Vrttayah pancatayyah klistaklistah (in Sanskrit)
The Yoga Sutras - Chapter 1, Sutra #5
As we have learned from the second sutra, yoga is defined as citta-vrttis-nirodha, which translates from Sanskrit as “Yoga is the stilling of all thoughts” or in other words “Yoga is the cessation (nirodha) of the activities (vrttis) of the mind (citta)”.
This and a few upcoming sutras (5-12) are dedicated to the concept of vrttis or changing states of mind that include any sensual impression, thought, idea, cognition, psychic activity, or mental state. Since our mind is never static but always active and changing, vrttis are constantly being produced, thus, constantly absorb the pure consciousness or our soul away from its pure nature.
There are a few categories of vrttis that must be eliminated by the yoga practice, which can be either conducive to the ultimate goal of yoga, or detrimental.
Detrimental vrttis are caused by five “klesas” - the impediments to the practice of yoga which include ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion, and clinging to life. These are the products of “rajas” and “tamas” when under the influence of the detrimental vrttis, the mind becomes repelled by sense objects drawing its attention. Detrimental vrttis are the fertile soil from which the seeds of “karma” sprout.
“Karma” means that every action breeds a reaction. So “karma” refers not only to an initial act (good or bad), but also to the reaction, result it produces (good or bad), which ripens for the actor either in this or a future life. Thus, people are born into different socioeconomic situations and different things happen to them throughout life in accordance with their own previous actions. This cycle of action and reaction, or “samsara” (the cycle of birth and death), is potentially eternal and unlimited since one has to act at every moment of one’s life. Thus, karma, which keeps consciousness bound to the material world, is generated by detrimental vrttis caused by ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion, and clinging to life.
Nondetrimental vrttis are sattvic and seek to control the detrimental ones. Nondetrimental vrttis are always beneficial to a yogi and can be gradually increased and strengthened by a yogic lifestyle. Such activities as yoga practice, meditation, and the cultivation of desirelessness are nondetrimental, beneficial to the goal of yoga. Though these nondetrimental actions as any other actions produce seeds of reaction and create mental impressions (samskaras), they eventually transform the nature of the mind - it becomes aware of the true nature of reality and no longer distracts the purusa (soul) with permutations of prakriti (the matter or a material part of the world).
The practice of yoga allows us to achieve the state of being liberated but still embodied, to act in the world from an enlightened perspective free from ignorance and ego.