Yoga Sutra 9, Chapter 1 | Imagination as Modification of Mind

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all articles on Yoga Concepts

“sabdajnana anupati vastusunyah vikalpah “

Text of Yoga Sutra 9

sabda – word, sound

jnana – knowledge, knowing

anupati – depending upon

vastu – real object, in reality

sunya- devoid of, without

vikalpah – imagination

Patanjali’s Yoga sutra 9, chapter 1, talks about one of the other modification of mind, or the state human mind can remain in, which is Vikalpah, or imagination. Simply put it means being in a state away from reality. It is a mental state of pure ideas only with no connection with real object or objects.

Imagination is the creation of a unreal, or hitherto non existent ideas and thoughts. Most of what goes on in one’s mind is imagination, the mind is always abuzz with thoughts which rarely match up with the reality existent around oneself.

Imagination is different from Right Knowledge – Yoga Sutra 9

Imagination an a state of mind is axially opposite to the right knowledge. Right knowledge is attained by the mind when the senses of perception come face to face with a real object, in order for the real knowledge of the object to get imprinted on to the mind the mind goes under change with respect to the object under perception.

This change, or the emergence of new thoughts about this object, within the mind is the right knowledge of the object. Something definite remains after the experience of perception.

But, in imagination their is no real object to be perceived by the mind, its just the ideas and thoughts about an entity which either doesn’t exist at present or will never exist. Imagination is not rooted in reality, that is the reason it poses the danger of the mind wandering away from reality and embrace trouble as it takes the mind away from the facts.

Imagination as the modification of the mind is also not wrong knowledge as discussed in an earlier yoga sutra because in wrong knowledge nothing definite remains after the experience of perception.

Wrong knowledge takes place because there their is no base to experience any kind of knowledge, but in imagination one has a idea, or a word as a base to experience the related knowledge of.

These ideas and words do not have their roots in reality but they are sufficiently potent to impart one experience related to them. The problem begins when we realize that their is no end to the number of experiences one can gain from a single idea or word, or the imagination flies, unbridled by reality, into unknown and unrelated directions.

The more intelligent a person is the more directions, variations, the imaginative mind can wander into. Worries, anxieties, and fears easily grab the mind which has wandered too far away from reality because imagination is completely based on ideation, and confidence and self esteem emerge from experiencing reality.

All the fears in the mind of a patient, first time flier on a plane, person walking in the dark, and someone doing something for the first time are rooted in only and only imagination.

Imagination – Significance and why to overcome it

Imagination power is the requirement of all fields of art; painting. poetry, designing, all these faculties need sharp imagination skills. In poetry we use lines like ‘ the arrow sped towards the target’, this is a piece of pure imagination as the arrow isn’t some living entity which speeds towards its target, but it is shot by someone towards its target.

Though imagination has nothing to do with reality such pieces of art appear soothing to the senses. Too much of this kind of poetic thinking can take one away from reality.

All the scientific theories which have been accepted today began as pure imagination, hypothesis, in the scientist’s mind before they were tested and the related facts were established as true.

Thus imagination has its significance in generating the future possibilities at the mental, ideation, level. a fertile mind beams with imagination but such a mind must be kept under check so that it doesn’t wander away from reality. Such a mind cannot make right decisions, only a concentrated mind has the ability to think clearly and remain in the moment, or in the present reality.

The reason why one must prevent the mind from slipping into this modification is that imagination is an obstacle to the process of concentrating the mind so that it can be calmer and think clearly.

While one attempts to concentrate on the object of concentration one’s mind keeps fluctuating on imaginative thoughts. Since the mind remains scattered into the thoughts and ideas it loves imagining one finds it hard to limit one’s thoughts to only of that of the object in an attempt to become one with the object.

Vitarka, or fluctuating thoughts are actually imaginative thinking. The words of thoughts which emerge continuously in the mind as one tries to practice meditation, or concentration of the mind take the mind away from the object of meditation and not toward it.

Imagination behave as mental distraction which keeps the reality shrouded by the mist of thoughts and one is unable to see the reality as it is. The nature of mind or the nature of Citta when it is unsteady distorts all reality.

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