What is a Vritti (Thoughts)? What To Do With Them?

Vritti or thought is the nature of the mind (antahkarana).

Thoughts arise just as a bubble (which is always an effect of something deeper in the ocean) arises on the surface of the ocean.

Just as rays emanate from the sun — so do vritti-rays emanate from the antahkarana-sun.

More important, what is the purpose or function of a vritti?

It's to remove ignorance of gross-objects in the transactional world (vyavaharika).

Put another way; objects in the world are essential undefined matter.

As a baby, the perception of world is almost 2D, because baby's vrittis aren't educated, hence unable to give distinctness and meaning to matter-objects.

Instead of “butterfly, tortoise, cloud, hot, cold”, it's all put into one category; a wonder. That's why we're in awe of the world in early years. It's actually our ignorance of objects.

As our mommy and daddy start pointing to things and saying “butterfly“, “cloud“, does the vritti gain capacity of individuation.

It's all a “Wow” until one gains knowledge or gets educated into the nature of that thing.

As the mind gets educated, the vritti is able to remove a lot more gross-object-ignorance then in the early days.

Again, the toddler encounters a rainbow for the first time.

“Wow! What is that?”. 

Daddy again expands the toddlers vrtti capacity, by replying “A rainbow”.

From thereon, the toddlers rainbow ignorance has been removed owing to rainbow-vrtti, and will continue to be removed whenever the mind assumes the form of a rainbow.

Therefore the vrtti is removing ignorance of objects every moment.

Imagine seeing a car once, then becoming instantly unfamiliar with it again. We couldn't function like that.

Soon as ignorance is removed, that object shines in front of you as THAT-DISTINCT object, which you can then work with rationally.

In other words, thanks to “tennis-ball-vrtti”, you have no doubts it's a “tennis-ball” and not a “green-apple”.

How do we use this knowledge to benefit our life?

If vrittis are tamed (disciplined), then unnecessary desires and disturbing thoughts will subside.

The 5 types of vṛttis which we do have control for sake of improving our life, are:

  1. Pramana. Right notion or right proof. Example teaching of Bhagavad Gita.
  2. Viparyaya. Misconception. This can be avoided by delaying our conclusions about experiences. Initially any judgement is product of past-impressions (vasanas/samskaras); usually an unintelligent opinion.
  3. Vikalpa: Fancy or imagination. 
  4. Nidra: Sleep.
  5. Smriti. Memory. Surround yourself with objects that are devoid of love, and you'll only remember empty moments.

Vishayakara-Vritti and Brahmakara-Vritti

When the mind assumes shape of an object (or modifies itself into the form of the though), this is Vishayakara-Vritti.

For examples, a “beach” thought arises — the mind momentarily assumes beach-ness.

Classic Vedanta example is Ghatapatadi-Vritti (mind undergoing a modification of a “pot” object).

When thought (whose knowledge is accurate in reference to reality) of Infinity or Brahman arises, a Brahmakara-Vritti is formed.

The aspirants task is to be alert for Vishayakara-Vritti, and immediately convert it to Brahmakara-Vritti.

For example, “This though is a changing phenomena, appearing in time; a product of maya whose content is Existence-Awareness [Brahman], which is myself”.

This is the process behind the principle of Self-enquiry.

Remember the word “conversion” whenever in doubt what self-inquiry involves.

It certainly needs a disciplined and vigilant mind, as most will revert to old habits; interpreting each situation with the old narratives.

So self-inquiry is definitely not for majority personalities because the minds are too passionate (rajasic). Hence they're better prescribed various Yoga systems; most popular being 8 Steps Asthanga-Yoga.

Important point is, this conversion needs to be deliberately practiced long enough, until it's auto-pilot.

You have to start changing thinking from

objects having their individual existence, into…

…recognizing that each object is mithya (resolves into something smaller, ultimately Existence-Awareness [Brahman]). Just as all pottenware resolve into the One same clay.

Another way put; once Vishayakara-Vritti takes place, immediately follow-up with the second step — recognizing that the vritti (in form of the perceived object), depends on Brahman (whose nature is Existence-Awareness).

From this, we conclude that the only reason objects bind you (eliciting concern, anxiety, lack of contentment) is because you fail to consciously, mindfully and forcefully introduce the second step as mentioned above.

Of course, one's mind first needs to be educated into the actual nature of objects, before one can perform a conversation process that over time, brings about a permanent identity-shift. Education can be found in CH13, 14, 15 of Bhagavad Gita.

5 Types of Vrittis:

On bases of observation and classification, five kinds of vrittis are observed:

  1. Mano-Vritti: Emotions. Belongs to manomaya-kosha.
  2. Buddhi Vritti: Reasoning, discernment. Belongs to vijnanamaya-kosha.
  3. Sakshi Vritti: Being identified with this though, one takes a role of witnessing both the Emotions and Reasoning. One is able to, as though, separate oneself from the emotions and thoughts, looking at them.
  4. Akhandakara Vritti: When the individual attempts to recognize that one's nature is not different from Brahman's, this though is taking place. Again, this is category of self-inquiry or Brahmakara-Vritti as discussed above.
  5. Akhanda Ekarasa Vritti: This is auto-pilot. Moksha. One no longer needs to self-inquiry deliberately. Owing to much prior practice and discernment of Real/unreal (satya/mithya), the understanding has taken place permanently.

Again, practitioners task is to progress upwards from 1 to 5.

Antarmukha-Vritti and Bahirmukha-Vritti

When extroverted tendencies of mind are arrested and all (or majority) it's attention is spontaneously turning within, this condition is called; Antarmukha-Vritti.

If this kind of thought dominates the antahkarana, it's equivalent to being Sattva-guna dominant (enjoying a clear, clean and cheerful state of mind).

Whereas Bahirmukha-Vritti is opposite. It's the outgoing tendency of the mind due to excess Raja-guna. It's busy projecting. It's highly alert about objects “out there”. It's a highly desirous or passionate mind.

Bahirmukha-Vritti are minimized by process of Conversion, as stated earlier.

One has to constantly inquire into nature of objects, until the “enticing power” of objects subsides. 

Just as children toys no longer entice us as adults.

Conversion process builds Vairagya (seeing objects value-neutral; thus dispassionate). And Vairagya is the fuel for Antarmukha-Vritti (mind turned inwards).

And Antarmukha-Vritti is what jump-starts the progression from 1 to 5 as mentioned above.

Benefit of Vrtti Conversion

It's not that the body gets tired, as much as the mind gets exhausted or fatigued due to unnecessary and impulsive thoughts. A fatigued mind reflects in the body as fatigue (low energy, unmotivated).

Each impulsive, unproductive or unnecessary thought is unit-of-fatigue.

You may remember a time when you felt cheerful in your life. Tiredness seemed to vaporize.

In same manner, one should take seriously the endeavor of vritti conversion — taking a moment to inquire the nature of the object, rather then judging it or putting it inside a mental box.

Benefit of the conversion is inner strength, silence, and you become a comfortable person to be around yourself.

More Vritti Terminology Used in Yoga System:

They're not meant to be read passively. Every word is meant to point out something about your experiences; allowing you to be more mindful. Therefore, take a moment to consider where each word applies in your experience.

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