2. The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.
In Book 1, Sutra 2, Patanjali is still giving general information about the purpose of the sutras and of Yoga in general. He has not yet started discussing the ways in which Yoga is practiced. Personally, I hate doing anything if I do not know why I am doing it, so I very much appreciate that Patanjali tells us up front why the heck we are doing all of this.
Patanjali believes that there are 3 parts to the mind, or chittam:
- Ahamkara – the idea of “I”
- Buddhi – discriminative faculty/intellect
- Manas – senses, or the part of your mind that desires things
When I read this initially, I noticed the similarities between Patanjali’s three parts of the mind and two later systems of thought regarding the mind and brain – both Freud’s (superego, ego, and id) and the triune brain theory (reptilian, limbic, and neocortex). I find it amazing that this idea has been around for over a thousand years, and that it keeps getting revamped based on the popular theories of the day.
What each of these theories says is basically that the human part of the mind (ahamkara/superego/neocortex) puts a human spin on very neutral stimuli. Sri Swami Satchidananda gave a fantastic example in his commentary on the Yoga Sutras. The smell of cheese wafts into the room you are in. Your lower brain (manas/id/reptilian) perceives it.The middle level of your mind/brain (buddhi/ego/limbic) remembers what cheese is and that you LOVE it. Then, the highest level (ahamkara/superego/neocortex) decides that you should definitely have some cheese. This last part of your brain – the part that plans what you should do – is exclusive to humans. As such, it is the part that contributes to all of the problems that are almost entirely human, such as depression. It colors everything you see, smell, hear, taste, and feel with impressions that are based solely on perceptions, rather than the objective nature of the sensation. Although totally annoying – there is a silver lining here. Once you learn to stop your mind from modifying your sensations, you will be free of turmoil. Pretty exciting, right?
Patanjali’s sutras give the framework for stopping the human part of the mind or brain (ahamkara/superego/neocortex) from taking over and modifying how your mind sees the world.