Tag Archives: five types of thoughts

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.6

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1.6 They are caused by correct knowledge, illusion, delusion, sleep and memory.

The five varieties of thought patterns to witness are:

  1. knowing correctly

  2. incorrect knowing

  3. fantasy or imagination

  4. the object of void-ness that is deep sleep

  5. recollection or memory

They are correct perception, incorrect perception, imagination, sleep and memory.

Here Patanjali lists the five types of thoughts we can have:

  • correct knowledge / perception
  • incorrect knowledge / perception
  • imagination / fantasy / daydreams
  • sleep
  • memories

This implies that there are only these five kinds of thoughts, and no others. We can always reduce a particular type of thought into one of these five categories.   For example, if I think that I have brown eyes, that is ‘incorrect’ as my eyes are actually blue. There are some deep epistemological issues which arise here. The category I have the most trouble with is that of ‘sleep’. At first, I assumed this to mean thoughts we have whilst dreaming, but Iyengar describes it more of the state of emptiness we experience whilst asleep. I suppose that depends on which cycle of sleep we are in.  Patanjali is clearly referring to dreamless sleep, that void of mental inactivity, which I can accept as being a mental state.

I suppose I also have a little trouble with the idea of correct and incorrect knowledge / perception. I’m sure there are objective facts out there in the world somewhere, but most of our experience of the world is tempered by our senses. For instance, my short-sightedness does not allow me to see things as they really are, or the fact that dogs can hear things that we humans cannot. The thing I am struggling with here is the concept of there being an objectively right or wrong perception of the world. I guess I’ll just have to sit with this for now and see what else Patanjali says about this in sutras to come.