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339Being aware of the five states of your mind

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    May 14, 2005
      Excerpted from the approximately 14 page description of What is Yoga,
      the comments on Yoga Sutras 1.1-1.4. This section is on Five States
      of Mind:

      FIVE STATES OF MIND: In describing this sutra (1.1), the sage Vyasa
      names five states of mind, of which the one-pointed (ekagra) (1.32)
      state of mind is the desired state of mind for the practice of Yoga.
      These five states of mind range from the severely troubled mind to
      the completely mastered mind. (These five are also described in the
      five states section of the Witnessing article.)


      KNOW WHERE YOU ARE: It is very useful to be aware of these stages,
      both in the moment, and as a general day-to-day level at which one is
      functioning. It reveals the depth of practice that one might be able
      to currently practice. Some aspect of yoga meditation applies to
      every human being, though we need to be mindful of which is most
      fitting and effective for a person with this or that state of mind.

      TWO OF THE STATES ARE DESIREABLE: Of the five states of mind
      (described below in more detail), the later two (one-pointed and
      mastered) are most desirable for the deeper practice of yoga
      meditation. For most people, our minds are usually in one of the
      first three states (disturbed, dull, or distracted). To deal with the
      troubled mind and the lethargic mind is progress, leading one to a
      merely distracted mind, from where one can more easily work on
      training the mind in one-pointedness.

      STABILIZE THE MIND IN ONE-POINTEDNESS: By knowing this, we can deal
      with our minds so as to gradually stabilize the mind in the fourth
      state, the state of one-pointedness (Note that this use of the phrase
      fourth state is different from that used in relation to the fourth
      state of turiya). This is the state of mind which prepares us for the
      fifth state, in which there is mastery of mind. (The first two states
      might also be dominant or intense enough that they manifest as what
      psychologists call mental illness.)


      1. KSHIPTA/DISTURBED: The ksihipta mind is disturbed, restless,
      troubled, wandering. This is the least desirable of the states of
      mind, in which the mind is troubled. It might be severely disturbed,
      moderately disturbed, or mildly disturbed. It might be worried,
      troubled, or chaotic. It is not merely the distracted mind
      (Vikshipta), but has the additional feature of a more intense,
      negative, emotional involvement.

      2. MUDHA/DULL: The mudha mind is stupefied, dull, heavy, forgetful.
      With this state of mind, there is less of a running here and there of
      the thought process. It is a dull or sleepy state, somewhat like one
      experiences when depressed, though we are not here intending to mean
      only clinical depression. It is that heavy frame of mind we can get
      into, when we want to do nothing, to be lethargic, to be a couch

      The Mudha mind is barely beyond the Kshipta, disturbed mind, only in
      that the active disturbance has settled down, and the mind might be
      somewhat more easily trained from this place. Gradually the mind can
      be taught to be a little bit steady in a positive way, only
      occasionally distracted, which is the Vikshipta state. Then the mind
      can move on in training to the Ekagra and Nirodhah states.

      3. VIKSHIPTA/DISTRACTED: The vikshipta mind is distracted,
      occasionally steady or focused. This is the state of mind often
      reported by students of meditation when they are wide awake and
      alert, neither noticeably disturbed nor dull and lethargic. Yet, in
      this state of mind, one's attention is easily drawn here and there.
      This is the monkey mind or noisy mind that people often talk about as
      disturbing meditation. The mind can concentrate for short periods of
      time, and is then distracted into some attraction or aversion. Then,
      the mind is brought back, only to again be distracted.

      The Vikshipta mind in daily life can concentrate on this or that
      project, though it might wander here and there, or be pulled off
      course by some other person or outside influence, or by a rising
      memory. This Vikshipta mind is the stance one wants to attain through
      the foundation yoga practices, so that one can then pursue the one-
      pointedness of Ekagra, and the mastery that comes with the state of

      4. EKAGRA/ONE-POINTED: The ekagra mind is one-pointed, focused,
      concentrated (Yoga Sutra 1.32). When the mind has attained the
      ability to be one-pointed, the real practice of Yoga meditation
      begins. It means that one can focus on tasks at hand in daily life,
      practicing karma yoga, the yoga of action, by being mindful of the
      mental process and consciously serving others. When the mind is one-
      pointed, other internal and external activities are simply not a


      The person with a one-pointed mind just carries on with the matters
      at hand, undisturbed, unaffected, and uninvolved with those other
      stimuli. It is important to note that this is meant in a positive
      way, not the negative way of not attending to other people or other
      internal priorities. The one-pointed mind is fully present in the
      moment and able to attend to people, thoughts, and emotions at will.

      The one-pointed mind is able to do the practices of concentration and
      meditation, leading one onward towards samadhi. This ability to focus
      attention is a primary skill that the student wants to develop for
      meditation and samadhi.

      5. NIRODHAH/MASTERED: The nirodhah mind is highly mastered,
      controlled, regulated, restrained (Yoga Sutra 1.2). It is very
      difficult for one to capture the meaning of the Nirodhah state of
      mind by reading written descriptions. The real understanding of this
      state of mind comes only through practices of meditation and
      contemplation. When the word Nirodhah is translated as controlled,
      regulated, or restrained, it can easily be misunderstood to mean
      suppression of thoughts and emotions.

      To suppress thoughts and emotions is not healthy and this is not what
      is meant here. Rather, it has to do with that natural process when
      the mind is one-pointed and becomes progressively more still as
      meditation deepens. It is not that the thought patterns are not
      there, or are suppressed, but that attention moves inward, or beyond
      the stream of inner impressions. In that deep stillness, there is a
      mastery over the process of mind. It is that mastery that is meant by

      In the second sutra of the Yoga Sutras (the sutra below), Yoga is
      defined as "Yogash Chitta Vritti Nirodhah," which is roughly
      translated as "Yoga is the control [nirodhah] of the thought patterns
      of the mind field." Thus, this Nirodhah state of mind is the goal and
      definition of Yoga. It is the doorway by which we go beyond the mind.

      For more info on the Five States of Mind: