Sūtra 1.6

Discussion January 19, 2014; Notes by Hannah, Edited by Ram

Simhāvalokanam (Revisiting Lingering Questions from Last Discussion): Last time we closely examined the underlying structure and semantics of the words Pantañjali used to craft his sūtra-s. In his time, the they would have been communicated orally, memorized, and passed on. The  sūtra needed to be both succinct and precise in their meaning. Those who study them were well versed in the language. But most of us do not know the language, so we depend on translations of the sūtra. Many of us in this discussion group came to yoga philosophy through āsana-practice. In contrast, Ram came from the study of the structure of Sanskrit language which emphasizes how a word is formed. In Sanskrit, a  word meaning is based on that formation. This method is what one of the invocation verses to Pantañjali mentions by stating ‘ padena’ (through the word). In this context it is useful for us to reflect on the meaning of this invocation verse to  Pantañjali.

योगेन चित्तस्य पदेन वाचां मलं शरीरस्य च वैद्यकेन।
योsपाकरोत्तं प्रवरं मुनीनां पतञ्जलिं प्राञ्जलिरानतोsस्मि।।
Yogena cittasya padena vācām malam śarīrasya ca vaidyakena
Yo’pākarottam prvaram munīnām patajalim prāñjalirānato’smi.

The verse pays homage to the teacher, Patañjali who ‘removed the impurities of the mind with yoga (by his work on yoga-sūtras), removed the impurity of imprecise use of words with ‘word’(by his work, commentary to Pāṇini’s grammar sūtras, the book of Sanskrit grammar) and the impurity of the body by being a doctor (he is also the author of Āyurveda, work on medicine).

As students of the  yogasūtra, it is necessary for us to respect for what he stands for, namely correct understanding of words he uses, based on his grammar treatise. This is why the students of the sūtras focus on how a word is derived in order to ascertain the correct meaning.

This brings us to the word we saw in sūtra (1.5),  pañcatayyaḥ has meaning five-fold. We can get a glimpse of the structured way in which words are formed in Sanskrit by taking this word as an example. In Sanskrit any simple word is composed of three sub-units – they are (1) the base unit called prakṛti , (2) a sub-unit that may or may not be added, called upasarga, prefix and (3) a prtayaya, suffix. As the terms imply, the prefix adds to the front of this base unit and the suffix comes at the end of the base unit. There can be just one or many prefixes and suffixes added to a prakṛti. When they are added a number of special rules come to play.

Schematically this can look like this
                                       prefix (es) + prakṛti (base unit) + suffix(es) =  word
                                            pañca (five) + taya (fold) = pañcataya (five-fold)
Similarly, dvitaya means two-fold; tritaya, three-fold; saptataya, seven-fold and so on. One notes however, the sūtra has the term pañcatayyaḥ, not pañcataya. This is because, the word here is appositional to vṛttayaḥ,  (feminine gender plural first case). The substantive as formed takes an additional suffix to form the same one but in feminine gender,  pañcatayī. This when declined to a word in agreement with number and case, the form becomes pañcatayyaḥ.
This analysis should not let one go away with the notion that anywhere taya-ending word is found, it has the same import! The words like vṛttayaḥ, smṛtayaḥ are the plural forms of vṛtti and smṛti respectively. This shows how difficult it is to know the meaning of words.   More often than not dictionaries do not seem to help, unless one already knows what and how to look for the meaning, not to mention knowing the alphabet, so one can even begin looking.

Sūtra 1.6
                  प्रमाणविपर्ययविकल्पनिद्रास्मृतयः ।   (1. 6.){प्रमाण-विपर्यय-विकलप-निद्रा-स्मृतयः।}
                  Pramāṇa-viparyaya-vikalpa-nidrā-smṛtayaḥ (pañcatay vṛttayaḥ*)
*These  words in parentheses are drawn from the previous sūtra to complete the sense of the current one. This method, technically called anuvṛtti, is commonly used in any sūtra study to arrive at the meaning.  Anuvṛtti, brings in fragments of  prior aphorisms to complete the meaning of the current one.
This long word is a compound of five separate words, the component words of the compound are shown with hyphen between each term. Note also there is no verb in the sūtra. In Sanskrit,  the verb of being is understood and not used. Thus one rarely sees finite verbs ‘is, are, were’ etc.,
This sūtra means –
The five-fold-vrtti-s are pramāṇa (knowledge), viparyaya (wrong knowledge / error), vikalpa (concepts / imagination) , nidrā (sleep) and smṛti (memory).**
English translations are in parentheses since each of these terms are defined in subsequent aphorisms. Also, the word concept is used here in addition to the commonly used word imagination, to be in line with the definition that follows later.
Here, Patañjali enumerates the five vṛtti-s, he follows up with the meaning of each of these five words in subsequent sūtra-s, devoting one sūtra for each of these in (1.7 – 1.11). For the time being we will stick with the simple translation.
It is, however, necessary to understand the word pramāṇa since it is used differently in this aphorism than in the following one. Here it is stated as a vrtti and the word means knowledge / cognition, while in (1.7) the same word used with a different meaning. Many translations incorrectly use the same meaning for both the sūtra-s.


Following the schematic we introduced previously, this word pramāṇa is formed
                 [prefix + base + suffix]                pra + mā + ana = pramāṇa
Both prefixes and suffixes have defined meanings, and, sometimes as in English, the same prefix or suffix can have several meanings. The suffix ana makes abstract noun of the verb of action mā. This verb means to ascertain, measure, determine, know. The prefix pra has several meanings, here the most appropriate one is excellence or superior. The word thus means knowledge, some translations use the word right knowledge. We prefer to use just the word knowledge as the meaning of the word pramāṇa in this sūtra.
This suffix ana is a very common one, that can be added to almost all verbs to form the corresponding abstract nouns (similar to the suffix ‘ing’ added to verbs in English to form gerunds). Thus we have the words like anu-śās-ana (1.3), ava-sthā-ana (1.3).

Other words also are formed similarly
              [prefix(es) + base + suffix]                (vi + pari) + i + a = viparyaya
The base, verb i means to go, and in the language any verb of motion also is meant to convey the meaning ‘to know’. The suffix a is another one making the verb to a noun form, and the prefix pari has the sense of ‘total’; and the prefix vi here means ‘opposed to’. The meaning is ‘totally opposed to knowledge’ so it is translated as wrong knowledge or better still error.

                      [prefix + base + suffix]                (vi + klp) + a = vikalpa
The base, verb klp means to imagine, project, the suffix is another one that makes a verb to a noun. Note however, the same prefix vi means ‘many, varied’ in contrast to the other meaning used in the previous word. This word is hence translated as imagination or projection or concept.

The word nidrā means sleep, derived from a verb of the same form meaning to sleep.

Formation of the last word in this compound, smṛti
                                    [base + suffix]                (smṛ + ti) = smṛti
The suffix ti is yet another suffix that is added to a verb to make it a noun. the verb means to remember, so the noun form is translated as memory.

All these five independent words are strung together to form a compound. Since the compound has five entities, it is given in the plural form by adding a declensional suffix to make the word shown in (1.6).


Question: Is there an implication that this is meant to be a completely comprehensive list of everything that can happen in the mind? Should we be able to classify every type of thought into one of these 5 areas?
Ram: Instead of thinking of each of these terms as a discrete thing, it’s helpful to consider them more as buckets or categories into which one can place a number of thoughts, perception, cognition and emotion. This is meant to be a descriptive idea rather than a precise identification. As with all of these things we’re studying, they’re meant for us to use as a tool. Not to hurt ourselves, but as facilitative of cultivating clear seeing. Subsequent sūtra-s go into more detailed analyses of each of these, as each word is pregnant with meaning not fully captured by these precise but cryptic terms.

Question: A general question about the sūtra-s – as a whole, are they designed to require deep study and further exploration, or would their meaning have been more self-evident to students in and around Patañjali’s time?
Ram: Think of the sūtra-s as a practice manual. When you start something new, you should begin learning the basic terms of practice. For instance, as you began āsana-practice, you started learning foundation poses first and then expanded from there. This is what the sūtra-s do: they set out the basic framework of practice and then proceed to explore and define each building block, layer upon layer. In the sūtra-s, the basic structure is the first chapter. It provides of an overview of all that will be discussed, and the subsequent three chapters explore these ideas in increasing depth. And yes, during Patañjali’s time,  these would have been more readily understood. Perhaps during his time there was not only a pervasive scholarly focus on Sanskrit, but the focus of that age was on critical inquiry and understanding.

(Ram thanks Chris for copy-editing the text. )

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