citta is supposed to be the ambition of every knowledgeable individual.
Unfortunately, most individuals have never even heard of these concepts. These Vrittis are Perceptive Knowledge, Delusionary Knowledge, Testimonial or Accepted knowledge, Sleep and Memory (they are explained ahead).
But try to focus on these Vrittis and see if becoming aware of them can help you control them. Reduce them at least. These Vrittis are alterations in the function of the mind, they are certainly not different states of mind, they are temporary and sometimes just flashes and at other times they can be longer lasting. Like memory can be a flash or a spark in the Citta, whereas imagination can be a series of spark connects. Sage Patanjali documented the concept of Citta Vritti Nirodha, subjugation of these modifications of the mind, or alterations in the functional state of the mind, or activity of the mind state. More than one Vritti can be functional at any particular time or there can be one Vritti that may absorb and obsess the mind.
In later stages of evolution, you will find that you might very often be interested in focusing on only one thought process, in business jargon single-mindedness and that of course would enhance your effort and the result. The word in the Indian scriptures for this is called Ekagratta. The reason why we are talking about Vrittis is that during the process of accepting and loving ourselves, we are also preparing to be the divinity in our lives. Naturally we need to focus our attention on that status and therefore Ekagratta or single-mindedness helps. Once we see the light within ourselves, we need to focus on the fact that everything about us is divine, both what looks divine and what doesn’t.
Divinity Is Not Easy Business
When you start seeing the spark of divinity within, you have to find reasons to make it stick and to make it grow. If someone insults you, see divinity in yourself for not responding in a negative manner. If you do respond in a negative manner, see divinity in the fact that it was a milder response than normal, see divinity in the fact that we empathise with that person and also practice the divine art of forgiveness. Positives and negatives all need to be linked to divinity, in short you have to psyche yourself!
When I do something that seems right, it is divine. When I do something that does not seem right that too is divine. Whatever is, is divine. I may not understand this justification of divinity, but my lack of understanding or my limited understanding does not discredit divinity.
Our reason for discussing Vrittis is that we do not wish to be disenchanted by these mental activities. If you go to the beach there will be dust and sand in the air. Similarly, where the Citta is an instrument of awareness and consciousness, it has to receive and analyse signals despite the fact that these modifications of the state of mind are not ideally desirable, but by default are probable.
Patanjali is crisp when he says, “The real Self, the Atman, remains forever outside the power of thought-waves, it is eternally pure, enlightened and free- the only true, unchanging happiness. It follows, therefore, that man can never know his real Self as long as the thought-waves and the egosense are being identified. In order to become enlightened we must bring the thought-waves under control, so that this false identification may cease.”
The five Vrittis commonly classified are:
1. Right knowledge: This is data or information as perceived by the five senses. ‘Seeing is believing’; ‘I heard it quite clearly’; ‘The scent was distinct’; ‘I felt it with my own hands’; ‘I know the taste very well’. These are reactions to Vritti No. 1.
Perception, analysis and the involvement of the Citta in any kind of mental activity, is one of the waves or ripples that positively modifies the Citta. Both positive and negative action in thought are Vrittis.
The other ways of attaining right knowledge besides what is perceived by the senses are:
When we benchmark something that has been done in the past, or the background knowledge already exists in our past experience, we can compare the results. This is common in mathematics, scientific theories, day-to-day inferences, astrological analysis, astronomical movements, weather predictions, etc.
Another way we decipher knowledge is through testimonials; learning things that have been established as correct information. Almost all studies of various subjects in school or college, can fit this category.
While I am writing this book, I believe this is right knowledge as it is based on my own perceptions, study of the subject, guidance by my Guru, etc. If you were to believe these words, for you it would be a testimonial. You would quote ‘Hingori said this or that’.
For you too, this would be a Vritti of right knowledge. For knowing this concept, the task of processing information needs to be carried out. The processing needs a use of energy, just like your phone uses from its battery. In case of the Citta, this creates a ripple or spark that affects the equanimity of the Citta. When I remember something for the second time or a third, the Vritti occurs again. I need to use the mechanism of mental activity to recollect and to re-paste. The additional process of recollection also disturbs the Citta.
2. Wrong Knowledge: One of the extreme examples of incorrect perception is a mirage. It looks like water on the ground until you reach it and find it was an illusion. But, perceiving things incorrectly through the senses is also a Vritti. Incorrect information of any kind, entering wrong codes, mistakes of data processing, incorrect guidance, are reasons for the Citta to suffer from not being able to have equanimity. Mistakes that we make, or our misconceptions, act as disturbances. For example, even during a dream state, we might get a dream that is misleading and incorrect, that we wrongly interpret.
Take Yoga or any other form of exercise. Misunderstanding these exercises and later on finding out that we are doing it wrongly and that it is affecting us negatively leads to the mental disturbance of wrong knowledge or misconception. All my life I have been a very important member of the misconception club. If there was a chance of getting it wrong, I did. It took me a long time to learn how to ride a bicycle.
Learning languages and sciences gave my Citta plenty of ‘Traas’ or stress. Being a businessman has made this Vritti a very common denominator in my life. My younger son has dyscalculia and dyslexia, so for him the energy of figuring out that his thought process is not accurate and to be aware of the fact that he is misconceiving things, is a Vritti. The process of analysing is an act of the mind and that uses energy. The use of energy creates a ripple.
3. Imaginary Perception: The reality that we perceive in an imaginary state is another modification of Citta. Most of us live in a partial day-dream world. When we are angry with someone, we slap them, hit them or even shoot them in our state of imagination. If young people are attracted to someone, even if nothing happens in the world of five elements, a lot happens in the world of imagination. These states of imaginary existence are ripples in the still water of Citta. This Vritti of imagination also covers that part of the sleeping state, which is not the deep sleep state, for example the dream state, the state in the process of meditation till you have not reached the state of Dhyan or one-pointedness. Imagination or creative visualisation again needs use of energy by the Citta, that becomes a Vritti as it does create the ripple effect.
4. Sleep State: In sleep state or dream-state, the Citta is again involved in mental activity. Visions, nightmares, disturbed sleep, are all movements in the stillness of Citta. The attention of the Citta is withdrawn from the body and the senses, shifts to the inner bodies including the Karmashaya (or body of Memories) and we live in a separate reality of our dream state. The physical senses are non-functional at such a time. Going into the deep sleep state and coming out of the deep sleep state are, really speaking, the Vritti.
5. Memory: Trying to recall, flashbacks, or data coming into the Citta voluntarily or involuntarily, lapses of being able to remember things, or involuntarily remembering things that you would rather forget, are all mental activities in the Citta.
It is a part of the Citta’s Ops-manual that it should move inwards by becoming one-pointed and achieve higher levels of consciousness (forgive the oxymoron). For people who are practitioners of meditation, understand the process of Dharna, Dhyan and Samadhi, the last three major phases of the eight-fold path of Yoga (these words are very common and you can find their meanings easily on the web when you search for Yoga sutras).
What we want to understand here is another concept. How the Citta has to pass through four different levels of mental activity to get to the point of flag hoisting on its ‘Everest’. These Vrittis do not allow an average mind to attain quietude. When we talk about seeing the divinity within us, we might assume quietude of the mind is a necessity. The point to understand here is these Vrittis are a natural phenomena and by accepting them as such we can continue our climb up the ladder of realising self-worth and practicing self-worship.
The four levels the Citta has to cross (negative thoughts, etc.) are Vitarkas, Vicharas, Ananda (Bliss and quiet attitude of mind) and Asmita (the Identified Self). Crossing the hemisphere of the first two Vs can take us to base camp.