Smriti in Yoga Meditation

QUICK EXPLANATION ON SMRITI

Smriti = one of the five kinds of thoughts or vrittis (mentioned in the yogasutras); there are five kinds of movements in the mind-field and one of them is smriti (yogasutra 1.6)
 
Smriti = movements in the mind that are “memories; recollections of the past impressions”
 
5 kinds of thoughts are: pramana, viparyaya, vikalpa, nidra, smriti
 
Smriti = is also used as one of the systematic five-fold path mentioned in yogasutra 1.20. Here smriti is used as a constant remembrance of the path, its goal, and means to remain in constant awareness or mindfulness of the path and its inner journey.
 
Five-fold path are: shraddha, virya, smriti, samadhi, prajna
 

 
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ON THIS PAGE:
SMRITI: PRACTICAL
MORE ON SMRITI
YOGA SUTRAS ON SMRITI
SWAMI RAMA ON SMRITI
SWAMI JNANESHVARA ON SMRITI
OTHER TEXTS ON SMRITI


 

SMRITI: PRACTICAL

Observing smriti as one of the vrittis
We want to understand the meaning of smriti, but not merely by knowing its definition; we want to be able to observe it in our daily life. Thus choose for a day or a week to be aware of this movement of mind, called smriti, as you go through activities, situations, and conversations. Observe how smriti relates to actions, thoughts, and speech. You want to find your own examples of smriti, so that you have direct knowledge of this concept of smriti.
 
One way to start is to catch a thought, any thought… since there are only 5 kinds of thoughts, five kinds of vrittis, this thought has to be one of these five. Is this a thought a memory (smriti)? If it is not smriti; then find out by using buddhi, which of the other four kinds of thoughts it is. Examples of smriti are that you run into an old friend and from the back of the mind you witness the name coming forward, this is smriti. For a test on school you remember the subject, this is smriti. Anything that is stored within chitta and is recollected is smriti, it is not based on perceptions that come from the senses.
 
Smriti as mindfulness
When you want to observer smriti as it is used in the five-fold path of the yogasutra 1.20, you first understand how it relates to the other concepts of the five-fold path. It starts with shraddha; which means to stand firm on the faith you have in the path you are walking and its goal. Maybe you do know exactly where it is going but you know enough to pursue it, you ‘believe’ that what you are doing is bringing you closer to what you want. This faith is not merely blind faith, that you took on because others told you so, but is based on direct experiences that happened in the past plus it is guided by your own intuition coming from within, together they form the faith (shraddha) to pursue the path. Virya is the energy you put into your practice, into your walking on the path, your determination. Thus if there is faith, it can be made stronger when you put your energy behind it. This energy or virya will be the strength and power that makes you walk the path; to pursue your beliefs. This energy or power can be made stronger if it works together with smriti. Thus smriti is mentioned third, it stands on shraddha and virya. To cultivate smriti means that you want to become aware of every moment and use it mindfully so that it benefits your path; it means to cultivate constant awareness of the goal and the practice of smriti will bring mindfulness to each moment. How do you observe smriti, by doing it! Every time you think of being mindful is a moment in which you are mindful, use it wisely!
 
Internal dialogue about smriti
To have access to your data-base it very useful, to be able to recollect right knowledge in service for others is something we can cultivate. You can ask your mind why is sometimes does not remember things, how it is that the mind seems to forget things. Ask your mind how to improve your memory. You can ask how the kleshas influences smriti. Because the more you are living in a state of vairagya (non-attachment), the less ragas and dveshas (and other kleshas) your mind-field has; the more you will be able to perceive things as they are, and not through colored glasses through which perception is altered. Which means you will also have greater access to the whole of the mind, and this will influence smriti.
 
Also you can ask your mind to be more mindful. You can ask your mind to be aware of the path you are walking and to use every moment to pursue the path. When you learn to talk to your mind, the mind will become a great friend that can help you on the path. Then the mind starts to help you to become mindful, isn’t that great!

 

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DAILY OBSERVATION AND YOGIC SELF-AWARENESS ASSESSMENT

Eventually the concept of smriti will swim around in your awareness all the time, as it becomes a part of constant self-awareness. Also, becoming aware of smriti will have the effect that you will increase your use of this word in your daily vocabulary to express yourself and you will discover how smriti relates to other concepts, processes, or insights. For example, you may come to see that smriti is related to sattva, or you find a relationship between buddhi and smriti. Eventually you will discover how all these concepts dance together and coming to know this dance will guide you towards that which is beyond all the concepts. This is because as you increase your self-awareness, you will discover that everything you can observe is not who you truly are, your true Self has nothing to do with smriti, you are the One that is able to witness all these concepts. Therefore smriti itself have to be transcended, who you really are is beyond smriti. This will increase the non-attachment towards smriti itself, while you can be in awe of the beauty of the Divine dance of Consciousness that appears to play as memory, as smriti. Therefore practicing self-awareness is actually practicing not-self-awareness by which the True Self will eventually reveal itself.
 
Look at the self-assessment PDF (assessment-yymmdd.pdf) and a PDF that includes daily internal dialogue and daily observation (sumseven-yymmdd.pdf) on the website of www.abhyasaashram.org (when you are on this page scroll all the way down to find the downloadable PDFs) These PDFs can be used as tools to explore and expand your understanding on smriti.

 

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MORE ON SMRITI

Sruti – Smriti
You may encounter the word smriti when it is used in combination with the word sruti. Then it is good to know that here they use the word smriti in relation to texts that came from human beings, from words that were remembered. Sruti texts are made of words that came from the Non-dual Consciousness itself and were revealed or heard by human being in deep meditation or contemplation, but do not belong to any particular human being.
 
Cultivate smriti and pramana
If we start to understand the difference between the five kinds of vrittis and are able to recognize them while they are active, we can easily see that pramana is the most useful vritti to cultivate, instead of keep adding on viparyaya. A good recall of memories (smriti) when it comes to working-knowledge is also useful, provided that these memories are based or pramana; right perception and knowledge.
 
Is smriti always uncolored?
There is a difference between memory or mere memory, one is colored, the other is un-colored. When memories are colored they are called samskaras, when they bubble up from the unconscious mind they have a disturbance quality to them as they bubble up as active desires, therefore they can be fulfilled or unfulfilled and lead to emotions. It is these memories that come up during our meditation time. We could also see these memories as vikalpa, as fantasies, because these memories (which we also could label as smriti) have nothing to do with who we really are, we are the Self, pure Consciousness, Atman. When incoming sensory impressions are being stored without attachment (raga or dvesha), when they are perceived as neutral, they can still come forward as mere memory; as data, or facts that are remembered and are useful in the daily activities. Also they will not cause us any problem during meditation as neutral mere memories don’t come up during meditation (only colored samskaras come up). You could say that this is smriti. So memory as smriti can be both colored and uncolored… To make this contemplation complete, it is fair to argue that anything remembered is colored, because it has at least the coloring of avidya and asmita, as you think that this memory has something to do with me and the world I am living in, which is all but a play of maya. Then it is fair to argue that everything it vikalpa. So to not lose the beautiful practical application of these five vrittis, it is useful to know when something came for the memory bank, when something is a memory, and thus is called smriti.

 

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YOGASUTRAS ON SMRITI

1.6 The five varieties of thought patterns to witness are: 1) knowing correctly (pramana), 2) incorrect knowing (viparyaya), 3) fantasy or imagination (vikalpa), 4) the object of void-ness that is deep sleep (nidra), and 5) recollection or memory (smriti).
pramana viparyaya vikalpa nidra smritayah
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1.11 Recollection or memory (smriti) is mental modification caused by the inner reproducing of a previous impression of an object, but without adding any other characteristics from other sources.
anubhuta vishaya asampramoshah smritih
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1.20 Others follow a five-fold systematic path of 1) faithful certainty in the path, 2) directing energy towards the practices, 3) repeated memory of the path and the process of stilling the mind, 4) training in deep concentration, and 5) the pursuit of real knowledge, by which the higher samadhi (asamprajnata samadhi) is attained.
shraddha virya smriti samadhi prajna purvakah itaresham
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1.43 When the memory or storehouse of modifications of mind is purified, then the mind appears to be devoid of its own nature and only the object on which it is contemplating appears to shine forward; this type of engrossment is known as nirvitarka samapattih.
smriti pari-shuddhau svarupa-shunya iva artha-matra nirbhasa nirvitarka
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4.9 Since memory (smriti) and the deep habit patterns (samskaras) are the same in appearance, there is an unbroken continuity in the playing out of those traits, even though there might be a gap in location, time, or state of life.
jati desha kala vyavahitanam api anantaryam smriti samskarayoh eka rupatvat
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4.21 If one mind were illumined by another, as its master, then there would be an endless and absurd progression of cognitions, as well as confusion.
chitta antara drishye buddhi-buddheh atiprasangah smriti sankarah cha
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SWAMI RAMA ON SMRITI

”Smriti means “memory”. You should understand the process of memory and how you remember. First, you see something. Through the contact of that particular object and your sense of sight you receive a sensation; you see it. The object that is touched by your sight gives you a sensation and that sensation goes through your optic nerve to your brain. When your conscious mind received it, then it filters down to your unconscious to the bed of memory from where you can recall it. When I see you after some time I remember that I have seen you before because the impression was stored in the unconscious mind. All thought forms are like that in the unconscious. If I want to recall a sensation, and I know how to recall it from the bed of memory, I can tell you exactly that you were sitting on a certain da, at a certain time, in a certain row, wearing certain clothes, in a particular position.”
 
Memory can be categorized as helpful and unhelpful. Memory should also be controlled. If your memory is not under your control, it will not help you when you need it.
 
Memory means “interest”. When you lose interest in something you forget it. Your mind is so preoccupied that you have forgotten what you wanted to do now. You should learn not to be preoccupied. If you learn to let go, then your mind will not remain preoccupied and you will have control over your memory. You have to learn how to organize your mind. Anything you want to do you can do in a better way by understanding how your mind is functioning and how to use your mind in the best way.
 
Memory is different from recollection. When I want to recall you, I can recall you from my unconscious. Recollection of thought is remembering, not memory. To know means to just allow yourself to know, to allow your memory to flow to your conscious mind. There are many ways of improving your memory. If memory has come under your control, you will never forget. Whenever you want to recall the stored impressions you can. There is a process for strengthening memory – a simple exercise that I will teach you. There is also a different method that is visualization.”
~ Samadhi pg. 155
 
Counting exercise for improving memory
“Lie down in shavasana, the corpse posture. Make sure that you are comfortable. Withdraw your awareness from the external world. Relax from head to toe and from toe to head with the help of deep breathing. Then count from one to one thousand and then from on thousand back to one. The day you can go up to one thousands and come back from one thousand to one without being influenced by sleep, you will have attained something. This is a tested exercise. If you do not have enough time, you can lie down and do it up to a hundred.”
~ Samadhi pg. 234

 

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SWAMI JNANESHVARA ON SMRITI

Read the whole article “Witnessing” on www.swamij.com
With the same thought pattern, we may note that, “This thought arose from memory (Smriti). Shall I act on this, or let it go?”
In our meditation, we might have a time of streams of thoughts coming and going, but not distracting us. We come to see that this is the meaning of streams of thoughts, or memories (Smriti) rising and falling in the lake of mind while we remain non-attached. We also may see how this whole process relates to chitta, and the four functions of mind.

 

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OTHER TEXTS ON SMRITI

Vivekachoodamini, Adi Shankaracharya
Translated by Swami Madhavananda, Published by Advaita Ashram, Kolkatta
331. He who identifies himself with the objective universe which has been denied by hundreds of Shrutis, Smritis and reasonings, experiences misery after misery, like a thief, for he does something forbidden.
 
Panchadasi, Sri Vidyaranya Swami
Translated by Swami Swahananda and Published by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai (Translation under Fair Use, and believed to be in the public domain.)
7.109. Thus both Shruti and Smriti enjoin constant concentration of the mind on the Self to remove the erroneous conviction concerning the Self and the world.
 
11.10. Thus many texts in the Shruti, Smritis and Puranas declare that the knowledge of Brahman destroys all sorrows and leads to bliss.

 

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