First Exploration — yogas chitta-vrtti-nirodhah



‘I am That’ is a core statement that carries the implication of the impersonal Being as identical with my own true Self. It implies that I see myself not limited to the individual physical-biological and psycho-somatic organism to which my parents gave the name Thomas.

My purpose at the outset of this exploration was to posit the transcendence of the conditioned and limited experience of person-hood that is the conventional mode of identity in this culture.

After being introduced to the exploration of consciousness by my teacher, Rajo,  in 1979, I began to experiment in various ways.  Rajo spoke often about the yoga sutra that defines yoga: yogas chitta-vrtti-nirodhah (The state of Yoga occurs when one allows the patterning of consciousness to subside and become still.)

Rajo always explained the meaning of each Sanskrit term so that I began to understand how Sanskrit works. It is like a scientific language that places several words together in a certain order like a formula. The actual meaning opens up to the reader according to the deeper contemplation of the whole formula. So each reader receives a unique transmission suitable to his/her ability at the moment. Thus I read the same sutra a year later and it meant something slightly different.

The mind can read a superficial intellect-based English equivalent rather quickly and “skim over the surface” of a sutra but what a sutra wants to transmit is only “grokked” in meditation on what it points to – like the finger pointing to the moon: the finger is not the moon.

Starting with the term sutra which means thread: several concepts are strung together like pearls on a thread and together they form a necklace. In this sutra they are:

yoga = union

citta = mind-stuff; consciousness; all that is perceived, however gross or subtle

vrtti = the form of the movement of this citta, that is like a vortex or whirlpool due to the dynamic of attraction to the desirable and the repulsion of the undesirable (I want this; I don’t want that). This drawing towards and pushing away creates a spin in consciousness: the vritti. It is often equated with the English word ‘modifications’. The English words ‘patterning’ and ‘turnings’ also give a good picture.

nirodha = stilling, cessation, restriction, not moving, subsiding

So this sutra points to yoga as the state of wholeness or union which becomes apparent when no longer covered over by the incessant movement of consciousness being stirred up by the dynamic of attraction and repulsion. Consciousness then comes to rest on its own. It is then realized to be our natural state that already is now and eternally is.

Often one finds the interpretation of “suppression of the modifications of the mind.” I, however, have a strong affinity to Krishnamurti’s teaching that this yoga happens when the mind stops of its own accord because its own inner realization brings it to see that this movement of vritti promises only fragmentation, is utterly destructive and threatens its survival.

The mind that has explored every aspect of its own movement realizes that it can never find safety in the movement of thought. It realizes that thought is limited to its function as a tool for simple things of life and that if it attempts to go beyond, it tends to becomes destructive.

The wholeness of life cannot be accessed by the movement of thought. Only when it subsides into itself can the mind be a tranquil pool of consciousness that reflects eternal and infinite Reality. Then the mind can actually take on the form of the Self and become a divine instrument.

In this way citta-vritti-nirodha brought me to the edge of the fantastic science of consciousness which, in a nutshell, says that thought is only a very thin and brittle layer of consciousness – merely a minuscule fragment of consciousness. Reality, on the other hand, is nourishing, all-encompassing, immense and deeply mysterious. It shines as Self-Effulgence and what appears as the world to me is merely Its fragmented and distorted light that I am able to see through the barrage of thoughts, concepts, projections etc. .

The beauty and magnificence I see in the world are evidence of the actual quality of Reality that I yearn to dive into and to submerge myself in. The more I am able to allow the movement of the mind as thought to subside, to that degree I transcend the conditioned and limited experience of person-hood as a separate entity. Of course, the person is still there but only as one small aspect of the experience of Existence. As Ramana puts it: “…we, timeless, and spaceless Being, alone are.”

Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana

Awakening  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




6 thoughts on “First Exploration — yogas chitta-vrtti-nirodhah

  1. Pingback: one thought | New Earth Heartbeat

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  3. Pingback: yoga – a movement of discontinuity | New Earth Heartbeat


  5. Oh that’s a really great piece of information, Thomas! I myself am a beginner in Sanskrit terms and they fascinate me deeply when I read spiritual literature containing them.
    I always try to investigate the deeper meanings! 🙂

    • 🙂 When my teacher started to open up to us the way Sanskrit sutras are constructed, he gave me the key to becoming independent of what others have found to be true for themselves and to find my own truth.

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