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ISSN: 0974-892X


January, 2018



Chetna (Consciousness) in the poetry of William Wordsworth: A study in the light of Patan̄jali’s Yogasūtra

Dr. Manjusha Kaushik, Asst. Prof. English, Kanya Gurukul Campus Haridwar
Trapti Joshi, Research Scholar, Kanya Gurukul Campus Haridwar


There are three eternal co-existing principles— Iśwara (God), Jīva (Man/human egos) and Prakṛti (Matter) but man is always involved in matter more than anything else. Therefore, he falls from its pristine state of purity easily. This saṁyoga is the cause of misery. There is the saṁyoga of citta with the Prakṛti so intense that it forgets its own correlation with Puruṣa. Georg Feuerstein in his book The Philosophy of Classical yoga has scribed about this correlation. Although there is “pre- established’ harmony (yogyata) between the self (Puruṣa) and the citta (consciousness) is of a purely noetic nature. No real substantial intermixing takes place, since an unabridged hiatus is postulated between the self and prakṛti” (53). But due to let the senses left fractious, the citta cultivates the kleśas of avidyā (nescience), asmitā (egoism), rāga (attachment) ,dveṣa (aversion) and abhiniveṣa (fear of death).The more man gets involved in matter, the more his citta gets started to record those perceived experiences. In addition, later these experiences give birth to fluctuations. Due to it, citta sometimes becomes kṣipt (sensitive and agitative), mūḍh (insensitive and dull) and sometimes vikṣipt (interruptive and disturbed). Thus “citta in a way is the product of the transcendental self awareness (Puruṣa) and the insentient world mechanism (Prakṛti) for it is said to be colored or affected (uparakta) by the perceived objects as well as by the self.” (Feuerstein 59) Patan̄jali has not given a particular definition of citta becauseit is fickle. Because of its daftness, it takes many states.Therefore, he has explained its various states.

To understand the form of citta and its vṛttis (fluctuations) it is necessary to understand the form of a calm citta. In the vast ocean, a calm citta is just like the upper layer of water. The unfathomed ocean (Puruṣa) gets the finest reflection of the outer world (Prakṛti) through its upper layer. Therefore, Puruṣa (unfathomed ocean) is the seer of the citta (the uppermost layer of water). At this state, the citta abides in the state of bliss and in the true pleasure. This bliss or pleasure does not depend on any object. Thus in the subtle body the uppermost layer is the citta, and the last one is Puruṣa. The Prakṛti works as a bridge for the bhoga and apavarg of the Puruṣa. All these seem to interconnect but separate to one another as well. The problem arises when citta is much involved in the matter and lost its stability. It starts to ponder itself the seer as well as the subject. This ignorance of citta renders it pain as well as pleasure. Thus, citta curbs the body, the senses, and the life of human beings.  A calm citta becomes the means of liberation. We get liberation when there is no saṁyoga of Prakṛti and Puruṣa due to the ignorance of citta. Thus, this prodigious saṁyoga of Prakṛti and Puruṣa happens due to the ignorance of citta and so citta has the five kinds of vṛttis (fluctuations). According to Patan̄jali, citta works in five major ways. These ways are called vṛttis.

Patan̄jali’s Yogasūtra enumerates five kinds of fluctuations of mind (citta vṛtti) and five kinds of kleśa (afflictions) which disturb the citta (mind). Hehas written in the 6th aphorism of “Samādhipada”, “pramāñaviparyayavikalpanidrāsmṛtayaḥ” (3) These five kinds of vṛttis give five states to the citta. The fluctuations of mind (citta vṛtti )  are pramāna (factual knowledge), viparyaya (false knowledge), vikalpa (imagination or conceptualization of verbal knowledge), nidra (feeling of non- existence), smṛti (experiences) and the five kinds of  kleśa (afflictions) are —avidyā (nescience), asmitā (egoism), rāga (attachment), dveṣa (aversion) and abhiniveṣa (fear of death). These kleśas (afflictions) are five forms of unreal cognition. When the citta (mind) indulges in the pleasures of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch, it participates with the feelings of anger, jealousy, greed, fear etc. The citta feels pleasure or pain believing in what is seen, felt or heard by its five senses, it suffers from pramāna vṛtti (factual knowledge).  As the citta descries gaiety or anguish because of its loss of ability to look at things with right perception, it is affected by viparyaya vṛtti (false knowledge). While the citta sensates delight or grief seeing the some concept / imagination based on mere words, which have nothing in reality, it is afflicted from vikalpa vṛtti (imagination or conceptualization of verbal knowledge). As long as  the citta realizes jubilance or pang due to the feeling of non-existence of the knowledge in awakened or dream state, it infests from nidra vṛtti (feeling of non- existence). When the citta senses joy or soreness for its indulgence in the experience and loses the present, it aggrieves with smṛti vṛtti (experiences).

Patan̄jali’s Yogasūtra aims at giving an exhaustive account to rein the fluctuations of mind (citta-vṛttis) in order to lead a calm and happy state of citta. He says that the fluctuations (vṛtti) of citta can be controlled by cultivating the habit of  maître (friendliness), karūna (compassion), muditā (complacency) and upekṣā (indifference) towards happiness, misery, virtuous and vice respectively. By the abhyāsa (practice) of these habits constantly, the citta-vṛttis begin to restrict. The vṛttis emerge now and then because of the inherent kleśas. By the incessant abhyāsa, the citta becomes concentrated. Now there is constant exertion and the citta is on one point with the help of viveka (discrimination). Then the citta undergoes vairāgya (dispassion) and it realizes that there is nothing in the world or the next worth striving after, worth desiring or worth hating. At a particular junction of this process, man says I am not body; I am not desire, I am not mind. This state of samādhi is of two fold—samprajāta (meditative conscious state) when only external impressions are shut off not the internal self-initiated activities and asamprajāta (meditative trans conscious state) when both are stopped. By such transformation of citta (mind), all mental impurities remove, and the citta becomes like a pure crystal that reflects truly and correctly, all objects that presents to it. The best and the safest method for realizing the nature of the universe, given by Patan̄jali is the love of God, having a mystic name Om. Loving God with all one’s heart and soul would quickly bring about the cessation of all mental functions. The more citta concentrates on God, the inner self manifests. Now man realizes the true nature of the universe by seeing one spirit in all animate and inanimate objects.

Both Romanticism and Romantic poets share the very tenets of Yoga philosophy.  The romantic poets consider nature (Prakṛti) as the best means to come out from pain and suffering. The poems of Keats, Coleridge, Shelley, and Wordsworth are the evident of it. They take shelter in the lap of nature. They personified nature as the supreme power. And this fact make them stand with the Indian philosophy that consider nature as the manifestation of God. Patra and Prasad write in their book, Recritiquing William Wordsworth, “Among the Romantic poets William Wordsworth has a unique appellation as the poet of nature… It was his conviction that man is an inalienable part of nature and that so long as man remains in close relationship with nature, he has freedom from the sick mechanized world … “(34). The romantic period has given the most emotional and passionate poetry. Drowned in the ocean of imagination, the romantic poets write about human feelings that are universal. Therefore, the poetry of this period reflects the chetna(consciousness) of the poets. William Wordsworth, being one of the romantic poets, has composed the poetry that embeds with the life of common and rustic people. Patra and Pratap states, “The preference for humble and rustic life followed naturally from the conception associated with Rousseau’s name of the ‘noble savages’ with its implications that men are better when closer to their ‘natural’ state, uncorrupted by the  artificialities of civilization”( R.O.C.Winkler).(65) The universal theme of his poems touches the heart of the readers. Patan̄jali’s Yogasūtra talks about vṛttis, kleśas and the mystic name God. In the same way, Wordsworth writes about emotions, anguish and nature. He establishes a communion between himself and the nature in the form of God and devotee. His poems work as a guide how to live life with peace and ease as Patan̄jali guides his readers. A famous expression of this restorative effect is that of J.S. Mill, the Utilitarian philosopher, in his Autobiography. He writes movingly of how Wordsworth was in helping him recover from a terrible depression.”(Gray 8) It becomes more evident that Wordsworth’s poems share the very tenets of Yoga philosophy, when in his poem entitled Ode on Intimations of Immorality he talks about the root cause of human sufferings:

Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own; 
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind, 
And, even with something of a Mother's mind, 
And no unworthy aim, 
The homely Nurse doth all she can 
To make her Foster-child, her Inmate Man, 
Forget the glories he hath known, 
And that imperial palace whence he came. (Wordsworth 134)

If we study the four poems of Wordsworth entitled Calm Is all Nature, An Evening Walk, Expostulation and Reply and Tintern Abbey, we find a journey of his citta. The former two poems show how earlier in his life, his citta suffers from vṛttis. But his later poems exhibit how his citta cultivates the habit of karūna , mūditā, maître, upekshā  and how his citta (consciousness) transforms.

In one of his untitled poem that has been written in the year 1786, we find the citta of Wordsworth that suffers from smṛti vṛtti.

Now, in this blank of things, a harmony, 
Home-felt, and home-created, comes to heal 
That grief for which the senses still supply 
Fresh food; for only then, when memory 
Is hushed, am I at rest. My Friends! restrain 
Those busy cares that would allay my pain; 
Oh! leave me to myself, nor let me feel 
The officious touch that makes me droop again. (Wordsworth 1)

Until this year, he has lost his loving parents. In the same year 1786, he also lost his teacher “William Taylor of whom Wordsworth was to write, ‘he loved the poets’.” (Hobsbaum 2) However, here raises a question why he has left the poem without a title. There may be two answers-

  1. The poem has not given the title because he has composed this poem in his youth. He was only a learning poet.
  2. There were so many emotions that he was not able to give them a particular title.

The continuous loss of his loving ones had made him blank. In this poem he has created many images asthe horse alone”, “dark is the ground”,” the starless sky”. (Wordsworth 1) He indicates towards his long-spun hardship, “comes to heal That grief for which the senses still supply, Fresh food;” (Wordsworth 1)

His senses that have been abstained by his citta are still not calm. They provide his citta pain. We can sensate the state of his restless citta when he says, “when memory Is hushed, am I at rest.” (Wordsworth 1)His citta here grapple with smṛti vṛtti. It is not able to egress from the memories of his past life. Somewhere his citta is in the knack of feeling that recognized pain and so he writes “My Friends! restrain Those busy cares that would allay my pain ;”( Wordsworth 1) Somehow his citta becomes so accustomed of this pain and wants to live with it only. Here his citta is in the clutches of rāga (attachment) kleśa. However, in the next two lines, his citta wants to come out from all this. Here it seems that the citta of Wordsworth tries to practice to get rid from its vṛtti. He does not want to talk about his past incidents. The memory of his loving mother, father and his teacher makes him restive. He wants to get rid of it. “Oh! leave me to myself, nor let me feel, The officious touch that makes me droop again.” (Wordsworth 1) Somewhere he wants to practice (abhyāsa) to come out from smṛti vṛtti. Here his citta tries to cultivate the habit of upeksha ((indifference). How Wordsworth still retraces his mother can be easily felt in the line 224 of the poem An Evening Walk where he gives us the beautiful images of a swan father, mother and their Cygnet.

The female with a meeker charm succeeds, 
And her brown little-ones around her leads, 
Nibbling the water lilies as they pass, 
Or playing wanton with the floating grass. 
She, in a mother's care, her beauty's pride 
Forgetting, calls the wearied to her side; 
Alternately they mount her back, and rest 
Close by her mantling wings' embraces prest. (Wordsworth 6)

How the mother caresses her ducklings. How she provide them shelter. How “Haply some wretch has eyed, and called thee blessed.” (Wordsworth 7)

Wordsworth also recalls this love and care that he receives from his parents. Being a nature poet, it is obvious for Wordsworth to describe the nature and its aspects. But as a son, as a man as well as a human being his citta has been craving for his earlier life. He wants that love and care. He knows that his loving family has been shattered within few years. His citta has those impressions of his hard life.  Therefore, he writes, “Haply some wretch has eyed, and called the blessed.” (Wordsworth 7)

In the poem Expostulation And Reply, we find that the Wordsworth enters in the realm of practice. The poem is a conversation between the friend Matthew and the poet himself. The poem begins with a question by the Matthew for wasting the time in idleness. He also mentions the posture of William in the following lines:

You look round on your Mother Earth,
As if she for no purpose bore you;                         
As if you were her first-born birth,
And none had lived before you! (Wordsworth 573)

Here we find that the poet tries to meditate his citta by concentrating on the nature. Patan̄jali in the 35th aphorism of Samādhipada has discussed about abhyāsa, one of the way to restrict the vṛttis of citta. “viṣayavatî vā pravṛttirutpannā manasaḥ sthitinibandhanî” (17) By choosing a particular object of concentration, one has to flow with its current and forgets oneself. Here Wordsworth has chosen Prakṛti (nature) as an object of concentration or dhayān. Here the question being asked seems very common but the answer given by the poet is more philosophical that reflects the practicing citta of the poet.

The eye--it cannot choose but see;
We cannot bid the ear be still;
Our bodies feel, where’re they be,
Against or with our will. (Wordsworth 573)

Here Wordsworth throws light on the nature of senses. When senses come in the liaison of the world (Prakṛti), they commence to stimulate.  In addition, how somewhere they affect the consciousness. Our senses works either we want them to work or not. It is the nature of our senses. But how to get the citta not affected by the senses? Wordsworth gives the answer in the next stanza:

Nor less I deem that there are Powers
Which of themselves our minds impress;
That we can feed this mind of ours
In a wise passiveness. ! (Wordsworth 573)

The last line of the stanza renders the answer” In a wise passiveness. !"  (Wordsworth 573)To see the world through the senses but by remaining passive, the vṛttis of the citta can be restricted. Here the word ‘wise’ implies the continuous effort of being in the state of abhyāsa. Here passiveness implies upekṣā (indifference) towards happiness, misery, virtuous and vice respectively. Matthew ponders that William is watching the nature and so wasting his time but William feeds his citta in a wise passiveness. In one of his most well known poem entitled Tintern Abbey, he called nature his guide, the nurse, “and soul of my moral being.”(Wordsworth 98) For Wordsworth this materialistic world is nature and for Patan̄jali it is Prakṛti. The purpose of this prakṛti (nature) means world is bhoga and apavarg. Patan̄jali writes in Sādhanapāda, “tadarth eva dṛśyasyātmā.”(43) In the poem Ode on Intimations of Immorality, Wordsworth shares the same view. He writes:

Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind, 
And, even with something of a Mother's mind, 
And no unworthy aim, 
The homely Nurse doth all she can 
To make her Foster-child, her Inmate Man, 
Forget the glories he hath known, 
And that imperial palace whence he came.”(Wordsworth 134)

It means that nature is the reason of citta’s bondage to this world as well as it can be the cause of Kaivalya. In the poem Tintern Abbey, Wordsworth surrenders himself to the Prakṛti (nature). He writes:

From this green earth; of all the mighty world 
Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create, 
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise 
In nature and the language of the sense 
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, 
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul 
Of all my moral being. (Wordsworth 109)

Prakṛti and Puruṣa are interconnected. Prakṛti is the creation of Puruṣa. Then Puruṣa and Prakṛti together create all animate and inanimate beings. In Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says: "It should be understood that all species of life are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father, who impregnates the material energy with living entities, thus making possible the birth of all living creatures."(It should be, anonymous) Therefore, Nature is the manifestation of the God.  Patan̄jali in his Yogasūtra suggests that by complete surrender to God, one’s citta can attain the state of asamprajnata Samādhi. In the 23 aphorism of “samādhipada”, he writesîsvara-prañidhānād vâ” (10) At this state, the external as well as the internal impressions of citta are shut off.

Now to conclude the discussion, the mentioned poems exhibit how Wordsworth’s citta entangled in the materialistic world and how it becomes the prey of vṛttis. The last two poems show the citta (consciousness) of Wordsworth that is in the state of abhyāsa to restrict vṛttis. A citta can be calm by the different ways of Patan̄jali’s Yogasūtra and nature is one of them. Wordsworth has chosen nature (God). It will be an exaggeration to say that his citta transforms forever. Although it is not possible to calm the citta easily but with efforts, it is possible. We feel these efforts in the poems of Wordsworth.


Work Cited

Ramdev, Swami.  Maharśi Patan̄jali’s   yogadarśana. Hardwar: July 2008, Print.

Feuerstein, Georg. The Philosophy of Classical yoga.  India: 1980, Print.

Till, Antonia. The collected poems of William Wordsworth. Great Britain: 2006, Print.

Barker, Juliet. Wordsworth: A life in letters. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2007, Print.

Mukherjee, S. K. William Wordsworth: Select Poems. New Delhi: Rama Brothers, 2002, Print.

Gray, Martin, The Prelude and Selected poems. London: York press, 2009, Print.


Patra, Pradip Kumar and Amar Nath Prasad. Recritiquing William Wordsworth, New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2006, Print.

Hobsbaum, Philip. William Wordsworth: Selected Poetry and Prose, London: Routledge, 1989, Print.