Yoga Sutras: Sutra 1.4
(Useful graphics are shown at this link along with text)
YOGA SUTRA 1.4: At other times, when one is not in Self-realization,
the Seer appears to take on the form of the modifications of the mind
field, taking on the identity of those thought patterns.
(vritti sarupyam itaratra)
VRITTI = of the operations, activities, fluctuations, modifications,
changes, or various forms (of the mind-field)
SARUPYAM = similarity, assimilation, appearance of, identification of
form or nature, conformity with the shape of; the root sa means with,
and rupa means form
ITARATRA = elsewhere, at other times, when not in that state of
WHEN WE ARE NOT AWARE OF OUR TRUE NATURE: When activity of all levels
of mind have been transcended (1.2), we experience pure consciousness
(1.3). However, the rest of the time, mind flows towards the many
sensory experiences we have, as well as towards the streams of
memories and fantasies. The existence of the external world and the
memories is not the problem. Rather, the pure consciousness
mistakenly takes on the identity of those thought patterns. In this
way, we incorrectly come to think that who we are is one and the same
with these thoughts. The solution is to separate the seer and the
seen (2.17), the experiencer and the object experienced, and this is
the theme and practice of Yoga.
CONSCIOUSNESS WRAPS AROUND MENTAL OBJECTS: When a metal sculptor
wants to make a mold, he might first make a plaster statue, then form
the clay mold around that statue. Later, that clay becomes the mold
for pouring the liquid metal. The process of the clay taking the form
of the original plaster model is the meaning of the seer or Self
appearing to take on the form of the thought pattern stored in the
mind-field. When pure consciousness wraps itself around the mental
object it encounters, it only appears to take on the identity of that
object. It is a sort of mistaken identity that results.
GOLD AND CLAY: Gold is melted, reformed, and fashioned into many
different ornaments. Yet, it remains gold. Clay is pushed and pulled
and twisted, and shaped into many different bowls or other objects.
Yet, it remains clay. However much consciousness shapes itself into
the many objects stored in the mind field, that consciousness remains
pure, standing alone. That consciousness, itself lacking any form, is
described as having the nature of existence, consciousness, and bliss.
IT IS ALWAYS A MENTAL OBJECT: The object around which consciousness
wraps itself is always an inner, mental object, even though there may
be an external object being perceived through the senses (indriyas).
If you see and smell your favorite food (or most offensive object),
it is the memory of that experience, the mental object that is being
triggered and brought to the surface. Even if you have never
experienced this particular object before, it is presented through
the eyes and nose (and other senses) to the mind field, as if on a
movie screen, which the seer can then watch. The experience itself is
between the inner witness and the presented object, and that
presented object might come either through the senses or memory (or
subtle realm, internal awareness). The significance of this is that
we need to work with our inner awareness in relation to mental
objects. In other words, we need to train our own mind and senses.
FIVE FORMS OF MENTAL OBJECTS: The five types of thought patterns that
result from this false identity (of the Seer taking on false
identities) are described in sutras 1.5-1.11. How to release
consciousness from these few categories of mistaken identity is the
process of enlightenment, and is the subject of the Yoga Sutras.