1.8 विपर्ययो मिथ्याज्ञानाम् अतद्रुपप्रतिष्टम्
viparyayaḥ – erroneous understanding of what is, misconception; mithyā – false; jñānam – knowledge; atad – not that; rūpa – (true) form, essential nature; pratiṣṭham – based upon:
Incorrect knowledge formed about something, which is not based on its true nature, is called false understanding (misconception).
1.9 शब्दज्ञानानुपती वस्तुशून्यो विकल्पः
śabda – spoken word; jñāna – knowledge; anupātī – as a consequence of, coming from; vastu – an object; śūnyaḥ – devoid, empty; vikalpaḥ – conceptualization based on verbal delusion;
Vikalpa is the conceptualization of something which arises after having heard about it, though it has no perceptible existence beyond the words used.
1.8 viparyayo mithyā-jñānam-atad-rūpa-pratiṣṭham
Incorrect knowledge formed about something, which is not based on its true nature, is called false understanding or misconception.
So once again, I’ll just put up the English synonyms to the word and we won’t necessarily speak about them in any sort of detail. So this incorrect knowledge that’s been spoken about here; this erroneous understanding …one example that is commonly used in the Vedas, and it’s also used I think by Vyāsa, is a very classical example in Vedic texts, and it’s the idea of mistaking something for something else. And a common example that is used is a rope and a snake, and if one comes across a rope on the path home at night and it is nearing dusk – so it’s kind of quite difficult to make things out – and I see that and imagine it to be a snake… this piece of rope. What I’m doing is superimposing the form of a snake onto something that is not a snake, so even though a snake is a real thing and rope is also a real thing, the superimposition itself affects the mind causing a vrtti, and this vṛtti is in reality, an error.
So there are unlimited ways in which this vṛtti can be manifest or be experienced. And once again we won’t go into much detail here, but these things will become unfolded or we’ll unpack them as we work our way through the sutras.
So Vyāsa, he considers error to be essentially the five ‘kleśas’. So this is something that’s going to be newly…that I’m newly raising here, but it’s something that we’ll be covering quite soon as we progress.
1.9 śabda-jñānānupātī vastu-śūnyo-vikalpaḥ
‘Vikalpaḥ’ is the conceptualization of something which arises after having heard about it, though it has no perceptible existence beyond the words used.
So this term vikalpaḥ, it is often translated by commentators as being ‘imagination’, but if we look at things a little bit more closely, we’ll see that imagination is not necessarily the most accurate term to use to describe what it is that Patañjali is speaking about.
So this is the third of the vṛttis or the mental states, so what is being used here …You know in our usage of English for instance I may say to somebody who’s asking me, can I help them with something or whatever, “Hang on a minute”, and it’s like, what does that actually mean if we unpack it?
Of course, we have some sort of understanding of what we think that that means, but we know that it’s possible to hang on something, but can you actually take a minute… this period of time, and hang on to it, and hang from it, or hang it on anything? So what we’re seeing here is there are some words that have some reality that we can relate with, but when we are looking at it we’re talking about a concept that doesn’t actually exist as a real thing. But what it does, is it helps us with some understanding; it is a form of knowledge or jñāna.
Another type of saying is you know… somebody’s asking you again to do something… “I’ll find time later.” You know this consideration of this term, ‘to find time’? Or sometimes when somebody’s asking someone to make room for them… you know… “Can you make a space for me?”. You know we don’t have the ability to ‘find time’. It doesn’t exist as something like that; like a hat or an umbrella, or a shoe that I can actually find and grasp, and bring it to somebody else. And so when I use this type of terminology, I’m speaking about something that has some reality, or some real existence that I can sort of connect with, but it does not have any reality beyond the use of the words itself.
So the commentator Vyāsa, he used an interesting example. He says… and we’ll use the term here… the word ‘puruṣa’; this puruṣa meaning the seer or the living being – the ātmā. He says, “If I say puruṣa has the character of not being created, no positive quality relating to puruṣa is actually being indicated. I’m just stating that purusha has a character of not being created, but by the mere lack of a property of being created, this is something that is implied.” You know, I’m implying that the puruṣa has this quality – ‘Not being created’. But then he says that is why that characteristic is regarded as ‘vikalpa’, and the term is used to indicate an idea that has no existence beyond the word.
So no existence beyond the word meaning, “Can you point to something that is not created? If it is not created it has no existence, and giving that character or quality to something… it’s not something I can reach out to and touch or you know… pick up, or define beyond just that concept. And if we can… I mean it’s quite… a lot of people get really amazed when they actually think about it. We find that mostly we think and communicate in very imprecise terms, and what we are seeing here is the precision with which Patañjali… the very meticulous way that he is analysing and speaking about things, and he’s detailing the vrttis in this way to help us understand what puruṣa is. And we partially are able to do that by understanding what it is not.
So when he speaks of these five vrttis, he states of consciousness that the mind can exist in and the nature of the fluctuations of these vrttis and everything associated with them. When we can clearly identify those things, we know “Okay, that is not the puruṣa, this is not the ātmā; this is something of the material nature something which is external. So Patañjali is therefore directing very careful attention to what the mind is, so that yogi’s can be very clear about what the puruṣa should not be identified with.
So as we again progress further I’m not spending very much time going into laborious detail, but there is a tremendous amount of knowledge attached to these different things, that I’m only giving you in small bits, not wanting you to become overwhelmed and perhaps disheartened. The search for the puruṣa – for self-realization – is a very noble and the most important of all undertakings, and one does not have to be excessively qualified intellectually, in the way people think of intellectualism, in order to be able to have these perceptions and deep understandings.
So I am just going to deal with them with some brevity, but as we go through these sutras, then I’ll try to weave a good understanding, to make it so that the sincere practitioner can benefit from these directions. So literally what we’re seeing here, and I think in summary for this example of vikalpaḥ, we’re learning that the mind can be recognized by what it does; that the vṛttis – the different vṛttis – are activities of the mind and manifesting states of consciousness, and by understanding these, we can therefore understand what is spiritual in nature and that which is material.