Yoga Sūtra Verse 1.9

July 7, 2012 § Leave a comment



śabda – subtle sounds, words, mental images
jñāna – knowledge
anupātīn – following as a consequence, or as a result…
vastu –  substance, form, a thing in itself
śūnya – emptiness, void, devoid of…
vikalpa – imagination, (in some sense) a metaphor; a substitute for reality


“Imagination is the use of words and images as faith”


Patañjali, in an effort to help us understand the nature of consciousness (puruṣa), is making it clear what it is not. It is not the mind, nor any of the permutations that the mind can take on. Imagination is one of these permutations. It is also one of the most poorly understood aspects of the mind.

It is important to understand the mind, not just so you don’t mistake it for consciousness, but so that you can begin to use it to explore the nature of consciousness.

Thoughts are reflections and shadow that arise like ghost from the haunted manor of your mind they have little substance yet are very powerful because your desires, which do have substance, follow then. Desires are physical and the fountain head of emotions. Thoughts are shallow and relatively uncontrollable since they are the byproduct of your consciousness. Thought rise up, mostly of their own accord, flicker and disappear. Trying to change your consciousness by changing your thoughts is like trying to light a fire with smoke.

“To change your thoughts, change your behavior, to change your behavior change your goals, to change your goals use your imagination.”

But isn’t imagination just thoughts?
No, imagination is much more than thought. Imagination is the substance of vision and hope. It is the evidence of things not seen. Imagination gives access to  what we in the west call faith. Faith is our attraction to mystery and the inconceivable.  Imagination is a paradoxical phenomenon of existence and non-existence. Imagination, unlike thoughts can be shaped and held in the mind’s eye.

As part of the five fold vṛttis:
The vṛtti of pramāṇa or evidence exists in the real world.
The vṛtti of viparyaya exists in no world, since it is misperception
The vṛtti of vikalpa or imagination lives in the mysterious realm between here and not here. Vikalpa is metaphor. It is both real and unreal. It is a thing of substance. Language in the material world is a type of vikalpa, i.e.metaphorical, i.e. referential. In the realm of pure consiousness, however, language  is non-different from its objects (the things it describes). At the level of pure consciousness language is real and absolute. Imagine a world where words were as real as the objects they referred to.



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