In his Yoga Sutras, Pantanjali describes the mental and spiritual development of students of meditation and yoga by identifying five states of mind that students tend to demonstrate at varying intervals along their spiritual path. Attaining an understanding of these classifications can assist yoga practioners in assessing their spiritual readiness, and help them to select the appropriate spiritual practices to aid their development. In addition, yogis can use these classifications to measure their own progress.
In brief, Petanjali’s classifications for states of mind are:
(1) Kshipta – or disturbed mind. This is a restless, wandering and troubled mind, embodied by a person who is not yet ready for the rigours of spiritual training. This mind tends to lose itself in sense impressions and worries, and simply cannot concentrate.
(2) Mudha – or dull mind. This is a sluggish and lethargic mind, though it is noticeably less distracted than kshipta. This mudha mind remains unprepared for spiritual training, but it is not as distracted and disturbed as the kshipta mind. This mind-set serves as a good starting point for the development of the next state of mind.
(3) Vikshipta – or distracted mind. This mind is easily distracted, but it can achieve a limited degree of concentration. This is a constantly wandering mind that can be steadied on occasions, as a result of great effort.
(4) Ekagra – or one-pointed mind. This is a mind that has achieved one-pointed concentration as a result of prolonged and repeated spiritual practice. This mind is pleasant and peaceful, and permits the practitioner to concentrate easily, for extended periods of time. This state of concentration comes effortless and naturally.
(5) Nirodha – or master mind. This mind is entirely under control, and functions without distractions, and without getting upset. This is actually a thoughtless state, and it is beyond the mind. At this stage, a person can almost spontaneously enter meditation.
Other than these five states there are Samkaras-or, in English, impressions- are our minds accumulated marks, derived from past experiences that, in the present, form desires that influence our present and future responses, behavior, and karma. They color all of life, including our nature, resposes and states of mind. Once acquired and accumulated, Samkaras form a metaphorical lens through which the subjective aspects of our experience arise and influence us.