The 5 Vrittis

In Hinduism and Yoga, Vritti is described by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati as different tendencies, psycho-physical propensities of the mind which give it scope to express a variety of feelings and emotions. Vrittis are thoughts that surface in the mind and Vritti can also be described as whirlpools.

There are five types of Vrittis or fluctuations of the mind:

  1. PRAMANA or Correct Knowledge: A state in which mind reflects the reality.
  2. VIPARAYAYA or Incorrect Knowledge: A state when the mind makes a wrong judgement which can be replaced with the right knowledge in time.
  3. VIKALPA or Imagination and Fantasy: It means to understand the situation in its entirety and its reality, although words might not directly relate to the situation.
  4. NIDRA or Deep Sleep: The state of mind that exists when one sleeps.
  5. SMRITI or Memory: That which is stored in the mind.

These five fluctuations affect our outer consciousness, and are not necessarily negative in any way.  It’s their effect on us that makes it good or bad. Vrittis are simply habitual motions of thoughts/habitual thought patterns associated with egoic desires and attachments

There are times when a right thought leads to a right decision and ultimately a right action done at a very right time. But there could be instances where we do the right thing and the intent or the thought or perhaps even the reason behind it could be wrong. Even incorrect knowledge can be helpful at such times.

History bears proof that even at times right knowledge can lead to wrongdoings and can be used in harmful ways. Our best of intentions could result in drastically wrong outcomes. These fluctuations can be good or bad, right or wrong. These Vrittis on their own are not really good or bad, it’s the effect they have on our mind that determines how it makes us feel.

These vortices of the mind can cloud and distort the vision of our real, true self and that is why they need to be calmed and balanced. A very apt example would be the reflection of a full moon on the calm and clear surface of a lake (the mind) would be very clear, but the moment a ripple is caused (by the vritti), the reflection of the same moon distorts itself.

Being aware of the movement of the mind, how the mind observes, helps you find myriad ways to understand its complexities. Through the practice of Yoga, one can gain knowledge of how these Vrittis operate and through Yogic practices one can increase one’s ability to regulate them.

Author: Aumtara