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The five states of the mind

by Tassos Antonopoulos Narayana

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but fire to be lit”


The mind is the centre of our life. We interact with the universal through our thoughts. Even when we sleep the brain functions. In some cases, we experience states of chaos and confusion, while in others our mind is calm and focused. When one lives in the present, as it is, one can observe the transition of consciousness to a transcendental state.

Through the knowledge of the ways the brain functions, one can observe the flow of thoughts and in turn one can attempt to calm and control oneself. In yoga, the human mind is known as “Markata”, which meand monkey. The mind is compared to the animal that runs in nature from one tree to another. Yoga classifies the ways the mind works in five states, according to Nyaya Bhasya (Nyāya Sūtra του Akṣapāda Gautama, 2nd century A.D.)

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1) Mudha (idleness)

Guna: Tamas

Symptoms: sleepiness, delusions, fear, idleness

Causes: Lust, anger, greed

Inclination: Negative

Vritis: extroversion, multifariousness

Class: Lower

2) Kshipta (constant disruption of attention)

Guna: Rajas

Symptoms: pain, worrying, egotistic activity

Causes: attachment, hatred, egoism

Inclination: Negative and positive

Vritis: extroversion, multifariousness

Class: Common​


3) Vikshipta (partial concentration)

Guna: Adulterated Sattwa

Symptoms: Happiness, patience, virtue, non-egotistic activity

Causes: Selflessness

Inclination: knowledge, kindness, spiritual prosperity

Vritis: introversion

Class: The beginning of the search

In this state the mind can sometimes be stable, but it can easily go from place to place. We can be concerned with the negative sides of ourselves. This state can create blockages and can poison the process of thought with negativtity. ​In the state of Vikshipta the mind can be easily manipulated. In this state, where the internal and the external words constantly clash, the individual faces doubt, agony and fear. The science of yoga can gradually bring the mind to the next state, that of ekagra.


4) Ekagra (constant concentration)

Guna: PureSattwa

Symptoms: Increasing dis-identification

Causes: Refinement of the senses

Inclination: Wisdom

Vritis: constant concentration, lower state of Samadhi

Class: Yogis

Ekagra means that the mind has achieved constant concentration, it is stabilised in the present and it cannot be affected by external factors. Contrary to Vikshipta, concentration is not imposed, as it derives effortlessly and naturally. In this state of the mind, one can connect with one’s higher spiritual Self. In this state the practitioner can control the mind. The mind is peaceful and filled with energy.


5) Niruddha (in full control)

Guna: -

Symptoms: Absorbed in the Self

Causes: Absolute refinement of the senses

Inclination: Liberation

Vritis: under full control, higher state of Samadhi

Class: advanced Yogis

In this state the mind is in absolute stillness. Thisdefinestheoneintendedstateofthemind. We observe thought passing by without them affecting us. This state of the mind is generally achieved through meditation and deep contemplation. We become what we think. As Buddha said, “We are formed according to our thoughts. We become what we think. When the mind is clear, happiness follows us like a shadow that never leaves our side”.

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