4.11 These impressions are caused by the afflictions (klesha) and result in birth, lifespan, as well as pleasant and unpleasant experiences. The impressions are supported by ways of being (citta vrtti), tendencies (vasanas) and by the objects that can be experienced. When the causes, effects, support and objects are removed, the impressions disappear.
This aphorism weaves together the major themes from the Yoga Sutra. Related to sutras 2.12 to 2.14, this sutra explains how the five afflictions –not knowing your true nature (avidya), your sense of self (asmita), your likes (raga), your dislikes (dvesha) and your sense of self-importance (abhinivesha) –keep generating impressions that manifest as ways of being through your actions and interactions. The objects and circumstances in which they appear will facilitate the emergence of some of your ways of being, which will leave new imprints in your memory. These impressions will create new potential conditioning that will influence your future perceptions, intentions, actions, circumstances, and experiences. How can you make these impressions, and their effects disappear? As in other sections of the Yoga Sutra, Patañjali in this aphorism states the problem and its solution. If the impressions are caused by the afflictions (2.3 to 2.9) and all the afflictions sprout in the field of not knowing one’s true nature (avidya), then being established in discernment (viveka) will help remove the misidentification and its consequences. Notice that aphorism 1.16 already explained that being aligned with Truth was the sign of success in freedom from attachments (vairagya). The patient persistence of practice (abhyasa) and detachment (vairagya) is the method for regulating your ways of being (1.12), which are the support of the impressions. Eventually, the ways of being are turned off.
The objects that can be experienced include both sensory objects that draw our senses as well as situations and circumstances leading to storage of new impressions. Notice how the eight limbs of yoga provide a complete program for the removal of causes, effects, support, and objects that generate more internal reactivity. The Yamas provide ways to create mental, physical, and emotional harmony around you. The Niyamas lead you to establish contentment through creating inner mental and emotional harmony. Asana practice optimizes body function. Pranayama enhances the flow of vital energy by purifying and modulating your respiratory processes. Pratyahara draws your senses inwardly to delve deeply into the subtler aspects of yourself. Dharana and Dhyana establish the focus of your mind for accurate perception free from interference from beliefs and preferences. Then you abide in your natural state, in deep harmony with the flow of life and established in true wisdom (Samadhi).
To what extent are you able to notice the causes of your deep-seated emotional interferences?
What ways of being support your emotional imbalances?
What circumstances are conducive to their survival?
How are you removing your deeply ingrained subconscious impressions? When you choose to be still, is there inner silence or endless internal commentary?
How are you creating effortless peaceful impressions (3.10) through your practice and life?
As usual, one more way of exploring the meaning of this sutra is by chanting it.
You can choose to chant it in its traditional form with some of the words coming together:
Another option is to chant each word in the sutra individually:
If you prefer, you may listen to the podcast:
This is an excerpt from the book Unravel the thread: Applying the ancient wisdom of yoga to live a happy life