Yoga Sutras I, 7-9: Vacillations of the mind - first three


[b]I, 7: Pratyaksha anumana agamah pamanani

The sources of correct understanding are
direct perception,
inference, and
derived from
reflections on the scriptures,
or from the testimony
of one who knows.

I, 8: Viparyayo mithyanjananam atadrupa pratishanam

Misconception is an
illusory knowledge
founded on an unreliable appearance
lacking its own inherent integrity.

I, 9: Sabda jnana anupati vastusunya vikalpah

Imagination is a
fluctuating knowledge
created by relying upon
the sound of language alone,
and words that are
empty of objective truth.[/b]

M. Stiles

I grouped these three vacillations, correct perception, misconception, and imagination, together because it was helpful for me to compare and contrast them to better understand the differences between them.

I. Correct understanding
A. Description of sources of correct understanding.
1. Direct or individual perception: that which is perceived by buddhi (intellect).
2. Inference: that which is reasoned logic; another task of buddhi. For example, if there is smoke there must be fire; we cannot see the fire but smoke can only be made from fire.
3. Scriptures: the words of sages, saints and prophets. Here Sw. Satchidananda states that there should be agreement between what a teacher says and the ancient scriptures, because the truth is the same. He then clarifies that there is a difference between the basic truth and its presentation. The presentation of the truth is variable because language, symbols, forms are modifiable and it reflects the individual’s experience and or societal/cultural values. But nevertheless, the underlying truth is the same.

All of these types of correct understanding can be aklishta (helpful, not painful) if the perception contributes to understanding the true Self or klishta (not helpful, painful) if the perception makes the person ?firm in his ignorance, or duality?. (Swami Shyam, p.5-6)

 B.  The goal of cultivating correct knowledge.  Iyengar explains that the goal is to develop discrimination. To identify what is misperception and to discard it.  ?When discrimination have been cultivated, intelligence (buddhi) is full and bright, ego (ahamkara) and mind (manas) retreat, and citta (consciousness) becomes sharp and clear.? (p.54).  This process of discrimination should be used to ?defuse the negative impact of memory, which links us in psychological time to the world of sensory pleasure and pain.? (p.54)  Ultimately, this process of discrimination helps to reduce vritti.

II. Miconception. Misconception is the distortion of reality which in turn generates inappropriate emotions and feelings, thereby distorting consciousness. Sw. Satchidananda gives the example of perceiving a coiled rope as a snake which causes fear but in reality there is nothing to fear.

III. Imagination.
Imagination or verbal delusion can be distinguished from misconception because in misconception there is an object to be confused about (e.g. a rope mistaken for a snake) whereas with imagination there is no object, only an opinion or a generated thought. One of Sw. Satchidananda’s examples illustrating this is the statement ?His mother was a barren woman.? (p. 17); the words are heard, an impression is created, but the words are not analyzed.

Iyengar states that analysis and discrimination of vikalpa (imagination) can awaken a thirst for pramana (correct knowledge) and transform delusion into ?vision and discovery?.

Iyengar, B.K.S. Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. New Delhi, India: Harper Collins Publications India. 1993

Swami Satchidananda. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Buckingham, VA: Integral Yoga Publications. 2004
Swami Shyam, Patanjali Yog Darshan, India: International Meditation Institute, 2001, 3rd. edition.

Stiles, M. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Boston, MA: Red Wheel/Weiser LLC. 2002


I believe that these three sutras are really important. If I could assimilate these sutras I would have achieved a lot.

1:7 " The quality of intelligence is inherent but dormant, so our first step must be to awaken it. The practice of asana brings intelligence to the surface of the cellular body through stretching and to the physiological body by maintaining the pose. Once awakened, intelligence can reveal its dynamic aspect, its ability to discriminate.“
B.K.S. Iyengar Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Pg. 57
Iyengar goes on to state that the training of the intellect in creating the correct postures leads ultimately to discrimination.
” We can thus see that discrimination is a weighing process, belonging to the world of duality. When what is wrong is discarded, what is left must be correct." Pg. 58

1:8 B.K.S. Iyengar says about misconception: "Wrong understanding and false conceptions generate wrong feelings and taint consciousness. This hinders the sadhaka (practicioner ) in his efforts to experience the seer, and may create a dual or split personality."
Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Pg.59

1:9 B.K.S. suggests how we can deal with imignation."If vikalpa is brought to the level of factual knowledge by analysis, trial, error and discrimination, it can awaken a thirst for correct or true knowledge, and delusion can be transformed into vision and discovery. Unless and until such a transformation takes place, knowledge based on imignation remains without substance."
Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. pg. 59


Do we ever really understand something? I have moments when I think I understand but then some time later, I question my own understanding. To see, to know, or is everything an illusion?

I find myself with more questions than ever with these sutras. After some consideration and discussion with fellow students of yoga, my teacher at the time suggested that ‘I know that I know nothing’. This for me was more real than ever. The only thing I can be sure of is that I know nothing. Which leaves me open to any possibility.

So are the three states of waking mind using our intelect (mind) to perceive (understand) which may be false (misunderstand) or pure fantasy (imagined) - fact - fiction - fantasy? I know I have experienced all three therefore can relate to the concept.


I think understanding comes with experiencing - in meditation to experience that ‘I am not this body’ - and no I haven’t!. So when we haven’t experienced then all is misconception.
On Imagination Past experiences , stored in the memory, often contribute.

  1. 7-9

Taimni explains that 7&8 may be called “objective” mental modifications as they both refer to experiences where there is some kind of contact with an external object. In the first case, the understanding corresponds with the facts, in the second it doesn’t.

9 “An image conjured up by words without any substance behind it is fancy.”

Fancy has no contact with an external object and may be called “subjective”. Although memory may play a part in creating fancy, these vrttis (fancy) do not correspond to an actual experience. :smiley: