by Swami Krishnananda
Let us consider the Vrittis of love and hatred. They are really painful indeed. By love, we are pained. By hatred also, we are pained. Whoever entertains love and hatred knows how painful both these things are. Any man with a little jot of common sense will know what suffering is brought upon oneself by the fact of loving anything or hating anything. We are perpetually restless, because we like something or dislike something. We are grief-stricken by loving something, and we are equally grief stricken by hating something else. These are our daily problems, and all our problems are only this, that we like something or dislike something. This like-dislike is one of the items brought under the category of Klishta Vrittis by Patanjali – this Raga-Dvesha, rising from ignorance ultimately. We cannot love or hate a thing, unless we are shrouded in ignorance about the nature of things. When we love something or hate something, we do not understand that thing. So, a lack of proper understanding of anything is the reason behind our liking it or not liking it. Likes and dislikes are unwarranted, misplaced and totally miscalculated attitudes of ours, especially when we like or dislike a thing with our emotions attached.
A philosophical liking and disliking is one thing, and emotional liking and disliking is quite another thing; the latter is much worse. What are called Klishta Vrittis are practically all emotional in their nature. Our feelings are attached to them. When we like or dislike a thing, we do not philosophically like or dislike it, but we like it or dislike it emotionally. Our feelings are roused, we are stirred in our personality. Any intense like or intense dislike is called passion, something that simply throws us out of gear, like a whirlwind or a tempest or a cyclone. That is called passion. It could be anger, it could be intense like, it could be intense dislike, it could be intense hatred of any kind. Inasmuch as likes and dislikes, Raga and Dvesha, arise due to a misunderstanding of the nature of the objects of like or dislike, ignorance forms the base of Raga and Dvesha. Avidya, non-intellection or nescience, is the root of likes and dislikes.
First, we do not understand anything. Then we fly into a passion of like or dislike. But, midway between these, there is a subtle thief who creates the problems that we call like and dislike. That is self-affirmation, Asmita. This Asmita or self-affirmation is a highly political mischief-maker. In the political field, there are certain peculiar mischievous elements, who may not belong to either of the opposing parties. But they can still create problems for both the parties. Likewise is this peculiar thing called Asmita. One does not know to which party it belongs, but it is the greatest devil that one can imagine. When we try to discover it, it is not there. It is like searching for darkness with the help of a torchlight. If we want to know where darkness is, we have to use our light of understanding, and when the light of understanding is thrown on it, it vanishes. Even so, this self-affirmation is something which is there, but when we try to know where it is and what it is, we cannot know it. It vanishes. So, this self-sense, the affirmation of oneself as an isolated individual, which follows immediately the ignorance of the nature of things, is an indeterminable, so-called something – Anirvachaniya as the Vedanta calls it, an existence which is indescribable, indeterminable, and unthinkable also. From where does this arise? How is it that we have come to affirm ourselves as something quite different from what we really are? We cannot know this, because trying to know this is like attempting to see the darkness with the help of a torch. We cannot see it, because light is there. But, when the light goes, it is there.
Thus, Patanjali tells us that there is a peculiar, indescribable element, called self-sense. This is the consciousness of oneself as a separate entity. This is the same as Adam and Eve becoming conscious that they are naked. This is the metaphysical evil of the philosophers, the original sin which theology speaks of and which breeds every other sin, the grandparent of all other troubles and whose first children are Raga and Dvesha or like and dislike. Cain and Abel, the children of Adam and Eve, are no other than Raga and Dvesha, like and dislike, love and hatred. These great stories of creation and Genesis are highly philosophical and spiritual in their nature. From a lack of understanding of the nature of things, ignorance or nescience or Avidya arises – this self-sense, this consciousness of individuality, this personality-consciousness which takes the shape of the feeling of 'I am', the feeling of being somebody or someone different from others totally. This 'I am' is quite different from the 'I-am-That-I-am', which the Genesis speaks of. The 'I-am-That-I-am' is a highly cosmical affirmation; and it is quite different from the 'I am'-ness we are acquainted with in our daily life, and which relates to our physical body, and which is the individualised essence of our own personalities. Because I am, everything else also is. Where there is the subject, there is also the object. It follows at once. There is no need to argue separately the existence of an object outside, it follows automatically. If I am, something else also must be. That something is the object. Because there is the object outside myself, I must have an attitude towards it of this nature or that nature. There cannot be an undecided factor called the object in front of me. I have to think something about it. It is either myself or not myself. It is not myself, because I see it outside myself. That is why I call it an object. And so, if it is not myself, I cannot like it. Hatred of the object is engendered automatically by the very fact of the affirmation of it being outside myself. Anything that is not myself is my enemy. This is the basic affirmation of all individuals.
However, it is not an unadulterated hatred that preponderates in our lives. There is something very, very peculiar about the object which is not myself. It is an appearance, as another individuality in space and time, outside myself, of the very same thing of which I am also an appearance. This is very unfortunate, and at the same time, very interesting and dramatic indeed – inasmuch as that which I call the object outside in space and time is an offshoot, as it were, an appearance, of that one thing, of which I am also a similar appearance. The subject and the object being thus co-related, I have also a basic love for the object. I cannot wholly hate it. So, there is no such thing as hundred per cent hatred for anything, nor can there be hundred per cent love for anything. We cannot love anything hundred per cent, nor can we hate anything hundred per cent. We can have only a mixture of both. This is Samsara, the terrible mire into which we have been thrown, worse than even the worst of concentration camps. We are tortured in a way that is worse than the treatment meted out to prisoners in camps of the above kind. We are pulled in two directions simultaneously. On one side we cannot hate, on the other side we cannot love. Inasmuch as the object appears as something outside us, we cannot love it. But inasmuch as basically it is not really outside us, we cannot wholly hate it either. So, love and hatred continue to form an admixture of two contrary attitudes of ours, making us a laughing-stock in the eyes of our own selves. We have to mock at our own selves due to this illness into which we have landed ourselves, where we cannot think fully either this way or that way.
Such is love and hatred, Raga and Dvesha, arising from a self-sense, which in turn evolves out of a lack of understanding. Because I am an individual, I am that and nothing else. I have to preserve that individuality. I love it intensely. Nothing can be loved so much as one's own self. No love can equal one's own love for one's own self. Self-love is the greatest of loves, and here 'self' stands for bodily individuality. Nothing else is seen in an individual. So, love of life and fear of death follow as a natural corollary to this love of bodily individuality. We dread death, because we love life. Dread of death is the same as love of life. They are not two different things. One means the same as the other thing.
Thus is this chain action following from an original mistake, a blunder, an ignorance of the true nature of our relationship with things. Avidya breeds self-sense, which breeds love and hatred, which breeds clinging to this bodily individuality and a hatred for the very thought of the destruction of this body. Avidya, Asmita, Raga, Dvesha and Abhinivesha: this is a broad fivefold classification of the painful Vrittis-Klishtas, as Patanjali calls them – which are the grosser difficulties or the grosser problems in life, because we feel them everyday. Everyone knows that everyone is in this condition. Because this condition, this sequential suffering, is so obvious and clear like daylight, and so gross and prosaic, the Vrittis involved are called "Klishta Vrittis", painful, agonising functions of the mind.
There is something very important for us to remember here where we enter into a greater philosophical realm than before. The painful Vrittis are brought about by certain structural defects in our own selves. There are certain organic defects in our personality which become the causative factors behind the painful Vrittis mentioned earlier, just as a group of dacoits may unleash certain violent elements and work havoc in society, while themselves remaining as the main string-pullers behind the screen. They may not be visible outside. The havoc – workers are seen, no doubt, in public, but they are moved to action by certain forces which are not visible. These latter forces lie behind the screen. Likewise there are certain forces which cause the mischief which we see in front of us as our sorrows, as our pains. These invisible causative factors behind our difficulties in life are the "Aklishta Vrittis" or the non-pain-causing functions of the mind. They are non-pain-causing, because we do not feel the pain that they cause. But they are of greater danger than the so-called pain-causing ones. A direct attack is one thing; and inwardly maintained or inwardly sustained hatred is quite another thing. The painful Vrittis directly attack us every day, and in a way, we know that they are there. The next thing is to know what to do with them when we confront them in daily life. But, the other Vrittis, the Aklishta Vrittis are not directly seen. We cannot even know that they exist. It is like a creeping cancer in the system, whose existence is not detected easily even by physicians. We get to know that there is a cancerous growth only when it pains. When it has just started at the root, when it is working surreptitiously at the base, it is not easily noticed. Likewise, there is a cancerous growth in our own basic structure, an organic defect as we may call it. This is the Aklishta Vritti or the so-called non-painful function of the mind. Even as five different items are mentioned by Patanjali in the category of pain-causing functions, five others are mentioned by him as non-painful ones. The Sanskrit terms that he uses are Pramana, Viparyaya, Vikalpa, Nidra and Smriti.
Pramana is direct perception. Viparyaya is wrong perception. Or, we may say that Pramana is right perception and Viparyaya is wrong perception. Vikalpa is doubt, oscillation of the mind. Nidra is sleep, torpidity. And Smriti is memory or remembrance of past occurrences. All these are functions of the mind only. The mind works in different ways when these processes take place. It may be very surprising that even right perception is regarded by Patanjali as an undesirable Vritti. Patanjali clubs even the so-called right perception or epistemological cognition of things as an undesirable function of the mind, which has to be curbed. This is like considering even a good man as undesirable at times. It is very difficult to understand how it can be! Why is it that even a normal person should be regarded as undesirable? What is wrong when I see a building in front of me, which is really there? What is wrong? What is wrong if I am convinced that it is daytime when it is really daytime and not midnight? All these come under right perceptions and why should they be regarded as something contrary to Yoga? What is wrong? We cannot understand! We cannot easily understand what actually is in the mind of Patanjali. But we will know what is in his mind and we will appreciate what he says, if we can recollect some of our earlier observations.
Likewise are doubt and wrong perception. We do not see things properly. Something appears as something else. When there is cataract in the eyes, one moon is seen as two moons; a distant object appears as something else. Again, we see water in a mirage, when water is not actually there; we see a snake in the rope. To people suffering from jaundice, sweets taste bitter. So many other examples can be given of erroneous cognition and perception. All these are mental functions. In sleep also, the mind is there, though like a coiled snake. A snake that is in a corner, winding itself up, does not cease to be a snake. It is very much there. If we touch it, we will know what it is. The modifications of the mind are wound up for the night, and that is sleep. Or, it is like a court case that is adjourned to be heard the next day. That is sleep. A sleeping rogue is a rogue only. He will not become a saint, merely because he is sleeping. Even so, the mind may be sleeping; yet it is the mind. It is nothing but that. So, Patanjali is very cautious. He says that sleep is a function of the mind. It is a trick of the mind. It is a kind of manoeuvring which the mind conducts for its own purposes. And then there is memory. The mind sees and it remembers: "Yesterday, I saw this. Yesterday, this happened; the day before yesterday, something else happened." Memory also is a function of the mind. These functions of the mind do not cause us daily sorrow. That is why we are not even aware that these functions are taking place. We are not always aware that there is a process going on in the mind. When there is a building in front of me, I am just aware that there is a building in front. I do not make an analysis to know that there is a building in front. It is a spontaneous perception which is at once clear. All Aklishta Vrittis are of a similar nature. We are not aware of these mental perceptions, because they do not prick us like needles every moment, as the Klishta Vrittis do. So, it is necessary to exercise a greater caution in our understanding of the non-painful Vrittis than in the case of the painful ones.