Consciousness can be categorized in five categories. According to yogic system, every dimension of knowledge, every kind of thought and every field of awareness is one of the patterns of consciousness. In yoga, even the state of sleep is considered to be one of the conditions of mind. It is a mental state, a mental condition. Dream is also a mental condition. Similarly, doubt, illusion, mistakes in thinking, such as mistaking a rope for a snake, are also patterns of consciousness.
In a play, the same person may come on the stage as a beggar, a king, a robber; a sannyasin, a man or a woman, … In the same manner, it is a single stuff, called awareness or consciousness in human beings, which appears to be manifesting itself in different patterns of consciousness which are right knowledge, wrong knowledge, imagination, sleep and memory. All of which are described in following paragraphs.
Right knowledge can be gained from three sources: sense evidence, inference and testimony.
Sense evidence is the knowledge produced by the contact of a sense organ with an object of knowledge; for example, we see a flower, we smell it, we hear someone crying, … If your senses are intact then sense evidence is one of the sources of right knowledge. It has to me mentioned that senses can also deceive us – for example, the mirage produced in a desert due to hot air – it looks like water to our senses. In this case this does not constitute right knowledge, for we can become aware of our illusion if we try to get to the water.
Inference, becomes a source of right knowledge when it is based on sound reasoning. We see smoke on a distant mountain and immediately infer that there must be fire on mountain. This inference is based on the experience which has never failed us, namely, whenever we came across smoke, we also found presence of fire.
Testimony is when you receive knowledge from a person who has to fulfill two conditions. First, he should have right knowledge, and secondly, he should be able to impart that knowledge without mistake. In yoga the authority is called a guru.
Wrong knowledge is not based or does dot correspond to a real object. For example, when we mistake a rope for a snake , our knowledge is incorrect, because the thing that actually exists before us, which we take to be a snake, is a rope.
Imagination is without the basis of an object. It does not mean it has no object, but the object is non-existent. Take Harry Potter for an example.
Sleep is a condition of mind which hides or conceals the knowledge of the external world. In sleep one does not desire anything, nor is there dream or and other perception. The capacity of the faculty of perception is introverted; outer objects are not seen or heard, nor is there any feeling whatsoever. It is an unconscious state of mind. When the very idea of an object, the very content of mind is removed through a certain process, the mind becomes supportless. In sleep the content of mind is absent. In this state there are thoughts but they are not present before the mind, so the mind does not see, touch, think, hear, feel or have any sense or mental experience.
Not letting the experienced objects escape from the mind is memory. It is of two kinds: conscious memory and subconscious memory. Conscious memory involves the recollection of things already experienced, recall of past experiences. Subconscious memory is a dream – dreams are also of two kinds, ones are imaginary others are real.
To summarize; patterns of consciousness are right knowledge, wrong knowledge, imaginary knowledge, no knowledge and past knowledge. The goal of yoga is, as defined by Patanjali, blocking or stopping all the patterns of consciousness. To learn what it takes to achieve that read the following article.