ŚABDA-YOGA : The Language of Yoga demystified – 4


In this series, Yogic terminologies will be taken up and their -

  1. Etymological analysis,
  2. Lexical descriptions and
  3. Textual occurrences in Yogic literature and their commentaries, as available, will be presented. Three texts - Yogasūtra, Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā and Bhagavad-gītā are consulted for textual occurrences portion.

Śabda-yoga is intended to help students, teachers, and professionals of Yoga to develop a sound grammatical, contextual, and thereby an authentic and immersive understanding of Yoga terminologies.

List of Words

The words that appear in the Yoga-sūtras will be sequentially dealt initially and after that terms from other prominent Yoga texts will be taken up. Every śabda-yoga article will analyze five terms. This article considers six terms (words 2-6 form one set (5 vṛttis) hence 6 terms)–

  1. kliṣṭa  & akliṣṭa
  2. pramāṇa
  3. viparyaya
  4. vikalpa
  5. nidrā
  6. smṛti

1. kliṣṭa &akliṣṭa

Both the words are closely connected and hence they are dealt under one entry.


क्लिष्टा - kliṣṭā

क्लिश् + क्त = क्लिष्टा

kliś + kta = kliṣṭā

  • kliś is the root. There may be two roots क्लिश् – उपतापे - kliś – upatāpe (to be ill, to be sad, to suffer) क्लिश् – विबाधने - kliś – vibādhane (to torment, to distress, to hurt, to suffer, to misbehave).
  • kta is the suffix. The suffix is added to the root by the grammatical rule निष्ठा niṣṭhā (aṣṭādhyāyī 1.93). The meaning of the suffix here is karma (object of the action – here it indicates the object of affliction).

Based on this, the derivative statement of the word will be - क्लिश्यते इयम् इति क्लिष्टा – kliśyate iyam iti kliṣṭā - that which is afflicted (the vṛttis).

अक्लिष्टा - akliṣṭā

न क्लिष्टा  = अक्लिष्टा

na kliṣṭā  = akliṣṭā

  • Na means not
  • kliṣṭā - that which is afflicted

These two words join to form a nañ-tatpuruṣa compound, which is as per the grammatical rule नञ् nañ (aṣṭādhyāyī 2.2.3).

The derivative statement is already indicated above (na kliṣṭā, akliṣṭā) - that which is not afflicted is अक्लिष्टा akliṣṭā.

Both the above words  (kliṣṭā & akliṣṭā) end with an elongated vowel to indicate that they are feminine gender. These two words are adjectives. In Saṃskṛta language the adjective takes the gender of the word/noun it is qualifying. The word qualified by these two words is vṛtti which is in feminine gender. Hence these two words are also in feminine gender.


There are two references to the word in Amarakośa.

  1. सङ्कुल-क्लिष्टे परस्परपराहतम्

saṅkula-kliṣṭe parasparaparāhatam (1.6.19)

saṅkula, kliṣṭa and paraspara-parāhata are three words used to indicate self-contradiction

2. क्लिष्टः क्लिशिते

kliṣṭaḥ kliśite (3.1.98)

The one who has attained affliction is kliṣṭa or kliśita

It will become clear from the textual references from yoga literature that it’s the second sense in which the word kliṣṭa is used in the Yoga context.

Textual Occurrences


There is just one reference of the two words which is found in the first chapter of the text.

वृत्तयः पञ्चतय्यः क्लिष्टाक्लिष्टाः ॥ १. ५ ॥

vṛttayaḥ pañcatayyaḥ kliṣṭākliṣṭāḥ .. 1. 5  - Herein it is stated that vṛttis are of two types - afflicted and non-afflicted.


There is just one reference to a connected term in this text parikliṣṭa.

यत्तु प्रत्युपकारार्थं  फलमुद्दिश्य वा पुनः ।
दीयते च परिक्लिष्टं तद्दानं राजसं स्मृतम् ॥ १७.२१ ॥

yattu pratyupakārārthaṃ  phalamuddiśya vā punaḥ .

dīyate ca parikliṣṭaṃ taddānaṃ rājasaṃ smṛtam .. 17.21 ..

The word parikliṣṭa is described by Śrī-śaṅkara-bhagavat-pāda as[1]- with a lot of suffering.

This word appears in the context of Rājasic charity where one who gives in expectation of return help or purpose and with great sense of suffering (does not share with joy).


The word kliṣṭa as such is not found in this text. But related expression kleśa is found in numerous occasions in the text, which will be discussed when the word kleśa of yogasūtra is analyzed in this series.

As can be seen from the textual references, kliṣṭa & akliṣṭa are used as adjectives to activities of the mind. It is also used to indicate a sense of affliction.

[1] खेदसंयुक्तम्

2. Pramāṇa


प्र+माङ् +ल्युट् = प्रमाणम्

pra+māṅ +lyuṭ = pramāṇam

  • pra is the prefix, contextually the word here means - to a great extent ( प्रकर्ष - intensity)
  • māṅ is root that means माने māne– to measure
  • lyut is the suffix that indicates instrumentality. This suffix is added based on s grammatical rule करणाधिकरणयोश्च karaṇādhikaraṇayośca (aṣṭādhyāyī 3.3.117).   

Hence the derivation would be प्रमीयते अनेन इति – pramīyate anena iti-  that by which measurement is done.


There is one reference in the Amarakośa for the word-

प्रमाणं हेतुमर्यादाशास्त्रेयत्ताप्रमातृषु

pramāṇaṃ hetumaryādāśāstreyattāpramātṛṣu (3.3.54)

The word Pramāṇa is used to indicate the following meanings – cause, limit, śāstra, quantity, the perceiver.

Textual occurrences


There are three references to Pramāṇa in this text.

The first two usages are in the successive sūtras of chapter 1 -

  1. प्रमाणविपर्ययविकल्पनिद्रास्मृतय ॥ १.६॥ - pramāṇaviparyayavikalpanidrāsmṛtaya .. 1.6..- There are five types of vṛttis/knowlege viz – right/valid knowledge(pramāṇa), wrong knowledge, imagination, deep sleep and memory.
  2. प्रत्यक्षानुमानागमाः प्रमाणानि ॥१.७॥ - pratyakṣānumānāgamāḥ pramāṇāni ..1.7.. - There are three ways to attain valid knowledge (pramāṇa) – direct perception, inference and verbal testimony.

It is interesting to note that in the first sūtra the word Pramāṇa points to valid knowledge and in the second instance it indicates means of valid knowledge.

The third reference is from the final chapter of this text -

  1. न चैकचित्ततन्त्रं वस्तु तदप्रमाणकं तदा किं स्यात् ॥ ४.१६ ॥ -

na caikacittatantraṃ vastu tadapramāṇakaṃ tadā kiṃ syāt .. 4.16 .. - This reference is in the context of discussion on the real existence of the world, independent of the mind. The word apramāṇaka is used here as opposite to the word Pramāṇa. The sūtra states - the object (outside) is not dependent on one mind. (Because) what would it be, when not cognized (apramāṇaka) by that one mind?

To explain – Vijñānavādins (a division of Buddhists) are of the view that all existence is based on the knowledge within. Nothing outside exists independently of the various minds that perceive. It has been established in the preceding sūtra (4.15) that this view is wrong. The different minds do not create objects; objects have independent existence. As a rejoinder the Vijñānavādins might state that let the world not be the visualization of many minds. Let it be the visualization of one mind. The above Sūtra (4.16) is the answer to the above possibility that might be posited by the Vijñānavādins.


There are just two references to this word in this text. In both the references it could be noted that the word Pramāṇa is used to indicate authority.

  1. यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जनः ।

स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते ॥ ३.२१ ॥

yadyadācarati śreṣṭhastattadevetaro janaḥ .

sa yatpramāṇaṃ kurute lokastadanuvartate .. 3.21 .. - Whatever is done by great people, others do the same. Whatever is upheld as an authority by great people, others follow(and accept it).

2. तस्माच्छास्त्रं प्रमाणं ते कार्याकार्यव्यवस्थितौ ।

ज्ञात्वा शास्त्रविधानोक्तं कर्म कर्तुमिहार्हसि ॥ १६.२४ ॥

tasmācchāstraṃ pramāṇaṃ te kāryākāryavyavasthitau .

jñātvā śāstravidhānoktaṃ karma kartumihārhasi .. 16.24 .. - Śāstra is  desribed as a pramāṇa – as an authority – in deciding the do’s and donts.


There is a lonely reference to this word here. It is in the context of specifying the place for practice of Haṭhayoga. The verse on that is as follows

धनुः प्रमाणपर्यन्तं शिलाग्निजलवर्जिते ।

एकान्ते मठिकामध्ये स्थातव्यं हठयोगिना ॥ १.१२॥

dhanuḥ pramāṇaparyantaṃ śilāgnijalavarjite .

ekānte maṭhikāmadhye sthātavyaṃ haṭhayoginā .. 1.12.. - It is interesting to note that the word pramāṇa is used to mean iyattā – the measure/this much. The hermitage that is to be established by the Haṭhayogin should be away from the rocks, fire and water to a mesure of a Dhanus. (One Dhanus[2] is four hastas. One hasta is of a measure of 18 inches[3])

[2] Apte Dictionary-  https://kosha.sanskrit.today/word/sa/dhanus?q=%E0%A4%A7%E0%A4%A8%E0%A5%81%E0%A4%B8%E0%A5%8D

In fine, based on the textual occurances it can be seen that the word pramāṇa -

  • in yogasūtra refers to valid knowledge and means to it.
  • in Bhagavadgītā it refers to an authority and
  • in Haṭhayogapradīpikā it means measure.

[3] Apte Dictionary-  https://kosha.sanskrit.today/word/sa/hasta?q=%E0%A4%B9%E0%A4%B8%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%A4

3. Viparyaya


वि+परि+इण् +अच् = विपर्ययः

vi+pari+iṇ +ac = viparyayaḥ

  • Vi & Pari are prefixes that mean opposite and exessive
  • Iṇ is the root that means - Gati- movement
  • ac (अच्) is the suffix that is added to the root to indicate the meaning bhāva (the act). This suffix is added as per the grammatical rule एरच् erac (aṣṭādhyāyī 3.3.56)

Based on this the derivative statement would then be - विपरीयते इति विपर्ययः – viparīyate iti viparyayaḥ - the act of movement that is excessively opposite.


There is one reference to the word in Amarakośa. It is as follows –

स्याद्व्यत्यासो विपर्यासो व्यत्ययश्च विपर्यये

syādvyatyāso viparyāso vyatyayaśca viparyaye (3.2.33)

Words such as vyatyāsa, viparyāsa, vyatyaya, viparyaya indicate the opposite.

Textual occurrences


There are two references to Viparaya in this text.

  1. प्रमाणविपर्ययविकल्पनिद्रास्मृतय ॥१.६॥ - pramāṇaviparyayavikalpanidrāsmṛtaya ..1.6.. - Here Viparyaya is enumerated as one among the five Vṛttis of the citta.
  2. विपर्ययो मिथ्याज्ञानमतद्रूपप्रतिष्ठम् ॥१.८॥- viparyayo mithyājñānamatadrūpapratiṣṭham .. 1.8 .. - This Sūtra defines Viparyaya as wrong knowledge, which is not established in the true nature of the object.

Bhagavadgītā & Haṭhayogapradīpikā -  The term Viparyaya is not found in these two texts.

Based on the textual references above – it can be seen that when the etymology and lexical entry point to viparya as something opposite – in the Yogasūtra context it emerges as the opposite of valid/right knowledge – erroneous knowledge.



वि+ कृप् +घञ् = विकल्पः

vi+ kṛp +ghañ = vikalpaḥ

  • Vi is the prefix that means - Viruddha - opposite
  • kṛp is the root that means - sāmarthya - capability, to be able
  • ghañ is the suffix that is used to indicate Bhāva – the act. This suffix is added as per the grammatical rule भावे Bhāve (Aṣṭādhyāyī 3.3.18)

The derivative statement would be विकल्प्यते इति विकल्पः vikalpyate iti vikalpaḥthe act of imagining, providing options.

(Note: Going strictly by the meanings of the root, suffix and prefix though the derivation should mean - the act of the opposite capability –still, the usage convention prevalent in saṃskṛta literature with regard to this word leads to meanings -  imagination and optionality. In saṃskṛta language, rūḍhi (convention) outweighs Yoga (etymology))

Lexicon - There is no entry of this word in the amarakośa.

Textual Occurrences


There are three occurrences of the word Vikalpa in this text.

The first two references occur in the same context of enumeration and definition of the Vṛttis of the Citta -

  1. प्रमाणविपर्ययविकल्पनिद्रास्मृतय ॥१.६॥- pramāṇaviparyayavikalpanidrāsmṛtaya ..1.6.. - Here Vikalpa is listed as one among the five Vṛttis of Citta.
  2. शब्दज्ञानानुपाती वस्तुशून्यो विकल्पः ॥१.९॥- śabdajñānānupātī vastuśūnyo vikalpaḥ ..1.9.. - Here Vikalpa is defined. Vikalpa is that (vṛtti) which follows merely from the knowledge generated by the words bereft of the corresponding object (in the world outside).

The word Vikalpa is also found in this Sūtra where Savitarka Samapatti is described -

  1. तत्र शब्दार्थज्ञानविकल्पैः संकीर्णा सवितर्का समापत्तिः ॥१.४२॥ - tatra śabdārthajñānavikalpaiḥ saṃkīrṇā savitarkā samāpattiḥ ..1.42.. - savitarkā samāpatti is a state of cognitive absorption of the citta in the object of focus - with imaginary connections of the word, knowledge and object (of focus).

Bhagavadgītā - There is no occurrence of the word in this text


There is just one occurance of a related term – Nirvikalpa.

सङ्कल्पमात्रकलनैव जगत् समग्रं

सङ्कल्पमात्रकलनैव मनो विलासः ।

सङ्कल्पमात्रमतिमुत्सृज्य निर्विकल्पं

आश्रित्य निश्चयमपानुहि राम शान्तिम् ॥ ४.५८ ॥

saṅkalpamātrakalanaiva jagat samagraṃ

saṅkalpamātrakalanaiva mano vilāsaḥ .

saṅkalpamātramatimutsṛjya nirvikalpaṃ

āśritya niścayamapānuhi rāma śāntim .. 4.58 .. - The word Nirvikalpa is found herein which conveys a sense that is opposed to Vikalpa. Most dictionaries describe Nirvikalpa as – non-wavering. In this context the pure consciousness is non-wavering, unchanging in nature.

In the context of Yogasūtra – it could be seen that just one meaning – imagination – is associated with the word Vikalpa and it is interesting to note that even in the state of Samāpatti (samādhi) Vikalpa exists.

5. Nidrā


नि+द्रा+अङ् = निद्रा

ni+drā+aṅ = nidrā

  • Ni is the prefix that means – nitarām Wholly, entirely, completely
  • Drā is the root that means kutsā –to be spoiled, to sleep etc
  • Aṅ is the suffix which is used to indicate Bhāva – the act. This suffix is added as per the grammatical rule आतश्चोपसर्गे ātaścopasarge (aṣṭādhyāyī 3.3.106)        

The derivative statement would be निद्रायते इति निद्रा nidrāyate iti nidrā - The act of sleeping.


There is one reference to this word in Amarakośa

स्यान्निद्रा शयनं स्वापः स्वप्नः संवेश इत्यपि (1.7.36)

syānnidrā śayanaṃ svāpaḥ svapnaḥ saṃveśa ityapi

Nidrā, śayana, svāpa, svapna, saṃveśa are five words that indicate sleep

Textual Occurrences


There are three references to Nidrā in this text.

  1. प्रमाणविपर्ययविकल्पनिद्रास्मृतय ॥१.६॥

pramāṇaviparyayavikalpanidrāsmṛtaya ..1.6..- As in the earlier cases, this sūtra lists out Nidrā as one among the vṛttis/activities of the mind.

2. अभावप्रययालम्बना वृत्तिर्निद्रा ॥१.१०॥

abhāvaprayayālambanā vṛttirnidrā ..1.10.. - This Sūtra defines Nidrā as the that activity of the mind which takes support of the cause of absence (of the waking and dream states). The commentators clarify that Tamas is the cause that leads to the absence of the waking and dream states.

3. स्वप्ननिद्राज्ञानालम्बनं वा ॥१.३८॥

svapnanidrājñānālambanaṃ vā ..1.38.. - This Sūtra prescribes an interesting method to calm the mind down and facilitate the attainment of one pointed focus based on Nidrā. It is stated here, that by meditating upon the peaceful and pleasant dream (svapna) & deep sleep state (nidrā) - the mind attains calmness and focus.


There are two references to Nidrā in this text, and both are in the context of elaborating upon the quality of Tamas.

  1. तमस्त्वज्ञानजं विद्धि मोहनं सर्वदेहिनाम् ।

प्रमादालस्यनिद्राभिस्तन्निबध्नाति भारत ॥१४.८॥

tamastvajñānajaṃ viddhi mohanaṃ sarvadehinām .

pramādālasyanidrābhistannibadhnāti bhārata .. 14.8 .. - This verse from the 14 chapter speaks about the impact of Tamas. Herein, it is stated that, Tamas binds a person with mistakes, laziness and sleep (Nidrā).

2. यदग्रे चानुबन्धे च सुखं मोहनमात्मनः ।

निद्रालस्यप्रमादोत्थं तत्तामसमुदाहृतम् ॥ १८.३९ ॥

yadagre cānubandhe ca sukhaṃ mohanamātmanaḥ .

nidrālasyapramādotthaṃ tattāmasamudāhṛtam .. 18.39 .. - This reference from the 18th chapter, speaks about the Tāmasic comfort (sukha). It is a comfort that one attains by mistakes, laziness and sleep(Nidrā).


There are five references of Nidrā in this text from three chapters.

  1. योगिनीचक्रसंमान्य सृष्टिसंहारकारकः ।

न क्षुधा न तृषा निद्रा नैवालस्यं प्रजायते ॥ २.५५॥

yoginīcakrasaṃmānya sṛṣṭisaṃhārakārakaḥ .

na kṣudhā na tṛṣā nidrā naivālasyaṃ prajāyate .. 2.55.. - This verse from the second chapter speaks of the outcomes of Sītkārī Prāṇāyāma. It is said here that sleep, thirst, hunger etc will not be felt by the Yogin who excels in this practice.

2. न रोगा मरणं तन्द्रा न निद्रा न क्षुधा तृषा ।

न च मूर्च्छा भवेत्तस्य यो मुद्रां वेत्ति खेचरीम् ॥३.३९॥

na rogā maraṇaṃ tandrā na nidrā na kṣudhā tṛṣā .

na ca mūrcchā bhavettasya yo mudrāṃ vetti khecarīm ..3.39..- This verse from the third chapter speaks of the outcomes of the practice of Khecharī mudrā. It is said that disease, death, sleep etc can be overcome by this practice.

  1. पुच्छे प्रगृह्य भुजगीं सुप्तामुद्बोधयेच्च ताम् ।

निद्रां विहाय सा शक्तिः ऊर्ध्वमुत्तिष्ठते हठात् ॥३.१११॥

pucche pragṛhya bhujagīṃ suptāmudbodhayecca tām .

nidrāṃ vihāya sā śaktiḥ ūrdhvamuttiṣṭhate haṭhāt ..3.111..- This verse from the third chapter comes as part of the description of the śakticālana mudrā. Nidrā - sleep - here refers to the sleep of the Kuṇḍalī which is to be awakened by this practice.

2. अभ्यासे तु विनिद्राणां मनो धृत्वा समाधिना ।

रुद्राणी वा परा मुद्रा भद्रां सिद्धिं प्रयच्छति ॥ ३.१२५ ॥

abhyāse tu vinidrāṇāṃ mano dhṛtvā samādhinā .

rudrāṇī vā parā mudrā bhadrāṃ siddhiṃ prayacchati .. 3.125 .. - The word vinidrā is used here. Nidrā according to the Jyotsnā commentary here means laziness. Vinidrā then means those without laziness[1]. Those who, without laziness strive in the practice of Yoga using rudrāṇī (śāmbhavī) or such other mudrās, attain success.

3. चित्तानन्दं तदा जित्वा सहजानन्दसम्भवः ।

दोषदुःखजराव्याधिक्षुधानिद्राविवर्जितः ॥ ४.७५ ॥

cittānandaṃ tadā jitvā sahajānandasambhavaḥ .

doṣaduḥkhajarāvyādhikṣudhānidrāvivarjitaḥ .. 4.75 .. - In this verse, the word Nidrā is used in the context of discussing Nādānusandhāna. The Citta attains bliss by focusing on the Nāda. That need of Nāda to generate bliss is overcome by focusing the natural state of (consciousness based) bliss (sahajānanda). In such a state(sahajānanda) there will be no suffering, hunger, sleep & such other mundane urges for the Yogin.

Thus, based on the textual occurrences, it could be seen that -

  • Nidrā is an activity of the mind in the Yogasūtra. This text also utilizes the experiences of Nidrā as an object of meditation to attain the state of Citta-prasādana.
  • Nidrā is an effect of Tamoguna in both Yogasūtras and Bhagavadgītā
  • In Haṭhayogapradīpikā Nidrā is seen as a phenomenon that is overcome by the practice of various techniques of Yoga. It could also be noted that there are references to sleeping Kuṇḍalī. The unique aspect of interpretation of Nidrā being equated to laziness could also be noted from the commentary to this text.

[4] विगता निद्रा येषां ते तथा तेषाम् । निद्रापदम् आलस्योपलक्षणम् । अनलसानामित्यर्थः ।

6. Smṛti


स्मृ+क्तिन् = स्मृतिः

smṛ+ktin = smṛtiḥ

  • smṛ is the root that means - स्मृत्याम् - smṛtyām- to remember. (There are other smṛ roots which mean आध्यान ādhyāna – mediate, चिन्ता Cintā – worry)
  • ktin is the suffix which is used to indicate Bhāva – the act. This suffix is added as per the grammatical rule स्त्रियां क्तिन् striyāṃ ktin (Aṣṭādhyāyī 3.3.94)

The derivation statement of the term would then be - स्मर्यते इति स्मृति smaryate iti smṛti – the act of remembering. 


There are two references to this term in amarakośa.

  1. स्मृतिस्तु धर्मसंहिता…1.6.6

smṛtistu dharmasaṃhitā

smṛti refers to the compendium on Dharma

2. स्याच्चिन्ता स्मृतिराध्यानम्  …1.7.29

syāccintā smṛtirādhyānam

Cintā, smṛti and ādhyāna are synonyms. (the words may mean remembering, worry, meditation)

Textual occurrences


There are six references to this term in this text – 4 in the first chapter and 2 in the fourth chapter.

  1. प्रमाणविपर्ययविकल्पनिद्रास्मृतय ॥१.६॥ pramāṇaviparyayavikalpanidrāsmṛtaya ..1.6..
  2. अनुभूतविषयासंप्रमोषः स्मृतिः ॥१.११॥ - anubhūtaviṣayāsaṃpramoṣaḥ smṛtiḥ ..1.11..   In Sūtra six of first chapter Smṛti is just enumerated as one among the five vṛttis. Sūtra 11 of the same chapter defines the vṛtti smṛti as non-obliteration of the experiences.

श्रद्धावीर्यस्मृतिसमाधिप्रज्ञापूर्वक इतरेषाम् ॥१.२०॥ - śraddhāvīryasmṛtisamādhiprajñāpūrvaka itareṣām ..1.20..- Sūtra 20 of chapter one, counts smṛti as one among the sequentially arranged methods to attain the state of upāyapratyaya asaṃprajñāta-samādhi. Smṛti in this context refers to undistracted dhyāna according to Vācaspatimiśra[1]and

[5] स्मृतिर्ध्यानमनाकुलमविक्षिप्तम्

  1. Vijñānabhikṣu[6]also concurs. Vācaspatimiśra also states that all those limbs of aṣṭāṅgayoga that lead to Dhyāna should also be considered to be indicated by the word smṛti and the next word Samādhi (in this context).[7] Sadāśivabrahmendra[8], another commentator, elaborates this, when he says- a Yogin remembers the right techniques that are to be practiced – when enthusiasm - indicated by the word vīrya has arisen in the mind.
  2. स्मृतिपरिशुद्धौ स्वरूपशून्येवार्थमात्रनिर्भासा निर्वितर्का ॥ १.४३ ॥

smṛtipariśuddhau svarūpaśūnyevārthamātranirbhāsā nirvitarkā .. 1.43 .. - It has been stated here that to attain the state of Nirvitarka-samāpatti (samādhi) –smṛti has to be cleansed. Smṛti in this context has been described by Sage Vyāsa[9], the primary commentator to this text, as – the memory of the convention of connecting a word with an object. It is based on such memory that imaginary verbal testimony, inferences emerge.

It becomes evident that such memory kindles further Vṛttis. Upon disallowing the conventional connection between the word and the meaning, the memory is cleansed of all imaginary content and connections. (as such, a word is a word and an object outside is an object. Connecting the word and object is just a human convention) This leads to the state of Samādhi, where the object alone shines forth without any distractions.

  1. जातिदेशकालव्यवहितानामप्यानन्तर्यं स्मृतिसंस्कारयोरेकरूपत्वात् ॥४.९॥ jātideśakālavyavahitānāmapyānantaryaṃ smṛtisaṃskārayorekarūpatvāt ..4.9..- This is a sūtra that mentions about the continuity of Vāsanas from many births. As memory and subliminal impression that lead to the memory are invariably connected and homogenous in nature, even if there is a gap of birth, place, time etc – the same subliminal impression gives rise to same memory.
  2. चित्तान्तरदृश्ये बुद्धिबुद्धेरतिप्रसङ्गः स्मृतिसंकरश्च ॥ ४.२१ ॥

cittāntaradṛśye buddhibuddheratiprasaṅgaḥ smṛtisaṃkaraśca .. 4.21 .. - Here the confounding of the memories is spoken. Such a problem is projected by Sage Patañjali if the (Buddhist) view the citta is taken to be ultimate and consciousness is not accepted as separate from the mind. Background: Based on the previous sūtra, it emerges that the mind can hold only one content at a time – it cannot at the same time hold the congnizer and also the object of cognition. Yogins explain this by stating that cognizer/consciousness is reflected in the mind that contains cognition. This is not acceptable to the Buddhist. In place of the consciousness, why should it not be said that another citta cognizes the action of cognition of this Citta – the Buddhist ask. Current Sūtra is a response to this faulty proposition of the Buddhists. If a mind is said to be observer of the other, then the observer mind also needs to be observed and this leads to endless observer and observed minds (atiprasaṅga). Further, as there are endless minds, endless would be the subliminal impressions about the observations and in the process of recollection from these endless minds, there would be mix up of memories (smṛti-saṅkara). This is the context of occurrence of the word smṛti here.

[6] स्मृतिर्ध्यानम्,

[7] यमनियमादिनान्तरीयकसमाध्युपन्यासेन च यमनियमादयोऽपि सूचिताः ।

[8] एतादृशोत्साहेन तदा तदानुष्ठेयानि योगाङ्गानि स्मर्यन्ते

[9] शब्दसंकेतश्रुतानुमानज्ञानविकल्पस्मृतिपरिशुद्धौ


There are four references on Smṛti in this text.

  1. क्रोधाद्भवति संमोहः संमोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रमः ।

स्मृतिभ्रंशाद्बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति ॥ २.६३ ॥

krodhādbhavati saṃmohaḥ saṃmohātsmṛtivibhramaḥ .

smṛtibhraṃśādbuddhināśo buddhināśātpraṇaśyati .. 2.63 .. - In second chapter, the chain of adverse consequences on conjunction of the senses with their objects is discussed. As one among the link in this chain - smṛti-vibhrama - loss of memory - is stated. According to Śrī-śaṅkara-bhagavatpāda the commentator,[10] loss of memory here points to – the non-arising of such memory which contains valuable teachings of the śāstra and the teachings of the ācārya. It is obvious that when such valuable teachings are not remembered - one is led astray.

2. मृत्युः सर्वहरश्चाहमुद्भवश्च भविष्यताम् ।

कीर्तिः श्रीर्वाक्च नारीणां स्मृतिर्मेधा धृतिः क्षमा ॥१०.३४॥

mṛtyuḥ sarvaharaścāhamudbhavaśca bhaviṣyatām .

kīrtiḥ śrīrvākca nārīṇāṃ smṛtirmedhā dhṛtiḥ kṣamā ..10.34..- This verse is from the Vibhūti-yoga where Lord shows his glorious manifestations in the created world. Smṛti–memory (about noble and positive things) is counted as one among the fine manifestations of the lord in human personality.

3.सर्वस्य चाहं हृदि संनिविष्टो मत्तः स्मृतिर्ज्ञानमपोहनं च ।

वेदैश्च सर्वैरहमेव वेद्यो वेदान्तकृद्वेदविदेव चाहम् ॥१५.१५॥

sarvasya cāhaṃ hṛdi saṃniviṣṭo mattaḥ smṛtirjñānamapohanaṃ ca .

vedaiśca sarvairahameva vedyo vedāntakṛdvedavideva cāham ..15.15.. - This verse is from the Bhakti Yoga. Here Lord Kṛṣṇa states – memory (smṛti), knowledge and the loss (of memory and knowledge) is also fom me. Śrī-śaṅkara-bhagavatpāda’s commentary clarifies that - by the good deeds of a living being, the Lord grants memory and knowledge of positive things. Loss of such positive knowledge and gaining of wrong knowlege and memory is from negative deeds.[11]

4. नष्टो मोहः स्मृतिर्लब्धा त्वत्प्रसादान्मयाच्युत ।

स्थितोऽस्मि गतसन्देहः करिष्ये वचनं तव ॥१८.७३॥

naṣṭo mohaḥ smṛtirlabdhā tvatprasādānmayācyuta .

sthito'smi gatasandehaḥ kariṣye vacanaṃ tava ..18.73..- This reference to the word smṛti is from the final chapter of the Gītā. These are the words of Arjuna. After listening to the entire discourse of Lord Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna states – my delusion is gone. I have attain memory. Śrī-śaṅkara-bhagavatpāda’s [12] commentary clarifies that – the memory here is the memory of the knowledge of the Ātman. On attaining this, all the knots of the heart melt away.

[10] शास्त्राचार्योपदेशाहितसंस्कारजनितायाः स्मृतेः स्यात् विभ्रमो भ्रंशः स्मृत्युत्पत्तिनिमित्तप्राप्तौ अनुत्पत्तिः

[11] येषां यथा पुण्यकर्मणां पुण्यकर्मानुरोधेन ज्ञानस्मृती भवतः, तथा पापकर्मणां पापकर्मानुरूपेण स्मृतिज्ञानयोः अपोहनं च अपायनम् अपगमनं च

[12] स्मृतिश्च आत्मतत्त्वविषया लब्धा, यस्याः लाभात् सर्वहृदयग्रन्थीनां विप्रमोक्षः


There are two references to the word Smṛti in this text. Both are from the final chapter.

  1. लयो लय इति प्राहुः कीदृशं लयलक्षणम् ।

         अपुनर्वासनोत्थानात् लयो विषयविस्मृतिः ॥ ४.३४ ॥

layo laya iti prāhuḥ kīdṛśaṃ layalakṣaṇam .

apunarvāsanotthānāt layo viṣayavismṛtiḥ .. - The word used here is vismṛti (antonym of smṛti). It is used in the course of defining the word Laya. Laya is defined as the forgetting or non-remembering of the objects of the senses. It is a Yogic state to be achieved.

2. चित्तं न सुप्तं नोजाग्रत्-स्मृतिविस्मृतिवर्जितम् ।

न चास्तमेति नोदेति यस्यासौ मुक्त एव सः ॥ ४.११० ॥

cittaṃ na suptaṃ nojāgrat-smṛtivismṛtivarjitam .

na cāstameti nodeti yasyāsau mukta eva saḥ .. 4.110 .. - This verse that occurs towards the end of the text, describes the state of Jīvanmukti.  It is mentioned here that, in that state the mind is neither asleep nor awake.  Neither is it  bereft of memory (smṛti) or loss of it. Neither does the Citta (mind) sets nor does it rise.

From the above textual occurrences, diverse use of the term smṛti could be noted.

  1. Smṛti is a basic function of the mind in the form of remembering.
  2. Smṛti refers to the remembrance of -
    1. the conventional connection of the word and the object that it points to, which needs to be cleansed to attain Samādhi.
    2. the object of the senses
    3. teachings of the Guru and the Śāstras, limbs of Yoga
    4. the knowledge of the ātman
  3. It is a worship worthy faculty of the mind
  4. Vismṛti is the antonym of smṛti that has both positive and negative connotations (forgetting of the objects of the senses is positive, forgetting the teachings of the teachers of negative)
  5. Absence of Smṛti & Vismṛti is an indicator of the state of jīvanmukti

This brings out the importance of the term. It also indicates that context-consciousness has to be exercised to understand and interpret this term in Yogic parlance.

References & web-tools:

  1. Advaita sharada - https://advaitasharada.sringeri.net/
  2. Amarakoṣasampat - http://amara.aupasana.com/
  3. Aṣṭādhyāyī - https://ashtadhyayi.com/
  4. Aksharamukha - https://aksharamukha.appspot.com/
  5. Gita Supersite - https://www.gitasupersite.iitk.ac.in/
  6. Kosha Sanskrit Today - https://kosha.sanskrit.today/
  7. Nāmaliṅgānuśāsana alias amarakoṣa of amarasiṃha with the commentary vyākhyāsudhā or rāmāśramī by bhānuji dīkṣita, Edited with notes by M.M.Pandit Shivadatta Dadimatha, Chaukhamba Saṃskṛta Prathisthan, Delhi, Reprint 2002
  8. Yoga-vaiśāradī - https://kymyogavaisharadi.org/