Memory as a Modification of the Mind

I had an enthralling yoga experience while on my last visit to India, and have begun a new relationship with memory as a result. I am very grateful to Binod for the invitation to join him at the S-VYASA Yoga University for a 2-day yoga workshop last weekend. S-VYASA is outside of Bangalore, and was founded by an ex-NASA engineer and another man – both of whom have many people who consider them a guru. I have been practicing yoga in the United States for 17 years, and have never experienced anything like this kind of yoga.

I am also grateful to Komol, who hosted Binod and I for the weekend, and with whom I had many interesting conversations as I absorbed the experience. Here is a picture of the three of us on the campus grounds.

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I learned about satvik food – low spice, vegetarian, energetically enriching food, and how delicious it is. I participated in a Hindu havan ritual – mantras and offerings to a fire in the middle of a prayer circle. I learned a specific yoga asana series for relieving stress. I attended other asana practices. I had a traditional Ayurvedic massage – and learned what it’s like to be totally marinated in oil and then steamed until I was nice and tender. I sat in the audience of a guru, named Mohanji, and learned about the Bhagavad Gita and the Patanjali Yoga Sutras, and asked questions and received answers about the workings of the inner self.

After the meeting with Mohanji and discussions with Komol, I became fascinated by the Patanjali Yoga Sutras. At the bookstore I purchased a copy of them, with wonderful commentary by I.K. Taimni – it was the same book that Mohanji had with him. They are essentially instructions on how to do yoga. Not yoga as in the physical exercise. The second sutra says “Yoga is the inhibition of the modifications of the mind” – basically calming your mind. Further sutras then go on to explain how the mind works, and then how to still the modifications. There is much more, but that’s all that’s necessary for me to say right now.

There are only five types of modifications of the mind – right knowledge, wrong knowledge, fancy (imagination), sleep, and memory. I have been so intrigued by the notion of categorizing everything that happens in my mind into just five categories. And particularly memory. So often when I’m left to myself in meditation, driving, waiting, what is in my mind is a memory – replaying something from the past. Just the act of labeling this activity has changed my relationship to this “modification” of my mind. I feel certain that after some practice I will now be much more capable of stilling this modification. I have not settled into anything about this yet, but this discovery is a meaningful one for me.

4 thoughts on “Memory as a Modification of the Mind

  1. Pingback: The Imagination Modification | Josh Forman

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