YS 1:2 yogah cittavritti nirodhah – yoga is to still the activities of the mind
YS 1:3 tada drastuh svarupe avastanam – then pure awareness can be at home in its true state
YS 1:4 vrtti sarupyam itaratra – otherwise it takes itself to be the activities of the mind
There is a clear distinction made in the Yoga Sutra between what is called Cit (chit) and Citta (chitta). Cit can be understood as pure awareness, the very centre of our being, that which observes the world. Citta, on the other hand, is the activities of the mind – thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, perceptions. Citta is the lens through which cit observes the world.
If our lens is clouded, we see the world in a distorted way, which is ok when we realise that. The problems arise when we don’t realise our view is obscured. Unknown unknows and all that.
There are two ways in which this analogy can help us. Firstly, if we take this idea of clouded perception causing us not to see clearly, if we can, we could take a step back, to give time for the view to clear. Like a glass with muddy water in it, if the water is all swirling around, the water stays murky. However, if we still the glass, let the water quieten, the mud can sink and settle to the bottom and we can see through again.
The second view is more of an alien concept to most of us. We general believe that we are our thoughts, emotions, feelings, etc. However, the Yoga Sutra is asking us to take somewhat of an intellectual leap of faith. The suggestion is that there is, as mentioned previously, a witness within us, a seed of pure awareness, which is in some way distinct from our mind and its activities.
It is this witness that we can perhaps have an experience of in our yoga practice. This is what yoga is defined as; a moment of pure clarity.
This is, of course, merely a suggestion, but one that can make perfect sense. That we are not at the mercy of our minds, that we can stop for a moment and stand back from it all. This may or may not be possible for us, but the simple act of taking on the idea can be incredibly liberating.