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Memory In Hinduism – Smarana – Remembering

Smarana in Hinduism is memory or remembering. A human brain cognizes things, persons, and events and stores them to recall later when stimulated by words, events, sensations, etc. This process of recall is referred to as smarana. Patanjali has included smriti (smarana) among the five vrittis (fluctuations of the mind). He defines smriti as a vritti arising out of anubhuta-vishaya (stored experiences) and asampramosah (not being lost or fragmented) (Yogasutra: I:11).

Commentator Vyasa differentiates between the memory arising in dreams, of objects which were experienced during the waking state, and the memory of a dream-object in the waking state. The former he calls bhavitasmartavya (imagined-object memory),while the latter is abhavita-smartavya (unimagined object memory).

Vyasa has pointed out that memory as a vritti (fluctuation of the mind) arises from other vrittis. They are:

  1. Pramana – true knowledge
  2. Viparyaya – false knowledge
  3. Vikalpa – an imagination to which no existing object corresponds
  4. Nidra – sleep

All these four vrittis give rise to an experience in the mind, which can be revived giving rise to smarana.

Vyasa asks the question whether what we remember in memory is vishaya (object previously experienced) or pratyaya (experience). As an answer to this question, he says that both of them are remembered in smarana. Patanjali has used the word asampramosah in the definition of smriti as a vritti. It means neither adding anything nor stealing away anything from the experience.